Monday, January 17, 2005

Why am I Single? Let Me Count The Ways:

20: Nasty Little Surprises

So I called up the Captain
Please bring me my wine
He said
We haven't had that spirit here since 1969
And still those voices are calling from far away
Wake you up in the middle of the night
Just to hear them say
Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place
Such a lovely face
They're livin' it up at the Hotel California
What a nice surprise
Bring your alibis
-Eagles


You ever think you know somebody? Know who they are? What they are? What they stand for? What they would or would not do? Aren't they always the people that surprise you? I mean, not just little bitty surprises, but big, jaw dropping, mind numbing surprises.

The people that you wished them to be, or imagined them to be, are quite often not the reality. I think we all live in a sort of invisible box of glass. It surrounds us and it has a way of distorting shapes, filtering out things that we don't want to know or hear. Sometimes the glass is rosy, some times it's dark and gloomy and some times it just has strange anomalies in the glass that, when you look out of it, completely changes the shape, the reality of the person outside of it or the situation.

Or, maybe, we are all victims of self preservation and that self preservation demands that we delude ourselves about reality because it's the only way we could submit our selves, against the will of our self preservation that would otherwise have us running in the other direction, to committing ourselves to people and things that are just...not...quite...right.

I think I have stated on a number of occasions that we are, in general, a selfish lot. The most giving person on this planet will always go through some self test of what it is they can give or take and what effect it will have on them. I imagine, before Mother Theresa became the most celebrated giver on the planet, that she even considered her options and the impact on her life. The thing that always over comes this selfishness is our will. Or, better yet, will power. Couple that with a general background of being taught "right" form "wrong", many are able to push this selfishness down and move on for the good of another. Or, in the case of Mother Theresa and folks like her, for the good of many.

Of course, there are those of us with complexes who think through a little judicious application of unselfishness, we might save the world. Or even just one or two people from themselves. Problem is, you can never tell for sure what the other people, or the world for that matter, are going to do. Throws a monkey wrench into the situation.

Take the recent tsunami in Indonesia. Super power to the rescue. One of the wealthiest countries in the world gears up, grabs up their life saving materials, runs to the other side of the planet and starts in to saving people. Thousands, if not millions, of it's citizens give private donations, amounting to nearly a billion dollars. What happens next? "No thanks. You can help us to this line -----, but after that, you've got to go. You might expect something from us you know, if we let you help and that is just not a good idea. We'd much rather suffer and maybe die than be beholding to you."

Now, if that's not an excess of pride, what is it? It's a wonder that people offer anyone any assistance.

On a personal level, this has happened on a number of occasions. If there is one thing that I did learn over the years it is that the minute you become the interceder, you will be vilified. No good deed goes unpunished. And forbid it if you try to be the mediator without bias. Both parties will believe you to be biased to the other and they will both hate your guts. Actually, it's true either way you look at it.

Not that it's stopped me or any number of people from trying to do "good deeds".

It's even worse if you try to interfere in someone's personal relationship. Believe me, a situation where there is love and/or hate going on, you are going to be the hated if you interfere. Nobody is going to love you. The other truth I've found is that people in love will never listen to someone talk bad about their "love" or just give them advice. They aren't going to listen or, worse yet, you will instantly be the bad guy.

I found this out with my friend, Lisa. Not that she hated my guts, per se, but she definitely thought I was at least a "wench", or jealous, or prejudicial or something. Well, one or two of those last things could have been true. Maybe all three. On the other hand, if they end up in the situation that you said they would, don't think they are going to give you kudos for having predicted it. Don't think that they are going to love you more if you say "I told you so" and refraining from saying "I told you so" won't matter because, even if they won't "take" your advice, they remember it and some how, even if you don't say "I told you so", that phrase gets stuck on the end of your advice in their minds and keeps echoing there.

I told you so...I told you soo...I told you soooo...

Because, of course, it's their own conscience telling them, it's just that that conscience eerily sounds like your voice. It's much easier to blame you or your advice for that echo then to do a little self analysis and realize their own conscience had been warning them and yet they chose to give themselves permission to do whatever it was they did.

