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Jul. 30th, 2012

cathedral
It's been a day or three since I've seen thee, LJ.

My car broke down again today. Since I've been here...just in this new apartment (we just celebrated our 1 year anniversary as residents of Roswell Avenue), I've had my car towed twice and had it completely unresponsive in the parking lot of a Pep Boys. I was trying to replace the battery. No no...it's the alternator that needs doin'.

The first time I had it towed, a couple of months after the alternator, it was the starter. And getting that sucker down from the 6th floor of the parking garage at a mall...I don't even want to begin to remember. At least it was winter. Or as "winter" as it gets here. I think I wore a sweatshirt the day I had to walk the mile between work and the mechanic and I broke a sweat.

That was a few months back, obviously. And the past couple of months it's been making a high-pitched whine while I'm accelerating. Initially I figured it was the transmission, but people kind of shrugged when they were in my car. "Oh, I didn't even hear it," as I turn down the a/c and lower the radio. More than once it was suggested that a belt might be slightly out of place.

Today I found out it was the flexplate. A hard-to-reach part of the automatic transmission that isn't very expensive as far as parts go. But the labor on the goddamned thing...that's a different story altogether.

I've had this car for 12 years. It's seen me through a few boyfriends and taken me to all four points of the compass in the US. Do I just fork over the almost-$800 for the third time in a year? Or do I start shopping?

Looks like both, at the moment.

Dec. 29th, 2011

cathedral
I was due to move in just over a week. My last trip home included a drive up to visit my extended family in southern Ohio, primarily my grandmother, Genie. I was aware that by moving a couple thousand miles away that I would likely miss one of the most important events of a person's life - the completion of it.

We drove up and back in the same day. We left the "town" portion of Jackson and drifted along a winding, hilly road to where my aunt Pat would be living. They were going to build a separate dwelling for the dogs so they could live outside. Off of that road, we took another. Back, further away from houses and street lights. Putting distance between us and commerce. A small cemetery appeared at the top of a hill to our right. We turned and pulled in, stopping to look at names and dates. The makeshift path, worn from tire tracks similar to our own, didn't turn left or right at the end. We had to reverse in order to leave the same way we came in, the names and dates playing back. I snapped a few pictures as my grandmother mumbled names, tracing family lines...guessing if anyone was familiar.

We've spoken a handful of times since I've been out here, always with the intention and promise of talking more. The last few phone conversations were while she was in a hospital bed. We spoke on Thanksgiving and less than a week later she entered the hospital, her stomach swollen with the black fluid from necrotic tissue in her intestines. She kept repeating that she was not a candidate for surgery. They invaded anyway. The prognosis was good. Then she had a heart attack while recovering. She coded and was given the paddles three times. A DNR was stamped onto her chart. They'll only use the paddles on patients who will live for at least 18 more months and it was increasingly apparent that she wasn't a part of that demographic.

She finally stabilized. The medicines were stopped and the breathing tubes removed. Fluid had been building up in her lungs, but she was breathing on her own...albeit laboredly. We spoke twice in the days before she died. I waited until visiting hours were over because I knew they were taking shifts to stay with her for every available moment. I'm not one of those people trying to squeeze every moment in. Instead, our conversations were about continuing to not say the things we had never said to each other, but that we both understood. She chuckled as she asked how "Steve" was...even though she knew his name was Phillip. We talked about clocks and things being expensive and accidentally walking out of a store with a bag full of someone else's ethnic holiday decorations. She asked me not to write any embarrassing stories about her while she was still alive. Not for her sake, but for the sake of people who might be walking with her in the event that she is recognized and they are paralyzed with embarrassment.

We said goodbye without saying goodbye. She said she was ready without saying she was ready. I said I was sorry without saying I was sorry. We told each other not to be sad without telling each other not to be sad.

My mother called me three hours after she found out at 5am by her clock, which happened to be 5am by my clock. The barrier or imaginary time zones torn down as 5am became a mysterious time for us all. She had gone peacefully. There were no signs of struggle or fear. They had checked on her at 4am - when she was breathing, and again at 5am - when she was not.

