I’m not in bed yet.

I feel like the kid who waits next to the door to hear their parents complete their night rituals and go to sleep so I can sneak out my flashlight and read.  Or watch TV.  I used to turn my TV down really low and watch Nick-at-Nite reruns of Mr. Ed and the Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Kind of G rated compared to what kids do today.  Kind of G rated compared to what kids my age used to do.  But what do you get when you’re raised by someone who was in their fifties when you were born?  You tend to adopt their ideas of rebellion.  Just so happens that my grandmother thought that talking horses were the devil.

That, my friend, is a nature-versus-nurture debate that I will leave for another night.

So why the celebrations?  Normally, I would be Twittering/MySpacing/Facebooking about the horrors that are Sunday nights.  The ironing of the work shirt, the starching of the khakis, the preparations of the lunch box, and the broadcasting of your sincere discontent to everyone who decides to log into a social networking site.

My routine is  peacefully at rest for the moment.  No, I haven’t been let go (yet).  But I did get time off until the 4th of January.

Go me!

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Ugh, the season….

I was cautiously hopeful this year.  I wanted it to be the year that I was actually “into it.”

I didn’t ask Santa for an absence of Christmas this year.  I actually asked him to clean my kitchen for me.  Just wash the dishes so I don’t have to do it.  Again.

Alas, I woke up to a Christmas morning and a dirty kitchen.

That fat bastard has always hated me.  Probably because I’ve always thought of him as a fat pedophile convict who gets away with mass break-ins only because he leaves stuff behind.

But THIS year was going to be different.  Things had changed since last year and the year before.  This year… it was going to be a glimpse at what Christmas really should be.

The problem with being hopeful and anxious?  There’s that slight chance of disappointment.

And disappointment never fails to come when called.  And he always brings his blasted friends who destroy everything they touch.

I’ve done my Christmas usual today.  You know, the day that I was actually supposed to be somewhat excited… I waited for someone for a while, read too much, gave up on the person, and after I write this, I’m going to do what I should have done in the first place: the same thing I do every Christmas.  Grieve, get mad, give up, grieve, and sleep.

So, Mr. Holiday Spirit… you know where you can stick it.  The same place I told you to stick it last year and the year before… and the year before… and the year before…

And maybe next year I’ll finally remember to take the necessary steps to just skip over this godforsaken holiday.

Pink lines… don’t do it. (10DotM)

I push my sunglasses higher up the bridge of my nose.  Their dark tint hides my eyes, their large size keeps most of the world from bombarding my head.

“Code 3 in Housewares.  Code 3 in Housewares.”

The loudspeaker crackles under the pressure of the woman’s obnoxious voice as she shouts her request.  From the insistence and sharp hint of agitation, someone must be taking a dump in one of their auto-timer, to-go cup brewing coffee machines.  My head pulses with every word she screams into the handset.  I fight the urge to cover my ears like a child at a fireworks show.

The store is filled with every kind of person the town has to offer.  The aisles are packed with people who have no real agenda this early in the afternoon on a Saturday.  Old women pushing their empty carts instead of their walkers just for a fun diversion from the “usual.”  Teenage girls pack into the hair dye aisle twirling long locks of blonde and red between their carefully painted fingers.  The smack of their gum slams the front of my head like a mallet.

He broke up with me by text message two weeks ago.  A year and a half of my life and he gives met he courtesy of a text message.  It was something to the tune of:  “you’re no fun, I’m out.”  I thought he was just going out for a night with the guys.  I had finals, for God’s sake!  A week went by and he still didn’t answer my phone calls.  He’ll be sorry.  I’m the best he’ll ever get.

I cut through the dog food aisle, dodging a lady hiding her rat dog under her coat.  It pokes its head out and musters a deep growl.  I hope it jumps down so I have an excuse to punt it.  I could probably clear the Christmas decoration display easily from here.

Last night was a great idea until I woke up this morning.  Somewhere between the Yager bombs and marathon beer pong competition, I lost my ability to reason and see straight.  Luckily, I had planned ahead.  I was wearing jeans and a few layers of shirts in case things began to disappear.  At least I wouldn’t end up spread eagle on a curb downtown showing the whole world that I have a thing for underwear with cartoons on it.

A woman with a squirming alien in a bright green blanket bounce-walks in the middle of the main aisle.  The opposite side of the aisle is choked with parked baskets and people trying to navigate around a man in camouflage overalls smell-testing women’s deodorant.  The moment I see a one-foot clearing to get by this woman, the wrinkled, ugly being opens its mouth.  The noise that emanates from it is somewhere between a screech and a scream.  It sounds like it is begging for a large boulder to fall from the sky and plant itself on top of them.  I pull my hood tight over my ears and grit my teeth.  Pain sears through ears and head.

