Thursday, December 27, 2012

Our Engagement


               I’ve been asked by so many people how the proposal went down, and I wouldn’t mind being able to remember the sweet details six months from now, so I’m about to make you tear up and “awe” all over the place.

               It’s Christmas Eve. I have been standing in my sparkly nude heels for about two hours at this point, so I finally weigh the pros and cons and decide to walk around the church barefoot. The first service is over, thank God, and I’m about to sit down in the choir room to rest my blistering feet. I’ll probably look over my music a little bit since I completely ruined the first song of the service. I couldn’t remember where I was supposed to sing for the life of me.
I look across the white walls of the room and stare at the long white table of food. Bethany makes her grand entrance into the room, giggling and practically screaming as she walks over to me. She wears all black with her hair in a low, classy bun.
“I’m hungry, Bekah. Come get food with me.”
Okay, fine.
I grab a bowl and get some lasagna-type ravioli things and some kind of banana-zucchini bread.  I don’t know what they are. I don’t really care, I’m just hungry.
I sit in my comfortably shy spot in the back of the room, and Bethany sits down in the purplish gray chair next to me. I honestly can’t accurately describe the colors of the chairs. It’s like a purple-gray-red-tinted-really-strange color.
I take a few bites and she says, “Hey, I need to grab my drink from Mom’s office.”
I stare at her with my mouth full, “Then go.”
“But I don’t want to go alone.”
“Well, I’m eating.”
“Please come with me, Bekah. I don’t wanna walk by myself.”
I breathe a heavy sigh. Fine. Give me a minute.
I take bite after bite of my food and Bethany starts looking ancy.
“Come on, Bekah. I’m thirsty. Can’t you just set your food down and come with me?”
“What the heck,” I stare at her, “Just let me finish my food?”
“Please,” she drags out.
“Holy crap! Okay, fine,” I say.
I stand up, carrying my heels in one hand and my white plastic bowl in the other.
“Yay! Thanks, Bekah,” her voice jingles.
We leave the choir room that is tucked into the core of the church and head out towards the fellowship area where groups of people dressed in fancy reds and greens are mingling now that the first service is over.
“Hide my feet, Bethany,” I whisper.
“What?” she yells.
“Hide my feet!”
She laughs and stands close in front of me as we shimmy our way down the wall, being as invisible as possible in the big crowd. Once we make it to the end of the wall, my Mom’s office is in sight. We cross the hallway and walk inside the door that contains all the little office cubbies.
It’s dark in the room, but I quickly notice that to my right, there is a walkway of rose petals leading to a door that is shut. That’s really weird. My first initial response was that there was some kind of promiscuous thing happening in this church on Christmas Eve and I felt like I wasn’t supposed to be there. Then, I hear Bethany’s quiet voice and her hand on the small of my back pushing me towards them.
“I think those are for you,” she says.
“What?” I say.
Then my heart starts pounding and my face feels hot. I think she repeated herself or said something else to reassure me, but I wasn’t listening.
I stare at the rose petals and I walk towards the door. This is it, isn’t it? My body is begging me to let it cry, but I hold off as hard as I can until I inch up to the door. I place my hand on the doorknob and creak it open.
The room glows in a soft orange haze. On a table dressed in white, candles create bubbles of rounded light that disperse throughout the room, creating dancing shadows as they flicker. There’s a man dressed in black standing in the far side of the room, only a few steps away from me. He hears the door open and peeks over at me, making sure it’s his woman, and he fully turns around.
His smile confirms the occasion. It reaches out to the edges of his face, creeping up into his sparkling eyes. I can feel my cheeks rising and my heart pounding and my stomach wrenching. I can feel these little sparks of electricity shooting up my chest. I can feel my head start to spin and my feet moving towards him.
“Are you surprised,” he asks.
“Oh my gosh, yes. This is amazing,” I shake out.
I come closer to him, feeling the magnetic attraction keeping me close.
“I have a special gift,” he says.
My eyes well up in tears and my thoughts are all over the place. I hear him speaking, but I can’t remember what he’s saying. Am I here right now? Is this me? This has got to be a dream. But it isn’t.
“You might want to set those down,” he looks at my shoes.
I set them on the chair against the right side of the wall.
His mouth forms more words and he reaches out to the white table, grabbing a little gold box in the midst of the lavender tulle and the flickering white candles. He fiddles with it in his hand and then his body slowly moves down. My body is a furnace.
He grins up at me, opening the little gold box to reveal a sparkling rainbow flashing off the tip of an intertwining diamond ring.
“Will you marry me? Spend the rest of your life with me? Hold my hand forever?”
I stopped listening after the words “marry me” and my head shakes up and down, my smile hopping all over my face and my face becoming matted with tears.
“Yes! Yes,” I tell him.
He picks up the ring and starts to slip it on my finger, and I help him push it all the way down with my other hand. His body moves back up to my eye level and his warm, blue eyes look into mine. He reaches out and swipes away the tear that rolls down my cheek.
I grab his neck and hold his warm, thick body in my arms, swaying back at forth. He pulls away kisses me and pulls me right back in. I rest my head on his left shoulder.
“I love you so much,” I whisper to him.
“I love you too, baby,” he tells me.
We stand there hugging, swaying back and forth in the candlelight.
I tell him about my initial thoughts and he tells me that my mom, sister, and my mom’s friend, Beth, helped him set it all up. We talk and hug each other and sway until it dawns on me that other people might be waiting outside.
I grab my heels and make my way to the door, my fiancé walking behind me.
Outside, my father waits. He looks pretty bored until he sees the door open with flicks of orange candlelight escaping the room.
“Guys! They’re done! Jonathan!”
I laugh and Daniel puts his hand on my waist, pulling me close to him.