In the late spring, we had come back with Lisa's truck. Her truck that she got from her dad in Illinois on our funny little trip to the animal farm. I noticed that Jim was coming and staying at our apartment more and more. Staying for days on end. Whole weeks. And still not a job in sight. Just daily round ups of the cable cartoon network, several beers, packs of cigarettes and some twinkies. Maybe a hoagie wrapper from the convenience store.

I was getting very nervous about the situation. I had a deep conversation with Lisa about the difference between Jimbo's dreams and the reality of him sitting in our over stuffed chair getting stuffed and apparently stoned every day. He, of course, was assuring Lisa that he was looking for a job, but they were hard to find. Of course, they were if you didn't actually know how to read the paper or dial a phone or speak like a normal human being. But the construction business was in full swing. It was a decent spring after a light winter and the housing business was booming.

The only break I got was when she would take him home on a Sunday and I wouldn't have to see him for a few days. You probably figured out by now that he and I got along like oil and water. "Sniping" probably didn't really describe the constant back and forth we had going on. It probably drove Lisa to distraction to know that her best friend (I think I was, anyway) and her new love, didn't like each other. And she was the bone between us. Those weeks she took him home probably had the dual personality of a relief from the tension and the pang of separation.

I know I said to Lisa that she should be careful and that I thought that he was not all that he said he was. Not that he was a braggart, but a liar I was sure of it.

One night, I went out with our friend Wendy (Amazon Wendy) and Dawn III. Lisa had opted to stay home with Jim and have some "alone" time. Dawn, Wendy and I were probably the worst group of people to get together and go out. We had a good time, no doubt, but we each had our own little personality things going on. Dawn could be quite overbearing, Wendy was insecure and I was a mix of the two: slightly over bearing and a little insecure. The only thing that saved us from our selves is our charming...er..personalities. We could charm a snake. Of course, the snake either bolted shortly after the meeting or turned on us to bite in self preservation.

On this particular evening, we stayed out late, went to breakfast and spent about two hours talking about men. Not in a good way of course. We're talking about three women with some personal history here, so, naturally, our conversation was not flattering to the male of the species. None of us actually liked Jimbo either, so he was a feature of our conversation. Then we all jumped in Dawn's little Honda something or rather and they drove me home. We all lived near one another and it gave us an opportunity to do the "designated driver" thing.

Dawn pulled up in front of my apartment complex. After a few more laughs at the expense of men, she got out and held the front seat forward so I could climb out of the back seat. Climbing describes it perfectly because this little car only sat about three inches off the ground and you had to find a purchase with your feet and hands to pull yourself out of the back. It's a rough way to go when you've had a few drinks.

We laughed some more and I turned to walk up the side walk towards the little bridge that led to the second floor of the apartments. The apartment building sat in a broad indention in the land with banks of dirt and grass surrounding it, topped off by a row of pine trees all the way around to afford some privacy for those whose sliding glass doors faced the parking lots on either side of the building. The first floor apartments actually were down in the "ditch" as we called it and you had to walk across the bridge to enter the complex and then walk down some steps to get to our place or walk up to get to the others.

One thing about those pine trees, while they gave privacy, they also blocked the light from the apartments. Near the trees was pitch black, regardless of the number of lights they had in the parking lot. As I walked, Dawn and Wendy sat in the car, fixing their seat belts and having some conversation. I couldn't tell what they were talking about, because the windows were up. I waved to them once and then turned back to walk into the apartments. I noticed about halfway to the bridge, underneath one of the pine trees, was a spot of white, balled up about the size of a large white paper bag. Our place was a pretty nice complex so seeing trash was unusual.

I remember thinking to myself, "Now what kind of asshole would throw their trash out here when they only had to walk a few yards to the trash can." Right at that moment, I noticed that the ball of white moved. I did a little stutter step because, well, there was no wind to speak of. It was dead out, not even a little breeze. Then the ball of white uncurled itself and waddled out onto the side walk, freezing right in the middle.

Except, it wasn't a ball of white anymore, but a giant black, furry skunk with a big white streak down its back. It had stopped on the side walk, side ways in front of me. Its tail slightly up in a position as if deciding if it was going to need to use its "weapon" and its rather big, black beady left eye staring at me.

