Partially Employed Salesgirl

 

The other day I was laying on my yellow, worn couch and realized I couldn’t will myself to move.  Then I realized I could, but only to transition to the floor.  I lay there, groaning like the eldest Belcher child, until I decided to quit my job.

So now, I’m a partially employed salesgirl.  What does this mean exactly?  A few things:

Instead of driving across the state at the crack of dawn, breaking the monotony between various appointments with beef jerky stops at the various local fillin’ stations, then only to return home around the time most snot nosed kids get sent to bed, I now start my days by sleeping in.  As luck would have it my unemployment coincided with a partial employment offer and, I love money, so I took it.

My new gig, besides affording me the capital to feed myself, also allows fun side stuff like being “used” as a hair model.  Having your hair cut or colored for free can be a real crapshoot, but I figured it was better than having an appointment where I’m greeted at the door by two Doberman Pinchers who reside in a cabin in the middle of the woods which *also* happens to be inhabited by a nice Czechoslovakian woman who doesn’t speak English.  After my upcoming hair appointment, I might get a latte.

One of the last home visits with my prior job involved a giant man who lived alone.  During our visit, he told me his only love was his cat.  His emotional attachment was so strong that he became distraught on his recent trip to Las Vegas and survived the grief solely by bringing a framed photo of his feline friend with him to kiss when he got sad.  I met this cat when he showed me his electric panel.  I didn’t necessarily need to see the panel, I definitely didn’t want to, but I had inquired about its condition earlier. As luck would have it, and despite the extremely invasive brain surgery he had just had a few months prior, the gentleman remembered.

His electric panel was in his bedroom.  His bedroom was in the basement.  His cat, an unapologetic asshole, sat perched at the edge of his unmade bed, judging me for it’s state of disarray.   I contemplated whether these might be my last moments on earth.

Today, in the comfort of my own home, I worked for two hours on my computer before watching Rachel Ray.  I also went for a run and cracked open a beer at 4pm.  I’m about to sit on the floor and drink another.  Not because I have to, but because I can.

 

 

 

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Popular Kids

It was 6th grade when I took note of the concept of “popularity.”  Some individuals were deemed cool, as if by natural selection, and others were left to fend for themselves, taking puberty head on.  Hopefully, someday, we would come out the other side.  

 

Doc Martin sandals were cool then, the chunky kind, and I could easily spot someone popular by noting who was wearing these shoes, as well as how they were wearing them.  Docs were expensive, grossly so for any kid not yet familiarized with the concept of money, and by owning a pair it meant your parents were either well off or drowning in debt.  

 

Instead of acknowledging the price tag, being a responsible tween, and caring for the status symbol on their feet, the popular kids let the back of their heels rest solidly on the backs of their shoes, thus shortening the life of their parents investment.  This move cemented among their peers the aloof “I don’t give a fuck about your expensive ‘things’ and that makes me superior” status.  

 

One of the girls who seemingly ran the 6th grade was Kayleigh, a dark haired girl who also happened to possess the necessary “cool” factor of being rail thin.  She wasn’t “nice,”  she wasn’t “mean,” and for the life of me I couldn’t tell if she had any qualities someone like myself could take and use to improve my own social stature.   All I really knew was that she clomped along in her Doc Martins, unsteadily, day after day, dominating the attention of her peers.  

 

My fascination with Kayleigh and those who appeared close to her became something of a low-level, adolescent obsession.  And how could it not be?  Her name was everywhere,  “Kayleigh made first string cheerleader” “Kayleigh is dating Brock,” Kayleigh’s mom is coming to talk to us about bones in science class- and she’s hot too!”   

 

Kaileigh even “dated” the brief child star of “Lost in Space,” a short lived television show from my parents era that someone assumed needed to be remade into a movie.  Her opportunity to seduce a hollywood star occured when our class was in Space Camp for a week.  “Date” was the term we used, its meaning vague coming from a bunch of 12 year olds, but we were fine with the obvious lack of details.   My classmates and I did know that she had absolutely been in his presence once, and since the kid worked alongside Tom Hanks, Kayleigh became a star by default.