Late in life, she realized how much of a BeeGees fan she was. CDs were collected for her. DVDs were bought. She became a teenager again, even though well into her 70s. The energy in her speech and her step changed when the conversation turned toward those brothers Gibb. She laughed, she smiled, and apparently she partied. My uncle went to her apartment in the assisted living building where she'd lived since shortly after my grandfather died 20 years ago. Almost 20 years she'd lived there, but it was not her "home" in my eyes. He ran into a woman who was friends with Genie. She told him about how she had slumber parties of sorts with my grandmother. Three women, two of them with the same purple pajamas, would gather on occasion to blast the BeeGees and sing and dance and eat late at night. This was news to us all, but no surprise.

Despite the arthritis and the hip and the catheters and bruises and the balance problems and the medications and the depression...she had joy.

It was a comfort.

I am the sun.

hearton


and the air

 

I was making toast earlier when I realized how pleasant the heat was, despite how hot the air has been lately.  It's when the air is cold that we enjoy high temperatures, and when the air is hot that we are drawn to a chill.

 

Do we, as people need this duality? And am I, as a person, in danger of not being wanted for remaining as lukewarm as possible?

Posted via LiveJournal app for Android.

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Aug. 11th, 2011

babyme
I know we all die, but it seems like everyone is dying. In the present.

When we drove over to pick up the deposit check for our last apartment (we've recently moved a couple miles away into an apartment with twice the space) our neighbor directly across the courtyard had died. It was one of those situations where everyone was waiting for it. He was old. He was sick. But out of all the times that he's looked as if "today might be the day", he seemed to have been gaining strength and fire lately. Then suddenly, in his boxers, on his couch...that fire went out. They asked if I wanted to see the body - the van was on its way to collect him. I didn't. From the porch of our old apartment, I could see his legs outstretched. That was enough. He had no family. No family that wanted anything to do with him, that is. Within hours, he was cremated and his few belongings had been liquidated.

He used to stand in the door with his phone on speaker and talk so everyone could hear. He'd purposefully miss appointments so that someone would have to call and reschedule and he'd have someone to talk to. He would try to get my dog's attention from across the way. He'd suddenly appear as people were walking by and stop them for a few minutes to talk about the latest gossip. He was obsessed with the ships, so living in a port town was perfect for him. He always talked about which cruises he was going to take and with who. He talked about his ex boyfriend. He threatened to call the police for everything, if something bothered him (like his ex boyfriend). I listened longer than most because I knew he was lonely. It was all trivial. Nothing intimate...although he rarely had any sort of filter.

But he's gone. I don't really feel that absence. Most of my days at home were spent making sure I had shorts on and that the sheers were pulled closed so he couldn't see me walking around and come over to talk through my screen door. It was only in the last few months that he would hobble across the three feet of gravel and up my stairs to gossip. I felt him reaching, but with someone that close to leaving...I couldn't invest. I was polite and involved...but not invested.

Lorie sent me a text message the other day that she found Daphne that morning. She also wasn't going to tell my mother until after work. I'm glad she told me. I feel I deserved to know. Daphers was my special girl. She liked to french kiss. No matter what, she always found a way to get her tongue into my mouth. She was an old woman and had been for a long time now, having been 11 or 13 or however old she was. And the expectation was there, but it doesn't take the sting away when it finally happens.

She peed on me once. I'd been sitting on the edge of the chaise at my parents' house, talking to everyone sitting at the kitchen table and she just kept leaning against me. She loved me, so it wasn't unusual. Dogs lean on people as a show of affection. She readjusted herself a few times, but nothing odd. Nothing that prepared me for the warmth streaming down my back, soaking my shirt. Horror. Eyes wide. "I think she just peed on me." A flurry of chairs, laughter, shouts of "nuh-uh!", and more laughter. I think we're still laughing. She meant well, I'm sure, because her little nub of a tail was working overtime and there was no apology in her eyes or the position of her ears. I was hers and she was just telling everyone. Dogsitting for them was always fun. Poor Daphne had to adjust for all of Baxter's sins, but she took everything in stride...without complaint. A beautiful dog. A compliant dog. An agreeable dog. A loveable dog. The kind of dog everyone would hope to have, but is so cosmically perfect that the planets align only once every so many years to bind that sort of spirit to a four-legged-creature one at a time. It's someone else's turn now.

