So much Bona Pride in this pic before my trip to LA. And yes, we did get him a coffee mug.

The faceless nobody

The tile floor in the kids’ bathroom is brand new. I noticed it a couple weeks ago when I came home to see Rob Delaney in Buffalo with my brothers.

Some faceless nobody came in, pulled up the old linoleum floor, discarded it then carefully arranged the new tiles in a perfect pattern, complemented by the grey grout. It’s no underestimation when I say “perfect.” One tile matches up with the other, the grout’s level is consistent between the tiles; whomever got down on hands and knees to install the new floor paid very close attention to detail.

The tiles in the bathroom of my friend’s off-campus house aren’t aligned at all. I understand college housing isn’t always that nice, but whomever did that floor installation did a really shitty job.

I may have more in common with my mother in terms of career paths, personality and physical appearance, but I definitely get my meticulousness from my daddy. I don’t write about him nearly enough.

So much Bona Pride in this pic before my trip to LA. And yes, we did get him a coffee mug.
So much Bona Pride in this pic before my trip to LA. And yes, we did get him a coffee mug.

He carefully measures tiles, marks them up with pencil and then cuts them accordingly to fit whatever space he’s working in. They’re always even, always lined up, always perfect. He doesn’t half ass anything; if he screws a tile up, he scraps it for future use and picks up a new one to cut.

That random man who kills his knees, damages his spine and strains his neck on a regular basis to install the floors in your respective homes is my daddy.

My daddy didn’t go to college; his career isn’t glamorous; he isn’t astonishingly successful. He went to a trade school, learned what he needed and works on his own time with his own equipment. Because of his self-made schedule, he didn’t miss a single baseball game, basketball game, wrestling match or track/cross country meet. He made it to every play, every musical, every band concert.

My three brothers and I are the center of his universe and he has sacrificed plenty for us, from bartering work with our orthodontist to pay for braces to paying for car insurance until we’re able to do it ourselves.

The little things I do for him –– buying him a coffee mug from every place I travel to, giving him a call when walking home at dark to put his mind at ease, texting “I love you” –– just don’t compare to everything he’s done for me.

Though I most definitely got my personality from my mother –– and my father likes to remind me of this often –– I hope I got a mere inkling of my daddy’s hardworking nature and complete selflessness from the genetic whirlpool.

I hope he’s as proud to call me his daughter as I am to call him “Daddy.”

DSC_0522

Cardinals and Red Sox

Originally written for my creative nonfiction course last semester.

The St. Louis Cardinals should have won the 2013 World Series. Not just because I loathe the Red Sox, but because I have two cardinals tattooed on my ankle.

_________________________________________

I climbed onto the padded table, settled down on my side and Todd, the tattoo artist and a family friend, fired up the tattoo gun. “Don’t worry,” he said. “You’ll get used to the sensation.”

My mom shot me a look. You’re going to be fine, Em, her expression said.

The needle punctured my skin. I gritted my teeth and stared at the exposed bricks on the wall of the Fredonia tattoo parlor.

“You wouldn’t believe how many women I’ve made orgasm while tattooing them,” Todd said as he drew the outlines of the two cardinals on my right ankle, just above one of my moles.

We had been discussing weird reactions he’d experienced from his clients while tattooing them.

“My ex girlfriend was even there once when it happened,” he continued. “How many guys can say their girlfriends have watched them make another woman orgasm?”

Probably not many, I thought, teeth still mashed together. And they certainly didn’t orgasm while getting their ankle tattooed.

Or, at least, I hoped they hadn’t.

My mother laughed. She really likes Todd. She refers to him as her tattoo artist and isn’t fazed by his tattoo-covered body and rather large, pedophile-esque spectacles.

He had just finished tattooing the same cardinals on her left wrist; her second tattoo. My mom’s pretty darn cool.

My turn had come. She sat behind me and watched Todd draw the outline, then begin coloring the shapes in. She kept admiring her Saran Wrap-covered wrist and then glanced over at me.

“You doing okay, Em?” she asked.