The rest of the night was full of congratulations, retellings of the story, and jokes about who was going to pick up the rose petals.
All I know is, I’m engaged to be married to the man of my wildest dreams.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Letter


Dear Mom,
               I know you think it’s insane that I’m writing you a letter. You probably think this is a joke, or some kind of mistake, but it isn’t. I just want you to know that I still think about you, but also that I’m not the same girl you left. Something big happened to me, Mom. Something huge.
               Every single day, I worked my job answering phones, signing papers, licking envelopes… nothing ever changed. I’d go to work, come home, eat dinner, go to bed. I felt like I was going nowhere in life, and I know that if you were still living with me, you’d see it in my eyes. I started this habit of crying on the way home from work, and then stopping once I got inside. It was a release of all my worries, but it felt like it never really happened.
               One day as I was coming home, I got really angry with everything. My life was a boring mess, and I wasn’t going anywhere. No husband, no career, no savings. Just trudging along through the mud of life.  I slammed my fist into the steering wheel and sobbed.
 I screamed, “If there is a God in this mess of a world, you better tell me now. You better show yourself to me in some way, because if there isn’t even a God here, I’m giving up.”
I waited. And I waited.
“If you don’t pop up and tell me you even exist, I am going to drive my car into something, maybe a telephone pole. I’ll say sayonara to this life.”
I waited. And something strange happened.
It started in my toes. It was a warm fire that bubbled up into my veins, past my knees, swirling around my hips, landing in my cheeks. The fire moved across my skin, enveloping my body in a warm tingle. It felt like I was being wrapped up by the sweetest, most comforting thing that had ever existed. My mind left my body and I looked at it in perspective. What a sad, sad mind it was.
And then the fire faded.
“What the hell was that,” I shouted in my car, tears staining my face.
It was silent.
“Who was that?”
It was silent.
“Was that,” I took a deep breath, “Was that God?”
The fire didn’t hesitate this time. It encompassed my whole body in warmth and comfort. The stains on my face were no longer tears of death, they were tears of life. I was so happy, I laughed out loud, Mom.
I hadn’t heard my jingle of a laugh for who knows how long.
Anyways, I just wanted you to know, as your daughter, that I’m sorry for leaving you. I’m sorry for becoming this person that you couldn’t be proud of.
But here I am now, and I miss you more than ever. You can be proud of your daughter now.
I haven’t worked up the courage to go to a church yet, but now I know that a God exists.
And I know that’s what you tried to teach me my whole life.
Love, Your Daughter
               P.S: I haven’t cried in my car for two weeks.


Tears dripped from my eyes onto the letter; I kissed it shut, and set it on her cold, hard gravestone.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Rug


  The bottle stares back at me with its stupid red lettering and its stupid list of side effects. I tell my body to move forward and pick it up, but it won’t. My arms wobble at my sides and I tell one to push my glasses back against my face. It does, so I know they work.
  I close my eyes and sigh, taking a step forward. My black jeans scratch against each other and the wood floor under my sneakers creaks. I open my eyes and its closer to me. It’s almost in reach, but it looks crueler. I take another step forward. My hand reaches out and grabs the cold, smooth bottle, bringing it closer to my rounded chest.
  I stare down at bottle, feeling the fat under my chin roll up and push against my neck. I fiddle with the opening until it twists off and falls onto the ground, clanking as it bounces and rolls to a halt.
  The little pills lay unmoving in the white bottle and I tilt it, pouring out a small handful. I throw them in my mouth and grab my bottle of whiskey, swallowing them bit by bit.

            “I don’t know, Jeff. I just don’t know.”
 “Deb, come on. If you don’t find the money, then the house is gone. I can tell you that right now. I’m taking on all the overtime I can and if you don’t find a way, then we’re gonna be living on the streets.”
             Deb started to shake, her shoulders moving up and down, her lips downturned, her breath escaping her lungs until she finally breathed and sobbed into the phone.
            “Oh Deb, shut up. No one wants to hear your pitiful cries. Make it happen.”
             She pried her phone off her ear and threw it at the hardwood floor, watching it break into little pieces.
            “Jason!” she screamed.
            It echoed off the thin walls down the hallway. The floors of the house seemed to shake with her shrill cry.
Her face was matted with thick tears as she trudged down the hallway towards Jason’s room. The floor creaked underneath her, her heavy body leaving dents of hatred with each step.
            She stood in his doorway.
            His lips were blue, his eyes half shut. He lay on the ground, his chest slightly moving up and down. At the corners of his mouth, there was a thick substance that oozed out onto the floor and that’s when she screamed harder than her body had ever let her before, her vocal cords ripping and bleeding from the force.
           “Jason! You did not throw up on my rug!”

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

An Inside Peek at Being a Waitress



In my basement, there are piles and piles of plastic food. There’s plastic pasta, plastic eggplant, plastic eggs, plastic everything. There are empty beer bottles with labels on them that haven’t been seen for ten years. There are these old tables we used to use for who knows what--maybe family picnics or outside get-togethers. There is an old apron my grandma used to wear around her neck when she was youthful and helping with Thanksgiving dinner. I even have a fake sink. You can actually store water in the bottom and use it like a real sink to wash the plastic food when it gets a little dirty.
You could say I was obsessed. Ask me what I want to be when I grow up and I’ll say a professional waitress. I kid you not, for several years, all I wanted for my birthday and Christmas was plastic food and fake money. My grandparents would come to my house once or twice a year and I’d serve them my plastic food and they’d give me—gasp—real money for it. Getting my first tip was monumental. The feeling was so extremely amazing and the suspense of finding out how much they would leave me was irreplaceable.
So, here we are today. I work at Buffalo Wild Wings and I’m a cashier. So what?
Well, I waited on my first table the other night, because all the other servers were freaking out and I decided to jump on in. To anyone who is already a server, don’t go just yet. I promise that you will find this funny, because you can sympathize with me more than anyone else can. To anyone who isn’t a server—here’s your little inside peek.

