Posts Tagged ‘Boys’

Dog vs. Boyfriend

Posted: July 30, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

  vs.

I’m about to begin my senior year of college. Well, sort of, but I won’t get into all of my staying-late and I-have-enough-hours-to-have-graduated-my-sophomore-year-of-high-school gripes right now. But in lieu of this unavoidable fact, I started thinking back to who I was when I began college and who I am now.

That person is really rather different.

For one, I’m a nursing major now, instead of an English-major-who-might-go-to-PA-school-if-she-doesn’t-do-what-all-English-majors-do-and-just-go-to-more-school-so-their-great-great-great-grandchildren-will-still-be-paying-off-her-school-loans. (Although I still like long hyphenated phrases).

I study a lot more than I used to.

Also, I wear dresses and skirts now and my hair is longer, which I guess means I’ve finally given up my elementary school dream of being a vicious-awesome tomboy.

However, one of the most substantial differences is this:

I would much rather have a dog than have a boyfriend.

When I first started college, I went in with the firm and unwavering determination to find a boyfriend OR ELSE, OKAY?! I was a little scary, in truth. I liked about half of the male population at Harding my first semester, and you think I’m joking. Those first few months probably would have made a really good B-lister rom-com that all the girls at Harding who were exactly the same way would have loved. (I know this because I’ve watched all of these movies with my friends. Hooray college.)

But I have seen the error of my ways and come to a much better understanding of life. Dogs are simply better than boyfriends. Don’t believe me? Allow me to convince you.

Reason Number One

Dogs are uncomplicated. Dogs need five things: food, water, exercise, sleep, and you. (Well, six things if you don’t fix them, so you know—spay and neuter your pets, kids.) And the thing they need the most of is you. Boys need food, water, exercise, sleep, a mid-afternoon snack, football, time alone, guy time, video games, movies, nachos, more football, magazines, girls, and undoubtedly nameless unfathomable things that girls don’t know about it. The list goes on and on.

Reason Number Two

Dogs do not give a cat’s tail if you are in a bad mood or not. It’s wonderful. You can sit and complain to them about absolutely anything you want, from the fact that Gossip Girl is in re-runs, again, or how you don’t have any friends or how your best friend didn’t sit by you in class today or how the library didn’t have the book you wanted or… you get the picture… and it doesn’t matter to them one iota, no matter how long you go on (so long as you take them to the bathroom after a few hours). You can even pet them while you complain. Just try complaining for six straight hours about how much you hate your chemistry teacher to your boyfriend while petting him simultaneously.

Reason Number Three

Dogs are easier to potty train. You teach them to do their stuff outside and that’s the end of it. Try teaching your boyfriend not to splash or leave the toilet seat up. Again, just try. Let me know how it goes for you. Not that they don’t want to, but unfortunately, milkbones don’t have quite the same effect on significant others as they have on the canine species.

Reason Number Four

When dogs use too much tongue, it’s cute. When guys use too much tongue… yeah.

Reason Number Five

Dogs have fur, and fetch, and let you give them tummy rubs, and do tricks if you give them treats, and are cuddly, and… huh. That is mostly the same, except the cuddly part, although I’ve met a few guys in my time who are rather a lot like teddy bears….

Anyway, it’s not that I have anything against guys. Obviously. Guys, especially tall guys, give great hugs (which dogs can’t do), and generally smell nice (which dogs almost never do), and are usually a good deal more straightforward than girls (whereas dogs can’t talk and have no opportunity to be straightforward or otherwise). Also, if you take a guy for a walk, you don’t have to pick up their poop, and after a summer of working at the Humane Society, that’s really quite a plus. One day, I hope to find one—a guy—who is really, really awesome. But, at this point… they don’t have anything on this:

And that, my friends, is why you’ll find me at the animal shelter instead of hanging out in Keller or Allen or Harbin lobby this next semester. Cheerio.

So….. It’s been a while.

Basically, I’ve been very, very busy.

First, I volunteered as a counselor at Camp Clot Not. Besides having a really gross name—I mean, the word “clot” just kind of makes me want to take a bath in hydrogen peroxide—Camp Clot Not is a week-long annual camp in Alexander City for kids with hemophilia and von Willebrand’s disorder, both of which mean that your blood doesn’t clot correctly.* In a word, it was awesome. I won’t even try to explain it to you, but I will tell you this: that week, I absolutely fell in love with those kids, and I miss them every day.

Also, it didn’t hurt that I was the only female counselor under the age of 40 and there were four extremely attractive male counselors all of college-age with whom I got to practice Being Normal Around the Opposite Sex, something I don’t usually get to do. It’s a necessary casualty of being a nursing major.

Then I got home Thursday, and at 7:00 Friday morning we were driving to Bentonville for Ben and Rachel’s beautiful wedding. Also I got to ride a horse while I was there. No big deal.

