Thursday, August 23, 2007

Red and Yellow, Black and White...

According to my employer, the EEOC recently decided their definitions for military status and ethnicity were insufficient, and all Equal Opportunity Employers (which I'm guessing is government-subsidised in some way, though I haven't done the research to find out) needed to re-register ("re-identify") their personnel according to the new definitions.

It would seem to me that the way to best manage not factoring race or ethnicity into the hiring/promotion/compensation equation would be to not address it whatsoever. Imagine my surprise, then, when I got an email from our Human Resources department this morning stating, "Our records show you have completed the military section of the self identification process but have not completed your ethnic designation. I've attached instructions for reference purposes." The instructions she referred to were a memo we all received in our Inbox two weeks ago stating the following:

-------------------------------------------------------------
Action Required
Reminder all associates are required to re-identify both ethnicity and military status during the period, August 1-24, 2007.

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Only problem with that, of course, is that there was no option in their drop-down list for, "I decline to answer this question because it's none of your freakin' business."

The email actually caused my breath to lodge in my throat. I read and re-read the corporate email, making sure I understood what I could potentially be getting myself into before I shot off at the mouth (or, in this instance, fingers), then ever-so-politely responded, "Stuff it." Okay, it was actually something more like, "Is this meaning to say that RBFC is requiring me to identify my ethnicity as a condition of my employement here?"

Moments later, my phone rang. I spent the following ten minutes listening to a corporate PR rep try to smooth my ruffled feathers. No, of course the information would never be used to determine eligibility for promotion or pay (all of these are, of course, merit-based). No, they didn't want to use the word, "require", and didn't I want to be a good little employee and just fill out the form? The HR person assured me the information would never be linked to my social security number, my employee ID number, my name, or any other identifying information.

Why, then, did I get an email, specifically addressed to me, informing me of what I had and had not registered for? If the registration isn't in any way linked to my employment information, how would they even know I hadn't registered my ethnicity? I call bull-shit.

The problem, of course, is that the deadline is tomorrow. There's no way I can even scratch the surface on the information I'd need to thumb through in order to clarify whether they can, in fact, enforce the policy that all employees must identify themselves by race.

I guess tomorrow I'll phone up the local EEOC branch and spin a couple questions past some unsuspecting office clerk. Poor thing.

Wish 'em luck, won't you? I'm going on the warpath...

Monday, August 20, 2007

Death and Taxes... and a 300-pound banana


"It's vulgar," says Lucy, an aging woman across the row from me on the KC Transit bus home. Her blue eyeliner was melting into the crows' feet that have been cut at the corners of her eyes by years of hard work and harder living. "I'm gonna write somebody about it. Don't know who, exactly, but somebody."

"It's art!" exclaims a man with silver at his temples in a business suit and an obnoxious tie that seems to perfectly compliment his obnoxious personality.

"Art my ass," retorts Lucy with a snort. "Art's supposed to be inspiring. All that's inspirin' me to do is blush. Ain't no sense in them makin us pay more taxes fer that sort'o mess."

"You don't find a fourteen-foot banana inspiring?" I ask, mirth playing at the corner of my mouth, which seems to be drawing itself into a lopsided smirk of its own accord.

Lucy smiles tenderly at me. I think she likes me, but it's hard to tell with that tough exterior of hers. "It oughta be taken down and burned, I say."

"Well, lucky for you, then - it's temporary. I think it's supposed to come down at the end of the summer."

"God works in mysterious ways," she trails off, turning to look out the window. Sometimes I wonder if Lucy is sane.

Half an hour goes by, and the men in starched white shirts behind us are still talking about the giant paper mache` banana protruding proudly from the side of The Folly Theatre. The piece is called, "Staying the Course" which you may recognize as the ultra-naive anthem sung by our current president and his cohorts. One of the men in white collars finds the name in the article he's been passing around, which brings about a whole new round of argument over the attributes and atrocities of the incognizant fruit.

"All this fuss over a banana," mutters Pea, shaking his head at the noise a few rows back.

"Yeah, but it's a really big banana!" I joke, elbowing him gently. Pea just rolls his eyes.

Like it or not, the banana's not going anywhere for awhile. May as well make the best of it - anybody up for fruit salad?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The New Colossus



"WASHINGTON, Aug. 9 — The Bush administration plans to announce numerous steps on Friday to secure the border with Mexico, speed the expulsion of illegal immigrants and step up enforcement of immigration laws, administration officials say."

Why all the hustle and bustle about illegal immigrants and "securing our borders" just as the campaigns are revving up for the 2008 elections? Don't we have bigger fish to fry? Like um... an imminent energy crisis, or a couple thousand US military personnel shucking around in the desert being shot at? Why here, why now, when the number of Mexican and South American migrants have been steadily increasing over the past three decades? Why do our political elite only seem to want to "crack down" on the number of brown-skinned rice-eaters sneaking through our back rivers and over our arid plains?

Because finding a bad guy makes our politico mass seem like a white knight riding into battle for our salvation. Because targeting the scapegoat in your back yard that has no voice and no rights is easier than to zeroing in on a well-armed, well-funded enemy half a world away.

