acid house gospel music.

I have a chapstick infestation.

They are everywhere. They hide all about me, ready to pop out when I least expect it. And really, who expects chapstick to pop out at you? Therein lies the secret to their success. And unlike your run-of-the-mill infestations like fleas or mice, there are all different kinds.

The one that lives in my top desk drawer, camouflaged among the pencils, is flavorless. The one in my work apron with my waiter's corkscrew is blue raspberry. An unidentified red berry of some sort makes its home in the front pocket of my bookbag. The cherry one cleverly hides in my purse, where I often blindly shove my unsuspecting hand in an attempt to find my wallet or checkbook.

They are sneaky and completely without shame, these lip balm pests. They run around completely naked, as if someone who is a little anal about labels ripped off their little coverings the minute she bought them. Sneaky buggers, because then you can never tell what flavor they are by just looking. You have to open them up, which is just what they want.

Yes, this is an infestation of the foulest sort.


did somebody miscalculate?

There's very little to say about the whole thing, except that I'm sorry.

We could go into the hows and whys. I know that we could, I know that it is physically possible because we have. We have four, five, six, so many times I've lost count. I've never been much at math.

There was this picture in my high school physics book. It was an old black and white photo of a train station from the outside. It showed a train that had crashed through a second story wall and the engine was hanging down into the street. The caption read "Did somebody miscalculate?" I think I cut out the picture with the caption and kept it. I wish I still knew where it was. It was a great photo.

You could do the same thing with us right now. You could take a picture of us, a black and white one if you're feeling artistic, standing next to each other looking at each other exactly as we now look at each other. The caption would read "Did somebody miscalculate?" And then you could cut it out and save it. Use it for a bookmark even.

I used to use the train picture in my math textbook. Maybe that's why I lost it. I was always better at those classes that didn't really mean anything, like Health and PE. I still remember the food pyramid by heart. I think about it every time I eat another meal on the college student diet with negative nutritional value.

I've been taking a multivitamin lately, I guess for about the past month or so. It was my mom's idea. She says man cannot live on Ramen noodles alone. It's an improved formula, now with Lycopene, which helps promote a healthy heart, although that statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. I like to look at the bottle and the little chart of all the vitamins with their respective percentages. The numbers don't mean much to me. You know, the math thing again.

I remember when I started taking the vitamins, because I made a special trip to the grocery store to buy them. Actually, I made two trips, because I hadn't brought enough money the first time. I miscalculated how expensive they would be. A to Zinc isn't cheap.

I remember when it was because when I got back the second time, there you were and I realized my second miscalculation of the day. Now it's been a month, and I've still not stopped rambling about trains and math and vitamins now with Lycopene. All that rambling and I still cannot see the light at the end of this ridiculous tunnel. It's all been a gross miscalculation.

You weren't supposed to find out.


your politics turn me on.

I'm here with the band. Not really. I'm here with the band's web site manager, and I gave the lead singer a ride once. But if we're playing six degrees here, then yeah, I'm with the band.

I'm at a show for a local band. A band local to the city I live in, but had to drive an hour and a half to see. I'm at a coffee bar, it's late, and I can't stop myself from making the countdown of the hours until I have to be at work the next morning.


Loud opening bands and endless sound checks. Look, a crossword puzzle.


The countdown reaches midnight before Chip and Todd come onstage. Chip and Todd to me, The Port Huron Statement to you. I'm with the band, remember?

They start playing and I know that this is what it's about: a pair of goofy-looking guys jamming out to their homegrown tunes in their most comfortable jeans, favorite t-shirts, and oldest tennis shoes with the guitars they can't afford to smash. There just happened to be an audience watching. They might have noticed.

It was here that music still meant something, where people played because they just loved to do it, and me without my notebook. My right hand was black from writing on the local newspaper in whatever free space I can find. Tomorrow, which is now today, I will take these hasty notes and turn them into a neatly-typed piece, and no one will know its humble beginnings as scribbled black ink on typed black ink. Except that I told you, and it is for reasons such as these that I will never be a real writer.


The audience is alternately quiet and respectful and then loud and enthusiastic as the songs come and go. They dig these guys, and they should. I know they're good without Casey having to even tell me, but he does so anyway just to make sure that I'm clear on that point.


By the time they play "Tory", their anthem about the stripper in the American Revolution, we are theirs. We bounce without knowing it, a great mass of synchronized bobbings heads. We are all sitting together on God's dashboard, and it's a bumpy road.

And me, I stand in the back, scribbling across the personal ads, my hand resembling tar more and more with every word I write.


Then it's all over, quick goodbyes before we're in the car again, heading back the winding mountain roads. We fight back sleep with our most potent tools: conversation, caffeine, and The Flaming Lips. The scenary grows more and more familiar, and as we pass the Dairy Queen on 105, Casey starts to get his things together, and I know we've survived another pilgrimage to Asheville. I try not to think about being cheerful in the morning as I travel the last few miles home.


And I sleep.


from my calculus notes.

I sat next to a Sigher during my Calculus test. It was statistically unlikely. I sat at the end of the row, so I would only be distracted by the presence of one person in my vicinity. Naturally, I got the one person annoying enough for two.

Sighers don't study, Sighers never are prepared, Sighers always sit next to me out of spite because I did study. When I don't study, Sighers sit next to someone else and I end up sitting next to the Person Who Knows Everything.

Sighers are cocky before the test; they don't look over their notes one last time because they have no such notes. They have no need for notes, as this is probably the second time they've taken the class. They look around, they talk to their buddies, and they play the drums on their textbooks, pristine with disuse.

Then the tests are passed out, and you can see the confidence drain from the Sigher's face. They didn't know that was going to be on the test, most likely because they weren't listening when they were explicitly told that it was. And their review sheet? Lost, probably.

Here is where the Sighers are separated from the more quieter breeds of foolish students. They get panicked at the overwhelming things they do not know, but apparently are expected to. They run their fingers through their hair. They periodically let their hands drop heavily on the desk. They sigh. They sigh ridiculously loudly, as if they are trying to drop a hint to some unknown person. They sigh every five seconds. They sigh as if no one knows the trouble they've seen. They sigh because this test, the one they did not study for and that they are going to fail, is just so unfair.

