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Rated: ASR · Book · Biographical · #2260833
Blog attempt 1.
The first few entries come from a private journal I have kept for a few years now.
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October 26, 2021 at 8:57pm
October 26, 2021 at 8:57pm
Once again, I stare at a blank page and wonder what I will fill it with. So often lately I have worked from outlines and storyboards, with side notes aplenty. I wanted to just write right now. My page is blank and so is my mind, except for the verbal version of swirly twirly ink dissipating in water, making the water eventually one solid but lighter color. That would be nice, if my thoughts would settle into a solid lighter mood. I am too tired for the effort it takes to be depressed, and depression is the lowest energy state of my being. I honestly do not know what is animating my fingers to type these words. I have no idea where I am pulling the energy necessary for these thoughts from. Screw grammar, screw spelling they require too much effort. I will just type and let the thoughts tumble out. I say that and then I waste precious seconds trying to remember how to spell thoughts. I can’t help myself. My editor will not hibernate and let me make honest mistakes of grammar. I need to disable the backspace and delete keys if I want to get the reigns fastened on the editor. I wish I could edit my life as easily as these words. I get caught in a lie, backspace; I tell the truth. I break a dish, delete; I have a full set of dishes. But my life would take so much longer, editing things costs so much effort. I could better put it to living my life without the need for editing. Like writing. No, there is no writing or living without mistakes.

Okay perfection on the first try failing, is there a form of auto-correct for life? God? Or is he just the ultimate editor who will sit down with you at the end and carve some sense out of your rough draft. Will there be some kind of second, third, or final draft after that? That is the ultimate question isn’t it. Without god not even the high priests of science can completely make sense of the universe. There has to be some kind of causal moment. Sure, big bang, what lit its fuse? Random chance? One of the first things science determined was that life does not just spring into being. Order does not come from chaos. Matter and energy cannot really be created or destroyed, at least not by the laws of science I was taught. Something or someone had to wind up the clockwork machine that is reality. They will be here when it winds down to put away their toy, or wind it up again, perhaps with different gears in the mechanism. Is the universe just god’s box of Legos? Or tinker toys? How much of infinity did he sit planning how the flow of time would play out. How much play did he leave in the machine for surprises? Or is god beyond surprise? Did he design the universe for entertainment? Does that mean our universe is one big video game or a TV program? Are we syndicated or network? Were we good enough to warrant reruns?

What interesting trails my thoughts are running down. I should try to corral them, to send them in a purposeful direction. I should put them on a leash. Unfortunately, my thoughts are like a bad mannered litter of puppies. All barks, nips and tugs coming from eight directions at once. What do my thoughts nurse on? Or are they weaned? God help the world if they are weaned. I know they aren’t paper trained. The world is too cold to even think of them going out into the yard to make their messes. So they bounce around each vying for my attention within the confines of my consciousness. My experiences are too limited. My consciousness is like a studio apartment. I can’t move out because it’s rent controlled and allows pets. I could try banging down a wall or two but I don’t think the surrounding people would really appreciate the noise of the renovations, or the intrusion into their space. What’s worse I don’t know when my lease is up. I could just finish renovating and really be happy with the place and bam, I am out of here. Down girl, sit stay… away from that.

Mortality, it is the mirror in your face every morning. No matter how well groomed you think you are it slaps you with your tangled hair and morning breath. It makes you not want to go out in public, what’s the point it all comes to crap in the end. Is mortality really like a morning mirror? You do not wake up to it in the beginning. At first your mirror is all smiles and pigtails. Then you face the zits and the bad hair days. Not so bad yet right? What about when the wrinkles and the gray hair pop up on you? By then it is evening. Add a little makeup, maybe you can handle the night out, but most likely you will end up uncoordinated and confused, drunk on the last fumes of life. What does your mortality show you on the morning after? Worm food.