               It’s really busy and the servers are getting overwhelmed. This is my chance, I think. I eye the couple sitting in the far booth—the woman with natural black curls and glasses, the man with a black goatee and a blazer. I didn’t expect much tip-wise. I grab two straws and a couple drink napkins and greet them.
“I’ll go ahead and get you started with something to drink—we have coke products,” I say, looking back and forth between them.
“I’ll have Mountain Dew,” the woman says, looking up from her menu.
“Mello Yello alright?”
“Yeah, that’s fine.”
“And for you, sir?”
“I’ll have a water with lemon.”
“Okay, I’ll be right back with that.”
Things are going smooth. I’m gonna go grab these drinks and take them back, and I’ll get this show on the road.
I reach over the table caddy and set their drinks on their drink napkins and that’s when things start to get a little too wild and uncomfortable for me.
“Are you ready to order?” I ask.
“Um, no, we aren’t ready yet,” she looks up from her menu.
“Okay, I’ll be back in a few.”
You may be thinking something along the lines of: “What’s the big deal, Bekah… you just go back in a few minutes and take their order.” NO. It is not that simple, I can tell you that right now. Let’s say I go back in two minutes. What if they still aren’t ready? Not only is that awkward, but now it seems like I’m ancy and they start feeling like they’re taking too long. Even worse, what if I go back a third time and they still aren’t ready? The consequences triple.
 Okay, so let’s say I give them plenty of time and go back in five minutes. What if they were really ready two minutes ago and they’ve been sitting waiting on me? Then, they’re annoyed that I took too long, and they are mad that their food isn’t already in the making. It’s a lose-lose situation. Unless, I get there just as they have decided. Which is an art.
However, it’s an awkward art. Because here I am pacing through the dining room, glancing over at this couple every few seconds to see if there are any signs of readiness. Did they set their menus down? Are they talking to each other like they’re ready? What do their faces say?
Well, after five minutes their menus are still up, they’re talking to each other, and I have no idea what their faces are saying.
I take my chances and go back to get their order.
“You guys ready?” I ask.
“Yeah…” the guy says.
Crap. He makes it sound like they’ve been ready.
“Go ahead,” I say.
“I’ll have ayy wees wii furr—“
I bend over, “Sorry, I can’t hear you too well; what?”
I stoop down, which I imagine is annoying. My father always said that when servers stoop down to eye level, it’s annoying. He says the server is his servant, not his buddy. I don’t want to be their buddy. But it’s too dang loud.
“I’ll have eight wings with four Caribbean jerk and four teriyaki.”
“Okay, and for you sir?”
She held up her finger, “I’d also like a side of fries. And ranch. Lots of ranch.”
“Oh, sorry. Sure. Got it. You sir?”
“I’ll have a buffalo chicken wrap with fries.”
“Alright, so,” I repeated their order back to them, and they nodded their heads.
 “I’ll go put that in for you.”
For a quick moment of reflection, I would like to say that the woman seemed ticked off that I assumed she was done ordering. She must have felt like she was ordering too much since I cut her off, and therefore would now feel awkward around me, since I clearly see her with fat goggles on now. I know how women work.
I put in their order, and that’s when even more awkwardness begins.
Now I’m stalking them to see if they need refills. I don’t want to seem like I’m staring at them, but I don’t want them to have empty drinks. Their caddy is in the way, so I can’t see from a distance if their drinks are full. I have to look from an angle, and the only place I can stand is either over their heads or right down their aisle. So I start pacing. I pace past their booth and glance down to see that her glass is half full and he hasn’t touched his. Does she want a refill now? Or is she content with a half-full glass? She’s probably fine.
               But now that I know it’s half full, I need to monitor her every sip to see if that gulp makes the whole thing empty. I end up giving in and just refilling another glass and setting it on the table. It’s a game, it really is. It doesn’t seem complicated, but really, it’s an awkward pile of complicated poop.
               I’ll fast forward to the check part. Everything has gone fairly normal, besides the awkwardness of checking up on them to “see if they’re okay,” and making sure I didn’t do it too often, yet making sure I did it enough.
So, for the check. I can’t tell if they’re done eating. She still has half her wings uneaten and he still has almost all of his fries. Are they finished eating? Or are they just really slow? I take my chances and walk over, asking them if they’re ready for their check.
               “Yeah, we’ll take some boxes,” she says.
               I hand her the check and run to the kitchen to grab some boxes.
               When I come back, she hasn’t touched the check I gave her, as in she hasn’t put any money in it, so I don’t know whether to walk away and come back to get it and do my awkward stalking again to see if she put money in it, or to stand there and wait for her to do it.
               I decide to stand there and ask, “I’ll grab the check from you,” to hear her say, “Oh, sorry,” and fiddle through her purse for her Visa.
               I couldn’t decide if that was more awkward than the stalking or not.
               You see, it’s just a tangled mess is what it is.
               But you know what? It was a five-bucks-off-a-twenty-dollar-ticket tangled mess.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Autumn


She would rather die than be old. She said that to me.
We were best friends. It all started in preschool.
There was this girl that nobody wanted to sit by, and one Wednesday, she just started crying. Our teacher was reading us a story, and we all stared at her from our secluded circle as she sat with her dark blonde bangs soaking up some of the tears.         
“What is the matter with you kids? Somebody be a friend and sit next to Autumn.”
We all stood up and rushed over to her, telling her how sorry we were and how we wanted to be her friend. I didn’t rush over. I stayed by myself in the now-empty circle, because I thought that if I was her, I would be claustrophobic. I thought she would be sweaty and annoyed with all those people gathering around her.
When it was play time and we chose our stations, we both decided on finger painting. It was just us, the primary colors, and a white canvas. Out little pointer fingers dipped in the blue paint and we brushed a sky on the blank page. I looked over at her canvas and giggled.
“Hey! I drew a sky too!”
She giggled and looked at her sky, the blue line at the top of the page.
“Did you know that if you mix red and blue it becomes purple?” she asked me.
“Really?”
“Yeah, watch,” she said.
She dipped her pointer finger in the red paint and filled in a circle at the bottom of her canvas. Then, she dipped her other pointer finger in the blue paint and colored over the red circle. Suddenly, the color purple rose up from the canvas, and she stood back, hands in the air, admiring her creation.
“See?” she said in wonder.
“Wow,” I stared at her flower.
I did the same thing and we drew flowers all over the bottom of the page.
“What happens if you mix all the colors? What color does that make?” I asked her.
She widened her eyes, holding up her little hand like a stop sign.
“Oh no, don’t do that,” she leaned forward as if telling me her deepest secret, “it turns brown.”
“Brown?” I asked.
“Yeah, real ugly.”
I smiled and looked back at my canvas, “We can make a tree!”

