It was my second day of college ever and classes hadn’t started yet. I woke up in a top bunk bed I’d never slept in before and tried from the moment my eyes flickered open to convince myself that this – that all of this – was simply my new existence and therefore every part of it was completely normal. Yes, I repeated in my head while I stood behind a flimsy curtain in the shower of the communal bathroom, it was normal to live in an L-shaped shoebox with two strangers. It was normal to tote a bathrobe with me into the shower so I would not run the risk of ending up naked in public, not even during a fire drill caused by some drunk person pulling the fire alarm. It was normal that my soap, shampoo, and razor were kept in a turquoise plastic bucket with a handle instead of on a shower shelf that belonged only to me. And it was totally normal that I was showering in flip-flops to avoid getting whatever sort of fungus had surely been left behind by the stranger who had showered before me and then bequeathed me a tangle of her blonde hair in the drain as a disgusting form of souvenir.
There’s this hotel I once stayed at for well over a week in Laguna Beach called The Montage and every aspect of that place is forever imprinted in the happiest folds of my brain. The pillows? They were clearly fashioned by a large group of benevolent angels out of the finest flurry materials available anywhere in the spiritual stratosphere. The loofah placed lovingly next to the enormous bathtub? That wooden-handled scrubby thing gave me the single finest exfoliation of my entire life. The hotel’s bath gel smelled of verbena. The salad served out of white oblong bowls poolside had perfectly grilled shrimp and the creamiest goat cheese I’d ever tasted and the men climbing the bluffs at dusk after a day of surfing the spiky waves looked like the sort of Ken doll Tom Ford might have fashioned just for sport.
One taught me how to grill vegetables inside a tent made out of aluminum foil. Just some zesty salad dressing for a marinade, he told me. If you can chop and turn on a grill, you can cook.
The first time he went up my shirt I was sprawled across a pool table. It was very late – so late it was almost early – and even the crickets were asleep as I arched my back and wondered exactly what it was that I was feeling. I knew two things with absolute certainty as he pressed his mouth on mine, again and again:
1. His teeth tasted like cranberries, his tongue like vodka.
2. I was always so shitty at remaining in the moment.
I took my puppy for a walk yesterday as the dusk fell behind cherry trees so swollen with blossoms that the outside of my home currently looks like a land formed out of fragrant pink cotton candy. There are times when the air manages to feel almost mystical, and I looked up at the flowers through the squint of the last sun flares of the day and I could hear the tinkling bells of the ice cream man in the distance and I said to the person walking beside me – the one holding the leash – Tonight smells like camp.
A friend at work recently told me that she’s vacillating about sending her young son to camp for three days a week this coming summer. She feels guilty about it, about not spending every single minute she can with her child. My guess is all the horseshit people post constantly on Facebook and Instagram has finally succeeded in driving her from somewhat-mad to completely-over-the-edge mad in the manner that too much exposure to sanitized social media is wont to do. You know the posts I’m talking about, right? You’ve seen all those parents writing epic poems about how they cannot fathom why anyone could possibly complain during a snow-day because what could be more blissful than an entire day spent stuck indoors with children? I see those posts and I giggle and my empty uterus does also. My very best friend – a mother of two children who are absolutely beautiful and never ever shut the fuck up, not even while they’re sleeping because they’ve been blessed with chatty night terrors – called my house during the last snow-day of the winter because she needed to talk to someone whose ass she never once had to diaper, not even on a twenty-first birthday that was basically sponsored by whichever maniac came up with a drink called The Cement Mixer. I picked up the phone and she didn’t even say hello. Instead, through clenched teeth, she spoke this sentence: “I hate snow-days even more than I hate my bitch of a grandmother,” and I laughed and I could hear her children arguing over a broken plastic truck in the background and I kindly asked if I could call her back after my mid-morning nap. “You’re an asshole,” she responded and I laughed again.
While I’ve never once heard my work friend call her children “monsters” the way my best friend does triweekly, I could still see that the Parent Propaganda she’s being exposed to on a daily basis is sinking in deep and fast. I tried to explain that all those people who boast that the finest twenty-four hours are twenty-four hours spent in the company of tiny beings who pull on you to open up yet another package of Goldfish crackers and never allow you to pee with the door closed are most likely the same people who scream into a pillow during hour twenty-five of that never-ending pretend-perfect day. I told her the people who post pictures of silent snuggly children also have pictures of those same kids mid-tantrum, their mouths wide open while they scream bloody murder because they were informed they can’t keep the ripped balloon they found in the Target parking lot forever, but nobody posts the negative stuff and what that means is she’s not getting the whole story from anyone and therefore she shouldn’t allow these mommy phantoms to judge anything she does with her child, including the way he spends his summers. Besides, I explained, being at camp is amazing! Who doesn’t want to be in a place where a bugle moves you from activity to activity and you’re constantly surrounded by rope so you’re always prepared for a throwdown round of Tug of War? Camp is not a punishment; it’s eight weeks of fucking joy that comes with a parting gift of rope burn!
