Whatever.

I hate people in wheelchairs. But just to be fair, I hate most non-handicapped people, too.

My dad and I walked to the grocery store. It’s a mob scene. For anyone who doesn’t believe me, I’m not making this up and I’m not exaggerating. If you don’t walk very carefully, you will crash into someone. And since I’m the only person in town who’s conscientious, it’s all on me to avoid collisions.

I was in line at the U-Scan when the woman at one of the four areas finished and started to walk away. Thus, I started to walk toward her U-Scan. Then, she turned and decided to check all the bags again, which left me high and dry in the middle of the crowded area. The woman to her left was finishing up, too, and whoever was behind me in line was eagerly coveting that U-Scan. I got caught up in a maelstrom of all those people and one employee.

I scanned my groceries and indulged in a fantasy of the woman next to me, the one who couldn’t wait for me to reach my U-Scan to shove me out of the way, to ask if she could borrow my Kroger-Plus card. I wanted to yell, “No!” at her.

It didn’t happen.

Then I searched the store for my dad, thinking he hadn’t gotten his groceries yet. I turned around after the last aisle and figured he must be outside already. About fifteen feet in front of me, a young woman was zooming toward me in a collision course. Same old, same old.

I froze. I could tell that if I tried to go left or right, she’d counterintuit it, and we’d collide. Finally, after about ten seconds, she zipped within a foot of me and sped past, and we were safe.

Anyway, this is the part about how I’ve decided to hate people in wheelchairs. There was a woman in a wheelchair near me when this happened. Being conscientious, I had plans to move out of her way the second the speeding young woman was past. The wheelchair-ridden woman apparently couldn’t wait two seconds for me to catch my bearings.

“EXCUSE ME, HONEY,” she hollered.

I rolled my eyes and stomped off. I kind of want to go back in time, though, stare at her fiercely, and flat-out refuse to move. I didn’t deserve to get yelled at like that, as if I’m not uniquely conscientious, but rather some layabout who doesn’t care if I’m hogging the pathways due to my own self-absorption. That was how she saw me, and that was her implicit (and noisy) accusation.

[Bleep] her. She and her wheelchair aren’t all that special.

In retrospect, she probably tried to get my attention while I was preparing to fend off the young woman, but I didn’t hear what the wheelchair woman was saying because I was preparing for a collision. Thus her yelling at me. But if she had half a braincell, she could’ve looked around and ascertained the situation instead of treating me like riffraff.

I’d give anything to go back in time and tell her off. I’m mad at myself now for letting the moment pass. I just didn’t expect to get yelled at by an imbecile in a wheelchair. Oh well.

What life is this?

I’ve been doing a lot of fitness stuff, for which I’m very proud of myself. Today I went back to pilates, and tomorrow I’m taking beginners’ tap dancing.

I was the first person at pilates class today. The teacher said, “I read your paperwork. You’re the person who wants to lose sixty pounds, right?”

I nodded. Heck, yes. 

“Pilates won’t do that for you. You’d need extreme aerobicizing, I’d think.”

“Oh, I know,” I said. “I’m in terrible shape and can’t do stuff like that, and this class seems to be right at my level.”

“Oh, good. Yeah, I didn’t want to be misleading. Pilates will improve your pants’ size, though.”

“Perfect!”

This is possibly the first time I’ve ever been on a fitness kick. I survived pilates, and I thought it’d kill me. I’m excited to learn about tap dancing tomorrow since my favorite actor, Dick Van Dyke, is a tap dancer. In fact, my favorite actress, Betty White, also tap dances.

Yesterday was a weird day. Two days ago, I had a conversation with my local friend, Ash, about neighborhoods. I felt as if she was trying to let me know subtly that she lives in a poor part of town. I told her I love living in my house, but the traffic over here is dreadful and no one stops at stop signs or red lights.

She said that I should be grateful to live in such a nice part of town, and I had to agree. Traffic is a silly thing to whine over.

Then, yesterday, I invited her over. When she arrived, she was a colossal stress mess. “What’s wrong with the traffic around here?” she wailed. “Someone almost ran me over. I’m lucky to be alive. And no way are the drivers on your street sticking to the speed limit, which is too high to start with. Like, oh my gosh!”