That was a little dark; dark and obscured like the future. What now? Time for another metaphor? Good god… when will I stop this nonsense. Do I have no sense of propriety. These are not subjects to address in polite company. Where will I go with this? Will I choose to slip into the flippant talk of the weather, or will I bullishly tumble down the road of the bulls*** of politics. Hmmm start with…

The weather. It has been quite erratic of late. We nearly had hundred year floods two years in a row. The rain pours down and washes lives away when it is least convenient, but plays dumb when it is really needed. It wouldn’t be so bad if it would just settle into a cycle of dry seasons and monsoons. Who needs a winter anyway. People can celebrate brown Christmases just as easily as white ones. Why the crazy weather? Global warming, they say. I have to admit things are getting hotter, but is it just our ego that we blame ourselves for it? This planet has wound through ice ages and heat waves for longer than we have been around. Sure there is a correlation between our activities and the rise in temperature, can we say it is causative. Hmm, it is just as likely a natural increase in temperature is making us all act like irresponsible assholes. That argument made, I have to say the human ability to totally f*** things up is greater than that of any other life form we can name. It probably is our fault.

Animals, people used to think that the main difference between us and animals was our ability to think and feel and communicate. Except now it is acknowledged that animals have feelings, they have thoughts. Communication isn’t our sole property either. Animals communicate just fine, sometimes in ways we haven’t even considered. Okay maybe language is ours, the systematic, learned application of communication. Except chimps can use sign language. They are smart too, they can use tools too. That pulls another rug from beneath the list of distinct traits of humans. Okay what about manufacturing? Bees have been manufacturing honey since before we were around. They have wax cities where their children are reared with an ordered hierarchy of importance. What about civilization, the construction of monuments requiring not just peaceful coexistence, but cooperation? Nah, the ants and termites build huge cities and mounds above the surface. Some termites even figured out air conditioning. Peaceful? Perhaps we are unique because of war and the planned slaughter of our own kind. Nope chimps and gorillas go to war, and who knows what dolphins do when we aren’t watching. Completely f***ing things up for ourselves and others seems to be our singular characteristic, heck it is practically our superpower.

We aren’t superheroes though. Ask the millions of humans who have been slaughtered or the thousands of species wiped out by mere contact with us. When was the last time you saw a mammoth? Dinosaurs aren’t our fault though. They had their own problems, but given their hundreds of millions of years of success, we can’t exactly poke fun because they’re gone. Given how long they hung around, god must have really liked the dinosaurs. Why did god even let them die off? If they had survived, we never would have come along to f*** things up. Maybe he got tired of playing with them. Or maybe they couldn’t hold up their end of a conversation.

Not that we as a species are doing much to hold up our end of the conversation. Sure for the first several thousand generations we were respectful and made the attempt. Some of us were more devoted than others and tried to send him presents, wisps of smoke from sacrificial altars. Not every civilization had the same idea of what gifts were appropriate to send. Some settled for grains or flowers, others bled or slaughtered animals; the really intense civilizations offered up people, some of those even volunteered. Humans are straight up crazy. Why would god go to the trouble of creating all of… everything if he wanted gifts of dead things burned to s*** or left to rot? That doesn’t make sense.

It makes no more sense than any of the thousand other butt headed stupidities perpetrated in his-her-its name. Why would god care which hand you wipe your ass with? If god’s goal was creation, I can see why he might want men spreading their seed among women. The book attributed to his authorship forbids men to lay with men as they would with women. I still haven’t found the part where women shouldn’t do the same. That’s probably because god’s male superiority pep squad ghostwriting the book didn’t give two s***s what women did as long as they cooked, cleaned, satisfied men’s other needs, and popped out babies.

Okay, so maybe I have a poor opinion of men, but I haven’t always found them to be very reliable, or smart, or useful. There are exceptions, but they are so few and far between. Sorry dad, but I really don’t see much hope for your entire sex. I have heard that some scientists have found that the male y chromosome is shrinking and at some point will become in-viable. What would the world be like if there were only women. Put aside the thought that without men there would be no babies, by that time we will have found a way around that. I have heard that some scientists are trying to turn women’s cells into sperm. Hmm… I am not so naive as to think that it would mean the end to war or other conflict. I know women. We can be passive aggressive bitches. Imagine that a passive aggressive war full of talking behind your enemy’s back, pulling hair and sabotage. It could be more vicious and insidious than a male war. It wouldn’t have clear sides, just complicated chains of violence. Females can be aggressive aggressive too, don’t think we aren’t. For example, Black Friday Sales...’nuff said.

