Saturday, January 28, 2012

memries sponsored by Gawker

Gawker recently made a call for comments about roommate horror stories-- saying they'd give the best submission a mystery prize. Mine didn't make it in before the deadline, so I figured I'd post this big fat waste of time here.

She was a ballerina with bulemia. It was college, I was a freshman and we were paired randomly, forced to share a tiny room, toilet and shower. She was a sophomore, and though she was permitted to live off-campus and choose her own roommate, she did neither, which I
should have seen as a red flag.

BB would crunch on snacks and crinkle wrappers late into the night as she stared at her laptop screen, endlessly clicking her mouse to reveal photo after photo of comparatively attractive coed.

We lived in a three bedroom dorm-- a suite. In total, there were six of us sharing said toilet and shower. One day, the quiet, bookish Asian suitemate was in the shower when she discovered a brown splotch on her dove shampoo bottle. Cutting her shower short, she slowly walked out of the bathroom and, with a puzzled look on her face, announced there was poop on her shampoo.

NO WAY, I shouted, and immediately dropped what I was doing to investigate. I  marched into the bathroom and picked up the bottle. The brown substance was not quite liquid or solid. It certainly looked like poo, but one couldn't be sure without administering the smell test. So, with a suitemate huddled over each shoulder, I bravely lifted the bottle to my face and took a whiff. 

There was no mistaking the stench. The bottle had been shat on.

A further investigation led us to BB's hefty stash of laxatives. How one could throw everything up post-meal time and still have something left to shit out afterward seems like some kind of medical miracle, but the more I think about it, the poo's texture suggested it may have been composed primarily of  stomach bile.

A month or so later, I was taking a shower and looked down to find a different, but equally repulsive present laying in the midst of six girls' bath products. 

A bloody tampon, just inches from my pinky toe.

This time one of the suitemates-- a bold, mean theatre type-- got confrontational with BB about the shower floor tampon, and BB got defensive, saying she thought it was the proper way to dispose of tampons.

Her unapologetic attitude seemed, to me, more inexcusable than any other roommate code she'd violated because of her disease.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

On the Team

After school on the last day of sixth grade, I stood brooding in the lush, fresh spring grass of a youth soccer field. A raw, rugged smell rose up from the newly thawed earth beneath my cleats. Clouds, thin wisps of pure white, stood still in the blue sky. Parents cheered from the sidelines. It was the last game of the season, and the air was alive with the anticipation of another summer.

But I wasn't happy to be there, young and free to run wild with the others on my team. No, if it were left up to me, I'd have spent the afternoon fulfilling my uninformed notions of how adolescent life was supposed to be. I never thought too far into the specifics of what that might actually entail, but I knew it didn't involve soccer. My ideas were mainly influenced by after school TV sitcoms, which always left me with the distinct feeling I was being left out of something important to my development.

Luckily, my dad was the assistant coach of the team, so I had a direct source on whom to take out my frustration. To punish him for making me go to my soccer game instead of say, an end of school pool party, (that's probably what would have happened on Full House), was my only relief from the unjustness of the whole situation. To carry out this punishment was easy enough: I simply wouldn't participate in the game.

Violet can vouch for what follows. She was there that day because her life was equally as lame...maybe more-so (after all, it wasn't even her soccer team).

I'm sure I had been giving my dad hell all day, probably all week, about making me go to that game. In retrospect, I see that I played it all wrong. The best thing to do would have been to act like I really did want to go, up until the very last minute, then feign sickness. However, despite my persistent appeals, my dad had somehow gotten me out the door, into the car, and to the game, probably picking up Violet somewhere along the way. The last hurdle would be getting me onto the actual field, but that wouldn't be a problem; I had a plan. It didn't matter what position they stuck me in. I could be goalie, for all I cared, but I think I played defense. (I always played defense).

For most of the game, as with most games in general, I stood vaguely in the background and successfully avoided any direct interaction with the ball. But that could only last so long. And of course, it's not the standing around waiting part that I remember clearly. Is it ever?

There I was, standing alone somewhere off in no man's land, gazing into the sky or trying to somehow communicate with Violet. Whatever it was I was doing, I definitely wasn't paying attention to what was happening in the game. Suddenly in my abstraction, all the action was rushing right in my direction. I jumped alert, not out of a desire to defend my team but out of sheer panic and fear. A herd of girls quickly barreled directly toward me, the little white ball bouncing wildly from foot to foot, team to team. And then, right to me.