 

Shortly into my 6th grade year, after I had identified the key players in the “popular crowd,” I decided my time at home would be best utilized by writing soap operas about them.  I had no way of knowing what Kayleigh and her crew did behind closed doors and it thrilled me to think that any of the situations that spontaneously jumped into my brain might be played out in real life.  There was passion to the extent that my characters flirted with the idea of holding hands with each other, and betrayal inasmuch that Brock might decide to sit next to Hannah in the cafeteria, leaving Kayleigh at the end of the table next to Tyler, who was the brooding fellow secretly pining for Erin.   Their lives would intertwine in dramatic ways during the school hours and, if I was feeling saucy, they might happen upon each other later, while running errands with their moms.  They’d giggle, exchange a few pleasantries about school work, then clomp away on their Doc Martins, to do whatever it was that popular kids did at home.

Protein

I’ve noticed recently that it takes extra effort to zip up my jeans.  My weight usually stays consistent, due to years of intentionally training my brain to identify both food and connect it with its calorie content, but …ya know… I’m only human….hills and valleys.

My last struggle with light, but extra poundage happened as a result of my discovery of White Cheddar Smart Popcorn.  The “Smart” meaning “low calorie.”  Unfortunately it doesn’t matter how “low” the number is on the nutrition facts if you eat it in unhealthily large portions.  The obsession was real.  Initially, I ate in moderation, daintily, but then I realized I could buy large bags of the popcorn in gas stations.  Traveling long distances daily for my job leaves me with few real options for food unless I want to gain weight in a hurry so I usually eat nothing or pick up the occasional bag of beef jerky (also low cal, but expensive, limiting my purchases).

Eating popcorn seemed to be a magical way to feed myself throughout the day that wouldn’t have me packing on the pounds or draining my wallet.  Seemed to be.  What I didn’t realize about having a trash can-sized bag of popcorn on my lap as I drove 30 miles across the state, was that it was alarmingly easy to eat the whole thing.  The first time I noticed the bag was halfway empty I was driving away from an appointment and 20 minutes into opening the bag.  I was shocked, also still hungry.   Luckily, hunger it was “Smart” and besides, I was stress.  I saved the remaining half for that afternoon as I drove home.

Then it happened again.  And again.  I started telling myself that it wasn’t actually “gross” or unsanitary how my sticky cheddar finger residue was all over my steering wheel, or that I was finding more and more popcorn kernels stuck in my teeth.

One day I ate two bags.  I told my boyfriend, out of guilt, that I ate a bag and a half.  That following weekend we went to a wedding, where I saw a photograph of myself for the first time in months.  The spell was broken.

Not long after, I found a new love.  “Did you know that ricotta cheese is basically just protein?”  My boyfriend was looking at his phone and commenting on my choice of appetizer.  I had just finished looking at the calorie content of what (I considered) was a wonderful cheese discovery, and was floored that it had less than half the weight of the hummus we shoveled nightly into our faces.

“Protein?  Really?”  He couldn’t see it from his screen, but my previous life flashed before my eyes.  My whole existence had been protein.  When I was modeling, my diet consisted of eggs, chicken and Franzia.  The Franzia may not have held any nutritional value, I’m still up in the air about it, but the birds I ate did, and I lost a significant amount of weight while feeling the best I have in my life.  When I lived solely with my dog I used to joke out loud to her that I was “half chicken.”  She thought it was funny.

“Protein….” I trailed off and dumped more into the bowl.  I topped off the mound of cheese with some white truffle oil, another obsession, and dipped a carrot into it.  The truffle was an undeniably selfish act, meant to play on my boyfriend’s aversion, and with that I secured this new snack as my own.

I’m now post-ricotta.  Consuming quantities large enough that they required a daily trip to the supermarket left me feeling… gluttonous.  Also I couldn’t fit into any of my pants.  Now I’m onto cream cheese.

 

Little Things

Today as I was walking to my hair appointment, on the verge of a mental breakdown due to various life tragedies that aren’t all real tragedies, I power-walked past a middle aged lady who appeared to be talking to herself.  In Boston, whether or not someone is yelling to themselves or, wearing a set of headphones and engaged in a discussion with a real-live human being is a crapshoot.  In this case, as I passed carefully under the fake-safe distance of an arms length, I noted that she was wearing headphones, signalling interaction with another breathing individual.  

