Chasing Cars

When Jen needed a good cry she listened to the Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack, particularly the first few seasons. There were so many songs that helped Jen excavate her tears, which were always buried deep underneath layers of smiles and loveliness. Of course she didn’t admit this to anyone because what kind of a freak needs to listen to Grey’s Anatomy songs in order to cry?

Recently Jen had been going to a nearby park where she would sit on a bench, preferably one under a tree and listen to one of three Cry Playlists on her phone. She would sob for a few minutes or longer depending on how she felt. One day a pimply-faced teenage boy asked her if she was okay and she answered:

“Ya, I’m good, just letting out some toxic shit you know? Thx for asking.” Though Jen didn’t normally swear, saying “toxic shit” was her way of showing respect to the young man who cared enough to check on her.

Jen wondered why she had such a difficult time crying. She asked her therapist about it and Dr. Kesselman told her maybe it had something to do with Jen feeling like she always had to keep it all together. Or, that Jen was sub-consciously worried that if she started crying she might never stop. But Dr. Kesselman approved of Jen’s Grey’s Anatomy technique, telling her it was a creative solution.

This morning, under a pink tree – crab apple? cherry? – Jen listened to the most recognizable Grey’s Anatomy song, “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol. It had played during the scene when Denny Duquette died and Izzie Stevens, who was dressed in a prom dress, wouldn’t let him be taken to the morgue. She was lying with him on the hospital bed until Alex lifted her up and took her away.

Oh God what a scene.

Izzie loved Denny so much, they were soulmates. Jen wanted that kind of love. And she didn’t care if most people with Bachelor Degrees thought the idea of soulmates was like believing in crystal healing. Jen had a Bachelor’s Degree in Education and she knew soulmates existed.

Though Jen did not currently have a soulmate, she did have a mate. Jen likened the difference between soulmates and regular mates to the difference between a good lasagna and a poorly made one. A well-made lasagna was hearty, sometimes even a little bit heavy. But, if the lasagna was too light and the tomato sauce seeped out in huge puddles on your plate, well, that was a regular mate.

Jen’s regular mate was Jim. He taught political theory at a local college and he was an avid long-distance bike rider. Every Wednesday night Jim made dinner, each time focusing on a different cuisine and always writing the dish on the kitchen chalkboard. Last week’s dinner had been Authentic New Orleans Creole Gumbo. Jim was a decent enough cook, but no matter how tasty the dishes were the dinners were inevitably ruined by Jim pontificating about the history of the dish he’d prepared, the city or country it originated from and their people.

Last month, when Jim cooked a lamb dish from Western Africa and started talking about the incredible beauty of its local markets, Jen had seriously thought about leaving him on the spot. Like just getting up from the table, taking her phone, laptop and charger and leaving the house forever. What the hell did Jim know about beautiful markets in Western Africa? Pontification should be added to the List of Seven Deadly Sins, Jen would need to write the Pope.

Today’s crying session lasted 7.5 minutes. When Jen arrived home she applied a warm washcloth to her eyes to help them de-puff, then ate cinnamon raisin toast for breakfast. She always took out the raisins first, tossing them in the backyard for the squirrels and birds to eat.

A brief stint of makeup applying and Jen was off to the children’s non-profit where she worked. It was only a ten minute bus ride and she usually spent it reading while secretly checking out the men who boarded. Maybe her soulmate rode the same bus as her and they just hadn’t met yet.

But instead of her soulmate she got Gina Trochanter, one of her work mates, who out of nowhere was suddenly standing next to her. Wearing a lavender raincoat and matching rain boots, Gina was inexplicably dressed for a storm, though there was not a cloud in the sky. Gina spoke in a loud, bold voice except when she was gossiping. When gossiping she whispered sideways into your ear, so that half the words just swooshed by.

Gina had a long list of bad, ineffective ideas which she planned on bringing up at their Back To School project meeting. Today they were brainstorming strategies to get school supplies and clothing donated. The families in the community they served could barely pay their bills, let alone buy new backpacks and sneakers for their children.

When the meetings were particularly suffocating, with everyone jockeying for their boss’s attention, Jen’s work friend Beatrice would pour a little Bailey’s in Jen’s coffee to take the edge off. Beatrice was one of those super cool girls who could pull off paper-bag waist pants, cowboy mules and a mullet and look like she just walked off a Paris runway. Jen was nowhere near as cool, but over the years she had developed a style that suited her: one part something floral and one part something plain black – so as not to look like a walking garden. Today she wore a black pencil skirt with a floral blouse she had found in a thrift store for $5. Jim was vehemently against Jen buying anything secondhand, he worried she would bring bugs into the house. Jen thought he was insane, so she lied whenever she bought something used.

