What is this strange.. femininity?

Pregnancy does strange things to you.  It’ll change your tastes buds, cause blurry vision, and make those legs cramp up.  It truly reminds you how much we humans are still basically just organisms.

Now, another thing that happens is your hormones kick in.  Oh those lovely hormones.  They have made my gums swell up, made me get pissed when my husband finishes the last of the mashed potatoes, and made it harder to control my moods.  You would think I would be prepared for the next phase: weepiness.

I was completely bowled over when I started wanting to watch sappy videos.
An emotional engagement video? Yes, please!
A sappy video of a colorblind man seeing color for the first time. Gee golly, yes!

Where does it end?

I have never been one of those “chick flick” girlie girls.  I hate sappy videos.  I hate things that make me cry.  I detest having my emotions manipulated.

Until now.

Now, I seek out sappy videos and romantic what-nots.  Now, I understand why all of those other women behave that way.  Why they coo over babies and dress in frills.

Now, I have hormones.  And let me tell you something..  I don’t think the world is ready for an already temperamental pistol mama that now likes sappy, feminine things.

It’s going to get interesting.

 

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Oh Baby!

Yup, that’s right; I’m preggers.

Hold up. Don’t congratulate me so quickly. For us, it wasn’t difficult to get pregnant. In fact, it was exceedingly unexpected.. and came at an inconvenient time. But, as I’ve been told a lot lately, that’s usually how it works.

I’ve learned a lot since getting pregnant. The first thing I learned was that I can no longer eat the foods I love… except Chinese food; the baby loves Chinese food. YES!

Ahem.

The baby hates chocolate, the majority of sweets, potato chips, most pizza, etc.. etc..

Not only has it been difficult to find food that doesn’t turn the inside of my mouth into a sewer-tasting cesspit, it’s been hard to keep said foods down.

Texture, people… texture is everything. No more bananas or anything that could immediately turn to mush in my mouth.
Is it chewy? Nope. If I have to chew for an extended period of time.. not only is it not going down, it’s going to bring everything else back up.
That means cutting my meats into eensy teensy pieces, limiting the bread, and spitting out the rest.

And did I mention the gag reflex? Let’s just say brushing my teeth is like playing Russian roulette. It’s this damn gag reflex that is exacerbating my morning sickness 24/7 nausea.

However, this has led to a eureka moment! I finally figured out how Mother Nature gets the pregnant woman to think that the act of giving birth in and of itself doesn’t sound so bad.
You know, the part where you have to push a watermelon out of a hole the size of a toilet paper tube. Yeah, it scares the crap out of me. (Probably literally when the birthing process begins.)

Well, when I give birth (and go through the weeks of after birth pain… fuck you Mother Nature..) I can eat again!

*dances*

So, that means I can eat chocolate without it tasting like a cow pasture smells. I can eat bananas without the texture making me masticate in reverse. And.. I can eat potato chips, again!

No wonder women gain weight after they give birth. They can finally eat!

All My Friends Are In My Head

Well, not really. At least, not in the Kirk Cobain way.

I mean the TV show “Friends”. Yes, that’s right, I like that show. I binge watch reruns on Netflix. I reference the characters. I love the TV show “Friends”. I even took an online quiz to find out which “Friend” I was most like when it hit me, I have a little piece of each one.

Monica: Monica is an over bearing, OCD, mama bear type. She wants everything in it’s place, everyone to do what she says, and to protect all of her friends. If it came down to a fight, my money’s on Monica. She squirrely and oddly strong for such a little person. I may not be able to take someone out in a fight, but I can sure as hell be OCD! Case in point: A couple months ago, I asked Hubby to clean the bathroom. Actually, it took a few weeks of nagging and outright threats to get him to finally ‘clean’ the bathroom. By ‘clean’ I mean empty the trash and wipe the swiffer gingerly over the floor a bit. Not clean.
So, I e-mailed him a document that explained how to properly clean the bathroom. He thought it was a joke. It wasn’t. I am not making a binder that explains how to properly clean every single room. Yes, I am that crazy.

And yet, I am probably more like “Fat” Monica than anything else. I actually think her “fat” portrayal looks more like a normal woman, but this is T.V. we’re talking about..
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Rachel: I know that I do not share Rachel’s fashion sense. In fact, people often make assumptions about my sexuality because of the way I dress. If it’s not comfortable, why bother wearing it? I do, however, share in her air-headedness. Some might argue that Phoebe is far more scatter-brained, but she’s just more eccentric. No, Rachel is the airhead. It’s not because she’s stupid or doesn’t care. I think Rachel just gets caught up in her own little world and kind of forgets about other people. I do the same thing. I have often found myself on the receiving end of some unpleasant behavior from others because they thought I was being mean. I wasn’t. I’m just clueless about things like that.

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Phoebe: As I said before, Phoebe is eccentric. She’s experienced a harsher life than the other Friends, so I think her coping mechanism employs blurring some lines of reality. She’s mystical, crazy like a fox, and has her own style. Unfortunately, I think I just possess the eccentric part.. though I do like to mess with people, sometimes.

phoebe.gif

 

Ross: Ah, the geek. Ross is a true geek. He doesn’t just share the interest in Star Wars. No, he is also completely obsessed with science. Not just any science, Paleontology. I can get Ross because I, too, become obsessed with specific sciences. I was obsessed with computer sciences, biology, and mechanics. It’s all just so fascinating and it can be difficult to find a group of people that are also intrigued by it.

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Chandler: He really means well but Chandler has issues. We all know about his parents and his super crappy childhood. The thing is, he’s coped pretty well via his sense of humor. I have a similarly awkward sense of humor that often does more harm than good, though it’s nothing as rampant as others’.

chandler.gif

 

Joey: Food. The only thing I have in common with Joey is that we both love food. I am not a slut, I do not get into my looks a whole lot, and acting has never appealed to me. But food? Yeah, I’m right there with ya.