Someone near-and-dear, but not close enough lost her brother recently. I liked her brother and I love her, but knew neither of them well enough as I would have liked. She offered me the use of her van when I was leaving my first apartment at the age of 20 for infidelity reasons. My heart had been broken and the mortician came to help me out of that situation in one afternoon. She rescued me. There's never been anything I could do in return to let her know how much that meant to me. Now her brother has lost a long, long battle against his body. He's at peace, and I know her profession has prepared her for recognizing everything she has to go through...but I couldn't imagine. I can't.

I have some strange recognition and sympathy for watery graves. It's different than any other death and my mind desperately tries to connect to it. It's a strange feeling of electricity from inside unused parts of my brain that are activated out of fear. Add to that a child and my body isn't capable of containing the sorrow. A child of only two small years. A child coming into recognition of the world around them. Since I moved there, I felt oppressed...like there was a shadow hanging over the entire city. There were amazing people and beautiful things happening there, but like some ancient Indian burial ground...there was revenge as well. It was as if the laws of even exchange were at work, taking the cost of better things elsewhere from this one place. I still haven't reconciled this in my head and have no idea what to say - what's appropriate, what's selfish, what's helpful.

And on and on.

Then there are the deaths that aren't physical creatures. Death of thoughts, ideas, emotions. Death of intentions. Death of plans. Death of self. Death of creativity. Death of connection. Death of admiration.

Of all things in this realm, the one thing that will never die is Death.

Hopefully those even exchanges mean rebirth is on the horizon.

May. 27th, 2011

babyme
A few inky impressions pressed into paper and complete dissolution.

There was a time, probably fifteen years ago, when I told my mother she needed to divorce my father. At that point I still held a lot of animosity and blame toward him for everything that had been happening to my family. Leaving home and dealing with my own relationships, however...I started to understand him. I still see him as the primary responsibility-holder for many things, but I don't blame him anymore.

No one's perfect. No one should claim to be, either.

Not that anyone is.

He's made a lot of mistakes. He's taken the lower road or the worst possible path on more than a handful of occasions. If anything, he's a chronic bad decision maker in addition to an addict. But at some point I saw that his intentions were whta some might interpret as "noble", at least. But how could he keep making the same detrimental mistakes over and over, expecting different outcomes? Easily, in fact. It's the mentality of an addict: "just one more...THIS time will be different...the odds are in my favor...it'll make up for everything...we can all start over...we deserve this...we've suffered enough..."

But he never meant for any of this to happen. He always had "us" as his motivation. Cheap excuses for bad behavor? Nah...I believe it. There was no malice or disregard. Quite the opposite. He just wasn't equipped with the filters and sense most of us have. He's easily duped by grandiose dreams of an easy life...despite being one of the hardest working men I know. Labor isn't anything he's ever shied away from. He worked hard, hoping that one day he wouldn't have to any more. He's exhausted. He's searching for a way out. He's not very creative.

Somewhere in between then and now, though...I changed my mind. I understand my mother's anger. I understand her feelings of betrayal. I understand the sadness. I understand the defense mechanisms. I understand because it was familiar to be as I was entering adulthood. I tried pleading with her back then, telling her not to be fooled by the attempts he was making at doing what she wanted (going to church every week, doing minor fix-it projects around the house, etc)...but she was hopeful. I think I might have broken her heart at some point around there, trying to tell her I didn't believe him. That he was following a script. That he was playing a role.

And he was.

He's good at that. He has no idea how to do what genuinely makes him happy. He distracts himself instead. He always has. Crossword puzzles, whiskey, the casino, lottery tickets, pot, pills. All distractionary. He's not sure about himself enough to be able to formulate a life for himself. He's too busy trying to be someone people like...too busy trying to make people happy. In the background was all this stuff that was designed to give himself a mental break. Some of it was out in the open...the rest was behind closed doors, in cars or just away from home in general.

He is responsible for a lot. He's hurt us countless times. He's not perfect, by any means. But I don't believe he was ever malicious in any of it.

I love my dad. More now, probably, than ever before. I know he loves me. And he accepts me (which was difficult for him).