 

“And I went to Panera Bread.  I ordered a bottle of water.”

 

“Oh really?”  I thought to myself.  This was front page news.  “Tell me more…”  I glanced quickly in her direction.  Based on her appearance she looked like a capable human, more capable than myself at least.  I tried to recall if I had ever advertised lounging in a Panera Bread before.  No.  

 

“And I sat in a booth with my cup of water, and I drank it.”

 

This confused me.  Was it a bottle?  Was it a cup?  Did she buy the bottle and then pour it into the cup?

 

“And it was nice.  I was there for a while.”

 

“Really?”  I thought.  “That’s the story? This woman went to a Panera, ordered water and just sat?”  She sounded happy, if not excited that not only had this Panera time-out happened, but also that she was able to share it with someone.   

 

My pace took me away from her before I could get any additional information and I did not want to suddenly bring to a halt what had clearly been my pseudo jog.  This was fine, as I felt I had gotten the gist of the story and didn’t want any of her afterthoughts to ruin what had clearly been a meaningful morning.  

 

What was really important in her life?  Mental health is most definitely up there for most.  Did she have no worries and spending time in a booth at a popular chain give her additional pleasure?  Or was this her way of decompressing?  Was the person on the other side of the phone line bored with her Panera chitchat and securing the knot to their noose or was he/she cheering her on for her bottled water purchase?  
Should I be cashing in on my two-year-old Panera gift card?

T Time

 

 

Exploring new surroundings has always been a favorite pastime of mine and whenever I move or visit a location I prefer to dive into the area on foot.  The same applied to Boston, and when my boyfriend and I moved to the city we spent our free time wandering different neighborhoods.  Aside from the the obvious, that I was able to spend my favorite activity with someone I love, I noticed that there was a dramatic change in the way my exploring was conducted.  No longer was I walking wherever I wanted, now there were two of us determining which direction to go.  There was really no wrong answer to whether “left or right” was the best way to go given we were both ignorant of the area, but it meant communication was necessary, something which has never been one of my strong suites.  The other difference was both refreshing and alarming: I wasn’t required to have any awareness of my surroundings.  I was happy to let my boyfriend lead the way most of the time and confident that even if we ended up in a bad area, we’d be fine.  He’s a large guy with a beard and by default that makes him lower on the pecking order for muggers.  This left me, a small blonde girl, to skip along beside him and enjoy the scenery in ignorance.  

 

One evening when we were still unpacking our new apartment we put our task on pause to head across the river and grab dinner with a few friends.  We took off on foot to the T, where we would need to make multiple transfers before reaching our destination in Cambridge.  Along the way, noticing my distress of juggling my jacket, phone and lipgloss, my boyfriend filled his pockets with my things, casually draped my jacket over his shoulder and took my hand, letting me once again follow him blindly.

 

Our trip continued without incident until we made it to our second transfer.  At the base of the entryway stairs was a map meant to indicate whether you wanted to head into the city or out, left or right.  “Or is it right and left?” I asked.   We both stared at it for a moment before my boyfriend said, “I think we want the left one.”  As the last word was still leaving his mouth I took two large steps to the left and stepped into the cab.   I turned to face his direction just as the still unfamiliar “ping” sound of the doors closing echoed through the area.  The doors closed.  Boyfriend, less than two feet away from me was cut off and alone on the platform.   We stared at each other briefly, his mouth hanging open and my expression confused before the train began to pull away.  I gave the glass and his angry face a halfhearted wave.   “Oh this’ll be fiiine,” I thought to myself, both entertained by the mishap and agitated that he looked so angry.  “What’s the big deal?  Instinctively I reached for my phone to call him.  

 

“This train ends at Braintree,” the intercom overhead announced.  Our destination, and the fact that I was reaching for the phone I didn’t have, in pockets that didn’t exist in my dress meant two things:  1- I was going in the wrong direction and 2- I was missing my lipgloss.  At least, that was the second thing I realized after I figured out I didn’t have my phone.  

 

This still was not a big deal.  Boyfriend would be coming after me anyway, so I would wait for him to arrive on the next train and we’d head to our overpriced dinner.  At the next stop I hopped off the train, found the least-stained and littered area, and tried to look casual as I waited it out.  