Then it started happening.
“I don’t think I want to cut my hair anymore. I want to grow it really long,” Autumn said in the lunch line.
“That’d be so cute! Do it!” I told her.
Months passed and it grew. It fell past her shoulders and that’s when she started spray tanning. She showed up to school with the perfect sprayed-on glow and everyone complimented her. She looked really good that way, I’ll admit it.
Then her hair grew to her chest and she started really tanning. She bought this fancy tanning lotion and she started out in the cheapest bed. Then, she upgraded to the most intense bed—the ones that look like death traps. And she got dark. Boy, did she get dark. I was worried. We were walking out to our cars after school and I asked her, “Aren’t you worried about getting skin cancer? You’ve been using the worst tanning beds a lot lately.”
She laughed, “Ohmigod no way. They’re working so well. Don’t I look awesome?”
And then her hair grew to her belly button. That’s what she got a belly button ring. She’d lift her shirt in the hallways and show all the boys her tiny tummy and the little sparkling jewel implanted on it. Then she dyed her hair bleach blonde. And that’s when the boys really started coming.
They all wanted her. They wanted her long, bleached hair and her tiny, tanned tummy.
She loved it too; boy did she love it. She got invited to these college parties and she’d go and drink and come back to school on Monday telling me all about the crazy things she did. She’d tell me about the boys that stared at her and how they all hit on her. She’d show me pictures of her short skirt and her crop top next to a tall, dark, and handsome party boy.
And that’s when I lost her. One day in class, she told me “I’d rather die than be old.”
“But what about being grandparents and being wise and living out life with someone you love?” I asked her.
“I don’t care about that. I would seriously kill myself before I let myself get wrinkles.”
She was gone. Her dark blonde hair, her sweet pale skin, her innocent personality… it was all gone.
We slowly stopped talking to each other, and I think we both knew it. We went to college and I’d see pictures of her waking up in random boys’ houses with her long bleached hair and her dark tanned skin. Part of me felt sad that she was gone, but part of me didn’t care, because what she had become was someone I didn’t know. There are days when I miss her though. But I know she’s dead.
Call me cruel, but sometimes I wonder what she’d do if someone cut off her hair.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Downgrading


“We’re in debt, Cleo. We have no money. No money.”
           “I know.”
           “Then how on earth do you expect us to give money to the church?”
           “We can always get rid of our phones. Or maybe the cable.”
           “You’re insane! So we get rid of our phones. How are you gonna call anyone?”
            Cleo rubs her temples, “It was just an idea, John. Maybe we can downgrade.”
            John stares at her, hands on his hips, exhaling in annoyance.
 Cleo thinks he looks like a woman, huffing and puffing about dirty socks on the floor.
“Downgrade? You want to get rid of our smartphones so we can give money to the church?     That’s really smart, Cleo. How are you going to check your e-mail? What about music? What about your little diet tracker? You want to get rid of that?” He points his finger in her face, “I don’t think you do.”
“They didn’t have smartphones fifty years ago! How on earth did they live without them?” she mocks.
“There’s a reason they were invented. The need was identified and the solution was made,” he takes his iPhone out of his jean pocket, “Bingo. Right here. Solution.”
She leaps forward and grabs his iPhone out of his hands, throwing it on the hardwood. He hears the crack.
He gasps and stares at the floor in astonishment, and slowly, the rising words make their way out of his mouth.
“What are you thinking? You idiot!” John pulls at his hair.
He picks it up off the ground, gently rubbing his finger along the cracked surface.
“You know how much this thing costs? Like 200 bucks, Cleo,” his voice rises.
“Did you call me an idiot?” Cleo frowns.
“Yes! You’re insane! You’re buying me a new phone. God, Cleo! What the heck!”
He pushes the round home button, watching the screen light up and fade to an eternal black.
“You broke it,” he shoves it in her face, “Yeah, it’s broken. How do you feel?”
“Now you can go pick up a freebie phone, which I've already done with mine, and we can donate that extra money to the church. What’s next, honey?”
He barely even hears her talking, he’s so upset. “You broke my iPhone,” he whispers.
“You know, you’re so worried about your stupid little toy that you can’t even see the bigger picture. You’re insulting God right now.”
“Okay, I’m insulting God. That makes sense.”
He stares at his iPhone like a mother over her dead child.
“You’re basically telling him that he’s unable to provide. You think he won’t provide for us if we give up some of our paycheck?”
“I mean, it’s not like a money tree is gonna start growing in the backyard when we start giving money to the church, Cleo.”
“Obviously. That’s not what I’m saying.”
“Then what exactly are you saying?”
“I’m saying if we cut back on these material things, and actually do something with our time, like, I don’t know, talking to each other or visiting my family—“
“Oh, God,” he rolls his eyes, “Don’t get me started on your family.”
“Okay, fine, maybe not that. But let’s just try. Please? If you love me you’ll say yes. Say it.”
“What exactly are you asking me to give up? My iPhone is broken,” he pauses on the word, taking a deep breath, “thanks to you.”
“The cable.”
“The cable, too? Cleo, come on.”
“Okay, and you have to visit my family.”
“Okay, fine, fine. The phone and cable. Sounds good.”
“One more thing…” Cleo starts.
“What now?”
She punched him in the gut as hard as her little arm could. He doubled over and fell back onto the kitchen table which collapsed underneath him.
 He grunts, “Cleo!”
“Don’t you ever call me an idiot again.”