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I think that pretty well sums it up.

Hypno-Whatsit

I suffer from various Parasomnias

par·a·som·ni·a

ˌparəˈsämnēə/

noun
A disorder characterized by abnormal or unusual behavior of the nervous system during sleep.

 

Just like most health-related issues I have, my parasomnia is “unspecified”. This simply means that the healthcare professionals I have seen have no clue why what is happening, is happening. Super.

My main issues are similar to Hypnogogia and/or Hynopompia. The difference being that I don’t experience these phenomenae when I’m falling asleep or waking up. I have a tendency to experience them throughout the sleep cycle. I will be dreaming and, even as I’m asleep, I am consciously aware. I think to myself, “Oh no, my brain is start to feeling off.” And then the crap hits the fan.

The good news is that I have a level of consciousness through these experiences. I can attempt to steer the dream back into “safe territory” or to wake up. Just last night, I had an incident, but let me set the stage. I am sick with a head/chest cold. I had woken up just before my husband left for work so I could take some medicine. I remained in a limbo sleep state as Hubby was getting ready for work. I finally fell asleep just after he left, but awoke again when he texted to let me know he made it to work safely.

I should note that Hubby does not keep me awake. Although there are times he wakes me up, and instantly regrets it, I put myself on a “high alert” state of mind until he leaves. I used to do this so I could fall asleep and still be safe. Now, I do this so that I can still fall asleep but be aware of my surroundings so I can hear text messages and the like. It is probably the main cause of my parasomnia.
The last thing I remember is typing out “Ok, I Love you. Have a good day.” Next, I was standing at work. It happened in the span of an exhale. I was lying in bed one second and then standing at work the next. Instead of panicking and trying to find an exit (like I normally do), I said to myself, “Well, I’m here now. I’ll just stay here until I wake up.” I did. I woke up just fine after acting like it was a normal, 8 hour day at work and I actually got some decent sleep.
This is an exception. Normally, like I said before, I panic. Triggering the Fight or Flight Response while in this state will cause all kinds of hidden nasties to come out of my subconsciousness. It’s not pleasant and the effects linger for days (sometimes weeks). Because of one such occurrences, I now refuse to wear green striped shirts. It’s weird, I know, but believe me.. I have my reasons.
Being conscious while experiencing sleep abnormalities can also be bad because it leads me to have a full memory of the events. I remember dreams like I remember memories.
brainwaves.jpg
I know I’ve talked about this before, but I’m beginning to understand it more. I’m beginning to get more of a grasp on it. I panic less and accept more. This can sometimes backfire, however. There are times during these states where I have to say, “No, this will not happen. I will not experience this. I am in control and I am unafraid.” Those can be difficult and it can swing either way: into true nightmare territory or into an experience of empowerment
Just this past week I had an experience in a dream that was about to turn very unpleasant. I remember saying to myself in the dream, “Time to turn the channel.” Suddenly, my dream images were inside a giant television and a hand came out of nowhere and turned a knob on the side. The “T.V.” clicked to another ‘station’ and I began dreaming about something else.
It might take some practice, but controlling unpleasant dreams can become a reality!

Moving On

It can be hard to move on. Whether we’re moving on from a break-up, getting fired, or a familial fallout, we can get stuck in over analyzing things.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it can be good to go over they “Whys”. There’s a proven problem-solving method called “The 5 Whys” and it can help get to the bottom of a problem to find a better solution. It kind of works like this:

  1. Why did my girlfriend leave me? Because I wasn’t satisfying her emotional needs.
  2. Why wasn’t I satisfying her emotional needs? Because I didn’t know what they were.
  3. Why didn’t I know what her needs were? Because she never told me.
  4. Why didn’t she ever tell me what her needs were? Because we both had different schedules and never spent time together.
  5. Why did we both have different schedules? Because we had to go to work and help family and friends.

So the underlying problem isn’t that he wasn’t meeting his girlfriend’s needs, it’s that they weren’t making time for one another in their busy schedules. Now he can move forward from constantly asking, “What did I do wrong?” to “What can I do differently next time?”

But sometimes, moving on can be difficult. Even after we go through the “5 Whys”, we can still ruminate about the things that happened. Even when these things are not our fault, we can feel that familiar pang in our chest that is reminiscent of regret.

When we start to feel regret over the situation and are struggling to move forward, we might try avoidance strategies to put ourselves into a conscious state of denial. Although this can help at first, it can lead to more emotional build-up and more stress. In the long run, this can actually lead to taking longer to moving on.

“Well then, what’s the magic secret to ‘moving on’?” you might wonder. There isn’t one. It’s just a daily reminder that you are doing the best you can, dealing with the emotions as they arise, and constantly tweaking your coping mechanisms to replace the now unhealthy ones with newer, healthier ones.

Lately, I’ve been having a lot of stress and I’m finding it difficult to keep my anxiety and melancholy in check.  Getting outside and walking in the sunshine, making short trips to places that aren’t terribly crowded, and cleaning seems to be this week’s way of dealing with things. Throw in a bit of reaching out to trusted individuals, having awesome pet buddies, and playing games with the Hubby, and my anxiety is.. manageable

Just remember, even though you may feel as if you’re going through hell, try to handle things the best you can. It’s not fair to lash out to others who are trying to help. I know, sometimes the ‘help’ seems more of a hindrance. Tell them. Communication is vital in this scenario.

Whatever it is you do, just keep moving forward each day and soon.. it will all be an unpleasant memory.