 

The first train arrived and I scanned the crowd for tall angry faces.  Nothing.  This immediately concerned me.  Surely he had realized that he had all my things and I was waiting patiently for him to come save me.  If he assumed I was coming back, which was the definition of why you don’t assume, he was facing the same situation I was.  I could picture him down to the pacing and unnecessary checking of his phone.   “Is she coming back on the next train?  Should I wait again?  Is she expecting me to come get her? Can she call me without her phone?  Does she even know my phone number?”   The answer to his latter question was no.  As I watched the first train pull away I wondered if this was the universe testing our relationship.  How well did we really know each other, anyway?  I had figured I knew him pretty well by now, we shared a phone plan after all, and I resented this sudden microscopic look into our lives.  I decided to wait for the second train.  He’d come looking for me.

 

Nope.  He didn’t.  “Damn it boyfriend,” I muttered under my breath.  He was doing the same thing I was, figuring that surely when I didn’t see him on the first train I would come back because, after all, he was in the right direction.  My brain began to hurt.  “Mom always said if we get lost, stay put and wait for help to come,” I thought.  “Well I’m doing it Mooooom.”  Surely he’d know after two trains that I was waiting for him here.  

 

Third train.  No boyfriend.  As the doors creaked shut and the beast moved slowly away I started to realize the consequences of not paying attention to my surroundings.  This was all my fault.  If I didn’t have a boyfriend I would know what I should do.  Why did I get a boyfriend?  Why did I have to move in with him?  Why did I even grow up?  How old was I?  Old?  Why the hell was I so old?   The evening plans were absolutely off the table, I had no idea what the name of the restaurant was or what stop it was on.  Getting home was the bigger issue.  I didn’t know how far away I was or what stop.  I also didn’t have any money for a cab.  Could you ask people for directions?  If so, what part of the city did we live in again?  Was I currently in a bad part of town?  Even if I was able to borrow someone’s phone the only phone number I knew was my sister’s and she lived in Arkansas.  

 

I made a very meaningful and audible “Uh Oh,” for the second time in my life.  The first occured while sitting down in my airplane seat when I moved to New York City years before.   No money, no job and no connections.  For some reason this hadn’t concerned me and I headed to the East Coast anyway.  The only moment I questioned my decision was in that seat, once, and then it went away.  As this memory hit me, I wondered if my current situation was worse.

 

“Hoooo girly lookin good!” A few men from the other side of the platform whistled in my direction.  

 

Yep, this was worse.  

 

It wasn’t until train number seven passed that I decided to make a move.  He had planted, I had planted.  As long as boyfriend was consistent in his actions, he would remain in his place.  If I got there and he was gone, all bets were off.  I was going to have to hit the streets and see if anyone in the modern world carried a map.  Surely not everyone relied on their digital devices to get around.  “I’ll have to find an elderly couple,” I decided.  “An elderly couple that’s out at nine pm on a Saturday night and carries a map they can lend me.”  But a map to where?  I struggled for a moment to remember my new address. “805?  “855?”  I shook my head, there were far too many ways for this to end poorly.  

 

Train number eight finally groaned its way to the platform and just as I stepped into the car a familiar, angry voice echoed off the walls.  “Jessica! NO!”  
Sweating, panicked and out of breath, my other half came into view.  “Hey there!” I said, stepping off the train toward him.  “Whew that was close!”  The doors closed behind us.  Too close really, and we both knew it.  We made it to dinner, only marginally late and everyone thought our train mishap was funny yet dismissable.  “Our address though…” I nudged my boyfriend.  “It’s 857, right?”

Blizzard

 

Yesterday I witnessed my dog slipping on the snow.  Other than her love for her mom (me) and salmon skin, she has cannot get enough of the water and snow.  The water disappointed her first, during her second trip ever to the ocean.  She had launched herself onto the beach in a frenzy, eyeing the water excitedly and and walked forward to gently dip her paws in.  She’s not an idiot, obviously the tide was doing something she was not familiar with, but after a little bit of aggressive coaxing my boyfriend and we got my dog in up to her collar.  This was fine for less than five seconds before the first wave hit her.  