Then I had Monday to recuperate, Tuesday to do… something, I don’t even remember… Wednesday and Thursday to work, and then immediately after work on Thursday I headed to Lisa’s house for an incredibly fun, wonderful, and ridiculous weekend of making obnoxious Facebook videos, shopping, Stone Mountain, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, and the FREAKING GEORGIA AQUARIUM, MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE PLACE IN THE WORLD. On this side of the world, anyways.

Also, I think it is worth mentioning that I had the plague while all of this was going on, too. Think sinus infection from hell, plus sore throat, hacking cough, and some freaky heart stuff. Well, the heart stuff really isn’t related, and I got a Z-Pack to clear up the sinus infection, and I’m going to St. Vincent’s in a week to have an echocardiogram. Go figure.

All of that to say that I haven’t blogged or worked on Snell or done much of anything. Except read, of course. I’ve got one book to go until I hit the twenty books mark, and even though I now know I’m going to fall shy of fifty, thirty won’t be bad, either.

Anyways, that is really all I have to say for now, so that this blog post doesn’t get too long, and because I’m getting a slight computer-headache, and because I followed my brother around the golf course in 236% humidity with a literal-not-exaggerating temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit today, and… well, I want to read my latest book.

So Honey Nut Cheerios for now.

. . . . . . . . . . .

*In case you’re wondering, it doesn’t mean that if you get a papercut you bleed to death and die. It means that you get bleeds in your muscles and joints and other internal sorts of bleeding, and it can be really hard to stop. Therefore, these kids have to be given daily or bi-daily intravenous injections of “factor,” which is an unbelievably expensive kind of medicine that attempts to replace the missing protein in your blood that helps to prevent uncontrollable bleeds by causing your blood to clot. Now that is bravery. Imagine getting IV push meds every single day for your whole life. And by the time these kids are in their early teenage years, most of all of them will have learned how to self-infuse. Incredible.

That’s a picture of me thinking, Oh no, is this story even working? Ah!

Here is another installation of Snell. I’d love to hear some feedback from you guys—is it all making sense? Do you like it? Are the characters consistent? Do you like it? Do you like it?

Ha.

Also, I dreamed last night—again—that I was signed up for Marine Biology next semester. This is the second time I’ve had that dream, and I woke up more stressed out than I do when I dream about getting devoured by hot pink velociraptors. Marine Biology? Really? Why brain, why?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

On my first day of work at Boys Ranch of the Appalachians, I discovered that for basically my entire life, the books have been lying to me.

In my time, I have read quite a lot of these. Books, I mean. If I had five dollars for every book I had ever read, then Mom would have never even needed to write Hans the Great and we would be living in a palace in Rome being fed grapes by godlike Italian men and none of this would have ever even happened. For the sake of my education, Mom had even hired a team of metaphorical Clydesdales to drag me clawing and scratching and biting through some of the classics, an experience I had yet to fully recover from.

I had read fantasy books with covers sporting mostly naked women carrying swords in the middle of a forest and science fiction books displaying mostly naked women carrying laserguns in the middle of a spaceship. I’d read historical fiction, historical nonfiction, steampunk, cyberpunk, realistic fiction, realistic nonfiction, nonrealistic ish-fiction—you get the picture. I simply loved to read.

But for all the smörgåsbord of literary delicacies that I had sampled, I had noticed something which, in my new life in the bustling metropolis of Meat Camp, was glaringly and inexcusably misrepresented in almost every case.

Horsemanship.

Don’t get me wrong. I like horses. They can’t talk. They don’t make me act in awkward and blazingly home-schooler ways. They don’t care if you look like the unholy offspring of Sasquatch and Frankenstein’s monster because you just rolled out of bed. Their noses are really soft, and they mostly do what you tell them to. Unless they’re a stallion and there’s a hot mare around, but I won’t even get into that.

But being a stable boy—let me just tell you, there is absolutely nothing you can glorify about that, no matter what the books say about it being peaceful and simple and earthy and satisfying. It’s all crap, both the lying books and the stinking job. If you can find something poetic and laudable about shoveling horse crap, standing in horse crap, smelling like horse crap, or anything else about horse crap, send me an email, and I’ll give you a prize. Because that’s what being a stable boy is about. Lots and lots and lots of horse crap, with a little straw thrown in to, you know, stick to the horse crap that’s sticking to you.

And also being bitten by Tolon, that blasted four-legged terrorist. It was all I could do not the get out the mane shears and lop off the two enormous baubles hanging between his legs and hang them on one of the trees outside like Christmas ornaments, just to piss him off.

So in case you haven’t figured this out yet, I was in an absolutely diabolical mood by lunch. If looks could have killed, Boys Ranch of the Appalachians would have been turned into a nuclear waste field.