I know what to expect from him. I know what to trust him with. I also know what not to expect and what not to trust. I know him better than he knows himself becuase I have no needs from him. He was never able to fulfill the role I had as a child and his reaction to me coming out destroyed my need for that particular archetype. I stopped being disappointed. I stopped being scared. I stopped being unfulfilled.

When she asked what I thought she should do, I couldn't tell her. I had already rescinded my pleas for her to leave. I had come full circle and realized that as long as she could stop having those expectations as well, and instead trust him for what we DO know and understand...that they could do this. And that they probably needed to. But it's not my relationship anymore. It's between them. It's for them to learn from and grow from. I can only observer. As I try not to do when friends break up...I won't pick sides or say who's right or what should happen. I'm just here if they need me.

But at what point do I get to be part of a broken home...just to get it out of my system?

The fact that the papers had been officially drawn up hurt me deeply, despite not being a family unit for quite some time. The discovery that the papers had been signed hurt even deeper because now something is different in the eyes of the child I truly am inside.

Even if in name only, the family I had was something that was holding us together. My brother stayed in Toledo when we left...that stretched the family in one direction. His family went into two different directions, which stretched it even further. My sister left home...that's another. I left...and then moved clear across the country a few years later...that pulled those bonds even thinner. And now this. It was hard enough, but understandable, with the two of them in different houses (only a few miles apart and still intertwined).

But that ink on that paper...I feel like the rubber bands have snapped. I'm braced for the sting of recoil as those bands make their way across Arizona and the Mojave.

At 33 years old, I feel a sudden need for my family, but there's nothing I can do about it. I fear for all the relationships I have and fight the desire to hide from them all.

May. 17th, 2011

hearton

I'm not used to editing as I type, but using an android phone to type...there's really no other option. My fat fingers are way too big to hit these tiny virtual keys accurately, and using swype comes up with some pretty funky predictive text. Hopefully I'll get better at it, though, because I miss keeping track of things this way.

When I sit down, the same old distractions and mental/emotional blocks jump up. But there are things I find myself dwelling on lately that need to be gotten out of my head. Random things that don't matter in the present.

Like the time Matt's voicemail glitched and started playing his saved messages while I was trying to leave him a new one. I got to hear Jimmy suggesting they go see a movie and what was playing when. Innocent enough, but he finished up with "i miss you". I didn't know who to talk to, so I called Dawn. She talked to me for probably fifteen or twenty minutes before passing the phone off to her roommate, Jeremy...who I found out later is the one who gave him crabs. We went back and forth a few times and I felt better at the end of it. I figured something was going on between Matt and Jimmy...i just wanted to be told the truth at this point, instead of being told that nothing was happening. After everything was said and done between us a few months later, I'd agreed to meet him at some point because he had a few things to get off of his chest. He told me then that he was sitting there at Dawn's apartment that night I'd called...with Jimmy.

I have no idea why I even started thinking about that. Something about cell phones and voicemail, I think. It just spiraled down to that particular memory and suddenly I could feel everything I felt the night I heard the message as well as everything I felt when I found out how many people were lying to me to protect him. I remember hating being someone who had lied at some point to protect him as well. I was embarrassed to have called for help as he was being harbored by the very people I was seeking support from. How disgusting I felt for knowing what I knew about jeremy. How disappointed I was for having to feel the way I felt at the hands of people I thought I loved and trusted.

But that was years ago and I'd made the appropriate forgivenesses in my head and heart. None of it matters today, but those emotions were just as raw and real.

And this is just one of many plaguing thoughts lately. The memory of these scars...that don't feel so much like memories.

So...write I will.

Posted via LiveJournal app for Android.

May. 3rd, 2011

babyme
I appear to have lost the ability to write.

There are so many things to say, but no words left to say them with. And would any of it matter, in any case?

Something tells me no.
Something tells me no.

The world is a funny place, ruled by headlines.
Don't tell me what to think anymore because I've lost the ability to think for myself.

I can't seem to get rid of him, despite his being gone and completely disconnected.
I'm still holding onto the fight that he installed in me. I'm still struggling against the things we haven't talked about for two years.
And it kills me. Slowly. Hatefully.