I don’t know why, but I find the female form more attractive. Males are all hard edges and scruffy stubble. Women are soft, smooth, soothing. I can’t even begin to understand the clockwork gears grinding within a man’s skull. I can see and feel the thoughts of other women on their faces, in their voices, the way they stand, sit or move. Women are not transparent though. Somehow we are totally open yet keep our own sense of mysteries. I barely understand myself. I have been slow in coming to that understanding.

When I was young, I had male friends and female ones. The boys shared many of my interests, superheroes, spies, dinosaurs. We had much to talk about at first. But I would still rather spend time with other girls. My best friends were always other girls. I clearly remember coming back to school for first grade and feeling hurt and annoyed it was no longer acceptable to hold hands with my female friends. Somehow over the summer, holding hands had taken on a different meaning for them, or rather her. I only ever really had one real friend at a time. I felt strongly about her, and jealously guarded the time we spent together. It was a painful insult when she wanted to spend time with another person, female, or one of the boys she secretly giggled at me about. I didn’t always understand their obsession with fashion, makeup, music and certainly not boys. They would get all giggly and bubbly talking about who they thought was cute and why… I felt the same bubbly lightheaded feeling about them. I didn’t want to be popular, I wanted to be physically close to the pretty girls, the mean girls. I know none of them understood, really understood how I felt about them. God knows I did not.

Speaking of god, my first understanding of human sexuality was colored by the absolute certainty that girls were not supposed to “like” girls and boys should not “like” boys. God would rain down fire and brimstone and hells beyond imagination on the stupid boy or girl to cross that line. I had a very good imagination so something beyond it was terrifying in the extreme. I absolutely one hundred and fifty thousand percent could not, would not, did not “like” girls in that way. I did not want to make god mad. I prayed the sinner’s prayer dozens of times fervently by the time I was eight, usually after spending time with my best friend. I didn’t know why I felt so guilty, or afraid, but there it was. My unconscious preferences warring with my conscience yelling it should not be so.

I hit puberty and it hit back, about forty pounds in six months worth of hitting. My hormones treated me to migraines and menstrual cramps so bad that I couldn’t stand standing up for several days per month. Worse, my father and mother fell apart around that time. He went one way and mother tried to stay and pick up the pieces. So aside from not having the right romantic feelings for men, I actively hated them because they were the species that had abandoned me to being half child and half parent to my younger sister while my mother struggled to keep us afloat. She settled into a typical male profession. She would come home from the construction site, crack open a beer and regale me with the bawdy sexist jokes of her male coworkers. I became adept at twisting them on their ear and sending my mother back to work armed with pithy comebacks and inappropriate jokes of her own. This period soured me on men even more. How dare they joke about the inferiority of my sex they were not capable of bearing children, and were nearly incompetent at raising them if my absentee father was any example.

Despite that history, I tried, desperately to shove and cajole my romantic interests into the right direction. I had a boyfriend in middle school, long enough for him to try to grope me. That was when I slapped him and decided high school or college was soon enough to date. High school rolled around and I “dated” a developmentally delayed older student. He was safe. We talked, and we hung out at lunch, but we didn’t once go out on an actual date. Then somehow he graduated. After my freshman year, my mother lost the fight to keep our house, and we moved miles away beyond the view of the ever present Rocky Mountains which had been my silent compass pointing west my whole life. I ached for lack of them. In the pod peopled town where blonde haired blue eyed future farmers of America were the majority, and as a brunette I was as much a minority as the singular African American boy rumors said was being bussed in because he was a gang member.

It was hell. I cleaned garbage from my locker morning, noon and night. Whispers and laughter followed me. They hated me, and I hated them. Not even the girls turned my head. I kept that head down for two months before I dropped out and watched cooking shows. Before the next school year we had been evicted and moved back towards the mountains again. That re-centered my compass. The school I ended up at was soothingly accepting of everyone, including people with forbidden interests in the same sex. I continued to deny being among them. I was too afraid of brimstone to act otherwise. It was an unnatural impulse, what animals ever mated with the wrong gender?