Ah, she sees the problem now. I sympathized and told her I’ve written letters to the police, which have fallen on deaf ears. They don’t care that the stop signs have become free-for-alls. Stop if you feel like stopping, keep driving if you don’t! 

I was tired, and I fear I wasn’t a good hostess. I’d marginally gotten enough sleep, but I’d been excited the previous night while waiting up for contest results, so I was a bit fatigued. I showed her some books I hoped she might be interested in, and she took the one about numerology.

Big Woof kept harassing Ash, and I felt guilty about it, because we don’t just put her in the backyard or tie her out, so I had limited options. I offered Ash a handful of doggie food to feed Big Woof, but Ash politely declined to touch it. I tried to rein in Big Woof’s enthusiasm, but the dog really put me to shame.

Then Ash and I went to the local crystal shop.

We met the owner, Lisa, who told us she’d posted a hiring sign on Next Door, the local forum. Being sleep deprived and idiotic, I told her that I’d had a bad experience on Next Door’s website that had culminated in the local tavern putting up a sign telling me to stay off the internet. (If only. Sigh. The internet is my home.)

Lisa said, “Alan did that?”

Ash and I nodded. (Ash had seen the photo on my social media page.) “It said, ‘If you are an unhappy person, stay off the internet,'” I told Lisa. (There’s nothing I love quite as much as fueling local gossip.)

So then Lisa told us a long and involved story about how she’d gone to a small business class where people had recommended she give her employees polygraph tests. (Lisa’s endured a lot of shoplifting.) Lisa thought it over and approached her longest employee to ask her opinion. This employee had worked at the crystal store for six years. When asked if everyone should be polygraphed, she flipped out and threw a tantrum. As Lisa told us this story, you could sort of tell she expected sympathy and reactions of, “Oh, my! What a horrible employee she must’ve been.”

I said, “Any chance she’s paranoid?”

Lisa shook her head. “She must’ve been up to no good. You think you know someone!”

So while Lisa and I were libelling and slandering people from all around town, Ash got sort of shifty. Eventually, we broke free and exited the crystal shop.

I told Ash, “You should work there! It’d be perfect.”

“I don’t think I could handle the commute,” she muttered.

When we got home, Ash was hungry, so I offered her some food. “I have frozen Lara bars, Luna protein bars, breakfast cereal, granola bars, and frozen pizza.”

She sneered. “I think I need to go in search of some real food,” she said. She made her polite exit after which I went straight to bed for a nap.

The whole visit felt off kilter to me, which is sad. Oh well. I blame the traffic situation and my own fatigue.

 

Fun flash fiction time!

Okay, so here’s my short story that I wrote two months ago and its accompanying feedback from the judges. I came in sixth place in my group! Yay! Top fifteen out of thirty get points (starting at 15, 14, etc.), so I got 10 points.

When it Comes, I’ll Be Ready

by Meg (genre: thriller, location: commuter train, included object: ethernet cable)

It takes an effort to block out the world as I board the train after a hard day of work. I’m exhausted. It’s my first week working long-distance, but the sameness here is already rote: the frenzied passengers, rushing to board; the stench of dirtied upholstery and spilled food; the angry tantrums of a little boy whose mom can’t control him. I slump into a seat so I can gaze out the window.

Time passes, and my thoughts drift.

I watch as the train zips past some lush scenery in a blur of early evening foliage. A flutter of wings flits into the sky and evaporates like a cloud, an illusion of idea and shadow. I’ve seen it a few times before, and I was looking out a window each time.

***

“Sofia,” my fourth-grade teacher Mrs. Kemberly snapped. “Please pay attention.”

My head snapped forward as I picked up my pencil. A moment later, she grabbed an ethernet cable and muttered as she tried to connect the overhead projector to the internet. I glanced back outside. It was gone in a haze of nothingness. If the school hadn’t caught fire half an hour later, I never would’ve given it a second thought.

***

It was a portent of doom. It knew what was going to happen and was trying to warn me. I failed to get the message. Some students didn’t make it out. It was my fault.

I saw it again three years later, the night my daddy said goodbye to Momma and me for the last time. It slithered away from our kitchen window while I called out, “Bye Daddy. Don’t forget my candy bar.” But there was an accident, they said. Drunk driver. Collision. Explosion. Remains.