I was sitting on a bench underneath a Bradford pear—I hated Bradford pears—eating a turkey and salami sandwich—I hated turkey and salami—and drinking strawberry lemonade—I hated strawberry lemonade—glowering down at an ant crawling across my lap and trying to fry it with my laser vision of Bad Mood Extreme Addition when someone sat down next to me. I was surprised, in the way that a polar bear might have been surprised if a five-year-old with cerebral palsy came up and petted it.

“Hi!” said the person brightly.

I looked up. A girl, maybe two or three years younger than me, was smiling broadly at me. So broadly, in fact, that her eyes almost vanished into her cheeks. She had dark, olive skin and a sheet of glossy black hair that fell almost to her waist.

“Uh,” I said. “Hi.”

She was sitting on her hands and staring at me unashamedly.

“What’s your name?” she asked.

“Snell.”

“Oh, wonderful!” she exclaimed. “I have a weird name, too! My name is Risso. Oh—not that your name is weird in a bad way, but I’ve never heard of anyone named Snell before, and I’ve never heard of anyone named Risso, either. But Risso is sort of weird in a weird way, if you know what I mean. My mom named me that. She wanted to called me Rizzo, like, after the Muppet. But my dad put his foot down so she changed it to Risso because he said no daughter of his was going to be named after a rat, even a cute one. Then he left right after I was born but by then the name stuck.” Suddenly she frowned, her eyes getting enormous. “Oh. I’m doing that thing. Where I talk too much.”

I wondered if the unholy stench of the horse manure had actually caused me to hallucinate.

“It’s okay,” I said. “I, uh, don’t talk too much. So you’re making up for both of us.”

Her smile returned immediately, and her eyes disappeared again. I’d never seen anyone who wasn’t Asian do that.

“I like you, Snell,” she said. “I think we’re going to be friends. I work here, too, you know.” She looked critically at my poo-spattered jeans. “But, um, not in the stables. Thankfully.” She laughed. “Because no offense, but you reek.”

Maybe I should have taken offense at this, but I didn’t. I guess the offense done to my nose by the stables was all the insult that the rest of me could take for one day. I grinned, too.

Strangely, Risso’s ability to talk the hind legs off a horse—or hopefully, in the case of Tolon, the testicles—actually made me talk more, rather than less. Before long, I found myself telling her all about the move, Bob, and Mom’s purchase of The House.

Again, her eyes grew round when I mentioned The House.

“I can’t believe someone has finally bought that old thing! It’s going to make all the stupid teenagers in Boone sad that they can’t come and camp in there and break the windows and smoke pot in the back yard.”

Hmph. That explained the small plot of rather questionable plants in the very back corner of the garden.

“But that is so exciting! There’s always been a sort of… mystique about that place. I like that word—mystique. No one has lived there for over forty years, and before that it was just this ancient old crabby woman that no one liked and who never came out. Apparently she died there and had lain in there for, like, a month, rotting in the summer heat before they found her.”

“Oh,” I said bleakly. I decided not to ask her in which room the crotchety old hag had decayed, not wanting to start having nightmares about a figure with strips of flesh hanging off her standing over my bed.

She chattered on about two boys at her school that she missed dreadfully because they were off working at a summer camp in Texas. They were also identical twins, which complicated her feelings even more. Almost accidentally, I told her about my encounter the previous day with Dimitri, and how I was supposed to meet him for a party at his house that nice.

Again, the round eyes. I was beginning to notice a pattern.

“Oh, but this is so exciting! I’m going too! Dimitri is, like, my best friend for forever.” Then maybe she noticed something in my face, something I hadn’t even meant to show or even consciously thought. “Don’t worry though, Snell, he’s like an absolute brother to me.”

She winked.

So it happened that that night, after I scraped off the horse manure and tried desperately to scrub the stench out of my hair for nearly half an hour, Risso and I rode together to Dimitri’s house in her “ghetto jeep,” which she named thus due to its cacophonically broken muffler.

I’m not sure if “cacophonically” is a word, but if it’s not, just call me Shakespeare. Cacophonically could be the new bedroom.

Anyways. Dimitri lived in Boone, the bigger town about twenty minutes south of Meat Camp. Over the heinous sound of Risso’s engine, she blasted 90s music as loud as the rather substantial speaker system could go. I tried not to goggle as she belted out “Oops!…I Did It Again” and Shania Twain like the salvation of the universe depended on her pure volume.

“Sing, Snell!” she shouted above the wind, and the engine, and the music, her hair blowing like the branches of a palm tree in Hurricane Camille. “Sing!”

I just grinned sheepishly. Maybe this was one of those things you learned in public school—how to sing really loudly with someone you’d barely even met and not give the first sign of a darn.

We parked outside of a lovely little apartment complex. I slid out, looking uneasily at the number 16. No backyard gardens to obliterate here.

Risso marched around the side of the ghetto jeep and placed her hands on my shoulders, looking intensely into my eyes. I liked Risso, but the concentration in those eyes almost made me take a step back. Then she smiled broadly and said, “You’ll do just fine.” Then she flounced towards the door marked with the big red 16.