What do you do when you have no idea what to do? When there's no easy way to do anything?

For the first time in my life, I was feeling good about my body. I wasn't as ashamed of it as I typically had been. I'd been exercising every day. EVERY DAY. That was a rather large undertaking for me, seeing as how the most exercise I'd gotten up until the age of 13 was swimming. I hate "sports". I hate competing. I hate running. I hate sweating. I hate being sore. That, and everything I do, I do like a sissy...and I hate being made fun of. I didn't grow up somewhere progressive where I could just shrug my shoulders and say "oh well...get over it". I had to deal with it. I had to be talked about at churches and behind closed school doors.

I was wearing smaller jeans than I'd worn in high school. I was getting attention. I was feeling better. I was eating better. I was moving. And I met someone who'd been going to the gym and lost a ton of weight, too. He was still a little chubster, but the intent was there.

That all changed quickly. My attempts at exercise, within a month of living together, were met with interrogation about who I was working out to impress. I wasn't allowed to not be hungry or want to wait for a healthier option. I had to eat when he was hungry and I had to eat what he was hungry for, which usually consisted of fried food. I gave up that fight so quickly because I was tired of the competition. I can't believe I let it go on for so long. I can't believe I let it get as bad as it did. I tired to stifle the fight, to reduce resistance so it would be a smoother ride. The exact opposite happened. Everything snowballed. There is no other option but to snowball when you're on a downward slope.

He took a picture of me from behind, once, and then I saw it. It broke my heart. I was sitting at the desk and I didn't recognize myself. at all. Who was that lardass sitting there in front of the computer? Oh right...that's my shirt and my hat and my beard. That's me.

"Well, stop eating like that and start exercising again."

It's not that easy. I've come down quite a bit naturally, but it's going to take some work to get further. And I want to make that effort and go that extra step to being back where I feel good. But I have no idea where to get that energy from. He wore me out. He broke something in me. Something that can be fixed or replaced...but I'm still just so angry about all of it. So sad about all of it. So disappointed in myself for all of it.

It wasn't just avoiding his temper or his stupid rules when I caved in. I was punishing myself. I was so pissed at my lack of a spine, at how quickly I drank the kool-aid, at how much things had changed, at how my friendships were affected, at how my family life was affected, at how my life had become about doing everything for him...when he's the last person I should've done anything for.

There's still a ball of anger and bitterness and frustrtation sadness that's buried way down deep inside of me that I need to somehow expel or have surgically removed.

On that note, I have to go exercise and eat vegetables now.

RIP OLTL and AMC.

hearton
When we all went to our separate colleges after high school, I started writing silly stories about our little group of friends. We called it Days Of Our One Life of All Judy's Young & the Beautiful Children As Mt Washington Turns Without A Major Hospital. It's been QUITE some time since our stories have been revisited. With the passing of two of our namesakes, though, and just because sometimes I miss all those people...this is the beginning of a new chapter of our story. Don't read it because it's crap. But I cracked myself up writing it.

Without further ado:

When she closed the lid of her laptop, the only lights left in the room came from the seemingly endless columns of fountains and aquariums she had collected for her office. There was a rather large desk for her to sit at while working, but something about working from this soft, brown leather couch made this whole arrangement less official. Less formal.

She brought the fish and fountains because the mere idea of them soothed her. For all those years, while her now-ex-husband had been polluting her brain with various narcotics and psychotics to make everyone around her think she was crazy, the only time she felt safe was in the water. Baths, pools, oceans; it didn't matter. The idea of a freedom from gravity while slipping through the weight of the seas was comforting.

This office...her office, was quite stunning, actually. She allowed herself to smile at the way opportunities had presented themselves after the truth about her marriage came to light, but only for a moment. The fear was always there, waiting just out of reach. When every basic trust is broken that violently, the next ambush is forever barely beyond one's peripheral vision. Ima was in prison and had admitted everything when confronted, cooperating with the investigation thoroughly. Yet she still feared. He may have given her literally everything he had amassed over the years when they divorced, but he was still a powerful man. The money was never the fulcrum, allowing him to do what he pleased to whomever he pleased. It was his charm, his charisma that drove his persuasiveness. It was what had won Debra over so easily.