The Perils of Confusion

I sincerely apologize for being human and “down in the dumps”, as many call it. I know that society today teaches us to avoid negativity in any shape or form. We run after fleeting moments of happiness to distract us from the monotony of being an adult.

I’m tired of running.

It seems the world is filled with people that think being genuinely kind is a weakness. Instead, we are trained to prove ourselves through derogatory remarks that are thinly veiled as humor. It makes us feel smart, accepted, and “normal”. Never mind that the remarks are excessively obvious and unnecessary. No matter what, it is not acceptable to openly expose such behavior – that makes you odd and makes you the weird one.

I’m tired of being the weird one.

When there are problems, just complain. Offering solutions in a respectful and productive manner is not acceptable. People will ignore you, tell you that’s how they’ve always done it so it’s okay, or that you don’t know what you are talking about. No matter how severe the problem, use humor (again) to diffuse the situation and not fix anything. Try not to care that the problem will continue and negatively effect those nearby.

I care too much.

I’m tired of living in a world where I have to find coping mechanisms to “fit in”, be “normal”, or adopt an air of seemingly negative qualities. Is this what being human has come down to? I’m not interested.

I’m not interested in developing bad habits to cope with tendencies that are continually stunting our growth as a race. Drinking, over eating, thrill seeking.. you name it. In varying degrees, these habits are socially acceptable. It’s okay that half the workforce has to show up drunk or high on drugs in order to get through the day. Just shake your head at their obvious failure as a human being. It’s fantastic that people jump out of airplanes just to feel “alive”. What a great accomplishment! This is totally normal and okay.

It’s not okay.

I’ve always fought hard to try and be that which I thought I was supposed to be: An organized, multi-tasker who gets things done. Someone who continually moves forward. The thing is, there really is no place to go. It’s all a sham, a mirage. It’s all a giant hamster wheel that you’re running on while people are slinging eggs in your face. You’re supposed to grin and bear it, pretend it’s not happening, and even congratulate them on their aim.

I’m tired of living in a world where I so obviously don’t belong. I keep searching for a reason to stay.. a way to stay. I keep desperately looking for a way to exist the way everyone else does but without losing what seems to be my basic humanity.

I just can’t find this magical way. I’m beginning to think it’s not there; it never was.

People tell me that this means I must have a mental illness. I must possess an inane and genetic quality that makes it impossible for me to belong in this world. I must be different in a way that is unfixable. On this note, I must work to find ways to diminish this unfixable aspect of myself. I must hide it. I should be ashamed of it simply because it is more acceptable to be in denial about such things than it is to point them out.

I’m tired of hiding. I’m tired of carrying around guilt for seeing things differently than everyone else. I’m tired of this life. Just tired.

It just doesn’t make sense to me and I’m tired of trying to wrap my head around it. I try so hard to pretend to be “normal” and behave the way everyone else does. But I do it wrong, somehow, it’s not quite right and I can’t figure out why. I feel like an android pretending to be human but they all know I’m not like them. It’s not that I’m a robot with no feelings, quite the opposite. I seem to feel things more severely than everyone else. Simple slights make no sense to me to be made in the first place, nevermind that the intent was “in good humor”. If it was in such good humor, why risk the slight to begin with? If you are truly so comical, why put people down to get a laugh?
I’m so lost in all of this and there doesn’t seem to be anyone around to aid me, anymore.

I’ve tried everything I ought to: medicine, therapy, self-help techniques. Some of it used to work but none of it does now.  The thing is, I have to continue the charade. No matter how much I bumble about and fail at it, I have to do it again and again each day. If I don’t, those who rely on me won’t have the resources they need to live in this wretched world.

So each day continues the living nightmare. The dread of having to exist in my own skin. The guilt of not responding to things like everyone else does. I carry around confusion as to why I am so angry and frustrated all of the time. I can’t seem to understand why I am ignored, brushed off, and pushed around so much. I just don’t get the excuses: “You need to be more authoritative,” “You shouldn’t let things get to you so easily,” etc.

Why?

Why should I have to be borderline aggressive in order to have my verbal communications taken seriously? Why should I be indifferent to the intentions of others? Why should I not care about other peoples’ suffering as long as I’m not? I don’t get. Someone explain it to me. Why?

Just Another Day

Emily was looking forward to sleeping in. She had a rough night and didn’t get to sleep until 4am. More arguing with the husband – it was getting old. She finally obeyed her bladder and slipped out of bed. Slipped out of the warm, soft covers and the pillows that were now perfectly molded to her head. She sighed and headed down the stairs to the bathroom, the cat circling her all the way.

Meow!

“Ugh,” Emily thought, “I need to feed Midnight.” She left the bathroom and headed for the kitchen. The light from the kitchen window poured into the room, blinding her. She raised her hand up to her eyes and protested. “Why does the sun have to be up? Why can’t I just go back to bed?” She sighed, poured some catfood into the food bowl. Some of it spilled out onto the floor. Emily didn’t care. She yawned, silently cursed the sun and headed back towards the stairs.

Just as she reached the bottom step, the phone rang. On the first ring, Emily was convinced she was going to let the answering machine get it. She took another step up the staircase. On the second ring, Emily stopped and hung her head. “What if it’s important?” she thought. On the third ring, she was running for the phone. She picked it up just before the fourth ring.

The voice on the other end sounded weighed down, gravelly, and tired. “Hello my love,” it gasped out. Emily knew who it was, immediately. She internally cringed. It was her coworker, Julie. She sounded horrible and Emily knew why she was calling. She was obviously not feeling well.

“What’s up, sweetie? Are you feeling okay?” asked Emily. Julie explained she was sick – throwing up and diarrhea. She needed to go home.