It's obvious why the US political machine (that's both parties, boys and girls) is aiming at migrants from south of the border. The real question is, why are Americans buying it?

"They're not paying taxes!" you squeal.

This is true - for the most part, illegal workers are paid under the table, in cash, at the end of every work day. Sure, some back-of-house restaurant staff may use false identification so if the kitchen gets raided the business doesn't get shut down, but a large portion of the illegal workforce in America is completely off the books.

The cool thing about that is they're also not collecting Social Security, Welfare, WIC, or Americans with Disabilities checks. They're not using Medicaid and Medicare (though ERs are required to treat injury of all patients with or without documentation). By and large, they're not using the systems we create and fund with our taxes. Why should they have to pay into services they aren't drawing from?

"They're taking American jobs!" you might protest.

Yeah, because you really wanna prune bushes and mow lawns and pick apples in 100 degree heat for $2 an hour. Because your "when I grow up" aspiration has always been to labor through 16 hour days in a sweat shop at 10 cents per production piece, right? The argument stacks up to a big pile of manure. "Illegals" take the jobs we don't want, and are grateful for the jobs we're too proud to work.

Do you really think you'd be able to afford those designer blue jeans you wrap around your ass if the Gap had to pay the woman who made them union wages, health benefits, and vacation time? Of course not.

And what happened to the American idea that all people, regardless of race, color, creed, or gender, have the right to work hard and earn a better life for themselves and their families? I wasn't aware that the color of your passport was supposed to matter more than the color of your skin.

Maybe we should change the plaque at the feet of The Mother of Exiles: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free... as long as they have proper documentation."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

An apple, by any other name...



"This is your captain speaking. We will be landing in New York in approximately 7 minutes. Please, enjoy your stay, and thank you for flying XYZ Airlines."

All I could think, looking out the window down on the "greatest city in the US" was, "Man, there sure are a lot of baseball fields down there." Baseball, apparently, is a much bigger sport in New York than it is in Kansas City. We're pretty much all about football down here. Go figure, the farm boys are more interested in a game where you can beat the hell out of your opponent, and get patted on the back for it.


So what's in New York, you ask? Well, let me explain...

Two weeks ago Mister M and I are sitting around one evening, shooting the electronic breeze. Pretty much out of nowhere, he pops up with, "Hey, I was thinking about going to New York this month. Wanna come with me?" And that was pretty much that. I scheduled a long weekend from work, hopped on a plane, and the next thing I knew I was listening to the Fasten Seat Belts sign ding and that dripping-smooth captain's voice crackling overhead.

The weekend went by in a blur as we bustled from tourist trap to tourist trap. The most interesting, of course, was Bodies... The Exhibition. If you haven't heard of it, it's an amazing look at the human body and all its inner workings. It's something like walking through a cadaver disection, step-by-step, except that the cadaver is doing things like playing baseball, conducting a symphony, or crouching in the famous "Thinker" position.

Central Park, of course, was gorgeous. I found it absolutely amazing that a city stuffed to the brim with the bustle of human life would reserve such a large swath of peace. I'm very glad the city hasn't encroached on the solitude of the park. It's really an island of sanity amidst the noise of the city.

Most ironic during the trip was the positioning of St. Patrick's Cathedral, which is nestled among gaudy boutiques and over-priced super-yuppy glamour stores, right there on the infamous 5th avenue. I got my own personal chuckle at contemplating Jesus in Gucci sunglasses. The cathedral, which lies somewhere between beautiful and gaudy, will soon be offering candle-lighting oportunities via the web. Faith by distance, conveyed through the most convenient means. Not exactly what I'd call supplication and sacrifice.

Back to the vacation... We trotted by the Ellis Island building, which I'm only assuming runs (or used to run) a ferry to our lady of perpetual welcome. Unfortunately, because of construction, we weren't able to see so much as the tip of her lamp. It was a bit of a let-down. I mean, who goes to New York City and doesn't see the Statue of Liberty?

Apparently, I do. Ah, well... there's always 2008.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Death by Ice Cream


Pea tried to kill me.

Okay, not really. What he did do was poison me inadvertently, which could, in fact, have led to my early and untimely demise. Pea's "mutiny" began with one small, simple action: he fetched me a glass of water.

Completely engrossed in whatever I was reading, I took a sip without looking at at the glass. One would think that when somebody you're seeing brings you a drink of water that it would be in a clean glass - one would, in this instance, be wrong.

There was ice cream on the rim of the glass - although how you get ice cream on the rim of a drinking glass I have no idea. Ice cream, unfortunately, is my mortal enemy - it's practically all milk. Dairy products cause me to go into anaphlactic shock. I've been that way since infancy.

So, upon taking a sip of what should have been a cold and refreshing glass of pure, untainted water, I realized that I had instead taken a sip of cold and refreshing liquid death. At the time, I didn't know the sticky substance on the lip of the glass was ice cream - only that it was setting off a reaction in me that could be a very bad thing if left unchecked.

We recovered, of course, by pumping me full of pulverized antihystemines, followed shortly by an overwhelming Benadryl coma. The night's shot, of course, but all parties involved survived.

I don't think we'll be making that mistake again.

Mr. Nice-but-Dull

"How long have we been talking, Gerry?"