But this new life felt familiar, despite being new. She was lucky enough to have had a group of lawyers on her side, led by Armstrong Family Law, that expedited the divorce and facilitated her detoxification in one of the most exclusive and private rehabs in the world. She emerged from the entire ordeal wanting to pick up the pieces and work at creating bridges for the gaps in her life.

It had barely been a year, but here she was. She stood and took a quick inventory of the locks on windows, doors and filing cabinets before putting on her boots and grabbing her jacket. Glancing down the 43 floors of Mandalay Tower, which was now owned by Exotix4U, and across the pond into the large piece of land, trees and seemingly-endless buildings that was the whole of Mandalay Manse, and it was still hers.

Now clear-headed, she had gained an appreciation for air in addition to water. stepping out onto the balcony locking the glass doors behind her, she took a deep breath. There was no stopping the soft laugher as she clipped herself into her harness, grabbed her purse and lowered her goggles. Just after blowing a kiss goodbye to the fish, leaving a hint of Exotix4U's timeless best-seller "I'm Goin' A-Whorin' Tonight" red lipstick on her glove, she kicked off of the balcony and rode the zip-line into her back yard.

Freedom from a life previously lived has its advantages.

Mar. 11th, 2011

babyme
That was that, then. A final kiss goodbye from Jason before Julia and I hop on the road in the pre-dawn hours. I think Julia felt left out that I got a goodbye kiss and all she got was a pat on the head.

OK, that didn't happen. Not like that, anyway.

We rounded the corner at the end of our alley. With a few more turns onto a handful of sketchy roads and in less than 20 miles, we'd ride I-40 for 1670 miles or so. No exaggeration. It's almost a straight shot from Alabama to California. A long...straight...shot.

Aside from getting the car fixed and shipping my stuff, there were the animals to tend to. Sure, things were all wrapped up and nicely resolved between the city of Birmingham and me...but that just meant we were on the precipice of three days' non-stop driving with a cat (who hates the car) and a dog (who can't sit still for a full 2 minutes). I had various forms of Rescue Remedy and Benadryl to help ease the pain. Mine and Julia's, not Honey and Newt's.

The cat was finally forced into his harness and carrier so he could be taken down to the car with protests echoing up and down the halls. Rescue Remedy didn't phase him, as I had feared. Luckily, Honey just thought we were going for a ride...until she saw everything in the car. She wasn't sure if she should be scared that it was all familiar stuff...or calmed by it. The children's benadryl kicked in and she napped for a little bit once we started moving. I was just hoping and praying that we wouldn't have to listen to these cries from a scared feline for the next 36 hours. We'd tackle the unfamiliar hotel rooms and the walks back and forth when we were face-to-face with them. Everything I read said to keep the cats as enclosed as possible, that they felt more secure in confined spaces. They were partially right, I'd say. More on that, shortly.

We hadn't been on the road for 30 minutes when the sun came up and the drive was pretty, for the most part. I always feel that the unpopulated pieces of road are the best. The hardest part about trying to enjoy something like that as the sun is coming up when you're with a cat...is the yowling...with increasing frequency. We're doing our best to tune it out since it's not constant, but it's not easy. He suddenly starts thrashing, as he's done before. On previous trips to the vet, I'd stick my finger into the cage to scratch him for a second as reassurance, but this time I feared I wouldn't be the one doing the scratching.

Then silence.

Then the smell. Oh, God, the smell. We rolled down the windows and choked in whatever breathable air our lungs could get to. All I could think that was I hoped I made it out of this alive so I could tweet "the cat shat himself". Thankfully there was a gas station/convenience store combo just ahead. Julia cleaned the cat with some water and toilet paper. For the most part, he'd avoided his little present...but not entirely. I grabbed some Clorox wipes and cleaned out the crate. We took turns going inside to wash up and grab molten-lava-temperatured coffee drinks. Eventually we got him back into the car, but not the crate. We couldn't move him from the floorboard of the passenger seat, so there he stayed. When we got back on the road, he climbed into the back after a few minutes and smashed his head into the smallest space between the suitcases and the dogfood. Confined spaces, indeed...but of his choosing, apparently.