“I know you work the night shift, tonight, but I can’t get ahold of Karen. I need to get to the ER, I can’t stay out of the bathroom for longer than 10 minutes.” Emily told her she would be in by noon and hoped Julie got to feeling better soon. She hung up the phone and sighed.

“Well Midnight, it looks like I don’t get to go back to bed, afterall.” Midnight meowed, licking her lips from breakfast. “Keep it warm for me when I get back.” Midnight ignored her as she licked her paws and ran them over her ears.

Emily sighed and called her husband at work. There was only one car and he’d have to spend his break coming to pick her up and take her to work. Normally, by the time Jack got home, Emily was getting ready to head out to work. It was one of the reasons their relationship was so stressed, lately. They hardly ever saw one another. Emily worked most weekends and Jack had a Monday through Friday, nine to five job. Emily was jealous. Jack got paid very well, far more than anyone else would have in that job. It was because he had so much experience. He’d been in call center work since he was about 17 and had stuck through it. He’d hopped jobs a few years ago, but finally found a cushy job. He made $15 an hour for a job that others were paid $9 simply because he’d been doing it for 20 years.

Emily gritted her teeth. The last time she got paid anywhere near that was in a factory. She had to bust her ass 12 hours a day and feel exhausted and worn out by the end of every day. She’d hardly had any days off and just lived to work. She resented her husband’s success. She knew it was her own fault and she was in the wrong, but she was going to have to go back to school while working. It was going to be hell for the next five years. She would spend every waking moment away from work doing even more work – house work, school work, yard work. Meanwhile, her husband would “work” at his job, come home and piddle around a little bit, play video games, and do actual recreational things that were fun: hiking, photography, etc.

Emily sighed and reached for the phone. She dialed the phone number to her husband’s work, each number being punched in a little harder. He answered, “Thank you for calling Mary Sally, how may I help you today?” He sounded happy, polite, upbeat. It was completely different from the monotone way he communicated with Emily. “It’s me, Jack.” His tone of voice changed. He wasn’t happy and polite anymore. “Emily,” he whispered in a harsh tone, “I’ve told you not to call me at work.” She rolled her eyes. He wasn’t going to be happy at all about what she had to say, but he could stick it.

“Look Jack, I need you to come and pick me up and take me to work. One of the girls is sick.” There was a pause. “It’s more hours, more money, Jack,” she added. She knew more money would get him. It worked.

He sighed heavily and she imagined he was pumping his jaw and rolling his eyes like he always does when she asks him to do anything. Take out the trash, mow the lawn, show some personal intimacy. He said he’d be there in half an hour but she’d have to be out waiting for him. He’d just stop long enough to let her into the car. He hung up without saying goodbye.

“Thanks sweetie,” Emily said to the phone tone, “I love you too.” She slammed the phone down and ran to the shower. She rushed and threw some clothes on and her hair up in a ponytail. She wouldn’t have time to blowdry it.  She threw some treats into Midnight’s bowl on the way out the door.

She waited out in the cold for about ten minutes, cursing Jack’s name with every gust of wind. It was 12 degrees below, without the windchill, and he was late. “That fucking bastard,” she whispered through clenched teeth. She heard the roar of a motor and saw a red car bobbing up and down the hilly street. Jack.

She hopped in the car as it barely stopped long enough to let both her feet get in. “Jesus, Jack. At least let me get in the car before you take off,” she said as she whipped her seat belt on and glowered at the brim of his nose. She hadn’t been able to make eye contact with him, anymore. All she saw was what she didn’t want to accept: they weren’t in love anymore. They hadn’t been for a long time. “I’m going to be late, Em,” he yelled over the blaring radio. It was some new pop song that you would think only a teenage girl would listen to. Jack popped his gum and nodded his head to the beat. She wondered if he was fucking some young thing at work. He’d changed a lot since getting that job.

She sighed and began telling him how Julie was sick and she was the only she could get ahold of. Jack rolled his eyes and Emily mentioned the extra money she’d be earning. He sighed and agreed. It was always about the money, anymore.

Jack let her off outside her building’s parking lot, not even bothering to drop her off at the door. He stopped just long enough to let her get one foot on the pavement before squealing the tires, music blaring. She turned and cursed, flipping him the bird. “Mothefucking bastard,” she yelled as she walked towards the building.

She didn’t have a bad job. She worked as a cashier at one of the local gas stations. It didn’t pay particularly well, didn’t have set hours, and didn’t have benefits – but she liked it. She was grateful for it. Jobs were hard to come by these days, unless you had a penis and were good at sticking your nose up people’s asses. She thought of Jack and cursed some more.

Inside, she ran to her locker and then stopped by the front office. She picked up an hour slip to get the overtime and told Wendy, the manager, why she was early. Wendy sat at her desk that was piled high with papers and knick knacks. They were shaped like various farmyard animals, usually sent over from customers and vendors around the holidays.  Music played softly in the background, 80’s hair rock. Wendy nodded her head to the beat and Emily thought of Jack and cursed under her breath. “What was that, Em?” Wendy asked, her eyes and fingers never leaving the computer. “Nothing, Wendy,” Emily smiled, “Just didn’t expect to be into work yet.” Wendy nodded and Emily walked briskly to the front.

When she rounded the corner to the cash register, she saw Julie sitting on the floor behind the register counter. She was rocking back and forth, holding her stomach. She looked up at Emily and attempted a smile. The effect had the opposite impact. Julie’s cheeks were blotched with purple and red, her eyes had bags of dark blue, and her lips were almost white. She was very ill.