This sighing, this exhaling symbolic of their lack of preparation is incredibly disturbing to those of us who bothered to notice there was going to be a test that day. It makes us sigh, though what we'd really like to do is scream, "Please contain your exhaling!" We generally settle for darting exasperated glances at them in between questions. The mean thoughts we think about them distract us from our equations and variables.

I finished my test with only a couple of minutes to spare, and I did not suppress my smirk when I saw his half-full answer sheet. It was all I could do to suppress the urge to smack him in the back of the head as I walked out of the room and never looked back.

Maybe next time he'll study.

Maybe next time he won't sit next to me.


body talk.

I stare at my fingers, as if they know what it is I want to say. If they do know, they're not talking. Stubborn fingers. I consider torturing them, but feel that even that would not break their loyalty to whatever secret they keep. Also, something in me feels that this is a bad idea.

The rest of my body is silent, too. It's not that my anatomy can't talk, it's just not the time. They have nothing to say now. Most body parts have more sense than mouths do and know when it's time to be silent.

Some parts never talk, though. Elbows don't say much, neither do shins. They make a little noise if you go banging them into coffee tables or other people, but otherwise they're just the strong, silent types. That's one reason why you never see any books by elbows, although I've heard they're quite funny. The other reason is because they have trouble typing.

Some parts don't talk because they just don't have the sense. Ankles are like that. Ankles are too busy bending and flexing and just generally being ankles to waste time in conversation, and they haven't the sense to do both at once. Once my right ankle stopped to talk to another girl's left ankle and I came crashing down. That ankle should've been holding me up, not making conversation. The swelling didn't really go down for years, and my ankle looked a little lopsided when I wore heels. Now the ankle wouldn't dare say anything, except when there is a storm coming, and then it just won't shut up and I can't get it to do anything. Sometimes I suspect my other ankle wants to sneak in a few words when I'm sitting down, not using it. I bet my hurt ankle would warn it not to try it if it dared to speak. I just start jiggling my foot to give it something to do. You have to watch out for ankles; they just don't know any better.

Hips like to talk, and they like to have an audience. Hips speak a language so strange and foreign that it puts you under a spell, but you never know exactly what it is they say, nor do you really care. Hips-speak is very seductive, and you don't have to understand it to appreciate it. It's a good thing my mouth doesn't know Hips-speak, otherwise I'd never get any work done.

Stomachs are workaholics and don't want to have time for chit chat. They have a very important job, and they know it. Everyone knows that stomachs talk. You have to make sure that stomachs have something to do at all times, or they get mad and yell at you. It's terribly embarrassing. It would be like your mother bursting into your World Civ class where you sit right behind that guy whose hips you can't help listening to and screaming that you skipped breakfast this morning. Never argue with a stomach.

Bones like to work too. Bones are smart and mischievous, so it's best to keep them busy so they don't have idle time to play tricks on you. They don't like to be still. Sometimes you have to be still, because it's not always the time for cartwheels. That's when the bones get mean. They get stiff and don't want to work right when you finally do start moving around. That's because they're pouting. Sometimes they make popping noises and then everyone looks at you and your bones laugh because they know they've embarrassed you.

The problem with bones is that they have to work with muscles, and muscles are just plain lazy. Muscles only talk if you use them too much. And then they don't just talk, they scream. Muscles are like those mouths who don't have much concept of their own volume, except muscles do it on purpose. And when a muscle screams, it makes you scream too because it's just so awful. Also, muscles pout when they're mad by not doing their job properly. They do it just enough to get by so you don't chop them off or something, but not enough for you to be able to pass off as a normal person walking down the street. Then you look like some sort of cretin, walking like you have no sense at all and screaming at the same time. You have to find a balance in your activity to keep both your muscles and your bones happy.

Eyes are tactless. Some people, not me, but I've heard this is true, have enough sense to be quiet sometimes. They know better than to say what they are thinking. But eyes will give you away every time. Eyes will work together with your eyelids and eyebrows and together they say a whole lot that maybe they shouldn't. They say yes when you mean no and no when you mean yes, and they tell your friend how her haircut really looks. Eyes talk too much. When a person drinks alcohol, then their eyes don't work correctly, and so your mouth says all the things that eyes usually say. You can get in a lot of trouble that way.

But right now, no one is saying anything. I've been sitting here awhile, so my bones are getting a little restless and sneaky, and I think my muscles are asleep. My stomach is busy with breakfast, and my hips are waiting for a time when there is more of an audience to appreciate their beautiful monologues. My eyes aren't saying much of anything because I'm not thinking of much of anything, and my mouth is silent because there's no one here to answer it. I'm jiggling my feet to keep the ankles busy. My fingers still aren't telling me their secrets, although since they are my fingers, I think I have a right to know them.

It's very quiet.


financial security, now available in your grocer's freezer.

My senior English teacher was looking for details. She wanted to demonstrate the difference between explaining something and explaining it with examples. We were talking about the term "comfortable" and what it meant in terms of economics. Everyone wanted to be comfortable, but no one could tell her what comfortable was. We kept just restating the idea. "Not having to worry about money," we said. "Having enough," we said. "What is enough?" she shot back. Suddenly, I had the answer, straight from my childhood.

While I've been alive, my family has never been poor. My older siblings knew what lower class was, but by the time I came around, cash was not so tight. But we were all thrifty anyway, a vestigial trait left over from harder times. I grew up on generic and store-brand products, and am a firm believer in them. I could always tell when there was a name-brand product in our house that it must have been on sale, and a really good sale at that. Mama was no fool at the grocery store.

I remember the first time I tried Edy's ice cream. I grew up on Superbrand. What a difference. In the cases of most products, I either can't tell the difference (peanut butter) or prefer generic over name-brand (mac and cheese). Ice cream is a different story. Since then, I've become a big fan of those tiny little pints with the creamy goodness inside, but can only bear to spend that much money on so little every once in a while. I grew up on Superbrand ice cream and Superbrand prices. I remember one year that money was so tight no ice cream came through the door at all. Something like Edy's was a luxury, a treat.