And to my greatest surprise—you know, the kind of surprise when you’ve been expecting your parents to give you a new shirt for your birthday and instead you get a Maserati—I did. Just fine, that is.

Dimitri opened the door right as Risso was raising her fist to give what undoubtedly would have been a resounding knock, grinning so widely that I thought his face might split in two. He immediately pulled Risso into an enormous bear hug. I prepared myself to feel awkwardly out of the loop, but then he pulled me into one, too.

“You made it!” he said happily. “And I was hoping you two would become friends tonight and, as usual, Risso, you’ve beat me to it.”

Risso bowed deep and then punched him lightly on the arm. “Of course! Any time.”

He ushered us inside, and for a moment the street lights illuminated his eyes, and again I was struck by the infinite kindness there in those ocean-deep eyes, swimming there like fish in a sea current. Something inside of me loosened and relaxed—later I rather thought it was the abnormal tendon that had been constricting whatever organ gives people the ability to be smooth and normal—and I stepped through the door.

“My parents are out tonight, gone to Asheville for the weekend,” he said. “So we’ve got the place to ourselves.”

“Hooray!” shouted Risso, and she immediately leapt onto the loveseat and began leaping up and down, chanting, “No parents! No parents!” at the top of her lungs.

Dimitri looked at me and shook his head, laughing.

“Is she always like this?” I asked.

“Oh, you know, usually worse,” he answered. “She’s on her best behavior because you’re new.”

We grinned at each other, then quickly looked back at Risso. The tips of his ears, I noticed, had turned a pale shade of pink.

Risso quickly bored of couch-jumping, though no before she had come close to destroying a lamp that Dimitri seized deftly when one of her wildly flailing limbs threatened to send it into orbit. She then ran—going fast, always, seemed to be her primary mode of transportation—into the kitchenette and pulled down three packages of chewy chocolate chip cookies. Then we launched into a rather ferocious game of charades, which according to Risso’s rules always had to depict dying in some terrifically gruesome manner. Points were, of course, awarded according to how gruesome our ideas turned out.

Dimitri fell behind almost immediately in the points, or at least he would have if we’d really been keeping score. It was like that kindness bubbling up out of his eyes came from a place so deeply ingrained in him that it prevented him from even imagining anything truly horrendous. The best he came up with was a witch burning. His depiction of it, however, left Risso and I rolling on the floor in laughter fit to fracture our ribs.

Risso and I, on the other hand, went for each other’s throats like wolverines with toothaches. She started out with being ripped to shreds by Tasmanian devils while having the lower half of her body slowly disintegrated from an expanding pool of battery acid. Inspired by Dimitri’s rather pitiable attempts, I savagely followed up with being trampled by horses after escaping from a witch burning and having my scalp ripped off by a particularly vindictive horse who decided to take a bite of my hair. (Which was perhaps a touch inspired by Tolon as well.)

By the end of the game, we had all collapsed in a heap, tears streaming down our faces from laughing so hard. I felt so at home with them you would have never thought that I had only just blasted in from outer space (also known as Alabama) and landed in the middle of a friendship that was over a decade old. Our companionship felt seamless, something I had never experienced with anyone outside of Mom, and this was even different than that, newer, fresher, a taste of wind blowing up from a deep valley of pine trees.

After we had progressed to the inevitable point in charades where everyone starts picking subjects that are completely incomprehensible, Risso bounded up and pulled out the drawer under the television and started flipping through movies. She pulled one up and held it out like a trophy.

“The Notebook!” she shouted, eyes disappearing into her cheeks.

Dimitri and I both gave her such identical looks of horror that she immediately shoved it back in the drawer.

“Okay, I guess not,” she muttered, and I thought I caught her saying something like “too soon” under her breath. Suddenly, the room felt too hot.

Eventually she settled on some old John Wayne movie that Dimitri said belonged to his dad, who was obsessed with John Wayne. Apparently Risso was too, because she started giving us all the background to this particularly film, including the names of all the obscure actors and actresses and what other equally obscure 60s movies they had played in and—well, lots of other stuff. I wasn’t really paying attention, because Risso had chosen the only armchair in the living room, leaving the loveseat to Dimitri and me.

What a stupid, stupid name for a piece of furniture.

Risso immediately snuggled into the armchair and sunk into the movie, leaving me and Dimitri stranded in the corner. He looked at me sort of shyly, his mop of curly hair falling into his eyes so that he had to push it back out of his face.

“You aren’t much of a John Wayne fan,” he said. It wasn’t a question, but from the bored-out-of-my-gizzard look on my face, it didn’t really need to be.

“No,” I said, “but it is light-years better than The Notebook. I don’t know of a worse movie in the history of Hollywood, unless you’re counting those B- and C- and D-rated zombie-vampire-werewolf apocalypse films.”

He chuckled. “Those are definitely preferable to even the previews of that movie.” He looked at me, a bit of puzzlement in his eyes. “I was wondering—do you think we’ve ever met before? You look sort of familiar.”