Far enough from the banshee that I’m able to wipe the tears away and focus, I enter the Personal Care department.  Standing next to the curling irons gives me a chance to check out the “feminine care” section without seeming obvious.  Boxes covered in pink, blue, yellow, and half naked women swathed in fluffy white towels litter the aisle.  The box I need is on the bottom, the brand sounding more like the motto for an EMT unit.  Looking both ways down the aisle, I take a giant step, grab the box, and walk quickly toward the registers.  I tuck the box as far as I can under my arm, trying to hide the name.

The registers are packed with individuals buying enough food and random junk to survive the forthcoming Apocalypse that I must have missed on the news this morning.  The self-check aisles serenade me with a brain-crushing beep every time the ladies in front of me win the game of “Where’s Waldo” with the UPC.  I press my temples and count the number of items left in their overloaded carts.

As I am telepathically pleading with the self-check attendant to kick the morons with seven million items out of the line, I feel a soft pat on my back.  Mouth agape, I turn to face my youth pastor and his wife.

“Hel-LO, Pastor Greg!  Hey, Morgan!  How are you guys today?”

“Very nice, thanks for asking!  We saw you standing here and just couldn’t walk by without speaking.  This place is crazy this time of year, isn’t it?”

“Yes.  Yes, it is.  I have a feeling I’ll be here for a while.”

“More time for you to ponder God’s grace on your life.  We haven’t seen you in church lately.  Do you not come with your parents anymore?”

“Oh, I’m in college now.  Its hard to make it back to town for that 8 am service.”

“Well, honey, we haven’t had an early service this year.  You could make it by 11, can’t you?”

“I’m sure I could.  I didn’t know!”

“We’ll see you tomorrow, then.  Eleven AM sharp!”

“Yes you will.”

Shoot me.  As they circle me and begin to pray for my safe return to my house, a day filled with the holy spirit’s blessings, and a safe journey to church in the morning, I am trying to shove the box as deep as I can into the folds of my sweatshirt.  During their appeals to God to keep me from the evil temptations that college has to offer, a guy cuts in front of me.

“Well, I have to go!  Thanks for the prayers… and stuff… I guess.  Bye.”

I push him out of the way and quickly swipe my purchase and hide it deep within a plastic bag.  I feed my twenty into the machine as he glowers at me.  I snatch my bag, making sure to add an extra swagger to my hips as I walk away.  No sense wasting attention.  Once I know he is completely absorbed by the task of ringing up his fishing lures, I bolt into the bathroom.

Every inch of the bathroom is wet.  A kid is splashing another kid with water and is jabbers senselessly in some weird language.  Their mother is yelling at them from some stall deeper in the recesses of the bathroom.  The floor is carpeted with toilet paper that I hope is simply dirty from the floor and not actually used.  I go to the very last stall in the far rear corner and pull the box out of the loud, white bag.

Peeing on a stick isn’t as easy as it sounds.  For starters, girls seem to lack the ease of aiming that guys have.  It must have been a guy who sat in the New Product Development meeting going “of course they can hit the stick!  They have to have some kind of aim to be able to shove cotton up there!”  After peeing on my hand, sleeve, and everything else even remotely close to the rogue stream, I cap it and pull my underwear back up.  I leave my pants down to avoid the incriminating stares of anyone who happens to think that I’m just hanging out in the bathroom for the scenery.

Okay, so I was a little lazy to go buy condoms that last week we were together.  Besides, he knew I lived in this area most of my life and there isn’t a check-out girl within an hour that I probably haven’t pissed off in some grand gesture or went to high school with.  Condoms were his job.  And we were going to be forever.  It wouldn’t matter if we had an accident, it was just speeding along the process to those vows and that house on the hill that he promised his parents would buy us.

The last thing in the world I want for Christmas is a real-life baby wets-itself.  Maybe buying them wouldn’t have been such a bad idea.  It would have been a lot better than standing in a grimy bathroom sweating through every layer of clothing I bothered putting on this morning, peeing on my hand, and having to smell whatever is left of the lady’s lunch in the stall next to me.  I hope it smelled better going in than it did coming out.

Then again, I guess I could have bought condoms after he left.  Somewhere before I decided sleeping with his best friend was the most vile revenge.  Or even after his brother.  At least maybe the kid would look like him enough that I could still pass it off as his.  Who cares?  This is all his fault anyway.  If he had just come to his senses, I wouldn’t have had to waste all that time sleeping around.

The results screen has one solid pink line.