After work Jen usually went straight home so she could have a little time to herself before Jim arrived. Tonight they were having pizza. Every Tuesday night they ordered pizza and every Tuesday morning Jim wrote it on the kitchen chalkboard: “take-out Pizza night.” But tonight Jen wanted something different, she just didn’t know what. She felt this weird tingling, almost tickling sensation all around the edges of her body. As if someone had traced the outline of her with one of those feather cat toys. Though she liked the feeling, she also wondered if it was perhaps some weird form of neuropathy.

Jen decided to try a local bar that she had walked by a million times. It looked straight out of the 1940’s and appropriately enough was called Bogart’s. Usually she would feel self-conscious going to a bar alone, but today she didn’t. She sat at the bar instead of a table and when the 60-something year old bartender asked her what she wanted she found herself saying:

“A Whisky Sour please.” Jen had never had a Whiskey Sour before and had no idea what the sour part was. Lemon? Lime? But it sounded like the right kind of drink to order in a bar like this, on a night like this, when her body was electrified.

“Thank you,” said Jen to the bartender. “It’s my first time here, I wanted to try something different.”

“Here’s looking at you kid,” he said as he clinked his glass with hers. Jen smiled at the Bogart reference.

The drink was delicious and for an instant she felt cool, like Beatrice. Beatrice would order a Whiskey Sour. Beatrice would never order a Pinot Grigio which is what Jen usually drank when she was out. Jen swore to never ever order another Pinot Grigio. There was no way she would find her soulmate and the life she craved if she was drinking Pinot Grigio.

Finding a soulmate would involve taking chances and living boldly, or at least boldly-ish and tonight was Jen’s first step: instead of being home reading the new Sue Grafton novel and eating goldfish, she was at a bar by herself, with her electrified, possibly neuropathy-laden body. Ready. Ready for it all.

Half and Half

“Make sure it’s exactly half and half. Half Pomegranate, half Original flavor. Last time it was 3/4 pomegranate. And go to the Pinkberry on Montana Ave, it’s the only one I trust.”

“Got it.”

“My new Ferragamo loafers have to be dropped off at Roberto’s, he needs to put a protective sole on them. You do that with expensive shoes. But I guess you wouldn’t know that, you wear Nine West, I mean no offence, but…”

“Non taken.” you privileged narcissist bitch

“At Whole Foods get me the snap peas and sesame tofu and a ginger kombucha. And Jett needs to eat too…maybe the barbecue chicken, potato salad and some kind of cupcake. Large containers for him, small containers for me.”

“Can I get you anything else while I’m out?”

“No that’s all. Except gas, you know I always like my gas topped up to 100% full.”

“I sure do.” you freak

In the Range Rover Emily cranked KCRW then let out a death-metal loud scream:

“AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”

She chewed CBD gummies as she ran errands in Santa Monica. Using voice memo she left notes for herself for the screenplay she was working on. It was about a personal assistant who falls in love with her boss’s 18 year old son and the two of them plot to kill his mother.

Her phone rang.

“And it goes without saying don’t forget to pick up Jett from school at 3:00. I gave you snacks for him, they’re already in the car. Gotta go, my acupuncturist is here.”

God it would be so fun to stick needles in you

“I’m on my way to pick him up now.”

“Get in loser we’re going to Taco Bell. I mean unless you want this rotting apple, melted cheese sticks and nuts that you mother packed for you.”

“Why the fuck does she pack me the same snack every single day?”

“And the nuts are always from Starbucks.”

They laughed as they pulled into Taco Bell’s drive-thru.

“How do you eat this five days a week? It’s gnarly.”

“How do you work for my mom five days a week? SHE’s gnarly.”

They drove a couple blocks and stopped at a park where Jett liked to eat outside so he could smoke a little weed before going home.

“So was school scintillating today? Did you finally talk to Ben? Are you guys ever going to get together?”

“We hung out for like a minute at lunch. His parents are going away this weekend so he’s having a party. I’m gonna feel the vibe out then.”

“Cool. But just be careful and safe and all that shit. Your crowd is wild, you know that right?”

“Don’t worry Mama Emily, I won’t do anything other than weed, I never do. It’ll just be dope to spend some time with Ben. It’s not like I can have him over to the house, Mom would lose her shit.”

“Honestly Jett, I don’t think she would. Your mom fucking loves you. I mean she packs you after-school snacks every damn day and she does it herself. I know she drives you nuts, she drives me nuts too. But when it comes to Ben she would be okay, trust me on this one.”