I’m squeamish, you see, and could feel the little bulbs of perspiration forming on my forehead.

“Yeah… I just don’t wanna look at it,” I admitted, secretly thinking, How far along is he? If it looks decent enough I might just ask him to stop…

I squeezed my eyes shut and the fat man with an awful, grizzly beard sitting in the chair next to me getting his oh-so-manly bicep tattoo retouched laughed at me. “He kept staring at your crotch!” my mom told me later on.

I shot a sheepish smile his way while my mom and Todd jabbered away. The needle made its way into my skin again and again while I shut my mouth and clenched my teeth.

Thirty minutes later, Todd got up to clean his equipment. “That’ll do it,” he said.

I sighed, twisted to crack my back and then got up to take a peek.

DSC_0522“They’re beautiful…” I said, craning my neck and angling my leg to see them.

Brilliant shades of crimson color in the male cardinal. The female cardinal next to him has more yellows and oranges.

“Now I can carry Grandma and Papa with me everywhere.”

 

_________________________________________

My family and I believe in rebirth. When we die, we have the opportunity to come back and dwell in something else or some other creature.

A male cardinal has followed my aunt around by her home in Illinois since my papa died in 2011.

The St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series that year.

Now a pair of cardinals –– male and female –– has followed my aunt around since my grandma’s death in August.

The St. Louis Cardinals should have won the World Series this year, too.

_________________________________________

It had been a couple months since Grandma died.

My Aunt Bobbe flew in from Illinois in August to help begin cleaning out her childhood home. With my mom and uncle at work, she went in alone, rifling through my packrat Papa’s basement treasures and deciding who in the family would get what of my grandparents’ belongings.

After a full, dusty day, she stepped out into the garage to leave. Then she heard it.

THUD.

THUD.

Aunt Bobbe walked around the cluttered space to find the source of the noise, then sat down on the garage steps and lost her composure.

A bright red male cardinal threw his body up against the window of the garage’s back door, trying to break through. A female cardinal, perched peacefully on the nearby shelving units, waited patiently for him to break through the glass.

THUD.

THUD.

In a panic, Aunt Bobbe climbed up the garage steps and pushed the button to open the garage door.

The songbirds stayed put and Aunt Bobbe watched them for a moment before walking to my parents’ brand-new Chrysler 200, climbing in and driving away.

She picked up my mom from work and, shaking, told her the story.

“It was them –– I know it was!” Aunt Bobbe exclaimed.

She drove back to my grandparents’ house to show my mom, but the cardinals had flown away.

_________________________________________

Mom asked me how my tattoo looked and felt the last time I saw her, just after the Red Sox had won the 2013 World Series.

“Fine,” I said. “But I wish the fucking Red Sox would have lost like they should have.”

She gave me a funny look.

“You know what, Em?” my mom asked. “After the Boston Marathon bombing, I think the Red Sox needed a victory more than we did this year.”

Disconnected disjointed broken

I remember when they stopped coming.

When they stopped being able to make it to things. When they stopped hearing. When they stopped being able to walk.

The last track meet they ever watched me run in was when I was in seventh grade. I ran the 4X8 and the 1500. My coach let me skip the 800 because I’d almost beaten the school record in the 1500. I had earned the privilege of going home. I remember leaving the track with Grandma and Papa trailing along. Grandma probably carried the scratchy blanket they always used to keep in their car.

We stopped telling them about musicals and plays I acted in because they couldn’t hear the performers anyway. Even home track meets and cross country meets were impossible because they just couldn’t get around to them.

Papa fell at Jordan’s college graduation ceremony when he got up to use the restroom. Adam blamed me because I’d been in front of him. I cried in my black and white polka-dotted dress. My shoes matched perfectly. It’s all a tear-soaked blur, but I can still see him falling. Falling. Falling. The army veteran and former hardworking Cummins salesman was so embarrassed.

I just wrote that we didn’t take them to Trevor’s college graduation, but “them” wasn’t even possible. Papa had died the year before. He saw everyone graduate from high school except me.