My moment had arrived. It was now or never. I had been on the same soccer team since first grade and our coaches had always been kind and facile. They didn't act like the other dads, stressed out, running back and forth on the sidelines, shouting at us to do better. There was never a pressure to win; we usually didn't, and that was okay. But all of a sudden, it felt different. For maybe the first time ever, I felt the fate of our team rested on me. It was in my power to kick that ball right on back to the other side of the field, maybe even indirectly enabling one of the better players on our team to score a goal.

And I totally could have. But I didn't. I stuck to my guns, however self-involved and uninformed.

The ball came toward me and stopped a couple feet away. My blood went cold. I heard the head coach yelling. “Get it! Get it! It's yours!” It was, and I thought about just kicking it; the opportunity was clearly there for me to do something for the good of the team instead of serving my own selfish purposes. But instead I stood, frozen, angry, and already disappointed in myself. As I deliberated, a player from the other team sprinted up to me and snatched the ball, dribbling it directly toward our goal. “Aww...come on!”I heard my coach say, throwing his hands down in disappointment. “What was that?”

For the rest of the game, I wandered aimlessly around the field, avoiding the ball at all costs. Not one of my team members, nor either coach, addressed me about what I had done, and no one outwardly held me accountable for our loss.

I have no idea what I went home and did that night after the game. If it measured up to whatever standards of a fulfilled adolescence I held at the time, I don't remember now. I spent the rest of the summer at a day camp for theater kids, feeling unsure of myself. In the fall, I was back on the team for a another season.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What I Did on My Day Off: An Essay by Paula Fader

The first thing I did this morning was wake up early to see my boyfriend off to work. This began with ignoring two separate alarms, followed by groggily rolling around in bed while he got ready. I think it's really nice that I can offer him a pleasant send off in the morning.

After he left, I figured I'd start the day off right by making the best use of my time. I'd hop right up out of bed, grab a fresh cup of coffee, and slap on a DVD. Because I didn't have access to a TV or DVD player, I spent the next ten minutes googling how to open the CD tray on a Mac. Unfortunately, I was unable to follow through with my plan due to some technical difficulties.

When I got over the initial disappointment, I decided the day could still be spared. Instead of crawling back under the covers and crying softly about my wasted potential, I got in my car and drove home. I arrived safely and promptly decided to reward myself with some pancakes. This decision proved nearly disastrous when I discovered we were out of butter. Luckily, I eventually found some in the refrigerator.

I spent the rest of the morning doing laundry, cleaning the bathroom, and watching Gilmore Girls. I also did five reverse sit-ups and a few sun-salutations that I learned in yoga. Then I decided it was finally time to take some action and get to writing. Except first I was hungry so I had to make a bag of sweet potato fries and some garlic mayonnaise to dip them in.

Once my hunger was satiated, I got dressed and left the house for my favorite combination coffee shop and writing spot. But there was a really interesting radio program on in the car about the effects of stress on the human body, so I had to drive around for twenty or so minutes before parking. When I got out and started walking, the whole world suddenly went funny and the left side of my body felt numb. “Oops!” I thought. “Must have inhaled too many chemicals while cleaning the bathroom this morning! How silly of me.” To avoid a full blown hypochondria-induced public melt down, I quickly headed back to my car. I didn't feel like I could walk in a straight line, but driving was no problem.

From here, I had to make some quick decisions about the best course of action. I knew I needed to get out of the scrutiny of the public eye and to the relative safety of my home, and soon. First, though, I needed to pick up something sweet to make myself feel better after that close call. I started driving toward McDonalds, knowing that an Oreo McFlurry would do the trick. A few minutes later in the drive-thru line I panicked slightly about being stuck in an enclosed space, so I backed right up out of there and straight to a nearby liquor store for a pint of Ben and Jerry's. Another close call.

Back at home, I decided it would be best not to take any more chances. I gathered up all the animals at my house, got under a blanket, and turned on the TV. Soon enough, the pint of ice cream (and the rest of my sweet potato fries from earlier) were in my belly and I was feeling fine.

In all, I learned a lot today. Like, sometimes you just have to resign yourself from the outside world and not feel bad about it. And also, don't mix chemicals in an enclosed space.