In the closet from myself I kept my head down and graduated from high school. My mother gave me a year to find myself. Then I was sworn to join the workforce or go to college. A year passed, failing at telemarketing I enrolled at community college. I had a nearly perfect grade point average and a perfect attendance record when a little old lady rear ended our car and my life went to s***. I ended up with a concussion and debilitating migraines. My mother was injured too badly to work. We lost even more including a dog I raised from an un-weaned puppy, almost everything. We spent six months in a homeless shelter. We finally found a place and I maxed out the credits I could earn on financial aid, and would have needed to decide on a degree or a four year college, instead we moved four and a half hours east to the intolerant state of Nebraska, a great place for a sexually confused youth.

We lived in a small town for ten years. Some of that time we were surviving on $400 per month plus food stamps. The four hundred almost covered, house payment, utilities, taxes and insurance. That was back before they put food stamps on a card. I was pretty good at spending the paper food stamps so we ended up with actual coin change. That is what I bought shampoo and toilet paper with. It was tight but we were on our way to owning the home. The man we bought it from was the town banker and he was willing to gamble on us getting a large settlement from the car accident. He sold us the house for two hundred dollar house payments to end with a lump sum balloon payment when the insurance settlement came through. Once we got the settlement it ended up that all together we paid like twenty thousand for the house. Needless to say that meant it needed a lot of work, but it was cheap and it allowed pets. There is a theme there...just thought I would point it out.

We had three dogs, Ginny the Pooh, Frieda-nater, and Cindersue. After loosing the dog I raised from a puppy, wishful thinking had me visiting animal shelters looking for her. I hoped she would be one of those amazing dogs that ran away from the people who adopted her, and she would somehow find me Five hours away from where she last saw me. I was at the animal shelter when I met a dirty mop-head of a dog named Muffy. Muffy was in a sorry state. Her hair was practically rastifarian when we met. Her eyes screamed please don’t beat me, at least what I could see of them. I volunteered to bathe and groom her in the hopes she would find a home. I was gentle. She shook the whole time, flinching every time I moved more than a millimeter. I found her eyes. They were liquid pools of love and testified to a life of abuse. When I was done with her she looked physically healthy, if very thin. I left her there, for a week. The shelter called me on the eighth day, they had an incoming load of puppies, her time was up. Either I come rescue her or...ashes to ashes. Muffy moved into our house by noon, and lived under the living room chair for the first week. She only came out when no one was looking. I let her be. After a week of that I began offering her treats to get her to poke her head out from underneath. After a month she would lay halfway out from under the chair. She stared at us constantly. If we moved too fast she would dart back under. Over time her personality opened like a flower. Muffy was a truly beautiful soul. All she ever went through taught her to be kind. She only did unto others as she would be treated. Cinder Sue was her big sister and best friend. They were inseparable. Muffy was a Shih Tsu… something mix. Cinder was a terror, I mean a terrier mix. Together they were trouble walking. Muffy depended on Cinders. Cinder depended on no one. She could even handle her “special feelings” on her own, no male dog needed there. She spent a great deal of time at it. She was either quite good at it or quite bad. Though from the panting and smiling she did when she was done…

Mother went blind in one eye, cataracts. She bounced off of doorways and couldn’t drive. She wasn’t even able to handle the odd jobs she had been doing. For once church actually was a blessing, our small congregation pulled together the funds she needed to get the surgery to see again. God was on our side clearly, even if our dog masturbated. Okay so maybe sex itself was not evil. Another memory attached to that church and Pastor Dan was his sermon one year, it was the week before April fools, and the sermon was “This too shall pass.” God is an ironic comedian, April 1 of that year I was in the ER for severe abdominal pain, the punchline was a kidney stone. The doctor’s prognosis, “Don’t worry, it will pass.” Really funny god, it’s a good one...painful in the extreme, but funny. After that what I remember of that church was watching Pastor Dan die from cancer. That was not funny.

Mom applied for disability based on her back and her diagnosis of COPD. Social security checked out her back and denied her. She shrugged it off and became a dishwasher for Pizza Hut. Cool beans, free pizza, it wore her down. She ended up with repetitive cases of pneumonia. Finally her doctor noticed her standing pulse oxygen reading was in the 85% range. He asked her why she wasn’t on social security disability. He sent in her records. Mom reapplied. This time they looked her over for breathing difficulties. Not only did they approve her disability, but they took it back to the date of her original application. Eight thousand dollars landed in our lap at once with the instructions to spend it quick or her benefits would be cut. We spent money like crazy. She went blind in the other eye, but this time medicare and medicaid picked up the tab.