I’m all disconnected disjointed broken with my words because my tear ducts still haven’t run dry. I think about last year when Grandma was around for Easter.

Easter was early my senior year of high school and Grandma and Papa watched my brothers and I scramble around outside for an Easter egg hunt.

I won.

Papa went to the hospital a few weeks later.

He died.

I know you’re not supposed to regret things in life, but I regret all the times I told Grandma and Papa, “no thank you” when they asked me to do things. I regret complaining about how slow Grandma walked during our shopping trips, how I had to keep track of her cane, how she never stopped talking. I’d give anything to have the voicemail she left on my phone that I accidentally deleted a year ago.

I’d give anything to have either of them back.

I remember when they stopped coming, but I also remember when I stopped going. Stopped wanting to visit them, then stopped wanting to visit her when she lived there alone. When we stopped inviting them over because it was just too hard and then stopped inviting her over because she never shut up.

 

Dear Emily from a Year Ago,

Stop complaining and go fucking visit her. Give her a hug from me because the clock’s ticking and pretty soon she’ll be gone.

Love,

An older, wiser you

 

I carry them with me everywhere, but the cold metal pendant can’t provide me with the full dosage of warmth I need.

It never will.

Their memories haven’t reduced me to tears since the first day I saw the bed missing from their bedroom. I cried and cried and cried and my dad just enveloped me.

I think my problem is that I just got back from another trip to New York City and I remember telling my grandma all about it last year. I sat on her brand-new couch (that now has my name on it) and she sat in her usual chair. She told me about the time she spent in the city when she and Papa were first married. How they had a bedroom in a house where they lived with a few other people. Papa taught her how to drive in the city, she and Papa played cards in the city. She took a part-time job in a department store(?) while he began his career. If my mom, aunt and uncle can’t tell me more about my grandparents’ lives as newlyweds, those memories are lost forever.

Because he died.

She followed (basically) suit.

Next time I see them, I’ll be sure to invite them to things. Something tells me they’re able to hear and walk better in their post-life adventure.

 

Life, sans explosion

It would be so easy to die.

To stumble into something you shouldn’t have, cross the street in front of a driver who either doesn’t respect pedestrians in a crosswalk or just didn’t see you, firmly grip the wheel yourself and slowly inch into the other lane…

That’s what I thought on Tuesday while driving. Turn the steering wheel a bit, Emily, and everything you’re looking forward to, all your plans… they’re gone.

Let me be clear: I am by no means suicidal. I may have been back during early teenage years, but I never would have had the nerve to actually do something really harmful to myself. These thoughts merely cross my mind from time to time.

While filling up at the pump on the same day, I spilled a little gasoline on my hands and onto my car keys. I had the brief thought of, What if my car blows up when I put the key into the ignition? 

Silly, I know. But it made me pause and reflect as I hit a perfect $36 on the meter. What if?

Would that be okay?

How would the people around me react, namely the creepy old guy checking me out right now?

What would my family do?

What would my friends do? 

I squirted hand sanitizer onto my key and my hands and scrubbed a little bit. I closed my eyes when I turned the key, but Bubbles merely sprang to life, sans explosion. I sighed, opened my eyes, pressed the brake with my right foot and shifted into “Drive.”

Seeing lights in my rearview mirror scares me more than death does. I’d have to deal with the consequences of getting a speeding ticket; if I were to die, that’d be it. Only those I leave behind have to deal with the grief and suffering.

I’m not ready to swerve into the other lane, I’m not ready for this to end… but would it be okay if, by chance, it did? Yeah. I mean, I guess I wouldn’t have a choice; it would have to be okay.

I’ve been on a lot of adventures, I’ve seen a lot of things, I’ve learned more lessons than I can count. I’ve stumbled into love, been forced out of it by my own ambition and life plans and then obsessed over people and ideas I thought were real. I’ve been struck down, tossed around, taken advantage of and then, through careful character rebuilding, been able to bounce back.