I throw open the latch, slam the test down on the ground, and cheer loudly raising my arms in the air in the symbolic “V” for victory.  I shuffle to the left, shuffle to the right, grab my pants from around my ankles, triumphantly yank them back up to my waist, and exit stage left.

Then I go buy condoms.

Ring in the New Year

The windshield wipers beat slowly, clearing the tiny translucent drops from the windshield.  I gripped the steering wheel and pushed against my hands making the obnoxious leather against leather noise that i have come to detest.  My radio is bombarding me with a song sung in a deep country drawl about their amazing girlfriend who becomes their amazing wife.
I was going to be an amazing wife once.  We had this idea to get married.  Maybe it was my idea and he just agreed.  We did most of the typical “getting married” things.  I picked out the rings, I picked out the dress, I picked where and when and what time.  I made the invitations and the guest lists.  I stressed over music and food.  I called caterers.  I did the paperwork to get myself on his insurance and filed all the paperwork to make myself his legal spouse.  I even requested and filed the marriage certificate.  I was off to a great start.
Then he hated the rings, wasn’t going to be around on the day, and was pretty much turned off at my idea of a romantic setting.  His mom completely revamped the idea, re-planned the wedding, and told me when to show up.  I walked down the aisle and into my first divorce.
I knew I found the right one when he held the door open for me on our first date.  My ex never took the time for little things.  He also lets me watch my trash TV shows and I always get to put my cold feet against his legs.  When you’re an anti-social 30-year-old, there really isn’t much else you can ask for in the perfect mate.  Someone who will be there when you get home, deal with your insecurities, and make you feel like you’re the only princess in the world who matters, even if you aren’t the only one.
After my first debacle, I dreamed of the perfect scenes that would come when I found my one true companion.  When things would get serious, I would secretly start dress hunting (something simple, handmade, and slightly off-white.  Who am I kidding?  I can’t wear white twice.) and getting ideas for new and different venues.  I would guess the way he would propose, whether it would be something quiet between the two of us or something involving our families.  I would dream of the ring.
Rain starts to fall faster, harder.  I turn the windshield wipers up and stare at the red brick building like I can see through to the inside.  My breath fogs up the glass.  I wipe at it with a gloved hand, streaking the glass.  A happy couple practically falls out the door, laughing and clutching each other.  I jab at the clock button on my radio.
He needs to hurry up.  We’re going to be late.
He hinted around for months that he wanted to take our relationship a step farther.  It started as one of those dreaming conversations that comfortable couples have.  One of those “Well, if we were married…” or “You know, we could get married and….”  Slowly, things shifted into “When we get married…” and finally settled into “We are getting married.”  There were no more dreams of if, there were plans.  There was no more contemplation of what would happen, we started joining accounts and talking freely about our business that need to be taken care of.
The door of the building swings wide.  He emerges, head nestled deep into his grey jacket to avoid the icy wind.  The car door opens and an empty water bottle blows over under my feet.
“Ready?  Did you get the rings?”
“Yeah, let’s go.”
I navigate the snow banks and steer the car swiftly onto the empty main street.  Christmas lights are twinkling on the little houses that line the street.  He is breathing into his hands trying to warm them.  I reach down, turn the heat up a notch, and turn my attention back to the road.
Their house is a small house with pink shingles.  She loved the shingles, he loved the fact he wouldn’t have to mow a huge yard.  They were huddled together on a bench swing on their front porch.  She smiles, cheeks red with the cold, and waves a pink gloved hand at me.  He is walking carefully behind her in case her feet find ice.
“Hey guys!”
Her voice sounds like bells.  I never really thought a voice could sound like bells, but hers is the closest I’ve found.  It almost tinkles off of the windows in the car, cascading among higher notes than most people’s voices.  He carefully taps his boots off on the tire and steps in behind her.  She sits in the middle, he sits behind me with his arm securely around her shoulders.  They smile at each other.
We pull in front of the building.  Our appointment had to be arranged since they aren’t typically open on New Years Day.  A single office light is on, reflecting lines of yellow into the snow.  We get out and hustle toward the door.  They walk through first, he supports the door and helps her though.  I squeeze in underneath his arm.
“You guys ready?”
Our reflection makes us look like the carolers on the Courier and Ives cookie tins.  We’re missing the essential sheet music and street lamp though.  She begins unwinding her scarf.
“Let me help you, sweetheart.”
“Thanks.”
They stare at each other for a moment, both beaming with joy.  He steals a kiss as he helps her unravel it from underneath her coat collar.  I hear them whispering notes of love to each other.  She pulls her bright pink toboggan off of her head, revealing smooth, shiny, snow white skin.  She runs her pink mitten over it.
“I lost the last of it right before Christmas.  But Santa Claus made up for it.  He brought me a Snuggie!”
“Really?  What color?”
She laughs.  He watches her, eyes never leaving her perfectly white smile.
“Pink!  Of course! Oh, Sis.  Its AMAZING.  Great for my appointments.”
An older gentleman in a grey sweater and grey slacks enters the darkened reception area.  He watches them for a moment and smiles.  His eyes never stray far from her hairless head.
“Right this way!  Are you guys ready?  Do you have the rings?”
“Oh, we’re not going to have…”
I step forward, between them and the justice, “They have rings.”
She stops smiling and stares at me.  I smile, hold out one of the small black boxes that we had picked up not even an hour before.
“I didn’t know what to get you this year since you’re so spoiled.”
She claps, mittens muffling the sound.  They kiss again.
Could I marry him if I knew I’d only be around for short while?  Would he want to marry me if I weren’t going to be able to give him the children he’s always talking so excitedly about?  Would he take the time to propose and be romantic if my time left were short?  Would we have made a spur of the moment dash to the courthouse or would we have tried to make it something special like them?
She shrugs off her coat and lays it on the chair.  Her sweater and pants hang looser than they used to.  Her shoulders lean forward a bit more, as if bearing a great load.
He takes her ring from my box, ring made of steel and pink metal intertwined.  I had it made as a replica of the one she kept in her drawer as a child.  She takes his ring.  It looks large and unyielding in her emaciated hands.  They smile, say what they are supposed to when prompted, and kiss passionately at the end.  He and I sign as a witness, the old man notarizes it, and wishes them well.  I notice he’s carefully picking the words to bestow upon them.
She turns to me and I open my arms for a hug.
“So what did you guys do after your wedding?”
I looked over to him.  “I think we went to IHOP.”
“Let’s go!  Can we stop by the park where Ben proposed?”
“Of course!  We’ll take your wedding pictures there.”
“Perfect!”  Her claps echo through the empty municipal building.
“Perfect.”
I catch his eyes on the way out the door.  We smile and brace for the wind.