All this ice cream trauma came back to me as I sat in my English class, second row, third seat from the front. Again, she asked us, "What is comfortable?" and I knew the answer.

"Name-brand ice cream!"

(As a side-note, you may be interested to know that Sandra's parents are officially comfortable now. Old habits die hard, and Sandra's mother still clips coupons and shops the sales. But there is always a steady supply of Klondike bars in the freezer at their house. The real thing, not Food Lion Arctic Bars, which are a dollar a pack cheaper.)

Update: 9.30.03
My mother wants you all to know that we were never lower class. We didn't have any money, but still had middle-class aspirations. I hope that clears everything up for you.


the redneck rotation system.

There is a phenomenon exclusive to small southern towns. You see it in the schools, starting as early as middle school, and running rampant in the high schools. It is known as the Redneck Rotation System.

You start with a group of female rednecks and a group of male rednecks. During the first couple of weeks of each new school year, they all match up. They fall in love, much deeper than ever before. They are seen walking down the halls hand in hand, and then cuddling right outside classrooms for those last minute sweet nothings before they are sadly apart for another grueling 90 minutes. After a couple of months, it is clear that they are indeed soul mates, 2gether 4ever. So, they get engaged. The guys walk around proudly, and the girls giggle over their half carat rings. Sometimes if the boys don't have jobs at the Food Lion yet, they buy them promise rings. (This means they are promised to get engaged, for those of you not familiar with this altogether redundant idea.) All is well in the house of love.

Then, somewhere, there is a loud voice, booming like an auctioneer into the loving high school halls.


Suddenly, no one is engaged or promised, and everyone is with someone new. And the whole thing starts all over. Those not involved are completely mystified, how thoroughly everyone is now rearranged, and how her ring is now on some other girl's finger, but she has a bigger one now anyway. It's an amazing operation to behold. One can't help but wonder the great things that could be accomplished by people with such a culture as this.

But they chose to invent the promise ring instead.


the rest of the cat.

I love to drive at night.

It should be a clear night, crisp. If it's warm, I'll roll the windows down. Otherwise, I'll keep myself sealed in my green Japanese capsule, going home, climbing the mountain. Traffic's light, so I'm free to let my mind wander as I my hands automatically guide my capsule the way it already knows by now.

I am always young and I am always free. This is when I feel like it.

I drive 9 mph over the speed limit. I've never been pulled. There are cops all over the place, but they're looking for out of state tags who had to go 35 on the mountain curves and are now making up for lost time on the straight, flat highway. They're not looking for me, in my green Japanese capsule, speeding home.

I play the music loud enough to surround me, another capsule within my physical one. It should be something kinda slow and mellow. No Cibo Matto tonight, thanks. That's for day driving. Put in some Morphine or some Portishead. I know all the words, and I sing them. I'm alone, so no one knows I'm off-key in my green Japanese capsule, speeding home.

Tonight was such a night. The night beautiful and cool, me still warm from a family gathering. Flaming Lips were playing. The stars were bright and gorgeous, but it was the moon that caught my eye. It was a crescent, shining like a brilliant smile in the sky.

I smiled back, and waited for the rest of the cat to appear, in my green Japanese capsule, speeding home.


at which point you discover sandra has opinions.

I hate Mensa, have since I was a kid. They're pretentious and downright arrogant with their little smart club, their treehouse in the backyard with a sign on the door saying "Averageness Prohibited". This opinion was directly passed down to me by my mother, who probably got it from her mother and so on, an opinion heirloom. I think I would have rather had a brooch. Somewhere way back in my family history, someone failed the Mensa membership test, and we've all been very bitter since.

I poke around the website because there are games. I soon get tired of the Hangman game that just could not be won. I read the "Benefits of Membership" section and am tempted to try and join, but decide that I am too chicken and would rather sit in the sandbox making fun of those in the treehouse with the rest of the idiots. Then I look at the profiles of famouse members, like the inventor of Skyy vodka and Geena Davis. My eyes catch the name of Marilyn Vos Savant.

My feelings on this woman are decidedly hypocritical. Of course I am jealous. I am jealous of anything and everything I suspect is or has something better. You'll say it's because I'm a Scorpio; I say it's because everyone in my family was raised with the belief that they were the best, along with strong feelings regarding Mensa.

But anyway, for the uninformed, the woman has the highest recorded IQ. She has this amazing intelligence, given to her by God to save the world by doing really complex math equations or inventing a new machine or thinking up fabulous new philosophies.

So naturally she writes a weekly column in Parade magazine, educating the merely "above average" folks like us about the buoyancy properties of bowling balls. Go ahead, I dare you to look up her most recent entry and see if it's not about bowling balls being thrown in a lake.

I don't flatter myself that she hasn't thought of this, that someone else hasn't already written her, saying, "Hey lady, my brother has cancer. Couldn't you take a couple weeks off from the column and think up a cure?" I wonder how she doesn't go crazy, wanting to make more of an impact on the world than just telling us all about Archimedes' Principle. Even I, a Forrest Gump compared to her, get so frustrated and trapped, thinking to my arrogant self, why am I not more than this? How is that column, nationally syndicated though it may be, Enough for her?

In all fairness, it's possible that she is more active than I realize - my research is admittedly limited. Maybe she doesn't have a big ego that tells her she could be doing more than this, though I say if anyone has a right to be a little full of herself, she can go for it. Maybe she knows something I don't (not much of a maybe there, eh?). Maybe she's done the math and found out that the biggest impact is made one reader at a time. Maybe this is what makes her happy. Maybe there's just a lot that I don't understand.

Truth be told, I think a permanently reserved writing space in Parade magazine and the admiration of thousands would be Enough for me. Those are heights I will probably never see, and most of the time, I'm okay with that. I feel like I have a purpose, and it is only occasionally that I wish for a loftier one.

I'm not sure what conclusion I've come to here, of course other than that, once again, I don't know everything or even much of anything. I attack her out of my own frustration of not having her gifts and not feeling like I'm making the most of my own. So as long as Parade magazine makes her happy, I say Marilyn can write about bowling balls as long as she pleases. That is my conclusion.

I'm sure she's terribly relieved.


on petitions.