I froze with my right foot just in the position where I was about to set it down. I would like to say that a million things were going through my mind right then, but they weren't. The only thing in my mind was, "Don't move, don't move, don't move, don't move" over and over again. I had read somewhere that a move could make them feel like they were going to be attacked and they would spray. Okay, one other thing was gong through my mind, "Oh my God, it's a skunk, oh my God, it's a skunk," etc, etc, etc.

I heard Dawn's car suddenly go into gear and reverse from the parking space that was about five cars behind me. I knew they couldn't see the skunk for all the cars there and I didn't want to make any sudden move, so I waited until I heard the car coming near and turned my head slightly and waved. I think I waved vigorously, but I can't remember because I was deathly afraid I was about to become Pepe Le Pue's next amour.

Dawn and Wendy just waved back at me and kept driving. I kept waving. They kept driving. My heart fell into my stomach and my chanting mind went from "don't move" to "I can't believe they just left me", over and over. I really couldn't hold more than one thought in my mind.

I recalled suddenly that the giant skunk was still in front of me. I turned quickly to look at him and it seemed like he took two waddling steps in my direction. Now my heart went from my stomach to my throat at the speed of a rocket. For a few seconds, nothing entered my mind. It was blank. That was just long enough for the self preservation voice in my head to kick in:

"Okay. There's a giant skunk. He looks like he wants to spray you. He has beady black eyes. They are staring at you. He is blocking the way into the apartment. Your friends just left. What are you going to do?"

Uhhh...(can you hear the music from "Jeopardy"?)

Finally, like the engine of a car that finally kicks over after two years in storage, the pistons in my head started firing.

"I'll take "Is there another entrance to this place?" for $500, Alex."

Good answer! Next question, "How do you walk away from a skunk without being sprayed?"

"Now, can I have, "Can you back away slowly for ten paces, then turn and run like hell for the other entrance?" for $1000?"

Alrighty. You're on a roll.

And that is exactly what I did. I remembered there was another entrance at the other end of the building, about twenty five yards from there. Without taking my eyes off of Pepe, I slowly backed away. Twice, he took a waddling step in my direction, side ways, and twice I froze, never taking my eyes off his beady little eye that was facing me. Then I started the slow, short steps backwards again until I was at least ten feet away. Then I turned and ran like hell, my cowboy boots beating a loud tattoo on the concrete, once nearly slipping and killing myself on the damp residue that had collected there, all the way until I reached the other door, which I quickly threw open, ran inside and slammed shut behind me.

I looked out the glass door, but the skunk was no where in sight. The minute I took off running, he probably did the same thing too. or, at least his version of it.

Fortunately, I would not have to go to bed smelling like Eu' de Pepe.

I walked down the long hallway to our apartment, now laughing to myself and feeling the euphoria of someone who had jilted fate. I kept thinking I was going to have to give those two girls a hard time about leaving me to the mercy of a skunk while I was waving like a lunatic. I put the key in the door and laughed to myself that it was probably a good thing those two yahoos form urban ville hadn't been there with me. I probably would be stinking up the hall way or vomitting into the pine trees with two stinky companions. Lisa was going to laugh her ass off when I told her.

I opened the door and took my key out of the lock, finally looking up because the TV was on and so was the living room light. Lisa was sitting on the couch and Jimbo was in his normal position in the chair.

"Oh...Hey." Yeah, that put a damper on my mood. I forgot he was going to be there.

"Hey, Kansas!" Lisa said in that overly cheerful tone that tells you that they don't want you to know something's wrong and instantly puts you on alert anyway. "How was your evening?" Big goofy, over stretched, too many teeth smile. Uh-huh. Something was up.

"Okay, I guess. Right up until I almost got sprayed by a skunk out front of the apartment." I had a feeling that was not going to be the only surprise I was getting.

"A skunk?" She was still smiling too much.

My eyes were taking in the surroundings and there was something different about them. I just couldn't put my finger on it. "Yeah, a skunk," I said as I turned to the coat closet next to the front door to hang up my jacket, "a big fat one that looks like he's been enjoying our garbage for awhile." As I reached for the closet door knob, I noticed that Jimbo's cowboy boots and work boots were sitting to the side and a lariat was hanging from it.