“Oh Julie,” Emily said as she put on her vest and lanyard. She bent down and helped Julie stand. “I’m alright, Em,” Julie said, trying to smile again. “Ugh.. I think I need to run to the” Emily didn’t catch the rest as Julie rounded the corner and ran towards the bathroom.  She grabbed a pen and started filling out her overtime sheet. A quick look around told just how ill Julie was. The are behind the cashier’s counter was cluttered with half finished tasks. The bread wasn’t completely put away, the magazines were strewn around, and the outdated candy bars were thrown in a basket – some of them on the floor around it. It reminded Emily that she forgot to tell Jack to feed Midnight when he got home. The fucker wouldn’t do it if she didn’t nag him.

“Bastard,” Emily muttered under her breath. A cough behind her made her whip around and plaster on a smile. There was a customer, Mr.Jones. He was a regular. He always bought a small coffee, a donut, and a newspaper. “Hey Mr.Jones,” Emily said as she signed into the register. She rang him up, making small talk, but he still looked at her like she had just walked out of the Principal’s Office. Emily sighed as she watched him pull out of the parking lot in his beat up truck. “Where the hell do these rednecks get off in judging me for saying one bad word?”

Julie came back from the bathroom, looking paler. She apologized to Emily and grabbed her Gatorade and purse. “Get to the ER, Julie.” “No, I’ll be alright,” Julie said as she tried to smile yet again and headed for the door. Emily sighed and got to work on the mess behind her.

It was a pretty uneventful afternoon. The milk and soda vendors came by. Emily checked them in, making the same old small talk as they always do. The milk vendor talked about fishing. He was waiting for the first of March so he could go out before the other fishers showed up. He wanted it to warm up a bit. He said he didn’t like fishing in the cold. Emily smiled, laughed, and said she didn’t blame him.

The soda vender came in, winked at Emily, and called her sweetie. Just like he did with all of the cashiers. He talked about the latest video game he was playing and how many people were now in his guild. Emily remembered playing games like that before she had to earn more of a living. They talked about general geek stuff and he left, winking.

Emily sighed and leaned against the counter. These were the times she hated. The times when there wasn’t much of anything to be done. It left her with nothing to do but think – think about how she’d rather be at home in bed, think about how her marriage was a sham, think about ways to get the hell out of town.

Emily was fantasizing about selling off everything she and Jack owned and skipping town when Wendy tapped on the counter top. “Earth to Emily,” she said with a kind tilt to her voice. Emily snapped up straight and smiled. “What’s up, Em?” Wendy asked as she dropped a pile of paperwork on the counter top. “Oh, just thinking about ways life could get better.”  Wendy smiled and made an “mmm” sound. “Life would be a whole lot sweeter on a tropical island with sunshine and scantily clad men.” Emily shook her head and laughed. “I’d go for the tropical island if you throw in a good book and a cocktail or two.”

Wendy laughed. “A book? You’d rather have a book than a man whose only concern is fulfilling your every need?” Emily smiled and shrugged. “At least the worst thing a book could do is give me a papercut.” Wendy agreed. “You always ruin my fantasies, Em.” She checked some numbers on the register and picked her paperwork back up. “Keep up the good work, Em,” Wendy said as she walked towards the door. She pressed her butt against it to push it open because her hands were full of papers. “I’ll be back in half an hour. I’ve got a meeting with Tom.” She smiled and headed towards her car, whistling.

“Sure,” Emily thought, “a meeting.” She shook her head and thought of Jack again. She wondered if he ever had any meetings. She grabbed the paper towels and cleaner and got to work doing anything she could to stay busy and keep any thoughts from running through her head. The 70’s classic rock playing overhead was the same old, same old. Everyday they cycled through the same songs. Emily didn’t even notice it, anymore.  She was wiping down the glass of the juice coolers when some guy walked in. He was wearing dirty clothes with holes in them and his face was red. He staggered through the door and then stopped, pretending to look at the nothing in front of him. Emily sighed. “Great,” she said to herself, “a drunk.”

The man walked over to the alcohol aisles. He would have made a bee line if he was able but his pace was constantly being interrupted by some ghost pushing him around. He was obviously inebriated and he kept coughing and inhaling sharply. “Don’t puke,” Emily begged to herself as she walked over to the cash register. “For the love of all that’s still good in this Universe, just don’t puke.” She ran the scenario through her head and groaned audibly. The drunk walked up to the cash register, a 1.75 liter bottle of whiskey in his hand. “Walked” was a vague term. He sort of jerked and stumbled his way over. Emily thought of her choices. Technically, she wasn’t allowed to sell alcohol to people who were obviously intoxicated, but her managers always said just to ask if they were driving or not. She looked out in the parking lot and saw a lonely, beat up pick up truck. It was probably his.

“Hello sir,” Emily smiled as she rang up the whiskey. “It’s an awful cold evening to be walking. Do you have a scarf or gloves with you? I’d hate for you to get frostbite.” The guy just eyed her. Emily could see the wheels working. He’d probably been thrown in the drunk tank before, maybe even arrested for DUI. Maybe he didn’t even have a valid drivers license, anymore. Emily didn’t know, but she could guess.

“Yea.. I .. Uh.. left them at.. home,” he stammered out. He paid for the whiskey but Emily came around the counter and stood in front of him. “You’re not driving, today, are you sir?” He shook his head. “You’re not lying to me are you?” She looked at the truck and then back at him. He eyed her, the truck, and then looked down at his shoes. Even just standing there he was wobbly. He may be completely toasted off his ass, but the wheels were still turning a bit. He put the brown paper bag with the whiskey in it on the counter. He bent down, nearly falling over, and grabbed a candy bar off one of the candy shelves in front of the register counter. “I.. uh.. just need.. this.” He put it on the counter and got his wallet back out.