The girl who once tried to control everything and fought everything has become a woman who knows her limits, knows when there is no use, knows when to let it be.

A lot can happen in a day. So let it –– whatever it is –– happen. The end could happen at any second.

All 5’2″ of me

The light is still on in the far-right room on the second floor of Townhouse 31 because Emily CANNOT sleep. And she just gave away WHERE she sleeps. Whoops. She’d make some potatoes to eat right now if she had any. Unfortunately, she threw her last bag of sprout-covered potatoes in the trash can last weekend during a spring-cleaning binge. New potatoes have yet to be purchased. Tsk tsk. I know.

Enough of this third-person shiite.

I was texting my friend who lives in Iowa, but he seems to have fallen asleep. So that’s fun.

I wrote in my journal already and couldn’t come up with any material for a poem, so there’s that.

Oh, and I updated a few things on this here portfolio blog in case you’d like to take a gander. I finally –– FINALLY! –– added a picture of myself. Seems that’s been on my to-do list for two years.

What else to do but to open my laptop and try to write something? I’ve done my fair share of Facebook and Twitter stalking tonight and have grown a tad bored. Not a lot is happening on Instagram either, though I guess I shouldn’t be surprised after seeing what hour I’ve reached in the early goddamn morning.

I guess this is what I get for loading myself with sleeping pills every night this week except tonight. I really thought I was tired enough to just roll over and conk out, but I stand, erm, lay, corrected.

I ran tonight. Yes, as in the past verb tense of “run.” Shocking, I know. I had some pent-up energy that needed to be released, and staring at Natty World notes for another second sure as hell wasn’t going to help things. I ran to the gym. I ran around the track a few times. I walked. I ran again. I skipped a song on my iPod. I managed to forego what could have been an awkward encounter and just flipped that group of people the bird instead. I never said I was nice. (They laughed at me, though…people don’t seem to expect shit like that to come from me in all my 5-foot-2-inch glory. Hmph.)

It felt great to experience physical pain instead of the emotional-bullshit kind. It felt great to breathe heavily –– though my lungs are seriously suffering now –– and work up a sweat. I also got what is to me a rare glimpse of gym culture. It’s fascinating, really. Men flooded the basketball courts for intramural games, hogged the weight-lifting equipment and women took up the cardio room. I just kept running. And walking. And skipping songs on my iPod. Oh, and rehydrating.

I’ve said this before, but I really mean it when I say it this time: I’m going to take some time to really focus on myself. 

My roommate doesn’t believe that I will, so I’m going to prove her wrong. I have text messages from friends who agree that it really would/will be beneficial for me:

“Just give it a few days and you’ll be back to feeling like the wonderful person you are all by yourself!” said one.

“You need to get back in touch with you and stop trying to please everyone and stop trying to fix people, hun,” said another.

“You definitely deserve time for yourself,” said a third.

So I’m going to keep running and exercising, in general. I came back home tonight high off endorphins and ready to go. Go do anything.

I got the summer internship I really wanted, have plans to get serious about road biking and, best of all, my parents, brothers and sister-in-law are all in good health.

I’m done stalking social networks and I’m especially done writing this post for the night. Good night/morning.

High ceilings

It’s that room with high ceilings.
Foreign.
I float near the rafters and merely observe.
Some people find themselves in this room,
but I just keep floating higher and higher.
I slowly lose myself and gravity’s anchor.
I twitch nervously.
Switch my weight from one foot to the other.
Eat the bread, drink the wine,
click-clack my way through the line,
but I don’t confess my sins.
Why should I?
I can’t empathize,
can’t relate,
can’t imagine.
Can’t close my eyes in prayer
and think someone’s listening to my minuscule thoughts.
There’s something about those high ceilings.
Each thought wanders around in an endless
whirlpool of air instead of water.
I try to scrawl them down onto the service program
but find little white space.
They’re trapped inside while I glide around.
Merely observing,
never taking part.
You feel at peace here.
You’ve found yourself.
I seem to be lost.
It’s a game of make believe
and I’m too much of a realist.