I shrugged. “Probably not. I’ve lived in the super-city of Charming my entire life and not hardly ever left except for one hellish trip when I was eight to visit my Aunt Fiona in New Jersey.” I paused for a moment. “Aunt Fiona is a cow.”

He laughed, causing Risso to hiss, “Shhh!” across the room at us.

“Tell me about Charming,” he said.

I raised an eyebrow. “There’s not much to tell. It’s too hot in the summer and rains a lot in the winter. The only thing that’s smaller than the town itself is the minds of the people who live there.”

As soon as I’d said the words, I regretted them, wishing I could reel them back in like ugly fish on a line.

“I mean,” I said quickly, “People are just not that… open-minded. If that makes sense.”

Still looking at me—his steady gaze was the tiniest bit unnerving—he nodded slowly. “Tell me about it.” He said this not like, “Oh my gosh, like I know,” but as in, “Go on.”

So I did. I told him about Melissa’s farm and her horses and dogs that I spent my days with, wondering the trails and streambeds in the acreage she owned as well as the large swatches of land that had DO NOT TRESPASS signs posted around the boundaries that I tended to ignore. I told him about Charming Hills Apartment Complex, and the two restaurants and how good they were, and the way everyone thought Mom and I were something like Satan’s ambassadors because I was black and she was white and uninterested in men.

In turn, he told me a little about growing up in Boone. Both of his parents were professors at Appalachian State University and he’d grown up with a never-ending stream of college students coming in and out of their apartment, the down-on-their-luck ones sometimes staying in the guest bedroom for a semester or two before they got back on their feet. They always got back on their feet, he said, because that’s just the kind of people his parents were—the kind that helped people find their sea legs and learn to walk all over again. He told me about going to Watauga County High School, and how half the teachers spent their time gossiping about the students and the other half talked bad about the first half gossiping about the students and how mostly no one ever got taught, unless it was football or baseball.

He asked me where I had gone to high school and what it had been like in Charming.

“Oh, I was a home-schooler,” I said.

“Really? I wouldn’t have guessed.”

“Ha—right.”

From the armchair, Risso hissed at us again.

Whispering, he said, “No, really. You really don’t seem like a home-schooler.”

I realized with a touch of surprise that he hadn’t intended to be sarcastic at all. With time, I realized more than that—Dimitri didn’t have a sarcastic bone in his body, not even one of the really small ones in his fingers or ankles.

“Well,” I said slowly. “At least I’m not like the other Charming home-schoolers. They all thought that one plus one equaled Jesus.”

We eventually lapsed into a comfortable silence, enjoying each other’s presence much more than the cowboys and shoot-outs playing out on the television screen, no matter how nice looking John Wayne had been in his younger years. Once, I caught him smiling at me out of the corner of my eye, and I smiled back, and I did not feel even a hint of a blush hiding under my dark skin. I felt… content. At peace. I didn’t even feel the need to obliterate my feelings under a slew of  internal sarcasm.

That was a new one for me.

The past week, I’ve been listening to a rather wonderful audiobook called East, a retelling of the Norwegian folktale “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” by Edith Pattou, which is essentially the Nordic version of Beauty and the Beast. Essentially… well, okay. This needs its own separate paragraph.

Essentially, a young girl named Rose lives with her family in ancient Norway. Her sister Sarah becomes extremely sick and her family is going bankrupt when one night a white bear appears at the front door and offers to make the family prosperous again and to heal Sarah if Rose will come away with him. Despite her family’s protests, Rose goes with the white bear to Fransk, or France, to live in a huge castle within a mountain. Of course, she comes to love the white bear, and it’s very Beauty and the Beast, but very original and with lots of new twists. For instance, the man who had been turned into a white bear had been transformed by the Troll Queen who lived in the farthest reaches of the north with all of her troll subjects. The Troll Queen is very beautiful, powerful, and smart, and also very politically intelligent.

Even though I positively loved Rose for her spunk, ingenuity, and sturdiness of both body and mind, apparently the idea of the Troll Queen got pushed deep into my psyche because last night, I dreamed that I was something very much like her. I was beautiful, with long straight hair and always wearing lovely ball gowns. There was a prince who was visiting from another realm who had come with a delegation to my castle, and apparently a marriage between us was a desirable political move for my family.

So what did I do? Did my absolute best to make him fall in love with me, using feminine arts that in real life would have either been totally ridiculous or utterly impossible for my personality. For example: walking straight up to him, entwining my arms around his neck, and forcing him into a rather nice kiss.

(Here’s the funny thing about whenever I kiss someone in a dream… which, of course, is the only way I’m kissing anyone. Every time, I nearly immediately realize at that point that it is a dream—har, har—and then I find myself kissing… nothing. They disappear, whether it’s some nameless prince or Damon Salvatore or Doctor Who or, rather less than pleasantly, Ron Weasley. Last night, when I kissed the prince, I found myself kissing the curtains where I, uh, might have shoved him. Innocently. Very innocently.)