 

For seven years the snow has also been her friend.  Despite my sincere attempts to put her in warmer climates, hoping that she’ll eventually get used to the heat, there has been no denying the weird animal happiness that takes place when she sees snow.  Even in the most miserable of blizzards, with her mom muttering expletives underneath my breath, she still leaps around with the energy of a puppy, stuffing her snout in any pile of flakes she passes.  

 

Yesterday, after a quick jaunt in the snow, she fell.  It was fast, she got up and she was fine.  You could tell she felt betrayed though.  

 

I was concerned at first with the intensity that she fell but there was no limping, and the pouting stopped as soon as we returned to the apartment.  Other than dismemberment there is truly nothing a decent sized dog treat can’t fix.  Shortly thereafter, I gathered up my things to go to work.  The moment that I zipped up my winter coat a colleague called.  Against my better judgement, and my boyfriend’s wise advice that I warm my car up earlier than later, I answered the phone.  The conversation was important, also incredibly long, and after I noticed we’d hit the fifteen minute mark I stopped taking notes and headed out the door.  As I stepped onto the sidewalk I apologized for the gentleman for having to go and hung up on him without waiting to hear a response.  The time popped up on my phone- 9:20am.  It usually took me forty minutes for get to my office on a good day, and this meant I was fucked.  I broke into a sprint.  

 

Then, with the ice filled street spinning around me I fell, hard, ironically at the exact same spot my dog did.  Unlike my dog though I didn’t jump up and look confused.  Instead I remained twisted on the ground.  My purse, from what I could see laid remarkably intact, three feet away and still looking fly.  Somehow the four hundred dollar investment I had been hesitant to make, in the form of a Kate Spade accessory I might add, had also managed to protect my oversized iPad.  This was obviously a display of good luck.  My purse had made a sacrifice for my twisted body, and in my haze I took this as some sort of display of good karma.  I had earned this.  

 

I would’ve readily patted myself on the back if I hadn’t had my arm pinned underneath my torso and caressing the pavement.   “Ohhh.”  I said toward the purse, which to a passerby probably would’ve been interpreted into an “Ow.”   For better or for worse though, no one was around.  I would have had no problem welcoming some sympathy, or at least a hand up, but I also happened to live next to a number of young families with children.  Odds were that if anyone would’ve been nearby the observers of my dramatic fall would have been under the age of ten, and not immune to a thirty something flinging expletives into the ozone.   

 

Unlike my dog during when I hit the ground, I was wearing clothes.  My pants, as well as my tights, ripped open all too easily in my graceful tumble.  This was bad enough, they were my favorite pants, but I also hadn’t had the chance to do any laundry for two weeks, presenting yet another layer to my problem.  It wasn’t even until I gathered my purse and found my car keys next to the ditch that I noticed my leg was bleeding.

 

Did I mention I was running late?  For a split second, in the middle of the road, I turned to look at my apartment building.  Did I go back in and change?  Did I have any BandAids?  Was I about to use a “Get out of Jail Free” card when it would be better utilized playing hooky and going to a bar on a day when I wasn’t actually injured?  

 

I turned back toward my car.  I would not be sacrificing a fake sick day for this.  I limped defiantly, toward my car and buckled myself in with authority.  Then, I looked down at my knee.   It seemed to be bleeding quite a bit.  I usually had an array of napkins easily available in my pockets or in my passenger seat.  Sometimes they were used, sometimes they were not.  Ironically the week before my boyfriend had found a napkin that wasn’t his own in his pocket, unarguably used and I had made a mental note to discard all my paper products.

 

“Fine,” I had said to him.  “I’ll get rid of the napkins.”  He had no way of proving they were mine, anyway.   I was doing us both a favor.

 

Luckily when I fell I still had a some Dunkin Donuts trash wedged between my seat and the console I had failed to see.  “Thank God,”  I thought outloud.  “This is what they must do in emergency situations.”

Update- I am now properly bandaged and grossly bruised.  For the first time I understand the need for lawyers who specialize in situations like “slip and falls.”  My dog may have enjoyed the winter, she may still, I haven’t asked her, but as we nurse our wounds together I will be mentally prepping her once again for a move to a warmer climate.