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Couch


            I’m worried about the smell. I see him trying to sleep on this brown and tan polka dotted couch. The brick wall behind him stretches up three stories to the ceiling, and his book bag is on the floor. He is curled up on this two-cushion couch, his black sweatpants and grey hoodie hiding his body from the universe. Every once and while he tugs at the bottom of his hoodie to make sure nothing laugh-worthy is revealed. His nose is pushed up against the back of the couch and I can’t stop thinking about it.
              You never know what couches are going to smell like.
***
He grabbed my neck and lifted up my body. My feet dangled as my head plumped up under his hand.
“Did you tell your mother, Amos? Did you?”
I opened my mouth to speak but air couldn’t reach my lips. The pressure in my face rose. I grabbed at his hands, prying them off my neck, reaching my legs down to touch a morsel of flat land. He squeezed my neck a final time before letting me fall to the floor.
Gasping for air, I choked, “No, dad. I didn’t! I swear I didn’t!”
He reached for the lopsided dinner table, knocking over a chair, and grabbed a bottle of whiskey. He turned, reaching his arm behind his head, sending the bottle to my cheek.
I ducked, hearing the bottle clash against the wall, and ran down the hall to my room, slamming the door behind me. My fingers wouldn’t move as fast as my mind told them to. I messed with the lock on the door until I got it right and pulled a hoodie over my head, struggling to get my arms in as I grabbed my backpack. I pushed up my window and punched out the screen, flinging my backpack out the window, diving after it. I landed on the wet earth, but pushed myself up.
I heard a kick to the door and a series of angry yells. I took my backpack and ran. I ran down the street, forcing quick glances back at the dungeon that became smaller and smaller. I ran past the gas station where the pumps always had yellow bags over them claiming they were out of service. I ran past the bus stop where this woman with a cane and a mole on her cheek always sat. She never got on the bus when it came. I ran and ran until I saw my school in the distance.
I pushed open the double doors and walked in the quiet entrance as I huffed and puffed. The lady at the information desk stared at me, but I ignored her. I saw the couch in the far corner and focused on it as I walked, feeling the eyes of my peers digging into me. When I got there, I plopped my backpack down and lay down, turning away from the world as I snuggled into the sweat of my hoodie.
                                                               ***
The smell thing drives me nuts, but I’m also pretty worried about his comfort level. The couch is half his height and his legs are scrunched up. And he’s surely going to have a terrible neck cramp when he gets up. Don’t even get me started on his dignity. Who sleeps in public anyways? Just go home, man.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Frat House at Fourteen: Part Two


The bass-heavy music pounds the floors and vibrates off my chest. I know if I want to shout out my excitement to Millie I’ll have to yell straight into her ear. The smell of smoke and sex fills the room. It is completely full. There’s barely enough room to walk through to what looks like a kitchen on the other side of this… what is this? A living room? Yeah, I’m gonna go with living room. Millie and I walk side by side now, squeezing past the dancing girls grinding on their boyfriends. We follow Tate, Willie, and Luke. I look to my right and see the wall lined with guys. Most lean on the wall checking out the girls that dance. Most of them stare at one girl that wears a low-cut red top, her long curls bouncing around as she moves to the pounding of the music.
We get to the other side of the packed room and reach a dining area that flows into the kitchen. There are couches in the dining area, and our chauffeurs make their way into the kitchen, probably to get beer. I can’t picture them drinking anything but beer.
I stop, “Let’s just stay here for a second.”
“Okay,” she replies, “I can’t believe we’re here right now.”
“I know! You should definitely kiss my toes right now for getting us the hook up on this party.”
“I definitely owe you one,” she tucks her hair behind her ear.
The guys come back with red cups filled with mystery liquid. They plop down on the couches in the dining area and sip their drinks. They don’t look like they’ll be going anywhere.
“Are you guys just gonna sit there?” I ask them.
They look at each other for a few seconds before Luke says, “Yeah.”
Millie and I shrug our shoulders and say, “Okay, then.”
There is no way we are just going to sit down tonight. 
I grab her arm and we stand at the edge of the living room. Chaos all around.
I smile, “I’m goin’ in.”