Good night!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Grind

Last week, I thought leaving my office job would set me free.

Once I quit, I thought, I'd finally truly be able to pursue the things most important to me. I had visions of spending all my free time writing. My previously latent creativity suddenly liberated, short stories and witty blog posts would pour forth in excess. I'd devour book upon book, and exercise for an hour a day, at least! I'd volunteer with schoolchildren or the elderly, or get an internship with a local publication. I'd have time to discover my true calling in life, at last! The only thing holding me back was that pesky nine to five.

Or so I thought.

As it turns out, actually doing the things most important to me is just as hard as ever. Today is my day off, and I have it all to myself. Today, I can to anything I want! Yet when I woke up this morning I laid paralyzed in bed, hardly able to decide among going to the gym, writing something, or getting groceries. When I found out that I don't have to work my new job until noon on Monday, I didn't immediately think of all the things I could accomplish that morning. Instead, I day-dreamed about sleeping in and leisurely sipping coffee until 11:30.

It may strike some as strange that I never really bought into the idea that you actually have to work toward what you want. I always thought it was enough that I displayed a slight penchant for the “language arts” and had a vague idea of doing good in the world. Opportunity was bound to come knocking based on that...right?

It took me way too long to realize that, just like anyone else in the history of the world who's ever accomplished anything, ever, I'm going to have to work for it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Farewell, Cushy Office Job. Hello, Personal Crisis.

I'm sitting in a cubicle. It's my last full day of work at a job I've hated since last February, when I started. I gave my two weeks notice on Halloween, and tomorrow I'll begin my part time job at a bread bakery, where I'll make almost four dollars less per hour. I have a college degree, and nearly $17,000 in student loans.

It's hard to explain the decision to quit, even to myself. If someone asked me to make a list of reasons why I hate it here, it might look something like this:

1. I have to talk to inarticulate, depressing people on the phone all day.
2. My commute is longer than I'd like.
3. The grounds and office are smelly, dirty and unsightly.
4. I get bored and restless, and end up staring at the internet for too long.

In summary, it's not that bad. I'm treated very well by my boss, and the money is good. I never have to work more than forty hours a week. I get to write emails, look at Facebook, and work on my blog, all while getting paid. If I continued working here, I could probably have my loans paid off in about three years. It's difficult to justify my choice to quit and work in a bakery for barely above minimum wage, with people who were born in the 1990s. Still, I'm leaving.

I'm leaving because it's not the job that's the problem. The problem is me.

Or at least that's the current conclusion I've come to. I wont go into too much boring personal detail. Let's just say that I'm embarking on an experiment of will and dedication, two concepts with which I have minimal experience.

I'm leaving this post intentionally vague, to give myself room to develop a theme that's still in the works. Wish me luck. You'll be hearing from me soon.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Continued Musings

Since I've been back home from school, I've spent most of my time hanging out with people who I've known for a good portion of a decade, or longer. This is a positive thing.

But it is also a thing that makes me ponder. I was in another city, part of a different crowd, for four years. Now, with the passage of time and acquisition of experience, I look at my old relationships in a new light.

Mainly, observing the behavior of and my relationship to my dear old friends has made me realize how integral a role it all played in my development as a person. And this is no surprise.

But often over the past year I've found myself looking around at my friends and companions and wondering aloud: "Who else on Earth behaves this way?"

For instance, in my closest group of friends it is totally acceptable, even expected, to consistently break plans with one another. And by "consistently," I mean always.

Get out of work early to meet up and go to that show? The one we've been talking about all week? Think again. Another friend is making dinner, and there's a party afterward.

Still want to meet up and play some tennis tonight? Don't feel like it anymore? No problem. We're going to happy hour, anyway.

And so on.

But this sort of thing isn't a problem for me. Not anymore, anyway. If anything, it's left me open to the idea that good things can happen in unexpected places. More so, it's helped me develop a deep reserve of patience for the prevailing fickleness of the world. And that is what I call looking on the bright side.

This is just one example. Most of what I feel when I look around me, at the places I've lived and the people I know, I can't accurately put into words. Sometimes I become so overwhelmed with the idea that I'm part of such a unique, specific little niche in time and space that I don't know what to do with myself.

So I guess that's when I blog about it.