"Kansas," she said, tentatively as I continued, contemplating that there was still something a little off, but unable to put my finger on it.

"Hmmm?" I reached into the closet to pull out a hanger for my jacket and that's when I noticed that the closet seemed a little more full than when I left six hours earlier. I refocused my eyes as I stood staring into the closet. It was full of stuff. Jim's stuff. Clothes, tool belt, tool box, some other items that I can't remember now. I was standing there frozen with the hanger in my right hand and my jacket dangling from my left. Now I realized why I had been confused about the living room and foyer area. There were a few more things of Jim's hanging around then usual.

"Uh, Kansas?" Lisa got up off the couch and was slowly walking my way.

"Lisa, was there something you forgot to tell me?" Like, that you were moving Jim in here without asking me or talking to me like I asked you to so I could decide what to do, like get my own place. That's what was going through my mind because that was what was supposed to happen. And she knew it, too, which is why she was acting so overly bright when I came in and they were waiting up for me, because Lisa knew I'd pitch a fit.

I was looking at her now and she was standing there, frozen like I'd been earlier, keeping at least five feet between us. Jim was behind her acting unconcerned, still sitting in his chair and staring at the TV. She started babbling something about Jim getting a job up here and needing to be close to it and how much money it cost her to keep driving down there and he needed to be somewhere where he could get a ride to work and, and, and..

"Lisa, this is bullshit! We had an agreement!" A lot of things were going through my mind. My friend had betrayed my trust. Broken our agreement. Went behind my back. Not just any friend, my best friend who was like my sister.

Lisa was suddenly red in the face, too, probably a mix of embarrassment and anger, "It was a spur of the moment thing and..."

"Spur of the moment, my ass! We wouldn't have been talking about it if you hadn't have been thinking about it."

"Carlos practically lived with us for a year!" Now she was standing with her hands on her hips facing me, her blonde hair was in a pony tail and it was dancing around to her words.

"First of all, I asked you if you were okay with that. Carlos even asked you personally if you minded him staying. Second of all, you were the one that kept pushing him on me because you thought he was a nice guy. So, don't give me any crap about Carlos."

Jimbo had stood up and started walking over to where Lisa was standing. He pointed his finger at me and said angrily, "Lisa pays half the rent here and she can do whatever she wants!"

I rounded on Jim and for two seconds I thought about clobbering him. Of course, for two seconds, I thought he was going to clobber me, too. "Jim, shut the hell up. This is between Lisa and I. If you'd been any kind of man, you would have insisted on asking yourself." But, of course, this was the kind of guy he was. The back door kind of guy. Sneaky, lying, snake kind of guy. You think I'm being too harsh?

Lisa turned to Jim and started pushing him back towards the living room, "Don't get involved in this. This is between Kansas and me." He was saying some bullshit about kicking my ass, believe it or not.

"I'll have your ass thrown in jail before you can say "lawyer", asshole. I don't care if you are Lisa's boyfriend. Is this what you wanted, Lisa?" I meant him AND the situation. Ms. Lisa always wanted to avoid confrontation and always seemed to end up in it anyway. "Fuck, this. I'm leaving!"

I threw the hanger back in the closet, jerked open the front door and stomped out of the apartment building until I reached the front walkway. I stopped for a second because I didn't know what the hell I was going to do. I didn't have a car. I'd been sharing rides with Lisa that whole time and we worked, lived and played in the same places so it had seemed unnecessary. Right until then, that is.

I suddenly remembered the skunk and looked around, but it was nowhere in sight. It had waddled off somewhere safe. Safe because I'm pretty sure if the bastard had been out there, I would have kicked its ass to the other end of the building, stinkiness be damned.

I felt the tears starting to well up in my eyes. I'd been living such a nice comfortable life from one moment to the next and that was coming to an end. Not only had my best friend gone behind my back, but she had moved in a guy that I thought was an asshole and he had threatened to hit me. In all of our moments of displeasure, nitpicking and sniping, that had never happened before. I didn't know what I was going to do. Then I remembered the convenience store across the street from our complex and the telephone out front of it.