-E.M.S.
12/25/13
1:05 a.m.

The definition of ‘EMSing’ #girlproblems

I’ve always laughed at jokes made about pre-menstrual syndrome. You know, the ones where guys are like, “Must be her time of the month” just because a woman goes from a devil-horned bitch to a tear-soaked, sloppy and snotty mess. I never really noticed the hormonal change in myself but, then again, it wasn’t until about halfway through my freshman year of college that I realized the sad truth: I’m not as perfect as I had always thought I was –– le gasp! I know!

Because of my almost completely unfortunate initials, my mom has always said, “Watch out, Emily’s ‘EMSing,’” and then my older brothers would, quite literally, watch the fuck out (I threw things). Looking back now on episodes of my life through –– let me flatter myself here –– mature eyes, I’ve realized I used to get pretty bitchy, throwing fits, yelling, storming up the stairs, slamming doors and crying hysterically. One teenage girl in the household was bad enough for my brothers and father, who often speculated that one girl was certainly enough, if not more than enough. One brother doesn’t want children and I’m fairly certain the other two want nothing to do with little girls. As their own children, I mean. That sounded creepy.

But back to me and my problems. I’ve toned down some in terms of PMS, but shit, after this week, I don’t think I’ll laugh as hard anymore at PMS jokes.

I bawled my eyes out last Thursday night over one thing one person did, or, rather failed to do. Even though it really wasn’t a big deal. The whole thing isn’t a big deal. I make things a big deal and obsess over them.

“You okay?” my friend texted me at 3 a.m. after I’d left the party.

“Yeah, just PMSing lol,” I replied at 6 a.m. when I woke up and saw the text.

LOL. But it’s really not funny. It’s ridiculous.

PeriodMonsterMy version of PMS has changed from an irritable and angry person to a sad, life-sucks-so-much-and-I-hate-it person. Time I spend in solitude goes from a precious commodity to a pit of loneliness. I text my mom. I text my brother. I text my dad. I text my other brother when the other one doesn’t respond. I know not to text the third one because he doesn’t often respond, but I try him anyway.

“Hi! How are you?” I type, hoping they’ll reciprocate the question so I can plunge deep into my tales of woe and sorrow that only a 20-something woman could spew.

Then I call my mom. And I cry. “I just–hic–needed to talk to–hic–someone who loves me uncondi-hic-tionally,” I’ll sputter into my Droid.

She’ll go along with it; it’s about the only time I ever really call her and she always says something along the lines of, “Aw honey, you know you’re just PMSing, right?”

Right. I know. But it doesn’t stop things from seriously sucking, at least from my chemically askew brain’s point of view.

I’m not as much of a PMS bitch anymore, but if you show me one of those sad ASPCA commercials, I will, without a doubt, burst into tears. If you talk about your grandparents or about how you need to give your grandma a call and you see tears well up in my eyes, don’t be surprised. It’s just me, EMSing again. Then you’d better duck before I throw something at you. EMS can be pretty unpredictable.

In the words of Drake, “Started from the bottom, now we’re here” and it’s true; I kind of hit rock bottom* this week (“YOU WERE NEVER AT THE BOTTOM, DRAKE,” argues my brother). My appetite for success in everything is insatiable and if one thing –– my own personal love life, perhaps? –– falls slightly out of place, the whole Jenga tower topples. My monthly bout of depression tears at my confidence. My successes become I could have done mores*, and my failures nag, nag, nag at me. But now I’m here. I’m going to relish this current balance of estrogen and progesterone before they get all fucked up again, fucking me up in the process.

If nothing else during these highly emotional times, at least I have the DivaCup and the bullshit that follows EMS becomes easier. ; )

_____________________________________________

*a relative term; my supposed “rock bottom” includes panicking that someone didn’t text me back, the fear of being excluded and paranoia about everything. It’s stupid. I’m stupid. My “rock bottom” is nothing in the grand scheme of things, though it always seems like my whole damn world is ending.

*mores; done on purpose.

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