The Petition Incident, as with all junior high affairs big enough to be called Incidents, was all over and forgotten in the course of a week. This is that nature of middle school. Focusing too much attention on one happening distracts you from the next time when this time, your life really is over.

There was a cast of characters associated with The Petition Incident, a group of popular kids deemed so because of the sheer number of Incidents they found themselves involved in. The real founders of The Petition Incident were a couple of girls, only one a cheerleader in case you're keeping count.

These girls drew up a petition, a long and lengthy document that took up at least half of a sheet of college-ruled notebook paper torn from their best Five-Star notebook. You know, the thick stuff. They were not boycotting fur coats or expressing their outrage at the new trade policies of the time. This particular petition was against a person, no, a relationship between two people, in fact.

There were a pair of best friends, popular boys of course, neither of them cheerleaders or even football players. And these girls, in their infinite wisdom, decided that it was not a good friendship these boys had, decided that one was a terrible and rotten influence on the other and that it was time for the madness to end. They passed this petition around, they might have even written it in pen for the effect, so that the rest of the seventh grade would sign, thereby ending this friendship so detrimental to a fellow's character.

I kid you not.

Eventually, this petition made its way to me, where I did something that most people that the petition found did not do.

I read the stupid thing before I signed anything.

I read it and was amazed at the outright stupidity, at the blantant insensitivity that could be contained in such a small space. And I did not sign it. And they urged me to sign it. They begged me to just hurry up and sign it without reading it. They didn't understand why I was being so pigheaded.

I was one of the few people who did not sign it. And as was inevitable, the petition found itself in the hands of its victim, the bad influence on the innocent fellow that was his best friend. It hurt his feelings, as should be expected. If someone took the trouble of writing out an attack of you and then had it signed by fifty of your classmates, remember that you are thirteen years old, would it not cut you deep?

The guy came up to me and personally thanked me for not signing it. The poor guy.

I came up with my own petition, to add to the debacle that was now officially The Petition Incident. I wrote the exact same petition, except that I claimed that chocolate milk was a poor influence on regular milk.

My petition did not get very far for a few reasons. For one, the week of The Petition Incident was over, and it was time to move on to some other Incident. For another, the seventh grade teachers had gotten together and banned petitions (There's something very unconstitutional about that one). Plus, I just don't think people got it. Anyway, I was amused.

And that's all that counts, right?



I dread all of Krystal's parties. I dread the mighty horde of college students that take over my apartment and courtyard. I dread the possible breaking and stealing of items that belong to me. I dread the police coming over and being in a rotten pickle. I dread not being able to sleep for hours because screaming "WHOOOO!" is such a popular party game. I dread being greeted by the smell of beer when I walk in the apartment for the next week. I dread walking out of my bedroom the next morning and finding a strange man passed out on my couch. I dread all the infinite number of possibilities of parties gone wrong that my head can come up with.

These parties, I think they're important to Krystal. She likes the scene, and for some strange reason, she likes the scene to appear in her own space from time to time. So I try to be a good roommate and let her have them every once in a while.

You can't deny the party girl her birthday party. Last Tuesday, Krystal left the world of teenagers and joined the rest of us twentysomethings. One of our neighbors was having a birthday, too, so that's double the party. Double the party, double the kegs, double the horde fitting into double the three-bedroom apartments.

I don't like beer, which usually puts me at a disadvantage at these parties. So I generally don't drink, while drunken idiot after drunken idiot in a great organized queue of drunken idiots comes up to me and says, "Nah, you just haven't tried this kind. It's good."

We took care of this issue early on. Nick took a trip to the grocery store to provide Ashley and I enough premium malt beverages to last the evening. Pansies that we are, that took about a six-pack. We started at 9 pm. By 10, we were definitely on the far end of sober and slowed down. (Although, I stopped drinking completely by midnight and was good for another three hours after that.)

Funny thing about alcohol. I don't know much about chemistry, but when you combine 1 part Sandra with 1 part alcohol, you get this amazing chemical reaction that results in The Girl That Just Won't Stop Talking. Add the short attention span, and you get the idea. I spent the evening talking to someone for a while, very very fast, then walking away and saying precisely the first thing that popped out to someone else.

I remember the party. I was not so intoxicated that my mind neglected the filing cabinet of my memory. I remember the people I talked to, though I had more trouble than usual with names, I remember the chair I got off the roof, I remember the WHOOO-ing I shushed, I remember the water I drank, and I remember going to bed. I also vaguely remember some confused dreams about inebriated people. I think they were dreams.

Like the dread, the early morning bathroom break always happens. At some point in the middle of the night, I woke up feeling nature calling, or rather screaming at me. I poked my head out my bedroom door and looked around. All was quiet. The front door was closed and locked, the music was off, the lights were out, and there was a big wet spot on the floor, but nothing is perfect. I was satisfied that we had again managed to live through another party with our lives, sanity, and police records intact.

Now, I said I remembered the party. That is completely true. But throughout the next day, I was repeatedly reminded of my own behavior the night before. After which I would pause, wonder if I did/said that, and then go, "Oh yeah. Maybe I shouldn't have said that."

Maybe I should not have yelled at the guy eating cookies. Maybe I should not have told the girl in the blue shirt her breasts were hanging out. Maybe I should not have walked up to the Middle Eastern guy and said simply, "You're not white." The theme of this paragraph is that maybe I should have just kept my mouth shut.

Then I received my reviews. How what I thought surely would be called "drunk" and "insensitive" turned into "candid" and "funny". I can't decide if that's really how people would normally react to that sort of behavior or if they were just drunk too. I've been refraining from saying exactly what I'm thinking for years, and here I find that maybe that's what people like. Her breasts were hanging out. The guy was not white. And what was that man doing in our cookies anyway?

I say all this, but I know I'm not going to change. I'm going to be just as antisocial as before and leave the Sandra of Friday night under the bed until I pull her out for another evening of social drinking. Krystal's friends will go back to thinking that I am the "shy and quiet" one (honestly, the nerve) and figure that it must have been my fun twin sister that night. One of them already told me that I'm no fun when I'm sober.

Yeah, she's no fun when I'm sober either.


my great big lumberjack husband.