Out of the blue, mom’s uncle made her co-beneficiary to his annuity. We got an extra two hundred dollars a month. I went back to school and was clearing fifteen hundred in financial aid after tuition, fees, books and materials. After living on less than seven hundred per month including food stamps, suddenly we had more money than Trump, or that was how it felt. Whatever crap we had been stuck in so long had finally passed. That was when god sent me a warning. My health and life were at stake. Cinder Sue developed diabetes and was dead within a month of diagnosis. We were all devastated, none more than Muffy. She retreated under the chair again.

What warning? How did that apply to me? Well it taught me how serious diabetes could be. Two months later my doctor was running blood work and threw in a blood glucose test just to be thorough. My blood sugar was over four hundred, one hundred is normal. Wham! I am diabetic. Holy crap! I listened to and followed all directions I was given. I spent weeks in a class to teach me how to eat, exercise and live. I checked my sugars I took my pills. I got things under control. I am sure to this day that Cinder was a warning meant for me.

Physically healthy for the first time in a while, my mental health deteriorated. I had never actually been in good mental health. How could I be, my base impulses and attractions were fundamentally wrong from my assigned world view? I was bad to the core… How could I feel good about myself or anything else. I came very close to hurting myself. The only thing that stopped me… My mother laying down on the railroad tracks to kill herself. She was tired of struggling. I knew if something happened to her Muffy would have no one. And I knew if I weren’t here to pull her off the tracks, something would happen to my mother. Okay, grudgingly I hung in. I ended up on medication, but I wasn’t just depressed. I was bipolar, yes, manic depression. An imbalance of the humors. Except it was not really so simple. I wasn’t just depressed or just manic. I could be up, and running for days without sleep, mind racing impulsively, and crying my eyes out and wishing never to wake up again at the same time. Antidepressants alone were not helping. I tried lithium. I didn’t tolerate lithium. I ran through a library of medications. Most would work for a while, then… not. I was in a day program meant to get me functioning. I met a man. He was everything I as a little girl thought I should marry, down to his last name starting with the same letter and him being a Jr. like me. Again I desperately tried to be attracted to him. I spent the night at his house, in his sister’s bedroom, alone. We kissed. It was like kissing a potato. Holding his hand was like holding a banana peel. Only I was much more attracted to food than I was to him. We were good friends, but that was really more than I wanted from him.

That is when I decided I was asexual, or at least self servicing like Cinders had been. I let it go at that and joined the national honor society in college. Then I graduated having majored in fine arts. I took like six semesters of ceramics in the end, as well as sculpture and painting. My sculptures had a tendency towards a definitely feminine shape. I found it inexcusably satisfying to slide my hands over female-like curves. I never painted or drew a nude, for class. I did imagine the activity a bit, but my visualization and sketches were never of a man’s junk. As far as I care “junk” is all they have. I harassed myself slightly less over those thoughts since they were in the name of art.

At home, my mother got worse. I found an ad for purebred dachshund puppies for only a hundred dollars. I love wiener dogs. I adopted one named Ashely, and later my mother later got one named Tinker. Both were female. Muffy found them uninteresting and began coming out of her shell as an individual. Ginger was by that time rather elderly and didn’t last long into Ashley’s puppyhood. I dug her grave in the backyard by myself, crying over losing her and over the last hope of finding the dog I had lost. Ginger was five years younger than Sofluffy my wonder pup. Ashley’s presence was slightly soothing at the time and watching her mature was comical enough that I survived. She reached puberty and went into heat. She so wanted to be a mother. It wasn’t hard to see, she bathed, fed and watered her favorite toy, Bunny. She took Bunny everywhere. It did not take someone intuitive to see she wanted a real baby. I tried to find her a boyfriend, to no luck. Not a one of them really interested her, though she kept attempting to get Tinker Toy to tickle her fancy. She would show Tinker what she wanted, mounting her briefly, then she would hop down and run around front and try to shove her tail end beneath her very confused, “sister.” If I hadn’t known better I would have thought her a lesbian. But that could never be… Animals were never, that way. God despised homosexuals, didn’t he? Why would he allow them to… No I was just mistaken and confused. Frieda-nater, our dalmatian didn’t last much longer than Ginger. I buried her too. After some more drama my depression landed me on SSI, I finally had money of my own.