"Oh, I don't know. A couple years, I guess. Why?"

"When are you going to ask me to dinner?"

Thus the initiation of my first date with Mr. Nice-but-Dull. We had, in fact, been conversing via the internet for over two years (if you include my 12-month stint in the Middle East). He had always been polite, but brief, and very reserved. Turns out he's precisely the same way face-to-face.

We talked about his job and about the upcoming Dave Ramsey live event that's coming to Kansas City in May (we're both fans). We talked about his family. We talked about decorating my apartment. We talked about everything that could possibly be discussed during a meal without actually saying anything of relevence.

After the date, a friend of mine asked how things went. "Fine" was the only adjective I could come up with. It wasn't that he wasn't a nice man - sweet, courteous, thoughtful, all those things. He just wasn't stimulating - which didn't make any sense. He's attractive, intelligent, articulate, has a good job and plenty of confidence - there was just no spark.

And then there's Pea. Sweet, simple, bashful Pea. He's a librarian and legal researcher by trade, which is just about as yawning of a profession as one could draft, yet he excites me. He's quiet, but I enjoy him immensely.

Ah well - so much for mom and dad's idea that I'd marry a doctor or a lawyer. I think I'll stick with what makes me happy, rather than what I'm "supposed" to do. I was never very good at following the rules, anyway.

Friday, April 27, 2007

What have you done for me, lately?

"What happened to your blog?" a buddy of mine asked.

Ever sharp-witted and quick on my feet, my immediate response is, "Huh?"

---------------------------------------

Has it really been a month? Oh yes, I think it has. Let's recap, shall we?
In the past thirty days I have:
Worked fifty to sixty hours a week consistently.
Planned two vacations (neither of which rolls around for another month or so).
Been on sixteen dates (yes, it's possible - I don't recommend it).
Completed two new pieces of furniture.
Slept (I think).
Eaten (not as often as I should have).

Basically, I've driven myself completely to the brink of insanity. I'm slowly stepping away from that ledge. Why, you may ask?

Well, tax season has played a part. My employment with RBFC goes into hyper-drive in April, and this space cadet got sucked into the black hole that results from the effort to keep up.

Because I refuse to allow work to dominate my life, I've also attempted to retain my grip on the last remaining threads that make up my social life. I've become more active in my local community, which probably would have been an activity best left for next month. I've also been looking for that ever-elusive other-half. It's been interesting, to say the least.

It has, however, generated some mighty interesting stories. I'll work on getting a few of those posted. In the meantime....

"I'm baa-aack!"


Friday, March 23, 2007

The Quote of the Day


Mister M and I trade funny snippets from our day back and forth. It helps make work go a little faster, and adds brevity to what can be a very plodding existence in cubicle-land. Recently, we've sent a string of unconscious, yet hilarious, grammar slips zipping back and forth across the wires. Who ever is monitoring my e-mails at work must be getting a chuckle.

Quote 1: one of mine
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Mandy, a co-worker with a proud-to-be redneck flair, sighs heavily.

"Everything okay over there?" I ask over the padded five-foot grey wall.

"This hold time is inconvincable!"

"Huh?" I lose track of the beat in The Girl from Ipanema.

"You know, like, outrageous. Inconvincable."

Riiiiight....
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Quote 2: one of his

"We've had a grub worm problem for the last couple weeks out on the estate," Mister M explains. "The moths see the landscaping lights in the lawn and are sucked in. They lay their eggs, then out come the worms.

"Now some sort of animal has been rooting around out back, looking for a meal. The housekeeper thinks it must be an 'Amarillo'. You know, one of 'those things they have down in Texas'."
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
And the winner is...
Quote 3: one of mine

"Ug!" My boss fans herself rapidly, then starts alternately lifting and yanking down her cowl-necked sweater.

The office is noticeably over-warm. She's flushed. Her stringy, over-processed hair has gone flat. There's a light sheen on her upper lip.

"You okay?" I ask, ever the helpful employee.

"This heat!," she gasps. "I'm sweating protrusively!"
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I've decided to give out dictionaries for Christmas.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Girl from Ipanema

I was sitting in my cubicle, in my standard-issue wanna-be-ergonomic office chair, listening to the forth round of "The Girl from Ipanema". I was very glad, at that point, I was wearing a headset instead of holding the receiver. No doubt the company big-wigs issue them with the understanding that even the most die-hard Sinatra fan can only take so much. The cost of handsets being thrown through the window could get a little pricey.

I'd been on hold for 27 minutes, last check, and was on my forth transfer. All four phone reps claimed I was in the wrong department, and thus began the "Tall, tan, young and lovely..." assault . I wonder, sometimes, if there's life on the other end of the line.

Finally, success! A human being answers the phone:

"Great-Big-Financial company, Jane Doe speaking. How may I assist you today?"

'You could drop the cheesy phone voice,' I think to myself.

"Hey there. This is Mouth from Another-Great-Big-Financial company, calling in regards to the requested transaction for our mutual client, Mr. Bigbucks."

"And is Mr. Bigbucks available for me to speak with?"

Damn. A strike-out. "No, he isn't, I'm afraid."

"Oh, I'm sorry, Mouth," chirps Jane, dripping with vicious sarcasm. "I can't discuss the transaction with you unless Mr. Bigbucks is there to give his permission."