I walked to the telephone, searching for some change and wiping the slowly welling tears off my cheeks. I had to stop for a minute because I couldn't remember anyone's telephone number. Suddenly, Wendy's number popped into my head and I dialed the phone. "Wendy," sniffle, sniffle, "can you come and get me?" Gasp, sob, sniffle.

"Oh my God, Kansas!" Wendy quickly came awake on the other end of the phone. "What's wrong?"

"When you guys dropped me off, there was a big skunk and then I went into the apartment and Lisa moved Jim in, all his stuff was at the apartment and we had a fight and Jim threatened to hit me so I left and I'm standing outside of the QT," I gasped out. More sobbing and the tears were coming faster. "Can you come and get me, please?"

"Okay, okay. Just give me a minute to throw some clothes on. I'll be right there."

I stood outside for a few minutes, pulled myself together and wiped my tears on the sleeve of my jacket. I went inside and got a coke before coming back out and leaning against the brick facade of the building under the eaves. It had started raining lightly and I stared out at the puddles forming in the parking lot. I couldn't really think. I didn't know what I was going to do. I really didn't know if I could afford an apartment by myself.

Wendy finally pulled up. She got out and came over to give me a hug, "I'm sorry, Kansas."

"It's okay. Do you mind if we get in the car? It's a little chilly out here." It was still spring and I was a little damp. We got in the car and I just sat there for a few minutes, maybe ten, not saying anything, but staring out the windshield and crying. Everything that I had enjoyed was coming to an end. Reality was here and that reality meant that we would never be like this forever, just two girls against the world. Things were going to change, whether I liked it or not and I was going to have to start doing things and thinking about things by myself.

I finally told Wendy what happened, including the skunk which we both laughed about. "What are you going to do?" She asked. "Do you want to come back with me tonight?"

I thought about it for a moment. "No. I think I should go back to the apartment. Lisa is probably worried sick about me and I haven't called to tell her where I am." It had been almost two hours since I stomped out of the apartment and the sun was just starting to pinken the sky. "Might as well go back and sort this out. Won't do any good to avoid it."

"You're sure? You can stay at my place if you want." Wendy, like most of my friends, was a paradox. She could be so self centered sometimes, but she could sometimes bring her head out of the clouds long enough to share an act of kindness once in awhile. Maybe more than once in awhile, you just didn't always pay attention to the kindness of people that you hung around all the time. It just was like that until it was you that needed it.

"Yeah, I'm sure. It's still raining. Do you mind driving me back? I know it's just across the street..."

"No problem, Kansas. What ever you want to do."

She drove me across the street and parked in front of the apartment building. I scrubbed my face as best as I could. "How do I look?"

"You look okay."

"Right. I look like I've been on a three day binge, huh?" I laughed a little bit. "Thanks. I mean thanks for coming and getting me. I'm sorry I made you drive all the way over here to keep me company."

"Hey, no problem. You've driven me home enough times, I think I can return the favor."

We exchanged conspiratorial smiles, because, yeah, I had driven her home on more than one occasion after a very "good" night out. I got out of the car and thanked her again, "Wait a second. If you see me waving like crazy, there's a skunk, okay?"

A little more laughter and I walked over to the bridge before turning to wave her off. I walked into the apartment and got my third nasty surprise of the evening. Jim and Lisa were still awake, drowsily watching TV. I guess I should have called and told her I was fine. She shook herself awake more and got up, "Kansas, where have you been? I've been worried sick about you."

"I just went across the street to the QT and called Wendy. We sat there for awhile, talking." I felt a little guilty because we had made a pact to always call and tell each other where we were if it was late or we were expected home. A year earlier at the exit ramp from the highway where we lived, a young woman went missing after she was driving home from the bar. All they found was her car until a few months later. Then they found her body. So, we always tried to practice safety. You never knew in this big city who you might meet. "Sorry."

"Well, I think we should talk." Jim was sitting in the chair again and paying extra attention.

I didn't really want to talk, "What's there to talk about? You already moved Jim in. Done deal. I'm going to start looking for a place to live and you and Jim can have the apartment."