Then my life went to s*** again. My mother, the one loving constant in my life, ended up on a ventilator. The local hospital was unprepared for long-term care. So we moved another four and a half hours further east. Or rather she did. As her medical power of attorney, I just commuted. That meant lots and lots of Xanax. Ever since the car accident time spent in vehicles set me into panic attacks regularly. For four months I commuted back and forth. Then when it was determined that there was no way she could return home on a ventilator; I spent two solid months sleeping in a recliner in her nursing home room, learning how to take care of her while her care coordinator arranged a wheelchair accessible apartment for us in town. I used their occupational therapy laundry for my clothes and the staff shower downstairs.

Staff shower, the room had a smooth concrete floor. It was slick enough to sell insurance when it was dry and potentially deadly when it was wet. Follow me here, it was a place to take showers. You know the process of stepping into a booth to let water and soap run over you. Then dripping wet you exited and dried off before dressing. Do you see the flaw? I did not until I ended up staring at the ceiling from a prone position. My ass hurt. I tried to walk it off. I could not sit. I could not stand. I had no bed to lay down on. Finally, I had to go to my mother’s care coordinator to find a way to get to a doctor. She said it wasn’t possible, the nursing home couldn’t find me transportation.

Finally I made her understand how bad the pain in my ass was. It was even worse than her… She arranged for one of the handivans to take me to an urgent care clinic in a supermarket, yes, a supermarket, not the ER, not an actual doctor, a nurse practitioner in a clinic within the square footage of a discount supermarket. Fortunately, the nurse practitioner was smarter and saner than the care coordinator. She took one look at me and directed the handivan driver to take me to the ER. After several hours and many x-rays. The emergency room doctor sent me back to the nursing home with the suggestion of ibuprofen because, he in all the wisdom of his degree insisted I was fine, I had just bruised my ass. For the record three hours later the hospital called me on my pay as you go cellphone to tell me the x-ray tech had discovered my tailbone was cracked clean through and that they would have a prescription for pain pills waiting at the pharmacy of my choice. The care coordinator did a one eighty and bent over backwards getting them to me.

Next came the news, we had an apartment, but one of our dogs could not come. I had left Muffy, Ashley and Tinker in the care of a friend. She adored Muffy, and had taken her to the vet several times to deal with arthritis in her hind legs. After two months away, I returned home to her to decide which dog would need to find a new home. Disaster of disasters, Muffy was a shadow of her former self. She could barely get around and her enthusiasm for life was gone. I had decided that one of the younger dogs would find a new home because I felt Muffy would not survive rehoming, but it had become time to say goodbye for other reasons. None of the medication the vet had given her was helping her. It was time for her to join Ginger and Frieda. I had to take her to the vet for the final time without my mother’s support. Honestly I don’t know how it didn’t kill me too.

In addition to Muffy I had to say goodbye to most of my possessions, there was not room in the tiny trailer I could afford for the move and there would be no more room in the two bedroom apartment. I left my house thinking it would just be for a time, until my mother passed. Then I would return to a suddenly empty home. It was not to be though. With both of us on government aid, including rental assistance for the apartment, neither of us could afford to own an empty home. We had to give it up. We signed it over to my sister. Instead of an inheritance of the other half of the house, two cars and everything in them, when my mother died I could only look forward to moving into my sister’s household. And what did I gain after all of that? Mom came home to the apartment for two and a half days. Then she went into respiratory arrest. She had to be resuscitated in the ambulance. Her kidneys failed she was on dialysis for a week, until they rebounded almost to where they had been. When my mother woke up and could speak she begged me to sign a DNR. That stands for do not resuscitate, aka let her die. I hadn’t uprooted myself and moved my world across an entire state I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be in to watch her die. Had I? Apparently that is what I had signed on for. At that point she would have understood if I went back home. The problem was that place was only a building. My home was, and I had thought always would be, where she was. Thankfully foresight had me transfer to a day program near the new apartment. There were days where the only thing that kept me getting out of bed was the expectation I would either go there or to spend time with my mother.

