It’s sometime in the darkest part of the early morning, and I’m in a vehicle with a stranger driving through the forest in a part of France that I don’t know. We don’t speak the same language. I’ve got a steak knife hidden in my hand in case he tries to pull anything funny, I’m exhausted, and I’m feeling just a little bit crazy.
In 2002 I was a junior in high school. I arrived home after a date and found both my parents waiting up for me wearing grim expressions. They handed me a letter that had come in the mail that day, from the representative of my childhood best friend’s family. The letter stated that I was being contacted because I was a friend to the family, and it launched into a short and painful tale. Lindsay had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer only weeks before, and one afternoon she complained of chest pains and collapsed. She had passed quickly and unexpectedly, so a family representative was appointed to contact loved ones and notify them of the funeral arrangements. I received the letter the day before the funeral.
Lindsay and I met in the first grade, where we discovered our mutual love of hanging upside down on the monkey bars by our knees, locking our hands together, and swinging back and forth until we couldn’t hold on to the bars any longer and we fell to the ground in a heap, giggling. Our mothers grew exasperated–mine sure did, anyway–at the fact that we snuck our matching shorts out of the laundry basket so we could wear them every day of the week, since they were the best for climbing jungle gyms. We spent weekends together, riding bicycles through the neighborhood pretending we were being chased, crying together whenever one of us fell down and got scraped up, and marveling at the grown-up things her much older siblings did.
I’m not a very good bullshitter, and I never have been.
Let’s back up to the summer after my high school graduation, when I was more shy and even worse at bullshitting than I am now. My friend Tim had been invited to attend a big fancy grown up party so I offered to be his date since he wasn’t eager about going alone and I figured it’d offer me a chance to go somewhere fancy.
Tim had received the invitation by way of a side job he’d worked, something to do with his then budding film and entertainment aspirations. All I can recall of the actual job was that he’d spent a lot of time turning flat cardboard into boxes, but it somehow landed him an invitation to one of the mansions in the richer part of the city where the business magnates and oil money gravitated. Picture gated compounds, private tennis courts, indoor swimming pools, and the like. To put this in perspective, the home I lived in at the time with my parents and my sister was all of 1,188 square feet and it most certainly did not feature a swimming pool.
I wrote this one a few years ago then stashed it in my Drafts folder. Now seems like a good time to finally post it.
October is for falling in love, over and over again.
The seasons change, warm spices come back into regular use, kids young and old get to dress up at Halloween, the trees turn colors, jackets and layers enter into rotation, and the temperatures drop just enough for snuggling. In addition to all the things this month already has going for it, October also possesses a certain magic for me.
The first notable October happened six years ago, when, through a series of unexpected and highly improbable events, I went on a first date with him. By the next October we were excitedly (and distractedly) planning our marriage.
Fast forward to the following October, when I was anxiously awaiting his return. As I stood there breathing the (ocean-scented) October air, he came back to me at the end of a first deployment. That October was exciting because of all the new things it brought to our lives as we reaped the benefits of all the hard work we’d been putting into fast-forwarding ourselves into adulthood. Never mind that as soon as we were together again the countdown to the next separation began; we were happy to have that October together, and we lived fully in each moment.
I’ve previously alluded to my zombie condition, but I only alluded because, well, the explanation is really quite boring since I don’t actually eat brains.
I suffer from chronic hypoglycemia. See? Boring.
The way my dad tells the story of my diagnosis, it began when he spotted me in my car seat staring wide-eyed with dilated pupils toward the sun on a very bright day. He asked the doctor, “What the hell is wrong with our kid?” and found out that, among many other things, their kid has an overeager pancreas that shoots out way too much insulin. Pew pew! So lots of my childhood memories involve medicating with juice, having to carry a box of snacks with me to school, and waking up in the middle of the night with leg cramps that wouldn’t go away until after I’d eaten a banana and my mother had spent a while massaging my legs.
Among the joyous symptoms I experience in a state of low blood sugar are incoherent speech, drunken behavior (not the fun kind), clamminess and chills, headaches, nausea, shakiness, and dilated pupils. These days I have a blood glucose monitor but I fortunately don’t have to use it every day the way I did when I was a child. I carry glucose tablets on my key ring. I eat frequent, small meals. I don’t consume a lot of processed foods and sugar. I substitute lower glycemic index foods for higher ones to avoid peaks that lead to later crashes. I dose with juice or fruit when I’m feeling really unstable, then I follow it with a meal. I exercise regularly. And I know I’ll feel like complete caca whenever I’m sick, since illness typically magnifies the crash symptoms. My husband knows when I’m crashing and is very good at parting crowds to get me to the nearest food source. Or downing large animals for me to feast on, depending on my (or his?) mood.
I try to be a strong, supportive, level-headed, and rational wife to this man.
And most of the time I actually think I come decently close to hitting the mark, but today was not one of my better days. I woke up feeling tired, faced a long and grueling day of challenges at work, and came home with a stomachache and the beginning of a migraine. Then I accidentally scratched my own chin and made it bleed so I had to sport a bandage on it for the rest of the evening.
Observe the meltdown:
C: (interrupting conversation) I’m sorry, but I’m going to just say it because I’m feeling weak. I absolutely hate that you have to be away from home so much right now!
B: But sweetie, I thought you were okay with me taking this job!
C: I was, and I still am. And by tomorrow I’ll be able to deal again, I’m sure. But I can’t be steel today. (tearful blubbering)
B: Awww sweetheart, it’s okay.
C: I’m aluminum! Weak, bendy aluminum! With a bandage on my chin! I’m gross!
B: (laughing) You’re not gross; you just have a bandage on your chin.
C: I scratched myself, with my own hand, and now I’m wearing a bandage on my face! That’s as pitiful as it gets!
Laughing, B gave me a hug, a kiss on the forehead, and the promise that no, he won’t ever replace poor pitiful me with a better version who doesn’t have a bandage on her chin, which made me feel (mostly) better.
Perhaps tomorrow I’ll be steel again. Anyway, my face should be healed enough by then that I can ditch the bandage, and that counts for something at least.
I know I am neurotic about some things. I can change, if I have to, I guess. Okay, no; I can’t change this. I do devote an effort to being less suffocating, though, for my dear, sweet, sometimes absentminded husband’s sanity. And I’m proud to admit that since I wrote this in 2010 I’ve noticed improvements. Just don’t ask my husband because he’ll lie and tell you that I’m still as bad about this as I’ve ever been.
Not long ago I lost my backpack and had to go without it when I traveled to Seattle for school. A couple weeks later I walked into the garage to find B suspended from the rafters pretending to be a bat. Or maybe he was really doing chin-ups, dips, and other CrossFit things. Whatever, Batman. And there on the ground next to him was my long-lost backpack. Excited by my discovery, I swooped in to grab it and was instantly engulfed in a blinding cloud of white powder.
As it turns out, my dear, sweet, usually logical husband had decided to use my backpack–not an airtight gallon-size Ziploc bag, of which we have many–to store his climbing chalk. And in case some of you are missing the point, know that climbing chalk comes in rock form but is a very fine, loose, presumably cocaine-like powder. It shouldn’t be stored in backpacks especially if plans are being made to carry said backpacks through airport security checkpoints.