“Ok, I’ll think about it…want some? Jett offered Emily his joint.

“No, I’m good. I gotta get you home and we need to pick up Pinkberry for your mom.”

“Jesus Christ.”

He took a final drag and tossed his Taco Bell wrappers in the garbage.

In the car Jett blasted Led Zeppelin, they were his newest obsession. They drove with the windows down with Jett’s right leg sticking out and his shoelace blowing in the breeze.

“Want anything at Pinkberry’s?”

“Maybe like a bowl of those rainbow colored toppings, no yogurt, just the toppings and some gummy bears and chocolate chips too.”

“Can’t tell that you’re high at all.”

Jett gave her the peace sign, put on his Warby Parkers and turned up the music.

“I love living in Southern California” said Jett as he ate his bowl of Pinkberry toppings. “But like when I go to college, I want to go far away. I guess like New York? I mean where else is there to go?”

“Don’t be so elitist.”

“What do you mean? I’m not elistist. I feed the homeless once a month.”

“Los Angeles and Manhattan are not the only cool, interesting cities in the U.S. Think outside the box. Maybe The University of Texas in Austin. Austin is super cool and liberal. Plus, I think it would drive your parents crazy if you went to college in Texas, so there’s that added bonus.”

“Love that idea, gonna research it tonight, thx Em. By the way, what happened with that guy Ron?”

“His name is Jon and I’m not dating him anymore.”

“Why? He sounded like halfway cool.”

“He has a pet rabbit.”

“What? Who the fuck has a pet rabbit?!”

“But wait, there’s more. We were watching Netflix and the rabbit, whose name is Stacey, sat next to him the whole time on the couch. And he petted her over and over and over. Like OCD petting. Like I’m surprised she has any hair left petting.”

“Come on,”

“Jett, I shit you not. That damn rabbit sat with us for two episodes of Designated Survivor and I swear to God she was giving me side-eye the whole time, like “get away from my man” kind of energy. So so epically creepy.”

“That’s wack and you can never ever see him again. That dude would for sure chop you up and feed you to Stacey and then mom would have to hire a new personal assistant.”

“Thanks for the love Jett.”

“No problem.”

“Alright, let’s do this, pop some gum because you smell like hot sauce.”

“I’m on it.”

“Emily where have you been? You’re late! We’ve got to go over next week’s calendar before you leave. Next week is challenging. I’m hosting a small dinner which I forgot to tell you about. I’ll pay you time and a half of course. Jett did you eat your snack? How was school? How was that wretched Mrs. Taylor? I’m going to talk with your principal if she doesn’t start treating you better.”

“Hey mom, what’s up? Mrs. Taylor is all good man, nada to worry about.”

“Half hour of video games then homework. I don’t want you up half the night finishing your math. And call your father. You didn’t call him yesterday and he was livid. Livid.”

“My yogurt is melting, give it to me Emily. After you put everything away meet me in my office. I am just so stressed. I mean I just have too much on my plate, what with hosting dinners and appointments and Jett and planning the new guest cottage. It’s simply too much. Women are expected to do too much in our society, it’s not fair. And bring me a glass of Rose, there’s a bottle chilling in the fridge, I need something to take the edge off.”

Wow. Just wow.

“Okay, I’ll be right there.”

After putting the groceries away Emily went into Mrs. Jeffries’ Birkin, grabbed a few Ativan and slipped them in her pocket. Then she poured her a glass of wine, taking a few sips for herself first.

“Emily? I’m not getting any younger.”


Sent from my iPad

24 hrs

So maybe there were a few red flags. Like a tree’s worth of red flags. Like picture a cherry tree, but instead of beautiful blossoms there were 500 glittery red flags. But you know, our insecurities our powerful mutherfuckers and sometimes they run the show. So I got engaged.

At the time I was working for a fashion designer and she and the CEO toasted my engagement with champagne, the CEO said:

“Well obviously she’s going to design your dress.”

No. No. No. I had planned on finding and wearing a vintage dress. Plus, I was friends with the designer and I knew she was stressed, the last thing she needed was the pressure of making me a dress. But I said,

“That would be amazing, thank you!” because at thirty-six yrs old I still had trouble asserting myself – sad but true.

The fittings were difficult, sprinkled with moments of laughter. She was my friend and boss, which is a complex dynamic. From the beginning of the process I felt unable to speak my mind, hold my ground or say “no.” Though I found it hard to breathe in the dress, like really hard, she told me, “that’s how it’s supposed to fit” and I stayed silent. It was bound to end badly and it was all my fault.