12:40 am.
               We dance. The music vibrates off the walls and we can feel it humming in our chests. My ears start ringing so I grab Millie’s arm and signal her to follow me out of the wide living room. I trip over an invisible object and giggle as we make our way to the kitchen.
               “I want some yummy stuff,” I blurt out to Millie.
               She laughs at me, “Yummy stuff? You mean alcohol?”
               I nod my head. Sounding out the word, trying to watch my mouth, I say, “Alcohol.”
               We walk into the rectangular kitchen and I say, “Hey! Where’s the alcohol at?”
               I look around at the appliances that line the walls and the counter space covered with bottles of all kinds and various blenders. Men lined the kitchen, all with red cups in their hands. One particularly bulky guy with a gray V-neck on that was tight around his monstrous biceps walked over to me.
               “How old are you?”
               I knew this would happen. I have always looked older than I actually am, so I decide to wing it.
               “Seventeen,” I say.
 “You’re seventeen? I’m only gonna tell you this once. You better leave. No one under eighteen is allowed here, and I’m not gettin’ busted if the cops come and I’ve got a minor on my hands,” he continues, “So, leave. I mean it.”
His harsh grunt of a tone and his paternal sternness scares me enough to want to get the heck out of this smoky frat house. I should have left. I should have taken my purse, my best friend, and my potential model-status chauffeurs with me. I should have known that this intense, monstrous looking man wasn’t just going to disappear. But...
I stay. Millie and I pretend to leave, pushing our way up to the front door. We notice a staircase leading down across from it.
             “Hey, I’m gonna see if there’s somewhere to put my purse and jacket so I don’t have to hold ‘em all night. I’ll be back.”
She nods.
 I go down to the basement with half of an intention of hiding from that petrifying, bulky man-host and half of an intention of finding a place to put my purse and my jacket. The stairs are so steep, that I find myself holding on to the railing, focusing on every step. It looks like a dungeon down here. Gray cement walls and a small hallway that kicks off into several rooms. A man with striking bright orange hair and a large build steps out from the farthest room and stops me in my tracks.  
He stumbles, standing still, and muffles out, “How old are you?”
Barely understanding his drunken voice, I recall the incident from upstairs. Another guy is going to going to kick me out of this party? Really?
 I learned my lesson from earlier, so I cleverly reply, “Me? I’m eighteen.”
I pat myself on the back for being so smart until he looks me in the eyes and stammers,
“Perfect.”
He grabs me by the arm and attempts to lead me into the dark, hazy room in front of us. Panic rushes up from my chest and clouds every square inch of my face until I can feel the heat escaping my pores. Adrenaline rushes into my bloodstream and escapes through my arm when I jerk it out of his strong grip and run with every possible ounce of force that my drunken, fourteen-and-a-half-year-old body can muster up. I run up the stairs as fast as I can, barely stumbling over the steep steps. When I finally reach the top, I feel like I’ve seen the light at the end of the tunnel, but a burly man bumps into me.
“I thought I told you to leave. Get out.”
I let my eyes drag up past his wide chest and into his harsh, black eyes.
“I’m sorry,” I manage to slur out. He doesn’t seem to accept my apology.
“Here, let me escort you to the door.”
 I pass him as he follows close behind, walking me the short distance to the front of the house. I start to panic at this point. I don’t have a phone-- my parents made it a rule that you have to be sixteen before you get one. I don’t have a car, obviously. My best friend is still inside doing who knows what, and the guys that I came with are my ride home. I don’t know where they are. I feel the urge to cry, but I stop myself and when I finally reach the porch, I look behind me. The burly guy is gone. I take my chances and slyly weasel my way back in. I dodge flinging arms of people that hump each other like a big pack of mating horses until I see Millie.
I grab her by the arm, “Have you seen the guys anywhere?”
She stares into my eyes with a horrifying blank expression.
“What guys?” She loses her balance and nearly topples over. I decide to ditch the idea of trying to talk to her and start looking around the house trying to avoid the host, Mr. Burly, and the rapist, Mr. Cheez-It Hair. He is sitting on the couch in the corner staring at his red solo cup. I found my ride home! I feel a quick rush of relief followed by the final grip of an arm. He swings me around and grips my arm even tighter.
“I told you to leave this house. I told you twice. Get out,” He yells as hard as he can.
It is loud enough for a small group of people around to hear. I scream at my ride, and he sees what is happening. He gathers up his buddies and nonchalantly follows Mr. Burly, my friend, and me outside of the murky frat house. The rest of the night became a black hole in my mind.
However, I do recall Millie throwing up all over Luke’s truck.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Frat House at Fourteen: Part One


     I hate to just start this off and tell you my name, but I don't know how else to do it. It's Annalise. You're about to experience what it's like to be at a frat house when you're fourteen. I apologize in advance for the little warnings I give my younger self, but I can't help it. I just want to pick her up and shake her sometimes... anyways, strap on your seat belt.

11:35 pm.
“Millie, seriously, come on. They’re waiting,” I hiss.
               She floats out of the bathroom, tilts her head, and gives me a stare that screams, “Just a second.”
               Luke: we’re gonna leave if u guys don’t get out here now
               “Hurry up! Luke just texted and said they’re gonna leave unless we go out there,” I say.
               Scrambling to type out a reply, I send back, “we’re coming hold on.”
               We grab our purses and I basically push Millie out of my bedroom. I tell her to go on ahead of me; I’ll be following close behind. As she walks away, I grab two random piles of clothes and stuff them underneath the covers on my bed. I make little mounds for heads, and grab two pairs of boots and put them at the base of the fake bodies. Good enough.  It wouldn’t have saved me anyway, but it eased my nerves.
               I turn out my light, and do a maneuver with the handle of my doorknob, you know, twisting it before it actually shuts. I catch up with Millie at the base of my driveway. The nervousness intensifies inside of my stomach and my face feels hot. What if my parents wake up? What if they wake up and call the cops because we aren’t there? Or worse, what if they say Millie and I can’t be friends anymore? My mind is rushing around these questions, and the nervousness is flushing down to my toes as I realize we are about to go to a party with a bunch of college-aged guys. My entire body is steaming hot and I feel like I’m going to hyperventilate. “What were you doing?” she questions me. I look ahead at the idle truck at the end of the long driveway, and say, “Helping us not get caught.”
               The pebbles of the driveway crunch under our feet with every step as we near the truck. We can barely see where we are stepping in the cold of the night. I tousle my hair and lick my lips. Millie and I look at each other at the same time and the excitement bubbling in our brains passes between us and multiplies. We reach the truck, and I open the door. The inside lights flicker on and three nineteen year old men stare back at us.