I was a newlywed, my husband a great big bear of a man, like a lumberjack. I was married to Paul Bunyun, or at least Howard Keel in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. He was the kind of man that could fit his hands all the way around his wife's waist, and would pick up her like that and laugh a great big man laugh.

We lived in a great big house, with oddly shaped rooms. It was very dirty, because we were newlyweds and had probably bought the house cheap on account of its condition. We loved a challenge, my great big lumberjack husband and me.

There were people visiting with us, people that did odd things to our great big house, like seal off the attic so no one could get in and out. This made me very mad, these people and their attic-sealing habits. I yelled and stomped, and told them to get out of the great big house where I lived with my great big husband.

Suddenly, I was very afraid, for I had just evicted our visitors, and I was just the wife. I had not consulted my great big lumberjack husband, and these were times when the man had the power. I ran crying to him, confessing what I had done. He held my tiny woman hands in his great big lumberjack ones, tough as leather, as I cried, "I wasn't being a team player."

Then our visitors, the nasty tattletales, came running to inform my great big lumberjack husband what his little woman had done, how she had gotten too big for her petticoats. I waited anxiously for his response.

And then my great big lumberjack husband started singing, in a voice as big and old and rich as the forests he cut down. He sang to those silly people, telling them that sometimes the strongest man is the one who listens to his wife. It was a beautiful song, tender in its words and strong in its tone.

And my great big lumberjack husband put his hands all the way around my waist and picked me up and laughed a great big man laugh. And I loved him.


so good, so good.

Let's explain the concept of senior week. Many people take a week-long vacation to the beach in the summer after they graduate high school with all their high school buddies. I guess it acts as a last high school fling before everyone goes their separate ways. In most cases, it's a chance to get away from your parents and get either drunk or naked or both.

I was never the kind of girl to go on a senior week trip. I was invited on one, but declined, figuring it would be the completely typical senior week that I knew I wouldn't enjoy. I heard the details of the said trip after it occurred, and I was totally right. There had been lots of debauchery type things, except for one girl who apparently spent the week doing word searches. That would have been me, except I might have done crosswords instead. I don't mean to condemn the girls who went, all of which I liked very much, but I wouldn't have enjoyed it. (Well, everything but the crosswords - I love those things!)

But towards the end of the summer, someone in another circle of friends, a much quieter and more prone to crosswords than drunkenness (for the most part) circle, suggested we take our own trip. Not to the overwhelming sea of young scantily-clad bodies that is Myrtle Beach, but to the penny loafer and polo shirt area of Hilton Head. It seemed safe enough and we were all good pals, so we packed up a couple of cars and went.

There were six of us, males and females equally represented. I drove the girl car, while the fellas piled into Josh's jeep. We had walkie-talkies, which we used to tell stupid jokes, give directions, and make fun of the people in the other car. For a good seven hours, our spirits stayed high and we sent frequent conversation over the walkie-talkies waves.

We got to Hilton Head and decided that the first order of business was food. We were trying to be at least somewhat thrifty, which is why we went to the grocery store and spent $150 for five people for a week. (Wesley insisted on doing his own shopping, making his diet consist mostly of bread and Veg-All, which he told us repeatedly was "so good, so good.") I guess we were a little new to grocery shopping, but we were very proud of ourselves for buying store-brand cheese and using coupons.

One of the guys, Greg I think, brought a video camera. Greg always brought the camera, and the rest of us were mad if he didn't. We developed the love of filming ourselves at the Beta Club convention weekends, when we immortalized some classic moments. It wouldn't have been right spending a week together without the camera, and we took it everywhere we went. We filmed the grocery store outing, me making stupid faces, Wesley carrying around a gallon of milk and a pack of deli turkey, Josh looking amused. We were all still in good moods. We teased Wesley about the Veg-All, but it was very light-hearted at this point.

There was never a huge knock-down, drag-out fight that left us not speaking to each other the rest of the week. It was a build-up of tension, a slow steady rise of everyone's tempers. The gender lines became team lines as the girls became more and more frustrated with the boys and vice versa.

It was due to many things, but a lot of it was money. This trip was coming entirely out of my own pocket, and I didn't once forget it during the week. I'm not sure how anyone else was paying for it, but the boys never treated it as an issue and the girls always did. I'm sure there was a middle ground somewhere, and we were all trying to find it, but we were probably looking too close to our own sides to be successful.

Then there was the Savannah incident, much of which was probably my fault. One night we drove down to Savannah since there was no night-life to speak of in Hilton Head. We were split in the two cars, passing insults back and forth, but the friendly kind. But you have to understand something about me and friendly insults. I'm terribly good at dishing it out, but not so much at taking it. I have to win, I have to have the last laugh, and I've been known to get unnecessarily mean in order to do so. And that's silly. I can destroy a light-hearted teasing session and turn it into trying to really hurt someone in the guise of "just picking", as long as I win. And that happened. I said some terrible, awful things, and we were all left more than a little put out. But I won and was left feeling uprighteous rather than idiotic and ashamed.

Anyway, after the unpleasant drive down, we got to a restaurant that Wesley had said was fabulous. We walked in the door, took one look at the menu, and the girls put forth a mighty protest. $20 an entree? I don't think so. The guys rolled their eyes, but said fine. Someone suggested Applebees or Ruby Tuesdays or something of that genre, but we wanted something we couldn't get at home. We piled back in the cars and looked for some particular street by the river that would be sure to have food. We got separated and as a result, very very upset. The girls were lost and the walkie-talkies were out of range. There were nearly tears, and there was the coarsest of language coming from the mouths of these usually very tame females. Finally, we found the now-familiar figure of Josh's Jeep, parked our cars and headed down to the riverside, barely speaking at this point.

The search for food was only more miserable from then on. We were all hungry, and that's never good for the temper. Every restaurant we passed had an entree price average at $15. And every cotton-pickin' time we shook our heads and walked on by, Wesley said, "You know, Sandra, they're all going to be about the same price. You know, Sandra, you're not going to find anything cheaper." Every time. At first I argued, then I just stopped replying at all and seethed inside.

Finally, finally, we found something less than $10. An Irish pub with an upstairs balcony where we sat and watched the boats. We sat down and said little besides our orders.