I told him.

That’s how I usually gauge how serious I am about something.  If I tell A, most of the time I’m thinking pretty seriously about it and I’m hoping he’ll guide me the right way.  Sometimes he gets excited about it and “talks” animatedly about it.  That’s when I know I’ve got a good idea.  Other times, he takes his glasses off and rubs his eyes and tries to act excited (just in case I’m serious).  That’s when I know I’ve hit a bust and should keep looking.

The list of things I want to do in 2010 keeps growing.  So far, my poor friends and family have had to hear my ever-growing list of things I am going to accomplish this year.  Like (1) read the reader-voted top 100 novels, (2) open an Etsy shop, (3) take a photography class, (4) learn to cook, (5) actually finish NaNoWriMo or a novel… or both…. the list goes on and on.

My piano sits dormant in my bedroom.  Its not exactly the place I always thought my piano should sit.  I didn’t wake up one morning and think, “I wish I stared at my piano first thing every morning.”  There honestly is just no other place to put it.

The truth is, I miss it.  We’re all good at something.  We all end up finding it eventually and until someone goes “Hey!  You’re good!” we don’t generally realize it.  Piano was my thing.

For those of you who may not know, I went back to North Carolina last month for a few days.  My presence in the old stomping ground a mere 11 months after my sudden departure was met with a strange mixture of confusion, joy, and anger.  That is, when someone cared enough to show an emotion.  Almost all of those who demonstrated pure joy at my existence had one penetrating question:  Are you playing again?

Do I ever wish they were asking about Warcraft.  Or even softball.  I can explain why I gave those up.  (“No, I’m sorry.  I spend most of my internet time talking to someone special.”  “I was unable to find a team that needed a horrible outfielder!”)  But piano has always been a bit of a tricky one to explain.  And now that my prolific instructor has passed away, everyone knew me as his prodigy.  They want his legacy to be carried on by his one star pupil…

… who just so happened to have given up the instrument eleven years ago when aforementioned instructor gave me the ultimatum to either major in Piano Performance or get the hell out.

You probably have figured out what choice I made.  But maybe I was wrong.  I blog often about finding myself, finding what I want to do with myself, and being creative.  I complain about the lack of excitement.  Maybe I’ve just been looking in all the wrong places.  Maybe doing something I know, love, and I am relatively good at will help me be more satisfied in my quest to be a normal, well-adjusted adult.

Maybe I can work this job I can’t stand for a little while longer if I know that when I get home…I can play piano and be good at something.