Hop a plane with me now would you? As we fly from Los Angeles CA to Ottawa Ontario, Canada’s lovely capital city where I grew up and where the wedding dress debacle continues…

At the hotel I came face-to-face with what I knew before but could not admit: the dress was beautiful but I did not feel good in it. I did not feel confident in it. I felt exposed. Plus, you know, I couldn’t breathe. It felt like I was wearing a beautiful nightgown, bias cut silk-satin gorgeousness. All the dress needed was a cocktail, a cigarette and a handsome lover. Walking down the aisle in it would feel like wearing haute couture lingerie. I had to buy a new dress and I had two days.

The hotel suggested a boutique where I found an antique-y vibe pouf dress. Was it what I imagined my wedding dress would look like? No. But then again I had never been the girl who dreamed of her wedding day and bridal gown. I had dreamed of getting a dog and and visiting Paris. But I felt confident in this dress, like I was wearing big pouf-y armour. And I could breathe. There was only one tiny problem, the dress was three sizes too big. It would have to be altered in 24 hrs. No pressure.

Meanwhile, in Red Flag Land, on the day of the epic alterations I found out my fiancee had lied about a major financial issue. I forget exactly what it was because I’ve worked hard to block it out, but it was something big enough that I clearly remember thinking:

“I could legitimately pull a Runaway Bride move here. Now is the time in the Rom-Com where the bride-to-be runs away with the help of her friends.” And my friends, who by the way are each pretty badass, would have 100% supported my decision. But I didn’t tell them. I was too busy worrying about all the relatives who had flown-in for the ceremony, for some it was their first time in Canada.

“I can’t cancel the wedding because it’s not fair to the guests,” is what I thought. Did I mention I was a chronic people pleaser? Emotionally it felt impossible to cancel the wedding, but had I possessed more self-love, more self-confidence, I would have apologized to the guests and walked away.

Wedding day involves a flurry of activity and frankly Xanax should be given out to everyone. Part of the flurry is getting hair and makeup done. Having not lived in Ottawa for a million years I didn’t know the scene, so when it came to choosing hair and makeup professionals mistakes were made. The result was a bridal look that aged me ten years, including heavy 80’s makeup and early 2000’s pin-straight Rachel from Friends hair.

On the balcony of the hotel my dad walked me down the aisle. He looked so handsome and somehow vulnerable too. What was he thinking? Had he seen all the red sparkly flags? After our vows and the breaking of the glass – “Mazal Tov!” – one of my favorite songs, The Cure’s “Friday I’m In Love,” played. I wasn’t in love, but it was Friday and I was now married. Dear God what had I done?

Despite the wreckage that my insecurities and I caused, everything worked out in the end. My former boss and I became even closer friends. My ex-husband and I are still in touch and keep each other up to date on major life stuff, like: “Did you get your Covid vaccination? Is your family alright? How’s your dog doing?”

I still struggle with standing up for myself, speaking my truth and saying “no.” But my insecurities no longer run my life. They may ride alongside me as I live my life, like a trail of bugs, but I swat them away when they come too close.

#weddingdrama #lifestories #insecurities #24hrs #Xanax #losangeles #weddingdresses #selflove #vintageweddingdress

The Peas Are Working

The city of Toronto is run by raccoons. We have north, south, east and west-side gangster raccoons. They are afraid of no one and do as they please. One summer we could barely use our deck due to an east-side family having taken up residence there.

The raccoons are the reason I currently have two metal pins sticking out of my ring finger. Two weeks ago I took our dog Lexie out for a midnight pee. A massive pandemic-fat raccoon named Fred was perched on our backyard fence. All 34 pounds of Lexie went ballistic. But Fred didn’t move an inch, he just stared at us with a look that said, “you are inferior to me, go away.” Lexie wanted to battle Fred over her turf, but instead I dragged her down the alley and around to our front door.

Turns out that during the drama Lexie had, on her adrenaline high, pulled me quite hard. My ring finger was swelling quickly and turning black and blue.

“I’ll just ice it with some peas, it’ll be fine,” I told my partner as I grabbed the frozen bag. He eyed my finger, then eyed me like I was completely nuts.

“Your finger is twisted, you probably fractured it.”

“It’s fine. It doesn’t even hurt, these peas are already working.”

The next day, after emailing finger photos to my doctor, (by then even I had to admit it looked a bit crooked), she immediately sent me to get x-rayed. After x-raying me the technician said:

“Ya, it’s totally fractured, go to the hospital right now.”

Yay, it was only fractured, I thought, not realizing that fractured was the same thing as broken, (I have zero excuse for not knowing what fractured meant.) A couple of days later I was operated on by a lovely plastic surgeon, awaking from surgery to find two metal pins sticking out of my finger. I also had a large cast that because of the anaesthetic felt like a 100 pound salami.