Emily headed back around the register and waited, one hand on the bottle of whiskey. She rang up the candy bar. “One dollar and twenty cents.” The man looked at her, back at the truck, and then back at the whiskey bottle. “Uh.. no.. I don’t want.. none of it.” He stumbled towards the door and got into his truck. Emily shook her head. She watched the man pull away and then picked up the phone. “Hey Joe,” she said to the local jail secretary. He preferred the term “Jail Keeper”. “Hey, Em,” Joe said, obviously chewing on his supper. Emily heard chewing and lips smacking. “Sorry to bother you on your break, but I just had a drunk leave in a beat up pick up truck.” Joe groaned on the other side and stopped eating his supper. Emily knew he was upset she was making him work. “Description of the truck,” he said, almost terse now from his irritation with the sudden task put unto him. Emily gave the description and a partial license plate number. “I couldn’t see all of it for the newsstand, but he is definitely toasty.” Joe chuckled on the other side. “Tall guy with a scruffy beard and glasses?” “Yea, that sounds like him,” Emily said as she put the candy bar back and headed for the alcohol aisle, whiskey bottle in hand. Joe laughed. “He just got out last night.” Emily shook her head. “Looks like he’s going back,” she said as she placed the bottle on the shelf. Joe agreed and thanked her before he hung up. “Great,” Emily thought to herself, “poor drunk. He needs help, not to keep getting thrown into the damn drunk tank.” She put the phone back on its base and got back to work cleaning the store.

Wendy showed back up an hour later than she said she would. She still had an armful of papers but she looked a little different. Her hair had obviously been well brushed and her make up freshened. She smelled like she had doused herself in perfume, too. Emily waved her down and told her about the drunk. Wendy shrugged. “Not much else you could have done, Em. You did the right thing. He could have hurt someone.” “I know,” Emily said, “It just doesn’t feel like the right thing.” “Never does, sweetie,” Wendy said as she headed for the back office. Emily headed back for the register counter to try and find some inventory or outdates to do. Something, anything.

They weren’t busy at all. In fact, there was just a slow trickle of customers. It wasn’t odd for a Wednesday. Friday and Saturday were their busy days. Emily was dusting the Easter display when Dave showed up. He was the night shift manager. He waved at Emily. “Slow night, Em?” He asked as he took his coat off. He was a nice enough guy, always making conversation with people. He wore dress pants, black sneakers, and a dress polo. He always wore the same thing except for the color of the polo shirt. Today he had on a bright green one. “Wow, Dave,” Emily said as she raised her hands to cover her eyes,”I think people can see you from space.” He chuckled. “It’s laundry day.” Emily nodded and Dave headed for the back office.

Emily’s stomach growled. “Shit,” she thought. She hadn’t packed a lunch before work because of Julie’s emergency. She rolled her eyes and weighed her options. Fast food, pizza, microwaved dinner from the cooler. Nothing really sounded good. She grabbed a couple donuts and a bottle of milk. She knocked on the back office. “Hey, can one of you guys ring me up?” Dave turned, looking overwhelmed. Wendy was handing him papers, explaining why each one had not yet been completed. He exchanged an unspoken conversation with Emily in one look. “More meetings with Tom?” Yeah.

Wendy handed Dave the last of the paperwork and headed out to the cash register. Emily plopped down her donuts and milk and reached for her wallet. “Dammit!” Wendy looked at her, eyebrows arched. “I forgot my wallet.” Wendy shook her head. Emily grabbed the donuts and milk and headed for the coolers to put them back. Dave popped out form the office. “You hungry?” Emily stammered out a “yea”, still embarassed about forgetting her wallet. Dave smiled. “I was going to get a pizza, you can pay for lunch next week.” Emily smiled and thank him. He knew she would never pay for lunch.  Wendy yelled a goodbye as she stepped out from the cash register. She waved, her bracelets clinking. “Got a hot date?” Dave asked. A giggle escaped from Emily’s mouth and she quickly covered it with her hand, her eyes bugging out. Wendy stood there, a hand on one hip and a wry smile on her face. “What are you getting at, Dave?” “You’re just in an awful hurry,” Dave said, winking at Emily. “I wasn’t sure if you were late for a date or maybe..” he paused, “a meeting?” Emily laughed. Wendy brushed her hair back, rolling her eyes. “Whatever,” she said, smiling. She turned and left. “Tell Tom I had said hi,” Dave said as she walked out the door. Wendy ignored him and headed for her turquoise Smart Car. She peeled out of the parking lot and Dave and Emily laughed. “If she’d save her meetings for after work, she might get some done,” he said as he went back into the office to finish Wendy’s paperwork.

Emily had a few customers. The usuals. Barb came in and bought her can of cat food, a crossword puzzle book, and a package of oreos. She told Emily about how Mr.Whiskers was doing better since he had his anal glands squeezed. Emily just smiled and cooed, “Oooh, poory kitty.” Inside though, she was cringing. “Really woman?” she though, “you think it’s a good idea to go around telling people about your cat’s gross problems?” Inside, she was making pukey motions with her mouth. Outside, she was smiling and nodding. Customer service was all about making the customer feel good, no matter what you were really thinking.

After Barb, Phil came in. He had his two brats with him. Emily never got their names because they never said hi, never stood still long enough to say hi to, and their dad was always calling both of them “dammit”. “Dammit, get back over here, you kids!” Phil yelled as he plopped a case of beer on the counter. “Dammit, you kids stop rough housing!” “Dammit, hold the fucking door open!” She could hear him out in the parking lot, getting into their rust bucket of a car. “Dammit, it’s cold out, shut the door!” Emily shook her head once she was sure they had gone. Thank God she and Jack had never had kids.