Every once in a while, someone says something that at first listen sounds absolutely preposterous, but after a beat of time passes by – a beat where time itself ceases to have anything resembling a reality or a rhythm – the sentiment you so easily discarded just seconds before begins to make real sense. This is not to say that the bit of truth that’s just been verbally tossed your way will suddenly make your life better. No, my friends – accepting something to be valid that only one moment before seemed nothing but insane is bound to fuck you up at least a little bit.
The snow came down in flakes so large and fluffy that they reminded me instantly of that book I used to love when I was little, the one about the boy who experienced so much delight during a snowy day that he tried to keep a bit of it as something tangible so he shoved a snowball in his pocket to have a memento of the moment. It’s always during the very early mornings or the middle of the nights when the tales I read as a child feel the most present and maybe it’s because I feel then like I am myself part of a waking dream. It’s funny – those mini memories never wind around any of the major memories from that time. I think far more about how I loved Sesame Street and the way I knew every single word of that Blondie album than I ever reflect upon my parents’ divorce or how I went from not even thinking about something like heat to knowing quite well what kerosene smells like.
I come from a generation of girls who wanted Jordan Catalano for a boyfriend even though he couldn’t read.
I knew the names of the biggest models in the world and I slept in a bedroom with their faces plastered across the wall, aspirational black and white imagery that would become both inspiring and crippling when the day finally arrived and I realized I’d never clear 5’4” without heels and I’d never be able to describe my body as lanky. But sometimes when I couldn’t sleep, I would look up at those pictures and try to figure out what it was precisely about Christy Turlington’s mouth that made it so unique. I thought it might have something to do with the way her lips turned up even when she wasn’t smiling and I practiced smiling that way in the mirror, but my smile was always too wide and I could never pull it off. It was Linda Evangelista who was my favorite, though. In spite of all the rumors that she was the biggest monster around, I found the sharp angles of her face almost otherworldly and arranged the way they were somehow made her almost magically beautiful and besides, there were more than a few days when her haughty bitchiness was what I aspired to the most.
In an adolescence where Google searches didn’t yet exist, the only porn I ever saw was through static. I often wondered if I was the only person in the world who sometimes turned to that snowy channel in the dead of night. Since I was certain I must be, I never discussed it with anybody else.
Things to do today:
1. Run final exams through scantron machine.
2. Learn how to use scantron machine.
3. Contemplate contacting the NYS Department of Education to inform them that I never once gave a multiple-choice test before they decided to (again) change the academic standards and I’m relatively certain that bullshit exams measure absolutely nothing besides the ability to memorize trivia.
4. Check in with a student (or six, just to be sure) to confirm that this year’s senior prank will not involve mice.
5. If the prank will involve mice, write a letter of resignation immediately because I can deal with rising heat and the conflagration of senioritis and colleagues who never ever shut up – but I will not deal with rodents or vermin of any kind because I've got limits.
Things to do today:
1. Get Patrick and Beth to sign my yearbook during lunch.
2. Go to the tailor after school with my mom to make sure my dress was taken in enough that my nipples will not be mistaken for accessories on prom night.
3. Buy more Aussie sprunch spray.
4. Tell Mr. Gavriluk how much he’s meant to me and that I appreciate how he read all my poetry and then offered me insightful comments and didn't once tell me that any of the pain I wrote about in a non-rhyming kind of verse was at all pathetic – even though we both know it kind of is.
5. Kill the guy who broke my heart – or just avoid having to see him because plotting a death takes energy and I have exactly none on this strange day in June.
While I’m not quite sure why an iPhone’s battery can deplete so rapidly, I do know that I spent a great deal of time this weekend either charging my phone or kicking it into “low power mode.” And sticking with that lifelong personal trait of mine not to fully comprehend science-y stuff, I can’t say with certainty what a low power mode does, but I can tell you that the light at the very top of the screen turns yellow and yellow is my very favorite color – as is evidenced by the fact that I wear black all the time. There’s a real part of me that believes the batteries in our phones are preprogrammed to shrivel up and die – much as I pray that one person I hate will also do imminently – whenever Apple is set to release a new version, but that could just be the conspiracy theorist inside of me running amok because I’m sure no gigantic corporation would ever do anything unseemly, like futz with its products simply to inspire rabid customer consumption. Anyway, I digress; what I am trying to communicate here is that I was away from my phone for much of the weekend because it needed to be plugged into a wall and I chose not to spend all of my time sitting next to a wall because it was gorgeous outside and I am so pale that I think I might soon be considered my very own species.
At one point while my phone was not within its standard arm’s reach, I received a voicemail from one of my oldest friends. It’s funny: many of the people in my life who call will never leave a message. I guess they just expect that I’ll notice I missed a call and return it and really, who wants to wait out all of those rings? But this is a guy I knew back in the days when call waiting had recently become a glorious new invention and answering machines were still tabletop devices you ran to while praying the red light would be flickering because that flicker maybe meant someone good had reached out to you. As a caller, I’ve spent a lot of long seconds of my life praying that I’d get the machine instead of the actual person because there were moments I guess I felt too nervous or tired or annoyed to talk for real, but at the same time I always hated how my voice sounded on messages. You have such a sweet voice, a guy I used to really care about said to me more than a few times – but I wasn’t looking to sound sweet. I always wanted to sound when I spoke like Stevie Nicks sounds when she sings and well, let’s just say I don’t.