What a difference food makes. With our tummies full, our moods improved. We talked to each other, laughed, decided not to hate each other after all. We took a leisurely walk on the boardwalk, looking for souvenirs to take back to our mothers. We ran out of boardwalk before we ran out of time and had nothing else to do. We spent the drive back arguing over who had suggested the stupid trip to Savannah in the first place.

Besides the money, Wesley himself was a real arguing point. He never failed to irritate the girls, who would nag him, which would upset the other guys, who would nag us to stop nagging him. It was a ridiculous chain reaction of nagging that turned into real arguing. We were probably a little unfair. My fuse has always been a little shorter where Wesley is concerned, and I think the same is true for the other girls. He's a great guy, but with lots of quirks. He's terribly uptight and anal. And if you spend a lot of time with him, his idiosyncrasies become grating. A week is a whole lot of time. We were always upset with him for not spending enough group-time. He was usually asleep or on the computer. Josh brought his laptop so that we could use the internet. (We always forgot to unplug it from the phone line, so our parents were eternally frustrated at never being able to call us.) I think Wesley checked his stocks five times a day. The rest of us were normal 18-year olds and didn't have stocks.

We didn't fight all the time. Yes, there was a little tension at least all the time, but we did have our fun moments too. We had a football game on the beach, where the boys kicked our tails despite us having one more player (Wesley was filming). We went shopping, where we got cool stuff at the outlet centers. Josh bought a copy of Sex for Dummies on sale for $6, and we giggled about it for the rest of the week. We played putt-putt and discovered that six people playing on the same game takes a very long time indeed. We had one of those nights where we sat in semi-darkness and played Truth or Dare. It was mostly truth, since no one was ever brave enough to pick a dare. I sat the game out and just watched. They were all dying to know some intimate things about Casey and I, and that's none of their business. Amy wanted to insist that I not get to hear everyone else's secrets, but the others were in a giving mood and let me stay. (My not sharing those kinds of details was always a sore point with Amy and me.) We cooked a big meal one night, and we all mmm-ed our way through the steak dinner even though they were way too salty, because no one wanted to hurt Josh's feelings. We stayed up late goofing off and always woke up too late to go to the beach before it got too hot. There are a million little happy moments from that week, each of us remembering a different set looking back fondly to the time before we went to college and either got fat, got laid, or just went back home. We probably bonded as much as we fought, but no one ever remembers those things.

At the end of the week, we had a ridiculous amount of food left over. (I know you're not surprised.) The guys wanted to just throw it away. The girls were appalled. There was a ton of perfectly good, barely used food in the cabinets and refrigerator and we were not about to waste it. Early on the morning we left, I went to the grocery store and bought a cheap styrofoam cooler, which we packed full. (Actually, I bought two. We broke the first one because I bought the cheaper one and it broke from being packed too full. Cheaper does not always equal better.) We loaded it into the already-full car and it made the trip back with us. The girls split up the food upon arrival back at home. The boys were obviously were not interested in having any of it. Besides, they got home before we did, due to my poor navigation in Columbia. (I assume they did. We didn't speak at all after lunch.) I couldn't even bear to throw away Sex for Dummies, which I think is still at the bottom of my closet.

The trip home was in direct contrast to the trip down. We used the walkie-talkies maybe five times outside of icy directions home. We were just tired and just mad. After meeting for lunch, we didn't even take the same way home because we couldn't agree on which way was better. The mood in the car was subdued, too. We got along just fine, but we were tired and Heather and Amy slept a lot while I drove.

We went to college and kind of lost touch. Or maybe that was just me, though I think there was general drifting all around. The next summer, we got together at Josh's house and watched the video. It was maybe the first time we had all been together since the trip. There was footage of the grocery store, footage of a ridiculously long and violent Monopoly game, footage of people sleeping in strange positions, footage of grilling steaks, footage of the football game, footage of the alligator in the drain pipe, footage of the first car ride, an excessive amount of footage with Wesley sitting at the computer in the background, footage of the deer on the golf course, footage of me being mean on the way to Savannah, footage of a romantic encounter between the girls that we filmed hurriedly while the boys were out (they were unimpressed, much to our disappointment), entirely too much footage of the Sex for Dummies book, footage of a bunch of high school graduates sitting around in their pajamas. Other than the Savannah trip, there was very little proof of us not getting along. We looked happy, we looked like we belonged together.

Wesley suggested going again the next month. We talked excitedly for a little while, and then decided inwardly that maybe it wasn't such a good idea and the subject was never brought up again.

I remember the bad more than the good when I look back, and I feel more than a little embarrassed. As much as I nagged Wesley about being uptight, I realize that I was being, well, uptight about it. It was hard to remember that that's just the way Wesley was and had always been, and that it just wasn't important. I needed to mellow. Both sides could have been better about the money. I remember yelling at Wesley over fifty cents. I forget sometimes that I save money to spend it on something that matters, that I save money so that I don't have to be uptight about it. Obviously, this isn't an exact science. But the guys weren't very understanding about it either. When you've never had to worry about money, it's hard to understand people that do and vice versa. There are so many things I would do differently if I had that week to live over.

Maybe we all should've just done less arguing and more crossword puzzles.


magical fashion powers.

Meghan was the kind of girl who could wear scarves in her hair and summer dresses with tennis shoes and get away with it, all while being under the age of forty. She was twenty-five when I met her, when she became the wine shop girl at work.

She was so cute and beautiful you wanted to hate her, but so nice you had to like her. You could only be jealous when you weren't around her as she was just too darn sweet to think badly of her when you were within a mile radius.

As the wine shop girl, she was allowed to wear what she wanted, provided it fell into the vague category of "business casual". While the rest of us were our frumpiest in white button-down collared shirts and black pants, she was always stunning in some sort of stylish, yet simple ensemble. She had a tiny figure, and everything she wore was flattering. They don't make flattering things in my size.

In short, Meghan was my fashion hero. She was always simply flawless.

Meghan had these earrings, silver and dangly. As with everything that the wine shop girl wore, they looked better because she wore them. I always loved those earrings, and she must have too, because they were about the only thing I saw her wear more than once in the months I worked with her.