Later, I was talking to my nurse maid/advisor—another throwback to the Troll Queen, who had one of these nurse maid/advisor people—and she accused me of hunting him down like a vixen. Yeah, she used those words. My brain is insane.

“But I actually do like him, too,” I told her. This was true. He was shy and quiet and totally terrified of my advances. It was sort of fun.

Anyways. Ah-hem.

Another Snell post coming tomorrow.

Today at work, there was absolutely nothing to do. So my boss made me sort crayons by colors into Ziploc baggies.

Somehow, this is not exactly what I expected from the Children’s summer aide program.

Here’s the next installment of Snell. Let me know what you think! (And even if you’re getting to the end of these posts….)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The next few days consisted mostly of contractors. They seemed pretty similar to movers, to me—men with weather-beaten faces and deep, permanent tans with eyes that had a tendency to wander a little bit too much, as far as I was concerned. I made their lemonade sour enough to etch copper after I caught one of them snapping a picture of Mom’s butt with his phone while she was bending over to check something under the kitchen sink.

Luckily, the head contractor, a man who didn’t seem to have a name and simply went by The Boss, struck up a friendship with Mom immediately. Apparently, he had read Hans the Great and thought it was absolutely the most brilliant thing since plaid work shirts. It also turned out that he fancied himself a writer as well, and he and Mom struck up a deal that if she would give him writing lessons once a week, then he would provide the labor to fix up the house for half the normal price.

“He doesn’t know what he’s getting himself into!” Mom laughed when she told me about their agreement. “Me being a teacher! Ha! It’s like… like… Bill Clinton being a virgin!”

Bill Clinton similes were one of my Mom’s favorite things in the universe.

At some point, the house stopped being just the house and became The House. I can’t remember when exactly that was, but it might have been when I discovered that there were three faucets in the sink in the downstairs bathroom, or that you could only access the tiny room at the top of the turret staircase through a trapdoor, or that the heavy beams crossing the peaked living room ceiling were carved to look like Oriental dragons.

However, my favorite part of the entire house was my room. I insisted that the first thing the contractors did, after making Mom’s room down the hall livable, was clean out the massive bird nest in the wide window seat and replace the panes in the window itself and get rid of the rather terrifying spider webs that clogged every corner. I put my sleeping bag in the window seat once the room no longer had anything living in it besides me and slept there every night where I could see the moon setting over the time-old hills.

Apart from the window seat, there was a niche next to the closet for a desk where another small window opened up onto the tangled remains of a garden in the backyard. The ceiling was so steeply peaked that on either side of the room, it sloped down to less than a foot above the floor. Beyond the window seat, the window opened up onto the balcony I had spotted the very first night, which was rather strange to me, considering you had to clamber up onto the seat before you could get out. But I loved it, and that room alone made Mom’s insane decision worth it—mostly.

Having spent most of my life either in self-imposed solitary confinement or with Mom, which I suppose was somewhat like having a creative and usually cheerful roommate in a mental ward, suddenly having the contractors in our house from around eight til five was something of a… shock, you might say. I could never decide who was more embarrassed, me or the one Latino worker, when I forgot to close the bathroom door while I was showering (with the clear curtain pulled across the tub, of course). He only worked on the roof after that, which I suppose I would have done, too, if the rest of the house was booby-trapped with naked underage girls.

But I mostly got used to it. Mostly got used to it, that is, until the day before I started work.

I was making my way down the spiral staircase in the turret down to the kitchen table to rustle up some cereal for breakfast. Let me preface this by saying that I looked rough. Not the kind of rough that girls think they look like when missed a few hairs with the straightener or didn’t coat every single eyelash with perfectly even mascara. I mean rough like what is that Thing? When I was younger, my mom used to call me her little changeling, which I assume now is because I looked like a troll when I got out of bed. I’ll let you do the imagining, but if you think you looked bad after that night you got so trashed you just prayed that dancing naked on the bar table was the worst of what you did, think again.

He was helping The Boss fill in some molding around the window that was over the kitchen sink, his back to me. I didn’t pay much attention—one man’s body in a plaid work shirt was the same as the next. But as I was getting the cereal down from atop the tallest shelf, he turned around.

And I promptly dropped the cereal box. The open cereal box, which obliged me by spilling its whole grain guts across the floor like it had been hit with a nuclear warhead, the traitor.

We looked at each other, both wearing the blank expression that one gets when a large mess has suddenly been created and no one wants to clean it up. You know what I’m talking about.

“Oh, crap,” he said, looking at the carnage on the floor. “Let me… I’ll get that for you.”

At this point, had I gone to public school or lived in a town where the company of other home-schoolers could be tolerated for longer than the time it took to say Homos Go to Hell, I would have protested. No, it was my fault, let me clean it up. I’m a total klutz, don’t mind me. Oh yes, thanks for handing me the broom. Your eyes are really pretty, by the way.