Jane and I both know her company has already spoken with me three times regarding this particular transaction. We're also both aware that she's going to do everything in her power to hold on to that particular quarter-mil for as long as possible, and that it's my job to get her to release it and send it to me.

I imagine Jane and I as two knights, squared off against one another in a jousting ring. We straddle our chairs, keyboards tucked snuggly under our arms, and stare intently into one another's monitor-reflecting eyes. Suddenly, the flag drops, and we lean forward at a charge. The keyboards collide in the center of the ring, Ps and Qs flying hither and yon. Jane is dazed, but not down. Swinging my mouse overhead like a mace, I deliver the death blow...I smile, batting my eyes. "Well, Jane, if you would be so kind as to review your notes, you'll see that John Smith and I conference-called Mr. Bigbucks just last week on such-and-such date at so-and-so time, and that he indeed has given his permission for you to discuss the transaction with me." I'm a meticulous note-taker. It's what makes me good at my job.

Choking on her final breath, pencil skirt and suit jacket smudged and torn from taking her spill into the dirt of the jousting ring, Jane resorts to her final tool in the financial world arsenal - the hold button. "It will take me just a moment to review the account, Mouth. Would you mind if I place you on hold?"

'YES!' my subconscious screams. "No, Jane, that would be fine. Take your time." My voice drips with honey-coated barbs as we start The Waiting Game. It's something like The Price is Right, except there's no smiling Bob Barker, no television cameras, and nobody goes home with a new bedroom suite.

Something inside me dies as Sinatra croons yet again, "... when she passes, each one she passes says, 'Ahhhh'."

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Old Gray Mare



I hit the snooze button six times before I finally dragged myself out of bed this morning, cussing and rubbing my eyes. One pounding shower and a quick kiss of the toothbrush later, and I'm standing before the mirror, wondering why my breasts suddenly seem less excited than I am about facing the upcoming day.

That's when it caught my eye. One shining white streak among a field of crimson.

My first gray hair.

At least, the first one I've noticed. I plucked at my scalp, miffed. 'How is this possible?' I thought to myself. At my age?

I took a closer look. Deep, dark blue shades the inside corners of my eyes, and fine creases have developed there, and around my mouth.

Then I remembered my grandmother admonishing to my mother, "Don't go pullin' at thim gray har. You'll git three in 'er place." This from the woman who insists coffee tastes better with a little bourbon, who has to retrieve her teeth from her purse every time we want to take a family photo.

Now, I'm not buying into that whole wive's tale about hydra-style grays that split into themselves when they're severed, but why tempt fate, right?

Anyway, I've earned the gray. You don't have the kind of year I just had and come out completely unscathed. I guess I'll keep it.

Maybe I'll name it Harry.

Friday, March 02, 2007

In the House

"A meshugga madam who taught people how to be sex slaves turned a stately $3 million Westchester home owned by an ultra-Orthodox rabbinical school into an S&M dungeon, police claimed yesterday. Mistress of "The Sovereign Estate," Sandra Chemero - who advertised the manse online as a place "where submissives and slaves are immersed in training" - was busted on charges of prostitution and weapons possession for having a stun gun."

A friend linked me to the New York Post this morning.


"Can you believe this?" she said.

No, honestly. I can't.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again:

What goes on behind closed doors between two consenting adults is nobody's business but theirs.

You'll notice, please, that the report did not define which "sex acts" she agreed to. I'm sorry, but how, exactly, do you define a sex act?

I'm patronizing a restaurant, and up saunters my waitress. She's got a killer body, legs all the way to the floor, and I become aroused. Are she and I committing a sex act?

What would have to happen in order for it to count as one? Would we have to have contact?

So I stand up, shake her hand, and introduce myself. Are we going to be arrested on the spot because I'm aroused and we're touching?

In order for it to count as prostitution (which is actually the illegal part of this story), money (or goods) has to exchange hands. So, if I tip her heavily because of those curves, we're both going to jail?

Were this the case, cell block 7 in the women's ward would look like a Hooter's reunion.

It's like the city of New York banning the "N-word". How can you ban the use of a word, and still tout the United States as a country with the right of freedom of expression? How could the bill not have been laughed off the floor?

It's a sad state of affairs when Americans don't stand together against the loss of their basic rights.

Is the Dominatrix's behavior offensive to most Americans? Yeah, probably. That doesn't change the fact that by allowing her to be imprisoned for her activities, you open the door to your own bedroom for inspection.

Is the "N-word" offensive and derogatory, with or without the "R"?

Absolutely, but I'll support some one's right to use it with my dying breath. Why?

Because by protecting his right to say it, I'm also protecting my right to tell him just what I think about it, and that is something worth fighting for.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Life's scars

"We're running late, Mouth." My mother's voice crackled, indicating the car she was calling from was closer to her home in the country than mine in the city. Towers, after all, can only cast clear signals so far.

"How late?" I asked, eyes darting to the clock on top of my refrigerator.

"We'll be there in an hour and fifteen minutes."

"Are you in the car?"

"Yes."

"Where?"

"Smalltown."

"You'll be here in 35 minutes."