A kind churchgoer told me that even accidents happen for a reason.

I disagreed, just a little. Daddy’s wreck happened on purpose.

***

I’ve spent years wondering when it would return, and now it has. It’s a trick of the light, my mind whispers.

But I’m ready for my rationalizations. I listened to them while my dad lay dying without me. Never again. My gaze alights on the emergency button.

“I saw a guy pull it once.”

I gasp, interrupted from my reverie by the man seated next to me, who elbows me. “They arrested him. I hope you aren’t considering it.”

I stare into his eyes, which are a kaleidoscope of shifting blues and greens.

“I’m Denver, like the city,” he tells me. He holds his hand out to shake mine.

“Sofia,” I mutter, shaking his cold, clammy hand. It has a reptilian feel. He doesn’t release my hand right away, which unnerves me. “Why’d your parents name you Denver?”

He pulls a face. “Wow. I’ve never been asked that before in my whole life. Oh, and my last name isn’t Colorado.” There’s something cloying about his sarcasm, as if he’s determined to keep me separated from my thoughts.

I take several shaky breaths as my gaze reverts to the emergency button. Now’s the moment to—

“You seem tense,” he observes.

There’s a screech of metal, and we all tilt to one side. Screams and squeals pierce the air. When the train regains its equanimity, I jump up, leap past Denver, and push the emergency button.

The screeching is louder when it returns, and I’m hurled onto the floor in a jerk. The train tilts hard, as if it’s about to keel over. Someone grabs me—it’s Denver. He’s on his hands and knees. “You knew,” he hisses. His nose emits a trickle of blood.

I crawl backward and grab ahold of a metal support beam. Someone shrieks into my left ear as the train struggles to righten itself, and a cellphone hits my head. The train is decelerating too quickly, and my feet scramble to push against the sudden lack of forward motion.

The train stops. My neck jerks backward onto my waiting hands, braced against whiplash.

Amid the chaos, Denver scoots toward me. “Why’d you do that?” he whispers.

“Do what? I was trying to save us.” I peer at him, wondering what lies behind his eyes, which are now brown.

“It was meant to derail and explode,” he explains. “Your actions will alter the future, and not in a good way.”

Someone forces a door open, and there’s a stampede as everyone flees. I’m the last to exit onto tilted earth, dimly aware that the train is listing, and I trudge across a field toward the group. Denver’s standing off to the side when I approach. “How could you know this would happen?” I ask.

He exhales long and slow. “How could you know?”

The truth feels jarring. “My school burned down when I was nine, and my dad died when I was twelve. I can tell when something’s about to go off the rails.”

He nods and narrows his eyes, now an inky black. “Did you see… a flicker?”

“Yes. Have you seen it?” I gape at him.

He stares straight ahead. “You’re a shadow seer.” He groans. “If only I’d known.”

I feel lightheaded. “You’re an inhuman monster,” I utter.

He runs his hands through his hair. “I’m going to wipe your memory soon, so I’ll indulge in some honesty. Someone here is going to become an evil dictator, and I couldn’t prevent it. Damn!”

My thoughts whirl. I scan the crowd, trying to identify the future dictator. The tantrummy five-year-old boy yanks free from his mother’s grasp and balls his hands into fists.

When I glance at Denver, he nods. “That’s him.”

“B-but… we all would’ve died,” I stammer.

“No! Just him and his mom.” His gaze skitters away. “You would’ve been burned a little.” He sounds sheepish.

The train falls toward us in a mountain of metal and glass. Cellphones click as photos are captured.

***

I’m lauded as a hero. The doctor says my amnesia is trauma-related. All I remember is a flutter of wings, an illusion of idea and shadow.

THE END…?

Okay, and here’s the judges’ feedback:

WHAT THE JUDGES LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY – {1941}  I like the use of flashbacks. They serve as a strong device for establishing empathy between Sofia and readers.  {1739}  ‘It’ was injected into the story perfectly, with enough backstory to offer clarity, without too much exposition to take away from the present.  {1903}  Great, engaging voice. First person works well.  Good  use of so few words.

WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK – {1941}  Some of the phrasing is clunky. One example is, “I gasp, interrupted from my reverie by the man seated next to me, who elbows me.” Sentences like these can be smoothed out.  {1739}  Denver is a very interesting character, but he’s just not quite satisfying. It’s almost too big a coincidence that the Being causing the accident, with purpose, would be sitting near someone who can see a harbinger. If he already suspected her, he certainly could have stopped her, especially since he can wipe memories.  {1903}  I was totally on board until Denver asked if she saw a flicker, and mentioned she was a shadow seer. That felt too convenient and I preferred the elusive ability she had to see things. We didn’t need to be told any more than that.

Judge 1941’s feedback is brutal. I strive to write with good flow at all times!! It’s the skill I crave. AARGH. Now, though, I’m staring at that sentence with disdain. [Groan.] Take figure skater Michelle Kwan, for example–a worthy role model. She was told to develop artistry by “oozing” her body while moving across the ice. As silly as this will sound, I try to write that way. Oh, well. Onward and upward! More oozing this weekend!

It’s 10:30 PM EST right now, and the new assignment will be tomorrow at midnight EST. I’ll have 48 hours to write a second story of a different genre and such. Here’s what I’m secretly hoping for: romantic comedy. I feel very skilled in that genre, whereas a lot of my competitors bemoan it. I tend to score well in it. I think I’ve also scored well in drama. Comedy (without the romance) tends to bite me. Historical fiction, political satire, and spy have never been assigned to me, so it would be interesting. Thriller and suspense never fully go my way, but I’m almost good at them. I don’t think I’ve ever had horror, either.

There’s a certain excitement at midnight when the assignments are announced–the thrill of creating something based on the luck of the draw. I’m not going to sweat it this weekend. If I can get enough sleep and be well rested, I’m sure I can nail it, barring any extreme instance of “life happening.”

 

 

My tribute.

Tomorrow’s September 11th. I don’t like to remember the atrocities of that time, but I composed a short piece of piano music (within a month of the event in 2001) as a way of expressing the angst that occurred then. So I made a video with a still image of the blue World Trade Center lights and my piano music. That’s me playing it, too. I recorded some stuff at church several years later.

No one likes this composition of mine. But it just, in my mind, really captures the horror of it all. Here’s the link to it! The music starts eight seconds in.

I’m angry! Someone please insult my mother so I can let loose!

DEAR ABBY: My best girlfriend for 40 years broke up with me because, after she told me she and her husband were having marital problems, I told her the last time we two couples were using their hot tub, her hubby was stroking my leg with his foot. I know I ruined everything, but I thought she should know. Did I do the right thing? I have written long letters of apology, but she has completely shut me out. — TELLING THE TRUTH IN OHIO

DEAR TELLING: You did nothing wrong by telling your longtime friend. The fault that the friendship is over doesn’t lie with you. She is probably embarrassed, or her husband lied and told her what he did was harmless. (c) DEAR ABBY

Huh. I’ve been in these situations where the messenger gets shot, too. Sort of.

I used to be friends with someone who I’ll call Louise. Louise had the hots for a guy who was a total narcissist. She met him online and came here to America (where she’s originally from–she’d been living abroad) to meet him. She and he became rather close, if you catch my drift. She decided to move back to the states to be with him.

At around this time, he self-published a book about how we should all love rapists, child molesters, and killers. Part of his book said, “My sister’s a rabbi, and she says Jesus wants us to love everyone, so it must be true.” And then it ended with, “Since you’ve read this far, you’re special, and not everyone’s as special as we are. Send me an email, and I might deign to reply to it, because I just might think you’re worthy.” (I’m paraphrasing to the best of my memory, although I still have the book on my Kindle!) I’m just going to let you, the reader, take a guess as to how his self-published book was received.

Louise had edited the book on his behalf and had presumably given him the narcissistic supply he needed by telling him that it was literary genius. Her name, if I recall correctly, was on the book as the editor. But like I said, this guy was a total narcissist. He had a Midas touch. So guess who took the brunt of outrage over his book? Not him! No, not Pretty Boy Narcissist. No, it was Louise who got slammed viciously for her participation in the book, I guess because she’s female, and females shouldn’t encourage this sort of pro-rape diatribe.