Throughout the week as I became accustomed to the cast, (I’ve never broken a bone before), I started doing more things. I decided that my lockdown-hair, (Ontario has been in lockdown for a thousand years), needed to be twisted up in a bun. I almost had the bun complete, though to be fair it wasn’t the chic-est of buns, when I realized that my hair was caught on the two pins sticking out of my finger.

“Oops.”

“What did you do now?” my partner asked.

I walked over to him with my arm stuck to the top of my head.

“What the hell were you thinking?”

“I just wanted to put my hair up in a bun, I…”

“Christ Almighty.”

He carefully extricated my hair from the pins without having to cut my hair (though to be honest a little haircut wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world). He sighed deeply.

“Can you please just take it easy, this thing needs to heal, it’s serious.”

“I know it’s serious. It’s just that, what am I supposed to do with my hair? I look like Crystal Gayle from the seventies. Remember how long her hair was?”

“For the love of God. I’m going to Costco. Don’t touch your hair while I’m out.”

Why tho?

#torontolife #torontodogs #raccoons #personalessay #pandemiclife #pandemichair

Fringed Purse (mini-fiction based on a real-life story)

“Where’s my fringed purse?  Don’t let anyone take my fringed purse.”

“I’ve got it, don’t worry.  I’m literally holding it.”

“Ok but be careful b/c if it’s not snapped shut then all my stuff will fall out.”

“It’s snapped shut and it’s secure.”

“Alright, but keep it with you.  You have no idea how many compliments I get on that purse, it’s a highly desirable accessory.  It’s from a British-Moroccan company, I forget the name.”

“Relax, everything is fine.”

“This place smells disgusting.  Like urine, vomit and desperation.  I’m so humiliated.”

“Don’t worry, no one is judging you.”

“Someone *literally* just stared at me like I was a sad low-life who had hit rock bottom.  Though at least my purse makes me look less pathetic.  I mean that’s the power of a good accessory, a great purse or a pair of stunning shoes can literally change your life.  I…”

“Sir if you could just move to the right, we’ll get her on the stretcher.  Are you riding with us?”

“Yes I am.”

“And he’s bringing my fringed purse with him.  Don’t let him forget it.  I’m feeling better anyways, maybe I don’t need the stretcher.  Plus, I kind of like it down here.  It smells gross but the cold tiles feel soothing.  Maybe I can just lie here a little longer?”

“Ma’am, we’re bringing you and your purse to the hospital on this stretcher.  Why don’t you just try and relax.”

“Okay, I’ll try, though relaxing is not my specialty.  I’m more of a go, go go person, you know?”

“Could you please stop talking and let them do their job?”

“Alright, Jesus.  I’m the one picking up god knows what diseases from the subway platform, you’d think you’d be nicer to me.”

“If you don’t stop talking I will leave your fringed purse here.’

“That’s cruel.”

“Mr. Paramedic Tom, you said your name was Tom right?  This is my first ambulance ride, it’s a little exciting, you know?  Like with the lights on and everything, swooshing through the streets…”

“Well, if you’re lucky, this will be your last ambulance ride.”

“Good point.  You are very nice.  Thank you for being very nice, I appreciate it.  I’m just going to close my eyes for a few minutes.’

“Good idea.” Tom said.

“Ma’am?  We’ve arrived at the hospital.”

“Thank you so much.”

“Paul, do you still have my fringed purse?”

“It’s right here, don’t worry.”

“Oh thank God.  I see a man over there, barfing and that other guy looks like he’s shooting up.  People do drugs right outside the hospital?  Oh God, those poor souls.  Tom, I think you and your partner need to help them, I’m fine.  They need you more than I do, I can walk into the hospital with Paul.”

“Ma’am, just let us finish our job, okay?  We can’t take you off the stretcher, we’re not allowed.”

“Oh, sorry.  Sorry to be a pain.”

“It’s okay, don’t worry about it.”

“Paul, can I have my purse?  I just want to hold it.”

“Here, I’ll rest it next to you on the stretcher.”

“I feel like I’m passing out, even though I’m already lying down.  Why did I collapse like that?  I have a bad feeling about this.”

“Everything is going to be okay, it’s all going to be okay.”

Must Wear Beige

“Oh for the love of God, I don’t want to go to this bridal shower today.  Why do I have to?  Steven – why do I have to go to this godforsaken shower?”

“You owe me,” yelled Steven from down the hall.  “I went to that hideous work event with you so now you have to go to my partner’s third wife’s bridal shower.”