"How are you going to do that? You don't have any money saved or a car. We still have nine months left on the lease. Why don't we sit down tomorrow and figure out how we can do this, okay? You don't have to do anything in a hurry."

She had obviously forgotten one part of our problem earlier. I turned and looked at Jim and then back at Lisa. She got the hint and turned to Jim, "Don't you have something to say?" She was giving him the "evil eye".

"Sorry." He mumbled around a mouthful of left over twinky. You know, as much as this guy ate, you'd think he'd be a blimp, but he was skinny for all that.

"Jim!" Lisa was getting agitated.

He put down his twinky wrapper and swallowed the last bite. I was hanging my jacket up. I was so ready just to leave the room and go to mine where I could be alone and miserable. Alone. He had walked over to where we were standing and I was eyeing him warily. I did not trust men who threatened to hit women. If I thought he had been an asshole before, he had definitely went down from an asshole I could barely tolerate to an asshole I wouldn't mind shoving off a cliff if the opportunity presented itself. "I'm sorry, Kansas. You know I'd never hit you. I just got angry because you were yelling at Lisa."

How many times have women heard that line before? "I'd never hit you. I'd never hurt you." I might have been living in my own world, but the real world was never far away. I'd had the unfortunate pleasure of knowing one or two people that had heard those kind of words before. I didn't trust him any further than I could throw him. And, frankly, I wasn't giving an inch since I felt very much like the injured party.

"Fine. Apology accepted. But I'm not forgetting. Let's all get a few things straight. If we're doing something concerning this apartment or something that is going to effect the others, we need to talk about it first, not just do it. Second, if Lisa and I are having an argument, it's between Lisa and I, not you. We've known each other for five years and we don't need your two cents. We'll figure it out fine. In return, I'll be happy to do the same for you," well, that was kind of a lie, but I didn't know it at the time, "Last, don't hit me. Don't even act like you are going to hit me. Don't act like you are going to do it to Lisa either because I WILL have you arrested. I don't give a damn who you are. Are we clear?"

His eyebrows had drawn together during my little speech, but I was feeling my cheerios right then. These two had been the perpetrators, not me and it was a good time to get the situation straight while they still felt like they had done something wrong. Tomorrow might be a different story. Jim finally muttered, "Yeah."

"Great. Now, if you two don't mind, I'm tired and I'm going to bed." I marched into my room and shut the door. Not too firmly. It was 5:30 in the morning. I put on my Troy Aikman football jersey and gym shorts Lisa had gotten me at Christmas. They were my pajamas. Then I laid down on the big creaky iron bedstead, thinking about what I was going to do.

I wanted to get my own place, but Lisa was right. I didn't have any money saved nor a car. We had nine months left on the lease, though I was sure I could write a letter and give 30 days notice to break it. Of course, then Lisa would have to re-sign a lease in her own name.

Thoughts kept swirling around in my head as I finally drifted off to sleep.

The world was full of nasty little surprises.

White Town

Just tell me what you've got to say to me,
I've been waiting for so long to hear the truth,
It comes as no surprise at all you see,
So cut the crap and tell me that we're through.
Now I know your heart, I know your mind,
You don't even know you're being unkind,
So much for all your highbrow Marxist ways,
Just use me up and then you walk away,
Boy you can't play me that way.
Well I guess what you say is true,
I could never be the right kind of girl for you,
I could never be your woman.
When I saw my best friend yesterday,
She said she never liked you from the start,
Well me, I wish that I could claim the same,
But you always knew you held my heart.
And you're such a charming handsome man,
Now I think I finally understand,
Is it in your genes?, I don't know,
But I'll soon find out, that's for sure,
Why did you play me this way?.
Well I guess what you say is true,
I could never be the right kind of girl for you,
I could never be your woman.
Well I guess what they say is true,
I could never spend my life with a man like you,
I could never be your woman.

1 comment:

riceburner147 said...

Kat: Mirrors on the ceiling, pink champagne on ice...

I love this song, how about "You cant hide....your lyin eyes...and your smile....cant disguise. Anyway, i just skipped all the way past your post (i'll read it in a minute) to wax poetic on the Eagles. (I prefered them when Joe Walsh was there, glad he's back)

OK, i done ramblin on