Little did I know that the day program was a source of joy for the rest of my life. I moved through my days like a robot girl scout. With my purse I was always prepared. I even had a little kitchen sink key chain. My purse and my assigned work station on the organization’s newsletter conspired to keep me breathing, even to quicken my breath. There was a national mental health conference I had received a scholarship to attend before my mother went on the ventilator. It was in Omaha. This wasn’t an important point except that other people at my new day program had received scholarships as well. The important point is that one of the women needed business cards and a purse to carry them in. She happened to be assigned to the newsletter as well. I had shown off the business cards I had designed and printed for myself to our staff supervisor. She made the connection. I had cards, I had purses. The next thing I knew she was introducing us. My first look at her was a cloud parting kind of moment. I didn’t even hear the staff telling me what she wanted of me. I had to rewind the conversation in my head when it became clear some request had been made. The woman seemed as dumbstruck as I was. Yes, yes of course I have a purse she could borrow, I have dozens. Yes, yes of course I can help her with business cards. Uh how about tonight! Aha! I had offered the woman an invitation, at the time I just thought it was a way to spend some of my long lonely hours less alone.

Doubt flared and tore at me when she didn’t agree within a measured breath. So I held my breath. The prospect of spending time with this person in particular excited me. She smiled and beauty touched that small place within where my real interests lay. I nearly retracted the invitation my reaction was so strong. Fire! Brimstone! Her eyes twinkled behind her glasses, to hell with hell! When she said sure I breathed again. I offered her dinner too, so she would stay longer, she accepted. Was this a date? No! I could not, should not, would not cross that line! We might just become friends, yes friends was okay wasn’t it. Surely I only wanted her around because I was lonely and needed a friend. My private place of special feeling was not, would not, could not be tingling. No, just friends!

I don’t remember the rest of the day. I was too busy anticipating. Then I made the trek home, by bus and by foot. I warmed up my computer and laid my purse collection out on the couch. Then I paced from the door to the couch, not a long distance, waiting for a knock. I wasn’t sure she would come. She arrived with a smile. I think I had one too, though the idea of smiling was foreign to me. What did I have to smile about my mother was dying and I was practically indigent, but I had purses. Thank you god for nudging me into bringing so many! No! God would never do such a thing! God would never do something that would cause me to feel like that! Fire! Brimstone! Fire! Brimstone! Hells beyond imagination! But, Ashley had feelings like that…

The woman chose a pink camouflage purse. I thought I liked her already. I offered her pizza, with toppings of her choice. She asked where I liked to order from. I was about to rock her world. I pulled a package of pizza crusts from the fridge, along with cheese and pepperoni. I extracted a can of tomato sauce from the pantry. Then apparently I worked magic because soon custom pizzas were baking in the oven. She actually asked where I learned to make pizza from scratch. I laughed and flippantly told her this wasn’t from scratch, when I did that I made the dough for the crust. I managed to burn her pizza but she politely ate it like it was ambrosia. Then we sat until I realized I was staring at her across my folding kitchen table. Time to get on task. I took her to my computer and helped her design her business cards. I had put a picture on mine so I helped her put one on hers. She friended me on facebook so I could use one of her self portraits from her profile on the card. I had a friend! A girl, friend. Stop it now! Fire! Brimstone! FIRE! BRIMSTONE! I printed her cards on cardstock and cut them out then we laminated them with packing tape. It wasn’t even six thirty. Monopoly! Let’s play monopoly! I let her win it was a short game, Lord of the Rings version using the one ring rule. We watched a little TV. I have no idea what we watched, or rather she watched. I watched her. Fire… Ashley leaped into her arms. She bled all over her, that’s how I discovered she was in heat again. I apologized profusely and loaned her an Eeyore sweatshirt to wear home, while I got the blood out of her sweatshirt. Home, that was the sticking point, she would have to go home. I offered to let her spend the night. I had a blow up mattress… She bowed out, her mom was coming to pick her up. I was crushed, but managed not to show it, until the words, “Maybe some other time?”