For the most part, he stayed in the smallest spaces he could squeeze into without moving for hours and hours. A couple of times we forced him to go outside on a leash (which he didn't seem to mind), but he wanted back in the car after he realized what was happening. Every so often he'd move into the front seat for a few minutes, but quickly retreated to one of his caves as we carried on. Sometime during that first day when he was up front, he peed on the emergency break. I didn't find it until the next morning before I repacked the car, and I'm surprised we didn't smell it sooner, but luckily it was all just pooled in the faux leather sleeve on the lever. A few more Clorox wipes (for which I was patting myself on the back) and we were right as rain. I couldn't find any evidence of another potty break, but every so often I get a whiff of cat pee while I'm driving. That might just be the smell of Long Beach, though...who can say. Skunkiness and cat pee seem to be popular smells around here.

Birmingham, Alabama, through Tupelo, Mississippi, on to Memphis, Tennessee, past Little Rock, Arkansas and straight through to Oklahoma City. Apparently I made plans to stay on the "wrong" side of town, but it was the side closest to Bri, so...no loss. Honey got restless a few times. Halfway through the second day I realized that it was just the sun bothering her so I blocked the window with a body pillow and she curled right up, rather than trying to get into the front seat.

We pulled into the hotel just before rush hour was set to hit. From the outside, it wasn't anything different than I was expecting. Standard Motel 6. They have a pets-stay-free policy, so I just planned to seek those out along the way. I got our keycards and drove around, parking in front of an open-shirted, mulleted, Mexican Captain Lou Albano. We went up the stairs and struggled to get our door open to no avail. The lock blinked green with the key cards, but the door wasn't budging. I trudged back up front and the mousey white guy working the front desk huffed a little as he walked back with me to show me the "proper" way to open the door. Apparently in Oklahoma City, it's customary to forcefully lift the handle while shouldering the door as close to the frame as you can. It opened in a pinch.

That poor door frame.

Two beds, a "desk", a TV, alarm clocks, and a bathroom. Nothing to write home about. But that shower? Holycrap that shower. It looked more like an early version of the sonic showers from Star Trek, a tiny capsule in the corner of the room with a floor-to-ceiling curtain that swings around behind the shower head. That thing got hot in an instand and BLASTED every hint of grime off of me. The temperature control and water pressure were exactly what I required after trekking a quarter of the way across the United States on almost zero sleep. So much so that I wanted to go back to the front desk and ask them to tack another $50 onto my bill for the night.

Bri called a couple of hours later because she didn't want to knock on the wrong door. When I peeked outside, I saw her timidly standing about 10 yards away staring at our door. She's about 30 times taller than I'd imagined in my head. I knew she was tall, but for some reason she was still dwarfed in my head. We'd talked more than a handful of times via Skype while playing video games. Phil's known her for years, so it wasn't anything awkward or weird, as meeting "complete strangers" can be. But I guess meeting Phil for the first time wasn't anything strange, either. In any case. I was exhausted and, close to the end of dinner, it was mentioned that I looked it. I would have wanted to stay longer or to actually "do" something other than just eat, but I had a mission to complete and that required a little bit of rest. Mayhaps one day we'll make our way back to Oklahoma City to spend a day or two instead of just a few hours. Nevermind, Phil would never allow that.

Back to the hotel, goodbyes to Bri, cat's under the bed and Honey's standing vigil at he window and barking at approaching rapists and murderers. Julia had been sitting on one bed earlier and a roach crawled out from under the mattress, directly between her legs. Now was the time to ask if she wanted the roach bed or the other one. She chose the other one and I didn't care one bit. She pulled back the covers and moved the pillow, where a cricket had been perched and now sprung away to be seen no more. At least we both had bugs in our bed, but no bedbugs. I had faith that if there was any danger, the cat would sense it and attack at some point in the night...or he might just stay under the bed until we'd died from poisonous bug attack and then he'd eat our faces off when he got hungry. In any case, that was one of the hardest and best sleeps I"d ever had in the scar part of a city with creepy-crawly critters all around.

I almost took another shower just for the fun of it.

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