But, alas, I just stood there like a skewered pig and watched as he tried to sweep up the cereal with a moth-eaten broom that scattered more of the flakes than it gathered. An entire civilization probably rose and fell while I watched him chase the traitorous flakes around the kitchen floor, not moving or speaking or doing anything that was even a second cousin twice removed to normal.

“Do you have a dustpan?” he asked when he finished.

Thank God for whichever of my parents was black, because my skin was dark enough that it didn’t register a blush.

“Um,” I said. “Um. Yes. Somewhere. Under the sink.”

This time we both moved, and bumped into each other. Remember that I looked like the queen of the aesthetically damned at this point. He probably thought it was catching, because he backed up a little too fast and let me go ahead.

After rooting around under the sink for a painfully long moment, during which I had plenty of time to remember that yes, these were the pajama bottoms with the giant yellow stain across the butt, I finally found the dust pan. I held it while he awkwardly swept most of the flakes into it except for the few that refused to go over the lip of the pan. I hated dustpans for that very reason.

At this point, we shared a sheepish glance that somehow communicated what both of us were thinking. Then I pulled the pan back and he swished the last few remaining flakes underneath the newly acquired refrigerator, where they probably still are now, and where they will undoubtedly remain until the Doomsday preachers finally get it right.

I stood up.

“I’m Dimitri,” he said, sticking out a hand.

I took his hand. It was callused and warm and only a little sweaty.

“Snell,” I said, somehow managing to remember this most rudimentary part of interpersonal communications.

“Nice to meet you.” The way he said it, I felt like he actually meant it. It lacked the hollow quality of a rehearsed phrase the way it sounded coming from most people. “I mean,” he continued, “nice to fight cereal with you. I’m glad we put it under the refrigerator. My mom hates it when I do that with things.”

I laughed. “My mom doesn’t even let me sweep after what she found under our old refrigerator when it went out. I used it as a science fair project.”

He raised an eyebrow. “No you didn’t. People always just say that.”

I blinked. “Okay,” I said slowly, “so I didn’t. But I could have,” I added. “And I would have won, too. I bet you were the person who made volcanoes for science projects.”

“Hmph,” he said. “At least my volcanoes were real.”

We laughed, and it was only later that I realized that I had suddenly gone from an Oscars nomination for Most Awkward Human to Ever Disgrace the Surface of the Planet to having a Relatively Normal Conversation.

The Boss was now watching us with a rather annoyed expression on his face, and Dimitri smiled at me—he had big, shining white teeth—and got back to work. I walked dazedly out of the kitchen, breakfast as forgotten as my few stabs at learning French back when I was eleven.

For the rest of the day, I spent as little time in The House as possible until the last Ford pickup rolled out of the driveway and Mom and I were left alone.

My behavior was utterly psychotic, and I knew it. Once I woke out of the spell that had wafted me out of the kitchen, I pelted upstairs and did my hair and the little makeup I ever wore as impeccably as I perhaps ever had and then proceeded to spend forty-five whole minutes deciding what to wear. Then I spent the rest of the day buried in the jungle of the backyard.

I didn’t even like gardening, or at least I thought I didn’t, but as soon as I had gotten ready, I hacked my way to the very back of the yard where a broken old stone fence marked the edge of our property. The rest of the day went to trying to decipher with my nonexistent botanical knowledge which plants should go and which should stay. From the shed hidden behind an overgrown begonia bush (or at least, that’s what I thought it was), I managed to unearth a pair of rusty clippers without giving myself a brain aneurysm from all the spiders, and I set at butchering every overgrown shrub I could find.

To Aunt Fiona, who was a Master Gardener, I probably would have looked like Jack the Ripper.

Mom found me trying to uproot what turned out to be a wild rose, which she at least had the presence of mind to recognize. After patting the soil around its base back down, she stood up, hands on her hips, gazing at me curiously.

“So, hon, why exactly have you suddenly decided to take up gardening?” she asked. “Aunt Fiona would be so proud of you.”

“Aunt Fiona is a cow.”

Mom surveyed the path of destruction that I had carved through the backyard. “True. And I don’t think she would really like what you’ve done with the place that much anyways. Which suits me just fine, of course.”

Then she looked back at me, obviously expecting some sort of explanation.

So I told her about Dimitri. She nodded sympathetically.

“Was he that gangly-looking kid with the ears?”

“His ears aren’t that bad,” I said, sounding about half a teaspoon more defensive than I’d meant to. Maybe they did stick out a little more than normal. I hadn’t really paid much attention to them. His eyes were what I kept coming back to whenever the weeds or priceless rare shrub—it was all the same to me—failed to distract me adequately. Dark blue eyes, clear as springtime rainwater, and kind. I could not forget the kindness.