They’d talked about it, but never gotten around to it. That would require, I don’t know, two people spending the night together in the same bed. That wasn’t something she and Jack did, anymore. Usually when Emily got home, she would fall asleep on the couch watching tv. After Jack left for work in the morning, she would wake up and crawl into bed with Midnight. Work, tv, sleep. Rinse and repeat.

She grabbed the mop and starting mopping up the salt-ladden footprints from in front of the door. Emily thought of all the things she had hoped to be along the way, before life happened. A social worker, an artist, a mom. Making ends meet had taken priority in her life and it wasn’t making days meet very well. She drudged through each day and night, constantly tabulating numbers – paying bills. Life sucked and there was no way getting around it.

Headlights flashed across Emily’s face and she looked up to see the pizza guy. Dave popped out of the back office, wallet in hand. He winked at Emily as he tip toed across the wet floor. She was going to poke fun at him about messing up her hard work, but she just didn’t feel like it.

The pizza was delicious. She leaned against the register counter, plate piled high with pizza slices in front of her. Dave was still in the back office, probably still doing Wendy’s paperwork. I guess what little of it Wendy had done before she left wasn’t done well. Every now and again, Emily would hear a sharp curse word. She shook her head. Poor Dave.

Just as she was finishing up the last slice, Dave came out of the office. His hair was disheveled and he had grease stains on his pants. He looked haggard and Emily smiled at him. “You need another job, Dave.” she said as he walked behind the counter. “Don’t I know it,” he muttered. He had his clip board out, taking inventory. Now that he had finished Wendy’s work, he had his own to do. Emily tried to help out where she could. “I already did the inventory and outdates for the front.” She handed him a piece of paper. Dave smiled, “What would I do with you, Em? Enjoying the pizza?” Emily burped. “I’ll take that as a yes,” he said as he went to the backroom to check inventory there. Emily was just wishing for a slice of chocolate cake and some ice cream when a customer walked in. He smiled, waved and said “hi”. Emily nodded and smiled. She assumed her position behind the counter and kept an eye on him.

She had learned over the years to be polite to customers, of course. But also, to be cautious. Not suspicious, necessarily, just cautious. Keep an eye on them. Trust but verify.

She watched him walk up and down the aisles, grabbing a pack of gum here and a pack of shavers there. He was talking loudly to himself. Emily watched him a few more minutes and decided he wasn’t going to be trouble. She went to fill the coffee station. Just as she was putting the creamers up, Dave walked up behind her. She turned around. He was standing almost nose to nose with her, looking deep in her eyes. “Did that guy go near the drugs?” Emily knew what he was talking about: the cough syrups and allergy pills. Anything with psuedoephedrine in it. She gulped. “Uh, no. He’s just browsing. I haven’t seen him over there.” She looked past Dave and at the cough and cold aisle. She puckered her lips and furrowed her brows. “What is it?” Dave asked. He didn’t turn. He didn’t want the customer to know they were talking about him. “There’s a gap on the shelf. I just did inventory earlier and I haven’t sold any cough and cold, today. Something’s missing.” Dave turned and looked at the guy. He was now in the potato chip aisle, crouching on the floor. Emily watched him and headed to the cash register. She grabbed the phone and hit the “page” button.

“Security alert. All employees walk the floor.” The customer immediately shot up and smiled. He looked nervously at Dave and then at Emily. “Someone trying to hold you up?” he laughed. Dave just stared but Emily smiled and shrugged. “Can’t be too careful,” she said. The guy started whistling and talking to himself again, loudly. Dave headed back to the office, stopping at the door to look at Emily. He made the universal sign to keep an eye on the guy and Emily nodded. She knew he was going to check the cameras.

The guy continued to alternate between whistling and talking loudly to himself. Emily started walking the aisles, always keeping him in her line of sight. He walked up to her and asked if he’d need a driver’s license to buy some lithium batters. “Unfortunately, sir, we require that information. Some people steal them to make illegal drugs.” She smiled and the guy tittered out something akin to a laugh. “Gotta smell good, I think I need some smell good stuff. Where do you keep your cologne?” Emily walked him over to cologne case. “We keep all of our perfume and cologne behind this case because people tend to steal them.” The guy nodded, his hand rubbing his scraggly beard. “Uh, well, that’s pretty..” he whistled,”.. pretty expensive.” Emily nodded and suggested he check out the deodorant aisle for body spray. He almost jumped at the idea and kept saying out loud, “Gotta smell good, get me some smell good stuff.” It reminded Emily of that deli meat commercial where the quarterback is doing a touchdown dance and singing, “Gotta get me some cold cuts, today!”

She shook her head. “Just as long as you pay for it,” she thought to herself. She positioned herself back behind the cash register to keep an eye on the guy. Rita, a regular that used to work with Emily at the factory, came in and smiled. “Heya, Em,” she twanged out. “Haven’t seen ya in a while, gurl.” Emily nodded and smiled. “Good to see you again, Rita. How’s life?” Rita walked over and starting filling Emily in on all the factory gossip. Jenny dumped Earl after she found out he was sleeping with that girl in the front office. Of course, everyone else already knew that but poor Jenny had to find out last. Ted got a raise as one of the shift managers and he was really bunging things up. The numbers were down and the office people weren’t too happy. “Well tell all them to come on out and get off their asses. See how they like working 12 hour days,” Rita was saying as Emily was trying to pay attention and keep an eye on the guy that was now over by the newspapers.