"Alright. Well, we're on our way."

I hung up the phone, sighing. I remember a voice in my head, a year ago.

"Don't be dramatic, Mo. It'll pass. You don't really want to give up your family." L had said that to me, sipping a drink he'd fallen back into after 10 years of sobriety, sitting across a table we'd come to argue over like a judge's bench a few weeks later.

Months later, by another more settled voice rang clearly:

"I can't believe you tolerate it."

-I can't, either- my heart cried.

They picked me up from home, all bluster and noise, disturbing the quiet peace in my apartment.

"Let's go!" mother cried, flipping her sunglasses off. "Are you ready?"

"I've been ready for hours." I sat in a wing chair in my living room, my book in my lap, my packed suitcase at my feet.

"Oh." Mother looked deflated. "Well, get loaded up, then. Where's the cat?"

"In the bedroom." I knew what was coming.

"Well, go get him."

"Mother, it's six degrees outside. I'm going to be in the hospital for hours. You cant leave him in the car."

"You don't think he'd be okay with a blanket?" I raised my eyebrows. We'd gone through this same dance earlier in the week. "Oh, alright. We'll come back for him."

On the way to the hospital, both Jenny and mom complained about how hungry they were. "It's lunchtime," mother announced. Neither one of them seemed to remember that they'd had a full breakfast only hours ago, and that I hadn't eaten since dinner the evening before. "Oh, I can't wait. I'm getting sick to my stomach!" Mother tore into a pre-packed BLT in the backseat.

After I got to the hospital and got checked in, the nurse asked if I wanted my family to join me in the pre-op room. "Honestly?" I chuckled, then shook my head. "It's alright. Send them in."

-They need to see you- I told myself. -Nevermind the noise.-

Mother immediately began fussing with the blankets, asking over and over if I was warm enough, bumping my IV and snagging the tubes on the pressure monitors. Jenny sat in a chair, visibly stirring some internal pot. Finally, mother sat down. It took only a moment for Jenny to pounce.

"I've been going to group. I've been going to group twice a week. We all had to write letters to our families." She began fishing in her bag. "I wrote one for mommy, and one for daddy, and I wrote one for you."

"Jen, do we have to do this right now?"

My mother looked up from her magazine long enough to chastise me. "Oh, Mouth, stop. It's a nice letter. The least you can do is read it."

Jenny stuffed the letter in my hand. I worked my way down the page, deciphering child-like handwriting saying how much she admired me, and how much she is inspired by me. The last sentence hung like grease dropping from the bottom of the page:

"You love me and never gave up on me."

Guilt.

Guilt wielded like a weapon. Guilt that was used to pin down, to hold, to restrain. Guilt that shackled me to a life I didn't want, and refused to accept. I smiled at Jenny. "Thank you," I said. -Thank you for reminding me. Thank you for letting me see, one more time, that you'll never change, because you don't want to.-

I heard his voice in my head. "I don't accept guilt I didn't earn." I'd read that same line in the book he gave me, which was resting on my chest like a plate of armor.

"You know, Mo, I need your support now more than ever. I know you don't believe me that I didn't mean any of it, the cancer and all that. I'm sick, you know. The voices. I know you don't agree with the medication, and I know you don't believe I'm really sick, but I am."

"I don't want to talk about it, Jenny. I'm not going to say anything you want to hear."

"But I need to know you're going to be there for me! I need to know you're going to be there even if I have to go back to the hospital. I need to know you'll be there no matter what."

"I won't."

"What do you mean you won't? You weren't there the last time because we were fighting, but we're not fighting now! Why wouldn't you come?"

"Because I refuse to support your self-destruction."

"It's not self-destruction! It's part of the healing process!"

I eyed her arms, and her jean-clad legs. "Taking a razor blade to yourself is part of your healing process?"

"I make mistakes. I'm not perfect like you," she snapped. "If I can only stay out of the hospital for six months..." she trailed off.

"You can, but I'm not sure that you will, and I'm no more likely to visit you the next time than I was the last time."

"Why are you so terribly mean?"

"Because I'm laying in a hospital bed connected to machines, hoping to God and anything that will listen that when I wake up, the doctor will tell me everything's okay. Because I refuse to accept steps backwards as progress. Because I'm not going to tell you what you want to hear, just because it makes you more comfortable. I've told you I have nothing nice to say on the subject. Now, we can talk about this later if you'd like, but I would really appreciate it if you'd leave it alone for now. You'll have me trapped at mom's house as a captive audience all weekend. Surely it can wait until then."

"Now girls, let's not fight," mother jumped in, after the argument was obviously over to all parties involved.

Just before Jenny's mouth twisted open to lob another missile, the anesthesiologist peaked around the corner. "All ready to go, Miss Mouth?" I could see in his eyes that he'd heard it. I smiled weakly, both in embarrassment and in thanks.

"Yeah. I'm ready." He and three male nurses each took a corner of my bed, and wheeled me away from Jenny's steely glare.

"Wanna take a nap?" he laughed down at me.

"More than you can imagine," I sighed, watching him compress the plunger into my IV line.

I awoke to a militeresque post-op nurse barking orders for painkillers, telling me to sit up but not too far, take deep breaths but not move my abdomen, and try not to vomit. The doctor came by after I was awake enough to string two sentences together.