Mom mistook my tone for pity. Like I’ve mentioned before, my mom has the experience of a spayed gopher in these sorts of situations.

“Well, at least after today you’ll be working whenever he’s here and you won’t have to worry about him. He did tell me to let you know that he’s having a party at his house tomorrow night, and that I should tell you to come since he couldn’t find you. I promised I’d tell you or otherwise I would have just let it go, but don’t worry hon, we’ll find something to do tomorrow night and you won’t have to even think about it.”

A party? I thought about the quick impression I’d gotten of Dimitri and tried to decide if Smirnoff and scantily clad drunken females and beer pong and eardrum-annihilating music really fit into that picture. He had seemed much more like a Scrabble and Clue sort of guy to me, but I wasn’t always the best at first impressions.

“Nah,” I said. “I—I think I’ll go. Yeah. I will.”

Mom looked startled, and then suddenly a flash of understanding came to her eyes. To my relief, she didn’t say anything, just smiled knowingly and then walked back into the house.

Again I blessed my genetic heritage for my inability to show a blush. I even considered building a shrine to my ancestors in the room above the staircase and sacrificing one of the fat squirrels in our trees to them.

The space-time continuum

Posted: December 11, 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

Here are a few random things that you probably never wanted to know but that I am going to tell you anyways:

First of all, I am obsessed with organizing my friends list on Facebook. I have it divided into “Harding Friends,” “Friends I Actually Might Have A Facebook Chat With,” “People I Don’t Want To Talk To,” and “Other Friends.” For some reason, however, even being in the Harding network won’t add you to the automatic Harding Friends list, so I always have to drag them over from “Other Friends” to Harding friends. Except I’ve been doing it for so long that now, it’s only once every week or so that I get to drag friends over into the Harding Friends list. Every time I get to do it, I feel like I’m beating a Super Mario level.

My stomach just growled.

Tonight, I went to a Christmas party at Chelsie and Austen’s apartment where I ate too much puppy chow and we watched Elf and Home Alone, the latter of which I had actually never seen before. Also, there was a cute boy there with a beautiful smile and good eye contact. Now you may ask, in the words of Lisa, “Mmmm, who’s he?” but too bad, you won’t find out, just in case he’s stalking me and is reading my blog… right… now.

In which case I have probably just committed the Great Sin of Terrification. Oh well.

In China, it is legal to have stem cells injected into your bloodstream for various medicinal therapies. However, because no one really understands this techniques, really crazy things have happened, like people having a foot grow out of their back. Just sit there and imagine that.

If I had to choose how to die, I would want to take LSD as I jumped out of an airplane without a parachute. It would fulfill two things I would probably never accomplish without the surety of death following: 1) trying a hallucinogenic drug, and 2) totally conquering my fear of heights, because what better way to conquer something than face it head on?

Oh and here is something special for you all. Since all of this has been really relevant already, and stuff.

I was thinking today about how other blogs—namely, the Cleolinda blog, which you can access to my your right in my blogroll under “Occupation: Girl”—get so much traffic. I mean, she gets like, somewhere around a million hits a day. And she is from Birmingham. Hey wait… SO AM I! So I should get a whole heck of a lot of people being interested in my day-to-day life, too, right?

Oh wait… I don’t write hilarious movie synopses and make fun of Twilight in an epically hilarious way all the time. Drat.

Also, I have been thinking about how I cannot write about things like Boys anymore. If you look backwards—way backwards, which I don’t suggest doing, first of all because it would take a very long time, and second of all because you would be abhorred, especially if you manage to figure out that whenever I was being annoyingly vague, I was usually talking about said unneedfully capitalized word, and this happened annoyingly a lot—you will see that I once did, until all of my readers became people I knew, and therefore saying things like “The Blond Boy With Stunningly Green Eyes Smiled At Me Today And Then Tripped Over His Shoelaces And I Really Want Him To Ask Me Out” just does not fly anymore. Because likely all my friends would be with me when this happened, and then make a really huge deal out of it.

Not that this guy exists. He is totally hypothetical.

I know how sarcastic that sounds but I really mean it.

Anyways (I know half of you are thinking what-the-crap-why-is-this-another-pointless-point-I-am-only-reading-this-because-I’m-waiting-for-her-to-post-the-Super-Serious-Blog… so… I’m sorry), today we got to have an Intervention, which was fun. What is an Intervention, you may ask? Well—call it Girl’s Night, call it Festrogen, call it whatever you like, but it’s all the same, really. Kathleen called me in a right state of mind—and when I say “right,” I mean she was having a total freak-out that rivaled even my own dramatism—and so we got to have a good talk, and eat lots of cookie dough—I mean lots—and drink milk and talk some more and then Amber came over and we talked a little more, and then a lot more, and then watched a chick flick (where they actually did not end up together! egads!). Overall, I would say it was a successful night.

This blog was totally incoherent, wasn’t it?

But really, can you blame me?