I wrote this days ago and then forgot to post it because I was running late to work.
I have a backlog of surreal anecdotes but I’ve been too exhausted to blog, something that’s a little weird because I run on nervous energy, but I was too tired to even be surprised about it until the other day, staggering home from the grocery store with a heavy bag, so tired that I wanted to throw up. I had a revelation, total deja vu:
Flashback to a few years ago, similarly knackered by exhaustion to the point of nausea, carrying a heavy bag of groceries and wanting nothing more than to pass out on a park bench. It sticks in my head because on that walk to my bus this guy, some sort of public safety/trafficy person, a man in an orange vest directing traffic, told me to smile. I stared blankly back at him, with thinly controlled hostility–attacking him crossed my mind but I was too tired. He could tell, though, and he said “Smile! It’s not that bad! You’d be beautiful if you smiled.”
I almost had a rage-induced aneurysm, but path of least resistance won: walking would end in collapsing into bed much faster and with less effort than spewing all the thoughts crowding my head, which would, I knew from experience, only lead to a prolonged interaction and his defensive hostility as I questioned his right to tell me to smile.
Fast forward to now, almost six years later but I felt exactly the same. I recognize it now, the exhaustion/grocery bag combination jogged my memory. Pregnant. That dual exhaustion/vomitousness? Total pregnancy. Some people find being pregnant to be totally awesome, a really great experience to be lived again and again (Michelle Duggar, apparently); I am absolutely not one of them. I’ve never been more miserable in my life than that fall, too constantly tired/nauseated to work and get the money to pay for the abortion that would have gotten rid of my hormone induced exhaustion, a maddening trap. The whole thing was an accident, the result of some bad-judgment summer fun with an ex-sniper whose main charms were a Byronic temperment and a motorcycle. So crazy! Luckily I had a miscarriage, because he wasn’t going to give me that money. He still spits at me (literally) on the very rare instances when our paths cross, proving, like Heathcliff, that brooding Byronic appeal is just genuine bad nature willfully misinterpreted by the delusional or drunk as a Good Time (which, it can be, but don’t forget the birth control).
I was walking home from the grocery store and I had that flashback, and it all became clear. And the solution this time was much simpler and cheaper. No, I am not pregnant, me and the nuvaring broke up as soon as I got home. Hormonal birth control and I are over. IUD + me 4 lyfe.
If I wasn’t behind on getting to work, you bet I’d have a whole digression on men and smiling. I had to take my car into the shop, and the bus stop I had to wait at to go home might as well have been tagged “Rapists corner.” It was 11 am and I had no less than five different cars circle the block; four of them pulled up to proposition me, and one of them had a buddy come meet him there to check me out. I put 911 on speed dial and waited anxiously to see if they were actually going to stuff me in their trunk. After about 10 minutes they left me to the mercy of an angry drunk who also turned out to be waiting for the bus, but didn’t let that stop him from yelling at me to pay attention to him.
But I have my car back! Life is good. And now I’m meeting with an accountant to try to untangle my taxes (still) before heading over to Regan’s to do free laundry at her house. I have a list of requirements for my next apartment:
Second or third floor so I can be indecent with the windows open whenever I want.
Southern and eastern exposure.
Washer & dryer in unit.
Absolute sanity on the part of both property manager and landlord a must. Property manager here left a pile of cat shit on my back stoop last weekend, under the mistaken impression (perhaps she’s never had a cat?) that it was my 8lb chihuahua’s. When I called the landlord to express my extreme unenthusiasm re: this behavior, he explained “She has a hard time talking to people.”
1-something like: “my mouth just naturally turns down, it actually is more effort for me to smile than frown, I’m having a bad day/week/month and don’t feel like smiling, my emotions are none of your business, why would you even say that, I’m going to carve a smile on your face with my key ring, you know what makes me really not feel like smiling? Being told to smile, and also I hope you get hit by the traffic you’re so inattentively directing”
2-Yes, I suppose he has one. This is America, after all. Nevermind my right to live my life and move through the world as unimpeded by the gratuitous and unnecessary commentary of passersby as possible.
3-which, like many Byronic temperaments*, revealed itself to be severe mental health issues rather than a tortured yet tender soul railing against the inadequacies of life and, I don’t know, the capitalist system. The military industrial complex. Whatever. Which, let’s face it, would also have gotten tiresome but less quickly than his actual asshole antics did.
*Except that, when I think about it, it’s totally Byronic to be an abusive and manipulative asshole. Hello Augusta Leigh.
4-Four times as expensive as an abortion, it turns out, and ruining my credit for the foreseeable future. A few years ago the Department of Revenue (who got the bill since I went to a state hospital) hunted me down: “Do you think you deserve health care you can’t afford to pay for?” the woman on the other end of the phone asked me incredulously. I listened with an equal lack of credulity, thinking about the entitlement to health care and safety that led me to the emergency room when it became obvious I was having a miscarriage and not just some spotting; I definitely know people who would have waited until they were actually at death’s door to go to the ER and frankly, I wish I had waited–the ER gave me some diaper sized pads and told me to come back for an ultrasound and for that charged me 1,600$. But If I hadn’t had the constitution of an Irish peasant, hardened by serious drinking and prenatal vitamins? Should I have bled to death politely at home for lack of money to pay my ER bill?
“I’m hanging up now,” I told her, stuttering with anger. That was when I quit dancing, went to work in a low income health clinic and got back in school. I got respectable, sort of. The feeling of being a disposable piece of trash never really leaves you once it’s got you. I think before I was always too drunk and frivolous to feel it, it started with not being able to afford an abortion and the lack of health care options around that, and it was only further impressed on me by that bill collector. As a girl, as a stripper, as a poor person, few people care what happens to me. Bad things happen to strippers, it’s just part of the narrative. Things happen to strippers, and usually they were asking for it. I mean if they weren’t asking for it, they wouldn’t be living that whole… lifestyle.
The clinic used to make me cry. I was glad to be a part of helping other people but the lack of options for clients only mirrored back to me my own lack of options. It felt like drowning. Around the same time, just before I quit dancing, I had an argument with a customer. I was tired again and worried about money and he told me “Relax, money isn’t everything.”
Everything I wanted to say to that–how he had the money and the power in our conversation, how my rent directly depending on him and people like him understanding that this was a financial transaction and valuing the service of my attention appropriately, how much it sucks to not have groceries or to keep pushing paying your electric bill back or getting your phone shut off, how the kind of bland zen wisdom that prioritizes… I don’t know, some kind of abstract bullshit love? over the concrete security that money offers makes me want to hit people (because I have anger management issues I should acknowledge here, that this post is making eminently clear)– kind of choked me so I just stared at him and he smiled, thinking he’d silenced me with his wisdom.
I finally got an answer to him the other day reading my friend’s blog: she paraphrases something Oprah I guess said, about how money isn’t everything but the lack of it is.