Meghan was fired, and we were all stunned. We decided that it must have been done over the phone or maybe by just not scheduling her anymore, because no one could fire Meghan to her face. It was all very hush-hush, something about haggling over wine prices and her relationship with one of the waiters.

Last week I went shopping and came across the Meghan earrings for $10. I've never paid that much for earrings, but I was tempted anyway, as if somehow those earrings would make give me magical fashion powers. I passed them by. I wasn't even sure if I actually liked them or just liked the association of being cute and loved by everyone.

You know how this story ends. They were $10.70 with tax, and they've hurt my ears all day, most likely because the posts are a little bigger than most of my earrings. Yes, that's the logical explanation, since I know that I could never get an infection from Meghan earrings.

Or maybe my ears hurt because of all the magical fashion powers being poured into them.


one of these things is not like the other.

I saw this girl today, saw her sitting in the sun like she had come straight out of the university calender. I saw her just outside the CAP Building, sitting on the stone benches that surround the Orion statues with the blue lights on top. She was wearing some cutesy shirt and a denim skirt, the kind that hang just below the knees. Her legs were uncrossed and tan. Her hair, brown, was in a ponytail, and she was talking animatedly and happily on her cell phone.

But her knee, her left knee was bleeding. Scraped like she had been climbing trees or running on pavement and met with an accident. Scraped like she was five years old, blood running down her shin. I wondered how she had come to obtain such an injury. I wondered why she didn't go inside the building and at least clean it. I wondered if she even realized her broken skin dilemma. I even considered saying something brilliant to her, such as, "Hey, you sure are bleeding!" or offering her a bandage of some sort. Then my amazing sense of anti-social logic intervened, and I decided that if she was that chipper, the wound certainly wasn't bothering her, and I continued on my way.

I hope she didn't die.


sick and delusional.

Speak frankly to me, will you?

I'm a little muddled. My head is full, not of useful knowledge and very wrinkly brains (You get a wrinkle every time you learn something. See? Now you have another), but more like phlegm and bricks.

My brother could solve a Rubik's Cube in 34 seconds. We timed it. I wonder how many wrinkles he had to add to his brain to be able to do that.

The phlegm in my head is easy to explain. I kissed a man the other day, a man with phlegm in his head. It was a poorly thought-out move on my part. It was a nice kiss. I suppose I'd do it again. And again.

The first time I kissed the man, well, he was more of a boy then, my head was full of phlegm that time too. I was disappointed when he didn't later get a head full of phlegm as a result of our kiss. Seems like that would provide biological proof that we had, in fact, kissed. It was a rather selfish thought.

The bricks, they are harder to explain. I don't actually have proof of the bricks, like I do the phlegm. The bricks don't leak out my nose, and I didn't get them as a result of sharing lip space with someone who also has bricks in their head. And the phlegm is temporary, while I suspect the bricks are not. So really, the bricks may just be all in my terribly full head, meaning I'm imagining them.

I could never do the Rubik's Cube. I do not hold the smoothness of my brain responsible, but more my short attention span. My brother was the kind of guy that got back on his bike when he fell down, the kind of guy that kept practicing the Rubik's Cube until he could solve it in 34 seconds. I was the kind of girl who couldn't ride a bike until she was eighteen. I'm still not very good.

I blame my poor bike-riding skills on the bricks. They really mess with my center of balance. I blame a lot of things on the bricks. No one really understands, but the more I talk about silly things like having bricks in my head, the more people seem to believe that there may be at least something in my head.

I'm drinking hot tea to help break up the phlegm. I wish I could drink hot sledgehammers to break up the bricks. Then later, I will go to bed to not get any sleep at all, what with my full head and all. Tomorrow morning, I will call in to work and tell them about my phlegm-filled head, so that I may continue to lay in bed and not get any sleep at all. They don't want waitresses that give everyone phlegm-heads.

I've never tried to call in to work and tell them about the bricks. I think I would still have to go to work, lugging my brick-head along with me. Bricks must not be contagious.


cable television.

Wilkesboro was an impulsive decision, as had been Scott's decision to come see me in the first place. The plan had originally been to go get some Thai/Vietnamese food and then rent a movie that somehow involved both Hitler and Meg Ryan so as to keep us both happy. When the Thai/Vietnamese place in town turned out to be closed for good, we decided to just keep going down 421 until we hit Wilkesboro.

It's a good 45 minute drive from Boone to Wilkesboro and it was nearly 9 when we left the last stoplight in Boone behind. On the way, we listened to classical music while I tried to convince Scott that he should try and develop a better relationship with his parents. I don't think he was listening.

Only when we got to Wilkesboro did it occur to us that nothing would be open in a small town like this at 9:30 PM on a Wednesday night. Or at least, if something were open, we wouldn't be able to find it. After passing a sketchy-looking bar called "Ted's Kickin' Chicken", we stopped at a gas station to ask if there was anything in town open. We were directed back to Ted's Kickin' Chicken. The cashier insisted that a lot of "high-class people" stopped there a lot, despite its humble appearance.

So we stopped. We walked in and found that not only does Ted's boast Kickin' Chicken, it has very tinted windows, too. It had looked dark and seedy from the outside. On the inside, it was actually very bright and seedy. We sat down and ordered, Scott had wings, while I opted for a chicken tenders basket since I could not decipher what a chicken "lower" was.

While we waited, we were entertained by the conversation between a regular customer and our waitress. They talked about cable television.

The food was very good indeed, and the ranch dressing was fabulous (It actually came close to being as good as my mother's). The waitress and regular continued to talk about cable television. We left, our bellies finally full, a generous tip on the table. I went back and added a couple of coins to the tip after I realized our waitress could not tell the difference between 30,000 and 300,000 on the video game machine. And there were commas.

It was pitch-black now, but the night was clear. A great night for driving. I almost was jealous that Scott was the one driving on a night such as this. He was apparently feeling pretty good on the way back, because he started telling me stories he had overheard at a truck stop at 4 AM in Asheboro in this crazy southern twang. It was hilarious. I decided I needed to go to more truck stops in Asheboro at 4 AM.

By the time we revisited what was now the first stoplight in Boone, it was flashing yellow, and I was yawning. I'll go visit truck stops in Asheboro some other night.


lay off of my green suede shoes, cause, really, my mom will kill me.