“But she’s a nightmare!  Major narcissist, faux listener, gossips 24/7 & only wants to talk about her farm to table lifestyle blog – which by the way is hilarious because she doesn’t even cook, so what exactly is she bringing from farm to table?  She’s going to be a horrible mother, just horrible.”

“Why don’t you write that in her card, I’m sure she would love those words of support.”

“Very funny.  That whole group are like the Nouveau Millennial Stepford Wives.  And I just ‘can’t’ with the beige theme.  I mean the invite actually said “Must Wear Beige” – who does that?  And you know how washed out beige makes me look.”

“It’s a rough life hon, I feel for ya,” Steven said as he skipped down the stairs.

“Okay, focus Susan focus.  I know I have a light caramel shift-dress in here somewhere, that will have to do.  And my cream vintage sweater with the sequins and rhinestone buttons, that’ll look good together.  

“Steven?”

“I’m downstairs, what?”

“These girls are very minimalist, can I get away with rhinestone buttons and sequins?”

“Have you lost your mind?  You are a grown-ass woman, wear what you want!  As long as it’s not hot pink or lime green, you’ll be fine.  I mean you’re twice the age of these women, so who cares?”

“Nice.  Thank you for reminding me that I could me this woman’s mother.  Like I’m not feeling ancient enough.  They’ll all have that perfect glow-y skin & thick eyebrow-look and I’ll just be sitting there like their plump grandma wearing a loud sparkly sweater.”

“Actually I think her grandma and her mother are going to be there, so you can hang out with them if it makes you more comfortable.”

“So funny I forgot to laugh.  I’m going to murder you.”

“How?  How are you going to murder me.”

“I can’t tell you, it’ll ruin the surprise.”

“Ha!” Steven said as he rounded the corner into their bedroom with a glass of wine for her.

“Drink this, it’ll make you feel better and I’ll bring you over so don’t worry about driving.”

“Thanks,” Susan said as she took a large sip.

“You can add some lip balm to your cheeks to get that glow-y look you mentioned.  I read about it in The New York Times Style Section.”

“You read a beauty article about using lip balm on your face?” Susan asked. 

“Yep.  I know you’re not a huge fan of makeup and beauty stuff, but some of these products are amazing!  Last week I bought a facial exfoliating cream and I love it.  My skin looks brighter and it’s softer.  Not that you ever noticed.”

“I feel like I don’t even know who you are anymore.”

“By the way, don’t forger her name – it’s Astamaria – last time you called her ‘Astralmaria.’”

“I did not, you are such a liar!” Susan said laughing.

Steven kissed Susan’s neck and whispered, “don’t let those gals get to you, you’re my Queen and you’re beautiful as fuck!”

Sparkle Brain

I never, ever remember that I had a brain aneurysm coiled a few yrs ago, but I just found this…

I can now officially say that I have a sparkly brain!  On Wednesday I had my brain aneurysm “coiled” with platinum – so swanky!  The surgery went smoothly, for which I’m very grateful.  But My God Almighty, I have never experienced headaches like that.  I spent the night riding waves of intense nausea mixed with the most brutal pain.

As with all my medical experiences, it had an absurd, comical side to it: the patient next to me had a visitor, (dressed head-to-toe in bedazzled splendour), who was blasting Celine Dion while performing a weird interpretive dance (in an ICU-type recovery room). And no, I’m not exaggerating.

The doctors wrote me a prescription for Percocet to help with the headaches and I was paranoid that I would become addicted. That I would end up like Nurse Jackie, doing anything to secure my next high.  Once home though the drugs were a godsend and I spent most of the day dreaming of Iron Maiden – who were dressed like Wizards – flying through the sky!

(Author’s Note: A special thanks goes out to my cancer!  Had I not been in the hospital being treated for Mesothelioma – where I ended up with “Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome” after a bad reaction to a drug – I never would have had my brain scanned and my aneurysm would have gone untreated.  So thank you Mesothelioma!)

Flowers in a Spaghetti Can

This summer I received wild flowers in a tin spaghetti can. The flowers arrived with a package of butcher’s bacon. Yes, that’s right, I received flowers and bacon together.

At my B & B in small-town Quebec there was a knock on my door. I checked that I was presentable, threw on my Covid mask and opened it.

A thin, sun-hardened arm reached out and passed me the flowers. They were lovely and had clearly been arranged with care, not simply tossed in the can.

“These are beautiful, what a sweet gesture, thank you so much, I…”

The same thin, sun-hardened arm reached out again and passed me a package wrapped in brown paper.

“It’s for your breakfast with your friend. You’re going to visit her today, right? It’s bacon.”