There were Twitter wars, accusations, outrage, and a media circus. I was quite entertained by it because I hated this guy. Louise was my friend, and I always wanted to support her, but I just loathed this particular narcissist with whom she was in love. So watching him go up in flames to the minor extent that he did? Priceless. Beautiful. Schadenfreude all over the darned place.

However, poor Louise! She jumped into the fray and staunchly defended this guy, taking as much of the heat for him and his book (it was really more of a pamphlet) as she could. And do you know how he repaid her? He dumped her, that’s how. Via tweet. The rest of us knew their relationship was over before she did.

Huh. This is making me feel better about all my failed relationships. I guess it happens to the best of us!

So, in typical narcissist fashion, he used her and then discarded her.

Louise was always timid and unassertive. She never spoke up to anyone and never made waves. I was always encouraging her to be more forthright, and that wound up turning on me.

At around the time that this went down, I asked her to make me some curtains, and I offered to pay her a certain amount. (She’s a seamstress.) She lashed out at me. “Curtains! Do you have any idea how much time and effort is involved in making curtains? Your offer is offensive,” and on and on. It was the first time I ever saw her stand up for herself, but I didn’t deserve it. She should’ve channeled it toward the narcissist!

We’re no longer friends, but that’s more her decision than mine. Obviously, what she went through was brutal, and I’m not so unforgiving as to hold a grudge over it, when I really don’t think it was her fault. That guy was such a loser. But she disappeared from my life regardless, and I hope she’s doing well.

Anyway, the letter to Dear Abby reminded me of that incident, for some reason. Sometimes, anger gets misdirected onto the wrong target. I think that’s what happened here. Ideally, the letter writer’s lifelong girl friend will realize the error of her ways, but human nature being what it is… [shakes head sadly.]

 

Suicide prevention day!

Happy Suicide Prevention Day!! I thought I’d blog on the topic! That said, TRIGGER WARNING! SUICIDE!! AND SELF-HARM!! (It’s all from the past, if that helps.)

Picture it: August, 2007. I had a job making copies for a company that was manufacturing decorative plaques for people who’d been written about in the media. It was my job to photocopy the newspaper or magazine article in question, and my photocopy would be mounted on the plaque.

Sounds like a great job, right? Who doesn’t like making copies? But the photocopies of newsprint in particular were grainy and inky, as newspapers tend to be. I took the time to make lightened copies of lightened copies in an effort to get rid of the grainy look. Every time someone would return their plaque, it hurt morale for the company and everyone got sad about it. I was trying to prevent that.

However, for whatever reason, my supervisor was a micromanager. Mental illness (mine) and micromanagement (hers) are about as combustible as gasoline and a match. She pressured me to go faster. Now, I like to think of myself as a highly intelligent person, but one thing about my brain is that it works slowly and methodically. I’ve never been able to do anything quickly. Think The Tortoise and the Hare. I’m the tortoise. I type maybe 45 wpm in a good minute. I process information slowly. I focus on details. One thing I don’t do when I’m getting paid is slack off. So that wasn’t an issue, but my supervisor insisted that I go faster. She then decided it would be helpful to time me so I could see how slow I was being.

Cue mental collapse. I couldn’t cope.

I became suicidal one night after work. I turned to many people for help, and these were their responses:

“Quit creating all this drama.”

“Yeah, you’re being a total drama queen.”

“Nooo!! Nooo!!! Don’t be suicidal! You don’t have health insurance. [Uncharacteristic cursing.]”

“Self-pity is such an unattractive quality. Have you considered that?”

I don’t remember what else, but every single person I turned to was rude and unhelpful. And I’m sure that you guys who read me faithfully know that I never cry wolf over suicide. I certainly wasn’t being a drama queen, thank you very much.

So I stormed out of the house and drove to the parking lot of the Episcopal church I attended as a child. With the car parked in the dark lot, I stared at a huge bottle of pills and an even huger bottle of Gatorade. I was angry and felt as if suicide would be 100% merited, since everyone who was supposed to be there for me had bailed on me.

But I didn’t do it. I thought of the hospital hell I’d go through, the waste of resources and money, and so I just drove home and blew off my family. (In retrospect, they deserved much worse than that.)