Yes! YESS! Definitely there would have to be another time. How about tomorrow? No wait! I have to visit mom tomorrow, Friday? She nodded, we sat and talked. I felt like she bared her soul to me. She had mental illness, bipolar, like me. She had attempted to self medicate and ended up in rehab. She had been a bad girl and done things she was not proud of. I didn’t care. I didn’t really see any red flags. My main sticking point was that I shouldn’t like her this much. I told her what I was going through what had happened in my life, except my personal confusion and conflict. I just talked about the fluffy stuff, my parents divorce, the homeless shelter, my mother was dying. Then her mother arrived. Ashley was a jumper she tried to steal a hug goodbye. I put her back down and walked Her to the door. I might have walked her further, but my heart caught in my throat when she crossed the threshold and in my memory there is nothing until I saw her again that Friday. Friday, she came over and my heart started again. We played games, we talked we ate I don’t remember what but I cooked it from scratch. What a fine beginning. From there she was over more than she was not. Her grandfather drove us both to the day program and took on taking me to visit with my mother at the home. No more hour-long bus rides with a shopping tote on wheels. He dropped me off at the door…

I went to the conference with my prearranged ride and searched her out the moment I arrived. We were inseparable. My assigned roommate was bumped from attendance for an unruly emotional support animal. I never saw her. My friend’s roommate never showed. I almost joined her in her room, but there was no real reason to. I had a posh hotel room to myself. I did hang out with her. I actually remember little about the conference except when it involved her. I remember a discussion she had with another woman about an LGBTQ meeting one evening. She asked if I wanted to go. I understood it had to do with “inappropriate” affections, but instead of brimstone and fire I just considered it curious. Why would she go to something like that. I didn’t go, I went to my room instead. I don’t remember for sure if she went. It was somewhere around midnight when the electric possibility that she might like other girls practically startled me awake… what no fire? No brimstone? Ashley liked Tinker? Could it be all bad? Fire, Brimstone, Hells beyond imagination… I let it go.

We took the hotel’s courtesy shuttle to Walgreens and Burger King, in a less than savory neighborhood in Omaha. We bought butterfly wings and body glitter for costumes to wear to the Halloween party. I was more scared about how I felt about her than our actual physical safety. I was ignorant as to how dangerous our situation was. We made it back to the hotel without incident. No, wait we did witness a verbal battle between a woman and a man who was possibly her pimp? But we were fine. We went to the party together and I had fun at a party for the first time. The rest of the conference was a blur.

About a month later, when she went home again for more clothes, her mother pointed out that she had moved in with me. That tidbit came as a total surprise to us both, but counting the nights she had gone home to sleep on one hand told us both her mother had a point. The next morning by chance I actually looked at myself in the mirror. There was a foreign expression on my face. I believe it is called a smile. My mother was dying, and I was smiling? My thoughts wandered back over the last month. Despite my mother’s condition getting no better, I think I might actually have been… Happy? I analyzed it. Aside from the first night I hadn’t really concerned myself about the nature of my feelings. I waited for the fire, the brimstone. My conscience echoed with crickets.

A short time after that morning, perhaps within a few days we decided to ditch the crappy lunch provided by the day program and crossed the street to Village Inn. I was buying. She had no income. We got a lovely table and sat across from each other. We waited and ordered I do not remember what. What I do remember like a lightning bolt is what happened as we waited for our drinks. I stared at her like I did so much of the time. She glanced over the rim of her glasses at me and smiled at something I had been saying. It was electric, instinctual, beyond my control. I blurted out a loud non sequitur , “I LOVE YOU!” FIRE!!! BRIMSTONE!!! HELLS BEYOND MEASURE OR IMAGINATION!!! Fix it stupid! Before she gets the right idea! Uh Um… , “Like a sister?” Yeah that will work, “Like the sister I wanted, not the one that I got.” God, I hope she didn’t notice the red spreading hotly across my cheeks or read the lie in my eyes. I don’t remember the rest of the meal. I could have eaten tripe and hairy lamb’s balls for all I know. This was big.

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