Wearing a black goth-y mumu, hair in a giant bun, floral mask on, I stood holding the flowers and bacon. I felt like an actress in a scene from a quirky indie film. The gift-giver was my ex-boyfriend from 30 years ago, we had dated briefly when we were just twenty years old.

I had come to Quebec specifically for a late summer, covid-safe outdoor visit with one of my oldest & most beautifully eccentric girlfriends. When I realized my old-boyfriend lived nearby I thought it would be fun to have a coffee or a glass of wine with him and catch up. I was not prepared for flowers and bacon, nor for what I had experienced the night before.

The previous evening I had spent sitting in a field with my ex and two other men, one a close family friend of his and one a straw hat-wearing man whom he appeared to loathe. A somewhat alarming-looking fire roared nearby in a metal barrel and a giant pirate’s flag decorated the outdoor workspace behind us. Music blasted from somewhere as we drank wine from jam jars that had seen better days. At various points in the evening the guys took turns peeing outside.

“If u need to go pee, you can just do it out here, don’t worry, we won’t look and you’ll be safe. I’ll protect you,” said my ex.

On the walk over to his artist-meets Hells’ Angels living quarters, I discovered that the man I once knew was buried under layers of pain. He had a hard time making eye contact, he fidgeted and he was drunk. Though he smelled like beer, he smelled more like suffering; layers of suffering. Like a trauma layer cake with his old self as the bottom layer. Followed by a layer of deep grief and loss, then a layer of un-treated depression and self-destructive behaviour, iced with a thick layer of sadness. I knew he had been in the Service, so added to the layers were sprinkles of PTSD.

I felt his spirit had been so badly broken, that he had given up and now resided at the bottom of the trauma cake, unable to cast off the layers.

Later that night, alone at my B & B, I was overcome with sorrow. Deep sorrow, sorrow so intense that it alarmed me. I wanted to help him. I wanted to witness him with his spirit intact again. I wanted to smash that trauma cake.

So no, I was not prepared to receive flowers and bacon the next morning. But I will never forget them. The moment was tender and real and awkward and despite the sadness I had felt the night before and still felt, it was also beautiful.

#trauma #oldboyfriends #lifestories #quebec

Finding Urethra

“Let’s have you pee in a bed pan today!” My nurse exclaimed with an air of excitement, like we were about to go see our favorite band.

I had been in the hospital for almost four weeks, (to treat Peritoneal Mesothelioma, a rare cancer), peeing through a catheter the entire time. I was game to try going on my own, but I was weak and wasn’t sure I would have the strength to pull myself up on the bed. My nurse took out my catheter then helped me into an awkward position, crouched above a cardboard pan.

The pan looked like a larger version of those biodegradable herb pots, with my vulva like an alien spacecraft hovering above the brown pebbled earth.

“I’ll give you some privacy,” said my nurse, leaving the room.

I looked out the window at the falling snow. No urine was exiting my body. “I command you to pee!” I said in a theatrical voice to an empty room. Nada. Not a drop. I was sweating and wanted to lie down, the position required too much strength to hold.

The succulent-crystal gurus say, “Ask The Universe – with love and gratitude – for what you need. Then visualize having what you need – and poof! – you will manifest it.” So I asked the universe to help me pee, in what I hoped was a loving and grateful manner. Then I visualized a long river-like flow of urine exiting my body – swoosh! I paused, ears tilted, in full manifestation mode. Nothing. Maybe the universe was busy helping people with more serious problems, like those living in war torn countries. I couldn’t blame the universe, I’d do the same thing if I had magical powers & everyone was hounding me for help.

I was sure I was due for another blast of Hydromorphone. After two surgeries and HIPEC, (hot chemo poured in the abdomen and swished around), I was ablaze with pain. I buzzed the nurse’s station:

“Hi. I can’t pee. Nothing is coming out. Also, I think I’m due for more painkillers.” My nurse responded, “be patient, keep trying, it’ll come. And no, you’re not due for more pain meds yet.”

I stared gloomily at my crotch. “I know you’re in there, come out come out wherever you are!” Still nothing. I tried reaching for my water cup and fell into the pan.

My nurse appeared, “don’t worry sweetie, your bladder is just waking up from a long sleep, we’ll try again tomorrow.”

She helped me lie down and inserted a new catheter and we chatted about her weekend plans. I loved my nurse, I loved all of my nurses – they were like athletic shoe-wearing angels tending to me with care and quiet confidence.

“I’ll see about your pain meds” she said, as she handed me a damp towel for my sweating brow.