"That mass in your ovary? It was scar tissue. I removed it, but any idea where it came from?"

"Life," I snorted.

After an hour of recovery, they released my shaky, still-groggy body to my mother and sister, who whisked me into the car and headed back to my apartment. I vaguely remember laughing in half-sleep at my mothers report that my 'stupid cat' had peed on her when she tried to take him to the car.

I came to full consciousness somewhere between the glittering towers of the city and the rolling hills around my parents' farm. "There you are. What do you want for dinner?"

"I don't know, mother. I don't care. What's convenient?"

"Anything you want!" My mother beamed.

"Okay. What's thawed out?"

She thought for a moment. "Well... nothing."

"So there's nothing thawed out, but I can have anything I want?" Mother's mouth twisted in a humorless snarl.

"I didn't mean it like that. Look, we're about to drive through a town. There's food places there. Pick one."

I sighed and requested a tasteless glob of soyburger in a styrofoam box from any of the chains along the side of the highway. I remembered my dad asking me three weeks prior what I wanted, so they could grocery shop and have it ready when I got there. I'd listed two or three meals that were favorites of mine, and that the rest of the family enjoyed. Cardboard-packed fast food wasn't on the list.

We ate in silence, Jenny using her knees in an attempt to keep the car between the lines, cussing and making obscene gestures at the other cars who honked at her when she crossed the yellow center mark. I realized I was holding my breath as we crossed a narrow bridge that spanned a busy train-track.

"Doug's there," she said to me.

"Okay..." I wasn't sure where she was going with it.

"So we've got the couch all made up," she spat through her burger-stuffed mouth, "for you."

For... me?

Months ago, I'd sent my bedroom suite to my mother's house at her request, because she'd volunteered her home for entertaining family over Thanksgiving, but realized after the fact that she didn't have beds for all the bodies that were attending. Mr. M had come up over that weekend, as well. We'd slept on two twin mattresses pushed together in my bedroom floor.

She said she'd wanted to keep the bedroom set, "for when you visit, Mouth." My visits out to the farm were becoming less and less frequent. The twin mattresses are now stacked on one another in a corner in my room. I'm still sleeping on them.

"Is your friend coming out this weekend?"

"Pea? Yes." I didn't ask where he would sleep. I knew they didn't know.

Three nights, I slept on the sofa. Two of those nights, Pea slept by my side, curled in fetal position on a love seat. Sunday morning, I awoke to my family standing in the kitchen yelling at one another about whether or not they were going to church. Embarrassed, I turned my face away. Pea was woken up by the commotion, too. He was watching me.

I looked into his dark eyes, and saw an emotion I detest - Pity.

I stood up and started shoving clothing into my suitcase. Pea readily followed suit.

"What are you doing?" my mother asked.

"Packing," I answered.

"Where are you going?" asked my father.

"Home," I answered.

"I thought you were staying all weekend?" My sister demanded.

"I'm going home to sleep in my own bed, in my own home, with my own food and my own clothes, where it's quiet and I can rest."

My family blinked at me. Suddenly, as if called to action, they began bustling around, going through the motions of helping me pack and get ready to go. In reality, they were moving things from place to place, with no progression towards the car.

They each hugged me in turn, admonishing me to take it easy, to rest, to call if I needed anything. The unspoken, already-broken promise hung silently in the air - call if you need anything, but don't expect us to answer.

And so I'm home, and healing - in more ways than one. I told Pea I wanted to change my name, move, and start over. I don't know that I'll do it. I only know that I don't want to go back.

The fear associted with the past months has been like an alarm clock screaming in my soul. "Wake up!" it's saying. "Wake up and live!"

And that's exactly what I'm going to do.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Moolah & Smooches

The flowers and candy passed around this time of year are nice, but I'm still not buying into the V-day hype. Why should some obscure day in the middle of February be touted as the most romantic day of the year? Why , today, are men and women alike willing to drop a couple hundred bucks doing something special for their other half, when any other day of the year they'd sniff that it's too expensive, or takes too much time.

Why, for so many people, is a "good" Valentine's day associated with the price tag attached to it?

I remember last year's elaborate plans gone awry. I remember how mortified L was that things didn't work out, and how concentrated he was on doing something nice for me, because I'd had such a rough time the months before that. I also look back at the plastic poppy on the chipped laminate table, the hot, steaming buffet line stuffed full of chinese food, and remember it as the best Valentine's day I'd ever had.

The Waiter, from waiterrant.com commented on the vicious weather we're having in this part of the country:

"The horrible weather the Northeast and Midwest experienced today meant many couples stayed home and had candlelight dinners– and that’s because they’re snowbound and without power! I’m sure nine months from now the maternity wards will be hopping."

Gets me thinkin about how many sideline markets could jump on the Free Love bandwagon. Why should florists, chocolatiers, French restaurants and Hallmark get all the dough? Think of it:

Pet stores: They could start selling fish to empty-headed up-and-coming yuppies trying to Woo that girl from accounting into a white picket fence. How sweet! And after the wedding, as the husband flushed the bloated, floating fish body down the john, nobody would mention that the fish survived longer than their love did.