I called in to quit my job first thing in the morning. The HR lady, who knew what was going on with my supervisor and didn’t care, flipped out. “WHAAT? No, you can’t leave us high and dry. Who’ll do your job? Can’t you at least give us two weeks’ notice?”

Well, generally, I do give two weeks’ notice. But given the circumstances of how I’d spent the entire previous night talking myself off the ledge, and the direct relationship between my employers and my descent into suicidalness, it wasn’t happening. I wasn’t going back.

“No, no, please don’t do this to us. We won’t time you, I promise.” Uhuh. Damn straight they wouldn’t. “Just come back to work until we can find a new employee to destroy–I mean, to train.”

A few weeks or months later, their company went under. There was outrage from local customers who’d left important documents with my employers in hopes of getting said documents mounted to plaques. But the company was gone, and they took it all with them.

I like to think I helped destroy the company. Dark Meg has no qualms about that whatsoever. (Don’t mess with Dark Meg.)

After I quit, I spent three days watching television. I expected I’d feel psycho forever, but after three days, the fog lifted and life seemed better. That was when I realized how deeply that job had messed with my head. And that was when I officially gave up on working and applied for federal disability, which was granted to me three months later.

But during those three days, I engaged in self-harm: alcohol mixed with sleeping pills (nothing bad happened), cutting, etc. It was ugly. I really should’ve been in the hospital, but no one in my life cared enough to take me there.

I haven’t attempted suicide since, and I like to think I never will again.

***** ***** *****

In other news, I bought a new doll at Target! I’m in love with her. Her name’s Mathilde. What do you guys think, isn’t she pretty? I love my colorful rainbow universe!!

DSC01456.JPG

Work the tutu!

So, I’ve been struggling in vain to get in shape. I took an intro to ballet class yesterday morning, and it had some bad repercussions. To give some background, I took ballet as a child from ages four to fourteen, so I speak the lingo of the tendu. (That’s when you point your foot.) But I signed up for the beginner class because I’m out of shape, and I haven’t been fourteen since 1991.

The class went mostly okay until the end, when the teacher had us start jumping around. That was when I had two problems:

  1. It aggravated my stress incontinence. (Stress incontinence has nothing to do with psychological stress. It refers to the physical stress of falling, sneezing, laughing, or pirouetting, apparently.)
  2. It really made my joints–knees, shins, feet, and ankles–unhappy as hell.

Then, after class, I had a third problem. I’m not sure what caused this, but I suddenly and without control binged on every form of junk food I could get my hands on: cake, chips, pastries, and on and on. I guess the following could’ve been factors:

  1. I’d gotten up early for class and was tired. (I have less will power when I’m tired.)
  2. My body wasn’t expecting such a calorie deficit from all the calories I burned.
  3. I was stressed, and this time I am referring to psychological stress. Or I was overwhelmed–same thing.
  4. All of the above.

It was demoralizing. There’s no doubt in my mind that I ate a multiple of however many calories I burned.

But I can’t give up. So tomorrow morning, I’m going to try pilates. Based on my cursory research, it’s low-impact (no jumping), and it strengthens your core without being a hardcore aerobic-fest, which I have no energy for. So it might be perfect. Not only that, but the pilates class I just signed up for is within easy walking distance of my house. (Ballet is an easy drive to a nearby neighborhood I’m familiar with. I haven’t completely written off ballet, but I’m concerned about the joint impact and will continue to monitor the situation.)

I’ve had a lot of energy lately and want to achieve my goals of doing the following every day:

  • Flossing.
  • Exercising (in some capacity beyond walking the dog).
  • Eating healthy foods.
  • Avoiding or largely limiting snacks.

You should’ve seen how cute I was at ballet. I wore pink tights, a pale blue leotard, pink leather ballet shoes, and a purple tutu. Imagine my horror when I saw that my classmates were all wearing black yoga pants. Oh well. I get major style points, right? Hey, I rocked that tutu with my inner sexy ballerina.

In other news, I’ve been growing out my bangs, which has been irritating and difficult. It can take forever.

I really want to get fit before I go back to Prague, and the only reason is that it’s a good a deadline as any. When last I visited Sonya, I struggled with her fourth-floor walkup apartment. I vowed to return a master of the stairs. She’s moved apartments, but it’s about the principle.

Other ways I can get exercise would be to go ice skating or ride my bike.