After five weeks in the hospital – and no peeing on my own – I was transferred to a Rehab Hospital to work on regaining strength, gaining weight and learning to walk again. My left femoral nerve had conked out during surgery, (from being splayed out for so long on the operating table) and I had awoken to find that I couldn’t move my leg.

The nurses at the rehab hospital were hardcore, they were like the Marine Corp of Nurses. They immediately took out my catheter and started “bladder training.” They seemed confident that I would be peeing in no time.

I was instructed to try peeing on my own every two hours. I would slowly make my way over to the bathroom using my walker, trying my best to avoid looking at my emaciated body in the mirror. Sitting on the toilet with the sink water running, I would wait five minutes, then get up and do my haunted girl shuffle back to bed.

Bladder training required waiting six hours before being allowed to have a catheter inserted to void the urine. In between physiotherapy, sleeping and doing my laps around the floor, my bladder would fill up to the brim; it was horrible. At this point I was no longer on pain meds, but I would often sneak a Xanax from my private stash just so that I didn’t completely lose it.

The nurses were required to scan my bladder to see how much urine I was retaining before they were allowed to insert a catheter to drain me. A catheter, in this case a long rubbery one which looked like a hose, was lubed up then inserted into my urethra. The urine would then drain out into the brown organic pan – it was called doing an “in and out.”

Then came the day when one of my favorite nurses dropped a bomb: “you’ll be going home very soon and your bladder nerves are still not working. So today I’m going to start teaching you how to do your own in and outs.” Dear God, have mercy on me please.

Thus began a brief chapter in my life called “Finding Urethra.” Because if you want to drain your urine, you first need to find the hole that it comes out of. And by hole, I mean a really tiny, almost imperceptible slit that is kind of hidden by the rest of the female bits. Maybe I’m in the minority or I missed a crucial health class back in high school, but I honestly didn’t really understand where the urethra was. So I used a mirror to watch the nurse and at night, under my blankets, I examined myself by the light of my cellphone.

I had an irrational fear of doing the procedure on my own. It’s like all my anxiety about having cancer was projected onto this one procedure and I couldn’t imagine that I would ever master the skill. I envisioned myself at home, swollen like a balloon with unreleased urine, until one day I just exploded, spraying pee everywhere.

But like anything in life, when your back is against the wall and you have no other options, you figure things out. One day, having finally located my elusive urethra, I successfully performed my own in and out! I basked in the glory of the moment, telling everyone on my floor my good news. I celebrated by eating an extra cup of ice cream (side note: the little hospital ice cream cups are, unlike all other hospital food, strangely delicious).

A few days later I was discharged from the hospital with a supply of tiny, clear catheters, lube, a giant splint on my leg, a walker, crutches and a cane. It would be six more months until my bladder woke up. Then, one day, while sitting on the toilet, I suddenly heard a beautiful noise – the swoosh of urine! The universe had finally granted me my wish.

Author’s Note:
My bladder nerves only partially woke up; I still have to self-catheterize twice a day. This is what the little catheters, aka, pee sticks, look like:

Rituals

With the Covid nightmare, trick-or-treating is not really happening – at least it’s not supposed to be here in Toronto. Yet this year I found the rituals of Halloween soothing, but in an odd way. Soothing in the way that putting calamine lotion on a mosquito bite calms the itch for 2 min but then you need to put more lotion on. Like a slightly obsessive compulsive soothing.

I probably went to the Dollar Store 15 times, each time buying a couple of skulls, or ghosts made out of hideous flammable materials. I would stare at the walls of merchandise, (while wearing my mask of course) and think, “I just need to find the perfect witch…” Insert “and everything will be alright.” A vaccine will be found for Covid. Biden/Harris will win the election. I will get to visit my brother in NYC and my Oncologist will find solutions to treat the weird symptoms I’ve been experiencing lately.

I would return home and add the decorations to our postage-sized front lawn. Then I would stare at it, as if I were a fancy landscape artist trying to decide where to plant an expensive shrub. And each time I would think “it just needs one more hanging ghoul, or sparkly pumpkin and everything will be perfect.” Of course perfection never came and finally I had to cut myself off from what was becoming an unhealthy compulsion.

It’s now Halloween evening. I have two giant bowls of chocolate bars and chips and I’m wearing a sparkly unicorn headband. So far we’ve had one early trick-or-treater whom we had planned on seeing: our neighbour’s one and a half year old child, dressed like a terrified fox. He picked a matching fox-orange bag of cheetos from the bowl, a socially-distanced bowl. And for a minute everything felt normal. Our face masks not withstanding, it felt like just another Halloween. A joyful night filled with candy and costumes and faux scariness. The real scariness temporarily swept away by the Dollar Store witch’s broomstick. It was a lovely moment.


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