This morning it started to rain while I was walking to class. I had this amazing urge to run back to my apartment and change my shoes. This is partly because they're new. But mostly, I think it has something to with the fact that they're suede.

When I was in fourth grade, I begged and pleaded for my mother to buy me a pair of shoes I had my eye on. They were gorgeous. They were high-tops, because those were cool then, and soft suede...and green. I'm not really sure what I was thinking, wanting green footwear. I remember it was a very pretty shade of green, but really, folks, green is green, and it doesn't go on your feet.

Mama was reluctant to even buy them for me, for all the obvious reasons. They were terribly impractical, expensive, and even my mother, with her limited fashion sense, realized they were ugly. But she relented, on the condition that I took very good care of them. I was the outdoorsy type then; I spent my afternoons wandering in the woods with my imaginary friends. Taking good care of my shoes meant that I was not to wear them when I was playing outside. Naturally I agreed with the best of intentions, and the shoes were mine.

You see where this story is going. You've seen enough episodes of Full House to know what is going to happen to my cherished shoes.

I admit it. I wore them outside while I was playing. But I justified it by the fact that I was sitting outside on the front deck. I wasn't on dirt or grass or anything. I wasn't running or jumping or doing frolicking movements of any kind. I was just sitting there, playing quietly, admiring the way my pretty green suede shoes shone in the sunlight. You can't blame me for not changing my shoes when I knew I was going to be so well-behaved.

It was at that point that a bird relieved itself on my right shoe.

What cruel twist of the Universe is this? I mean, how often does a bird fling its waste products at you? Once every 20 years, and this had to be the time and it had to land on the fabric that just won't wash. It was just too unfair.

We tried to wash it off. It left a big black blob on the shoe, and I didn't really want to wear them after that. Green suede shoes are cool, but green suede shoes with a black blob on one are not. I don't even know what happened to them after they fell out of favor.

But since then, I've been wary of wearing suede. Which is a dilemma, because I also love suede shoes, which probably stems from the same experience. When I do wear that wonderful and not machine-washable fabric, I'm protective of it, staying away from puddles, unpleasant weather, and aviaries. I surely know how Elvis felt. Those that wear stupidly colored suede shoes have to stick together.


the lab.

I have coffee in the lab. I'm not supposed to, but I decided long ago that being the lab op gave me certain unalienable rights. The right to have food and beverages inside the lab. The right to play music over the speakers (quietly, I assure you, with nonoffensive content and only in the evenings). The right to download shareware games that cause popup ads and play them in my overwhelming amount of free time. The right to use the abandoned printer cards locked in the cash box to which I know the combination. The right to do anything in my power to keep from bashing my head in from boredom.

When I have an assignment to do, the lab is a godsend. It forces me to sit at a computer for hours at a time, and I have no choice but to be productive. Working in the lab introduced me to new feelings - having something done well before it's due and watching TV with no guilt about looming deadlines. But when I have no assignment, such as right at the beginning of the school year, such as right after midterms, such as now, the lab is hell at $6.00 an hour. I play Dope Wars until I'm sick of selling pretend cocaine and running from pretend policemen. I poke around the university file system. I clean out my bookbag. I count my freckles. I read bad online journals. I reread good ones. I write my own good and bad journal entries in an email to myself, in the chance that someone I know will come in and discover the web address where I write terrible things about them.

The lab is cold. No, the lab is freezing. The lab is never a proper temperature for me or for human existence in general. In the winter, it will be too hot, and I will peel off the layers I took great care to put on. I try to mess with the air conditioner, but there are no gauges or buttons, just a dial on a little metal box on the wall that I roll back and forth to see if it works. I'm not even sure if the box has anything to do with the temperature controls in the room. Somewhere in the building, there are probably lights being dimmed, and whoever is in that room tries to brighten them with their own little metal box on the wall but only ends up turning up my air conditioner. If it does control the rush of cold air in here, I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to leave it alone. When the box makes a little noise at my fiddling, I am scared, because I have caused something to happen. The world is now changed at my fingertips. So I wait until nothing that I can see explodes, and I do it again. I feel vaguely guilty every time I mess with it, and only turn that mystery dial when the lab is empty of anyone but me, the twenty computers that work, and the five that don't. The only reason I allow myself to mess with it at all is because I figure they'll never be able to pin it on me. It's okay. I brought a jacket and coffee for warmth. The jacket is allowed, though it doesn't match my outfit. The coffee is not allowed, but like the blue jeans of beverages, it goes with everything.

I've tried to figure out the warmest place in the room. I've examined the ventilation system, sure of the fact that since I must be sitting in the absolute coldest possible spot in the room, there must be an absolute warmest possible place too. I've walked around the room, looking at the ceiling, idly calculating cold air angles until I decided that even I was not that bored and went back to my pretend cocaine and my real caffeine.

I like to pretend. I like to pretend to sell cocaine, and I like to pretend that I don't drink coffee for the caffeine. I got the latter only from my mother, though I suppose it's possible if she ever tried to pretend selling cocaine, she would like it. I don't like to need things, so I pretend that the coffee acts as my breakfast, the most important meal of the day, and that it tastes really good. Usually it does those things too, but I know deep down that I could have gotten a glass of orange juice and a muffin to serve those purposes with better nutritional results. I like to say that coffee doesn't have a noticeable affect on me and that I just love to feel the warm goodness all the way down my throat. But we all know that I'll never drink decaf in the mornings. My mother will tell you that decaf doesn't taste as good. She's never tried it.

This morning, the coffee has a deeper meaning. By getting a double white mocha from Espresso News on the way in on my first morning opening the lab, I know I have started a ritual. Because I have done it on the first morning, it follows that I will do it every morning I have to break my slumber to come in and make sure no keyboards and monitors are taken from their homes. Maybe I won't always get a double white mocha. Maybe I won't even always go to Espresso News. But you can be assured that every Wednesday morning, I'll be sitting here at the computer by the door and that there will be a coffee cup sitting beside the tower, obscured from the view of those who pass in the hallway and glance into the lab, specifically the system administrator, who acts as my boss.

No food or drinks in the lab.