Cel phones: little pink and red mini-phones that only work for a 24 hour period. Instead of ringing, they would erupt with annoying little pull-cord voices asking, "Will you be mine?" and proclaiming "I love you!" Usage would run $14 per minute. The cost of the phone? $140. How romantic.

Credit Cards: The Valentine Visa! It would come with cute little haulographic hearts all over the front of it, which you could special order in 14 different designs (additional fees apply, of course).

Now if I can just figure out how to market a Valentine's Day car....

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sweethearts


"I'd like to cook you dinner on Valentine's day," he said.

"Um, Pea? You don't cook." I smiled. He cringed.

"All the same, I'd like to make you dinner."

"We'll see." That was three days ago.

Last night, I stayed up late baking a beautiful four-layer chocolate/strawberry cake with pink frosting. This week, two of the gals at work had birthdays, and somehow I've been nominated as the official birthday-cake maker. The idea was to swirl white frosting around the base and stick little conversation hearts in it. Gravity, apparently, had other plans.

Did you know that if you forgot to frost the cake to the stand, then tip it at a 45 degree angle to frost the side, the cake will slip off the stand and onto the countertop? Did you know that said cake will also bounce, breaking in half, and that the spongier half will careen to the floor and land on your foot, decorating it in lovely black and pink cakey crumbles? Did you know that cats like pink vanilla frosting?

These are the things I discovered.

I got over it, of course. Eating nearly the entire portion that could be salvaged from the countertop helped.

Fast forward to the following morning, after I finally came down from the sugar high and got to bed. I got a call from the downstairs security desk. "Ma'am, you have a delivery down here."

No one had mentioned sending me flowers, but my dad had called that morning to wish me a happy Valentine's day, so I thought maybe they were from him. He does that sometimes.

Instead, Pea was standing in the lobby in full winter garb, carrying a sack of books and puzzles, and a fistfull of daisies. The books, of course, were naughty, and the flowers were gorgeous.

Despite the sudden joy of my special delivery, I spent the remainder of the afternoon periodically hugging the toilet in the ladies' room. Nerves, I'm sure, but it certainly didn't make the experience any more pleasant.

Tonight, Pea and I took it easy. We decided to forgo the fancy restaurants or an elaborate dinner at home, and opted instead for fast food burgers and fries in bed, watching a DVD on my laptop. Nothing fancy, but it was exactly what I wanted.

The calm of today helped alleviate some of the trepidation associated with tomorrow. Wish me luck?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

30 minutes - 30 lies

It was 6 degrees when I walked in to work this morning. Six degrees.

As in six degrees above zero.

Fahrenheit.

Yeah. Cold.

Typically, the sun would be up and the birds would be out chirping. Icicles would sparkle like glass ornaments on leaf-bare trees. I'd pass the other city people I see every day, walking the opposite way into work. I'd walk under the wind chime, three stories up, hanging outside some one's window. I walk under that wind chime every day. It's just the perfect pitch - that happy, light, melodic tinkle that brings a smile to your lips and adds a spring to your step.

This morning, the chimes were frozen together. The birds were nowhere to be heard or seen. The city people all had their faces covered, trying to protect their eyes and ears from the blistering wind.

This morning, I felt like I was making a death march into Hell frozen over.

It isn't that I don't like my job - the job is fine. I make enough money to pay my bills, I work in an office at a desk and I don't have to clean somebody else's bathroom or say, "Do you want fries with that?" to put food in my mouth. It's somewhat dead-end, and I certainly don't intend to spend the next decade of my life holding down that desk, but it's doing a fine job of getting things settled before I dive back into school.

The problem, of course, as with any low-end cubicle job, is the people. People hired in off the streets (yeah, just like me) without a college education (yeah, just like me) who can't form a proper sentence without saying "ain't" or forcing a double-negative (not-so-much like me). People who don't bathe every morning. People who are missing their teeth. People who's idea of "business casual" is stretching the 1970's polo they wore in high school over their protruding beer belly. "People" people.

I've been asking my boss for months now about getting some extra training. I have an idea what I'd like to do and where I'd like to go, and although I don't intend to stay with the company forever, I intend to stick with it for a few more years - certainly long enough for them to utilize whatever new-found skills I may acquire in the near to immediate future.

"After tax season" she keeps telling me. She's been telling me this since November. Finally, one of the big-wigs in an office across town decides our whole division needs a bout of training. Finally, my pleas of, "I've got to learn something new or I'm going to go insane," were heard (or at least executed, albeit without registration). Finally!

So the boss comes up with the training schedule. Everybody is supposed to be set up for two separate days of training, one month apart, so as not to leave the entire department without bodies to do the work. The training I'm scheduled for, unfortunately, are things I already know how to do. I mention this to her, and remind her of the things I've been asking to learn for going on three months now.

"Yeah, that's not really what we had in mind. After tax season. Guess that means I can cancel your training days, huh?"

And I can't post out until March 28th.

I thought we abolished slavery like, a century or so ago. What do I know?

Friday, February 02, 2007

Fresh Air

Pea and I are laying in bed, quietly enjoying listening to the conversation of two drunken revelers outside my windows. Suddenly, I get that tell-tale rumbling in my gut. That bubbling, unmistakable pressure in the lower abdomen. I'm gonna rip one, and there's no holding it back.