11:45 pm.
“Wanna beer?” Tate asks me from the front seat.
Millie and I are staring at his blonde crew cut hair, his perfectly shaped face, the blue eyes that make our hearts flutter and subconsciously lean forward in our seats.
“Um, sure.”
He hands me one, and I can’t help but notice the veins popping out of his forearm… which lead up to his biceps, which lead back up to those beautiful blue eyes…
I lift the beer up to my lips and sip. Not bad. I chug it.
“Woah, woah, woah, there. Slow down,” Willie says, tipping my bottle down.
Willie is just as beautiful as Tate, but in a much different way. He is shorter than Willie, but has a thick frame. He looks like a Greek god with his ink black hair, his chocolate brown eyes, his sun kissed tan skin…
I look over to Millie as she sits sipping her beer with her pinky up, her long stick-straight brown hair resting on her chest.
The music dances around in the air. It’s all rap as of right now, and all the guys in the car bob their heads. Luke is driving.  He falls short in the looks department… I wonder how he manages to be friends with these guys. He has shaggy brown hair, downturned eyes, a scruffy excuse for a beard—he even looks like he is developing a beer chub. You know, the beginnings of a beer belly. He turns up the music.
               Rock star lifestyle might don’t make it—
I look over to Millie and shout, “Cheers!”
We clink beers and take big gulps. The taste is more bearable with each sip. I will persevere. This night will not amount to squat unless I get throw-up, do-something-crazy, buck-wild drunk. I wish I could have told my fourteen-year-old self how many carbs swished around in that beer.  Oh, and that I’d be throwing up in my toilet all night, trying to keep the puke sounds to a minimum so mom and dad don’t wake up.
Nerves start pulsing through my body. The thought of my parents creeps up into my head as we near the turnoff for the interstate. I nudge Millie.
“Millie, I’m starting to get really nervous! What if my parents wake up and we aren’t there?”
She grins at me and shrugs her shoulders. She points to her ears to signal she can’t hear everything I am saying. “Just drink,” she yells.
I finish off my beer and shout out for another one. No one can hear me over the music.
               Party, party, party, let’s all get wasted—
I slap Luke on the shoulder and he turns down the music. “What?”
“Do you guys have any vodka?”
Tate and Willie look at each other and laugh.

12:05 am.
We arrive at a parking lot.
I didn’t really know what consisted of a “shot” at this point in my life, but I could easily conclude that I had about six of them. 
“We’re here,” Tate says as he thumps his tall, bulky body down from the passenger seat of the truck.
“This is it?” I ask.
Luke stares at me and a grin pops up on his face. It kind of scares me.
“We’ve got about four blocks to walk. We didn’t want to park closer, because people get suspicious around this university. Low key,” he pauses, “is the key.”
We start walking in the black of the night, the foggy yellow beam of light shining down from the occasional light post. It was desolate around us. The street was lined with gas stations, old buildings, business I’d never seen before. I didn’t see a soul.
“Is this safe?” I ask, glancing over at Millie.
“Calm down, we’re almost there,” Luke says.
We stumble up the next two blocks. My legs start to shake underneath me and I felt my hands go numb. I think it’s cold out here.
“Hey, Millie. Feel how numb my hands are,” I hold them out to her.
She stares at me with a blank expression, “Annalise, how would I be able to feel that?”
“Oh… duh.” I pull my hands back to me, crossing my arms. Why did I say that? Even worse, why did I think that was possible? Even if for a split second?
We round a corner, and I see people meandering around the street, people mingling on sidewalks, and then I hear it.
The music.
It’s quiet loudness, escaping every time the door of the house opens, and dampening every time it shuts. People scattered all over the porch. The porch wrapped around the front of the house, the white poles holding up its roof, a few rocking chairs sitting to the left of the front door. The front door was leaning towards the right of the house, a small set of stairs leading up to it. The house was two stories, right in between two other houses that looked just like it. There was maybe a few feet of yard space between the neighboring houses.  I thought the ugly house that would be vacant within two months was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. Don’t go down to the basement, Annalise. Whatever you do, don’t go down to the basement. Consider the idea that it’s full of slithering rapists with burnt Cheez-It hair. Please.
Willie gets out a red and white pack of cigarettes and lights one for himself.
“You want one?” he looks at me.
“Sure,” I shrug my shoulders. I don’t know how to smoke a cigarette. Why on earth did I just do that?
He hands one to me and pulls out his lighter. He stares at me as I hold the cigarette in my hand.
I notice his cigarette sitting in his mouth, so I put mine between my teeth. He lights his. I think he sucked in air as he lit it. He holds the lighter up to mine, so I suck in air as the flame flashes in front of my eyes. I pull the cigarette out of my mouth and I start coughing. I am coughing harder than I ever have before, but it doesn’t last for very long.
“Geez, you okay?” Millie asks.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m cool,” I say, the words scratching their way out.
I sneak a peek at Willie and notice him grinning at Tate.
I watch Willie as he smokes his and by the time we reach the steps of the house, I have it down.
I follow the guys up the steps. I hold onto the railing, looking back at Millie as she bubbles with excitement behind me.
As I reach the top of the steps, I look around at the people on the porch. A pack of guys stand in the corner, a few leaning against the railing and a few propped up by the side of the house. They all hold cigarettes between their two fingers, not talking at all. There is one girl on the tip of the porch, looking over the edge. I think she’s puking. This makes me really excited for tonight. I want to be that girl. When I finish examining every person on the porch, and the excitement in my body grows so strong that I just can’t stand it any longer, we walk inside.