“Well, gurl, just came to get me some go-go juice.” Rita said as she headed towards the coolers. Emily rang her up, they talked a little more about things, and then Rita left. “Gotta get back to the ole’ grindstone,” she said as she smiled and walked out the door. Emily smiled and waved. When she turned, Dave was out of the office, walking the aisles. He was pretending to straighten things up. He walked over to the cash register where Emily was still at. “I can’t see what he does at the cold and cough aisle because of the damn camera angle.” he said, “I’ve told corporate we need more cameras but they won’t send any. We’re a small store.” He folded his arms and rolled his eyes. “I bet he walks out with that stuff and there’s nothing we can do about it.” Emily sighed. “I’m sick of this.” She walked out from behind the cash register and made a beeline for the guy. He straightened up and smiled. “You want me to put that cough medicine back for you, sir? Since you don’t have your license and all?” She held out her hand, the other one on her hip. She wasn’t smiling.

The guy laughed a little. He looked at Dave and then back at Emily. He reminded Emily of the drunk from this afternoon. His wheels were turning. He finally let out a heavy sigh, dug into his coat, and handed over the pills. “I guess I can’t buy ’em without my ID, right?” Emily grabbed the pills, smiled, and went back to the cash register. She handed Dave the package of cold medicine on her way. He wasn’t smiling either.

The guy attempted another laugh and walked up to the register. He put his items down and kept whistling. Emily rung up his items and wished him a good day as he whistled his way out the door. Dave turned to Emily, “Good job.” He set the pills down on the counter and then went into the backroom to complete inventory. Emily sighed and then put the cold medicine back. “No problem, boss,” she said, “gotta save this city one druggie and drunkard at a time.” She walked back to her cash register and started counting the money out for the end of the shift.

She hated counting out her drawer. Her mind always started to wander. She was thinking about Jack and how they were not only just two people sharing bills, but that they also despised eachother, now.

She finished with the tens, marked down the result, and started on the fives.

She could just take all the savings, Midnight, and that ugly red car. Go to the other side of the damn country and start over.

She started on the ones.

She didn’t know anyone. She didn’t have any real friends. She was good at making other people feel like she was being friendly. She was good at making them think she cared. That’s why she was good at her job. That’s why Jack was good at his job. That’s why it didn’t work.They didn’t really care about anyone other than themselves. That was the real issue.

She started on the quarters.

The only person she really knew was her Mom, and she was dead. “How sad is that?” Emily whispered as she started counting the pennies. She sighed and took her paperwork back to Dave who was in the office. He looked up from his computer screen and stopped short. “You okay, Em?” he asked as he took the paperwork.

Emily shrugged.

“You’ve had a long day. It was nice of you to cover for Julie.” he turned back to his computer. Emily just stood there, leaning against the door way. “Yeah,” she muttered. “I hope she gets to feeling better.”

She didn’t really. She didn’t really care if Julie got better or not. She just knew it was the right thing to say. Emily always knew the right thing to say. The right thing to do. She just never knew the right way to feel.

She slowly walked back to the counter and signed out of the cash register. She dragged her feet towards her locker and grabbed her stuff. Dave shut off the lights and they both went out into the cold. Emily put her coat on as Dave locked the doors. They headed for the car. Dave always gave Emily a ride home, he was just a nice guy like that. Emily wondered if he actually felt nice about it or just did it because it was nice to do. Like Emily did. Like Jack did.

Did anyone actually feel nice?

Emily sighed.

“You seem awful distant, tonight. Everything okay?” Dave asked as he kept his eyes on the road. The wind had picked up and it was blowing the snow around pretty good.

Emily lied, like she always did. “Yeah, just tired.” Dave nodded, or Emilly assumed he did. She was too busy staring out the window to see.

Dave’s car pulled up behind Jack’s in the drive. “Thanks again, Dave.” Emily said as she opened the door. “See you Friday,” he said as she closed the door.  He pulled away and she headed for the front door. She just stood there, key in the lock, forehead against the cold door. She didn’t want to go inside. She didn’t want to stay out in the cold. There just weren’t any other options. She was stuck.

She turned the lock as a tear fell down her face. Midnight was sitting there. She meowed, rubbing against Emily’s cold ankles. Emily smiled. “You just want food,” she said as she bent over to scratch her head. “Even you fake it.”

She took her coat off and headed to the kitchen to feed the cat. Midnight got excited when the can of food opened. She reached up to Emily’s knees and pawed at the air. MEOW!

Emily laughed and put the food down. She went upstairs to change into her pajamas. Jack was in bed, snoring. She just stood there and watched him, waiting for something to happen. Anything. Nothing did. She didn’t feel anything. She sighed and pulled some pajamas out of her dresser. She got dressed, grabbed her blanket and pillows, and headed downstairs.

She heard Jack say something in his sleep as she headed down the stairs, but she ignored him. She didn’t care anymore if he was saying some other woman’s name in his sleep. She just didn’t want to be anywhere near him.

She opened the freezer and tried to decide. Chocolate or butter pecan ice cream, tonight? She asked Midnight but the cat was too busy gobbling down her supper to bother to pretend to be interesetd in Emily, anymore. Emily sighed and reached for the chocolate. “I need to heavy stuff, tonight.” She sat on the couch with a heaping bowl of ice cream and clicked on the tv. “Another day, another dollar,” she thought as she scrolled through the channels. She wanted to cry as she at her ice cream. She wanted to be able to go upstairs, wake Jack, and scream at him. Scream at him for not loving her anymore, scream at him for being an asshole, just scream.

But she couldn’t. She just didn’t feel it, anymore. She didn’t feel anything. Still, when she was supposed to laugh along with the sitcom, she laughed. She still knew what was expected.

This is a work in progress. Like all my stories, it is copyright Chelsea Roush 2015. It is not apart of a creative commons copyright. If you wish to share this, please link directly back to here and give credit, or contact me through WordPress messaging to ask to use on other media.
This is purely a work of fiction. Any resemblance to circumstances or individuals is a coincidence.