Monday, December 3, 2012

An Inside Peek at My Current Diet


You might’ve noticed that not every post is a short story, and well, this one isn’t either. But hang in there. It might actually be useful for you.
So, around August time, my lovely boyfriend Daniel decided to challenge me to a fitness/diet competition. To anyone that is my friend on Facebook, you’re probably well aware of the fact that I am destroying him. Yeah, I’m winning. By far.
           Anyways, Daniel has nonetheless taught me lots of valuable information on dieting and fitness that I’d love to share, since it’s working so well for me. And I’m also going to be completely honest with you. I’ve cheated on my diet. A lot.
           Okay, back to the helpful stuff. I’m going to give you a sample of my average day, not taking into account the fact that I cheat. I’m also not going to include my workout routine because that’s a whole other post.  Here we go.
Meal 1 (around 8 o’clock): Oatmeal with Sugar Free Maple Syrup, Egg Whites with Bell Pepper and Mushrooms—add Salt Substitute to taste.
Meal 2: (around 10 o’clock): Protein Bar (I make these myself—I’ll attach some recipes that I love).
                        Meal 3 (After my workout around 12 o’clock): Protein Shake and 1 oz. Almonds
                        Meal 4 (Around 3 o’clock): 4 oz. Chicken, 1 cup Broccoli, 1 cup Brown Rice
                        Meal 5 (Around 6 o’clock): 4 oz. Salmon, 1 cup Broccoli, 1 cup Brown Rice
                        Meal 6 (Around 8-9 o’clock): ½ cup Cottage Cheese or 1 cup Low-fat Vanilla Yogurt
               So, I might not have it completely perfect, but this works for me. Now, you’re probably thinking what about that cheating you were talking about? Yeah, well, I’m a sucker for chocolate and ice cream and cheesecake and candy bars and… you get the point. I cheat a lot. It got to the point where every time I saw Daniel, I’d cheat. So, then I started associating Daniel with unhealthy food, and everything got all out of whack, because I was blaming him for making me cheat and he was blaming me for making him cheat.
               Either way, I’m working on only cheating once every 12 days or so (which is a really negotiable topic right now).
               I hope you aren’t intimidated by this. I hope you feel inspired to start eating healthy, because this may look like a sacrifice, but I am telling you—feeling energized and being healthy, I mean really healthy, not crash diets or salad diets—it does something to you. You start glowing and suddenly you wake up really happy. Suddenly you’re ready to face Mondays, you’re ready to run 5 miles, and you’re ready to cook up something deliciously healthy. It’s a wonderful feeling. So it really isn’t a sacrifice.  It also isn’t a diet. It’s a lifestyle.
               I’m actually about to challenge you. I know what you’re thinking: Quick! Exit! I don’t want to face a diet challenge!
               I challenge you to write down everything you eat tomorrow. I won’t even ask you to look up the calories or carbs or fats. Just write it down.
               Because if you start by writing down what you eat, you might scare yourself into doing the rest.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Reaching Earth


--For Bethany--

“What’s it gonna be tonight—Dirty Harry or The Notebook?”
“I am not watching either of those movies ever again,” I say.
He drops his jaw and stares at me like I just put a gun up to his temple.
“What did you just say?”
“Wes, come on. I’ve watched each one of those movies with you every single week for like two years now. I love you, but I just want to watch something different. Why don’t we go out for a change? Let’s actually do something.”
“What do you mean do something? We always do something. Am I boring you?”
I groan and put my hand up to halt the path this conversation is leading us, “Fine, let’s just watch The Notebook.”
He frowns and shakes his head back and forth, raising his eyebrows, “No, no. Let’s go actually do something,” he mocks, “Because you don’t want to watch either one of my favorite movies of all time ever again. It’s fine, let’s go. Where you wanna go?”
“Wes, seriously, it’s fine. I enjoy watching the same movie every week. It’s fun,” I force a half smile.
“Oh shut up, Jane. I see right through you. Let’s go shopping and try on expensive clothes we don’t need and go get some makeup and then some ice cream that we’ll feel guilty about five minutes later and blame on our innocent boyfriends, because they made us shove it in our mouths—“
“Wes,” I cut him off, “I don’t really understand what you’re doing right now, but it’s kind of bugging me, so quit it.”
“Oh, so I’m bugging you, too? First, I’m boring, now I’m annoying-- what’s next, huh? I’m just a bad boyfriend, aren’t I?”
“Is this a joke? First off, I never called you boring, and I didn’t even call you annoying. You’re putting words in my mouth right now.”
“Gosh, I’m just terrible. I’m boring and annoying which makes me a bad boyfriend and I put words in your mouth. Just terrible.”
“I don’t really know whether to laugh or leave,” I admit.
“You know what, just leave. If you don’t wanna be here then just go home. Cause I don’t want you here anyway.”
Hearing him say he doesn’t want me there almost makes my eyes sting with tears. I was ready to laugh at the situation and compromise with him, but now I really do want to go home.
I press my mouth shut, grabbing my keys. I rev up my car and plug in my phone, playing “Eros” by Ludovico Einaudi.
The high notes of the piano exchange turns while a deep note creeps in and scares them to a soft resonating halt. The high notes regain composure and creep back in, slowly and cautiously, until the deep note scares them again. Finally, the prancing notes take off as the pulse of the deep notes come at a steady pace, three hits at a time. They are at a battle now, fighting for attention, fighting for their turn, fighting for what they want. The deep notes pulse harder now and the high notes whine, longing to win the battle.
One. Two. Three.
One. Two. Three.
One—I scream.
The cracking and crashing all around me drowns out my hearing, my vision blurs, everything smells burnt and dead. My vision blurs to black.

“She’s gotta be okay, she’s gotta be okay, she’s gotta be okay.”
I hear a familiar voice pacing back and forth, revisiting each word with hostility and fear.
I push my eyelids open and my blurry vision clears. I am in a hospital. In a cot. Wes is pacing back and forth with his hands on each side of his head. I hear pulses of notes doing cartwheels in my head and I remember. It was a car crash.
“Oh, baby, oh, baby, you’re awake. Does it hurt? I’m so sorry for everything. I love you, I love you. Oh, God, I love you.”
I open my mouth, and rest my hand on the cot to lift myself up, but I can’t. My body aches and each muscle screams at me to stop. Pain pricks my eyes with tears.
“I love you,” I choke out.
“I’m so sorry for everything I said, I really am. I will never ever get mad at you again, I swear it. I am going to love you until the day I die,” his words start to become distorted as tears run down his cheeks, “I got that phone call and I thought you were dead, Jane. I mean I didn’t know, but what if you had died? I would’ve lived the rest of my life in agony. I probably would’ve killed myself, Jane. I promise, I swear to you, I am going to be the man of your dreams from now on.”
God zooms in from the tips of the universe, past the galaxies, through the solar system, past the planets, and finally, he reaches Earth. He narrows his vision down to this hospital. This cot. And there in that cot, with pain up to the tips of my baby hairs, he nods his head in approval and draws a smile on my face.