I shift and turn, trying to adjust, trying to pinch tight enough to keep a seal. It's no use - the dams break. The tiniest hint of a toot leaks out, and I'm absolutely mortified. I hold my breath and wait for the laughter.

Pea doesn't utter a sound. Seconds stretch into minutes - minutes stretch into eternity. Finally, Pea makes a sound - he snores. He was asleep the whole time.

The problem, of course, is that the miniature release offered no relief to my overall problem. Now I'm faced with a much larger issue: the four horsemen of the Apocalypse are riding through my intestines, and I've got a boy nestled into my shoulder, sleeping soundly. I can't conceivably sneak out of bed without disturbing him, and there'll be no release if I don't do something. Time is of the essence, of course - eventually, the sea will fold in on itself and swallow the Pharaoh's army.

I wiggle just a little. Pea grunts. I wiggle a little more. He sniffles a little and rolls half-way off me. Success!

Sort of.

I try to carefully slide my arm out from under his head, but he whimpers and digs his fingertips into the covers, holding on tighter. The horsemen's hooves beat steadily towards the light of day, and I hear imaginary alarms going off in my head. Time's up.

My gentle nudging becomes an abrupt drop. Pea rolls over and starts snoring again. I'm free. I shoot into the bathroom, grasp the countertop for support, and let 'er rip.
Thing is, I don't think men actually feel this way. I mean, sure, on a first or second date they might avoid horking and snotting and the release of toxic fumes, but somewhere around the one-month mark, they seem to let go of all pretense. Suddenly, you come home to a man laying nearly naked on your sofa in two-day-dirty BVD's with one finger in his belly button and one finger in his nose.

Women, on the other hand, are expected to be pretty and feminine and all rosey-smelling delicacy. God forbid we should get ahold of a bowl of Tex's Killer Chili for lunch.

We do, though. Oh boy do we! I guess we'll let that be another one of our dirty little secrets, though. We'll describe the ins and outs of our mensus, go into an in-depth discussion on acne, but the functions of our back-side junction are strictly off-limits.

So much for equal rights. Ah, well...

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Goodbye, my friend...

Tax season is in full swing. That doesn't mean much to most folks, other than that they're reviewing their W2 statement, wondering how they spent their entire salary and have nothing to show for it. For those of us who work in the financial world, it means working long, thankless hours for months on end.

It also means that those closest to us get shuffled to the back of the deck.

Yesterday, Mr. Puffy Pants was in his kennel for 12 hours. This has been a regular thing for three months or so, and apparently, it finally got to him. He chewed a hole in his hind side about a quarter inch deep and as big around as a dime, and took the skin off all around it about three inches in diameter. This morning, he's refusing to eat.

I called my mother and told her what he did. "Well, Mo, he's bored. Why don't you bring him out here til things calm down at work?"

The problem, of course, is that things aren't going to calm down at work. We're short-staffed and mis-managed. There's no light at the end of this tunnel.

Jenny and her friend will be down this afternoon to pick him up and take him out to the farm. It's distressing that I'll be without him so long, but I can't bear to keep him locked up all the time. I'll miss him terribly - he's such a good dog. It really is the best thing for him. I just wish it were easier.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Mass and Prayer


"Full bladder?" the technician asks me. I nod emphatically. "Yes, I thought so. I think your eyes are floating." She laughs. I groan and try not to leak. I've finished off around fifty ounces of water in the last hour and a half. I'm about to burst.

"This won't take long, then we'll let you go, mkay?" I shrug my pants down to my hips and pull my shirt up under my pits. She squirts KY all over my tummy and proceeds to run the scanner back and forth, pressing on my over-full bladder. We chat a bit - I know she's trying to distract me, and it's welcomed.

Finally, she labels the last image. "All done, sweetheart. Bathroom's around the corner."

After I relieve my bladder, they show me into the doctor's office. Dr. Gyno dances in, chart and sonogram images in hand. He plops down in the chair. "So, what's new?" He's comfortable and casual.

I smile to myself and think again, "He's a good doctor." I give him an update on the abdominal pain from the journal he had me keep. He reviews the images the technician gave him. "Alright, so you've got a mass in your right ovary. Probably a cyst. I'd like to give you another sono before we do your surgery to see if it resolves itself. If not, I'll go in and remove it while you're out. You also probably have some endometriosis, which can cause a lot of pain. While we're in there taking care of that ovary, I'll remove as much of that as I can. There's a chance that I won't be able to remove the mass without taking your ovary, mind you, but you'll still have one good ovary left. If I get in there and there's something else going on, something that requires more extensive surgery, we'll button you back up and talk about a game plan before we do anything major. Deal?"

I nod. He purses his lips. "I was reviewing your lab results this morning from the biopsies Dr. Lee did. One of the samples they took that tested positive for abnormal cells was actually up inside your cervix. We may have to go deeper than I originally planned to. We're also going to have to be very aggressive with your follow-up. I don't want anything sneaking up on us."

I asked him about the possibility of children in a few years. He sighed. "Honestly? I don't know. I'll be able to answer that a little better after the surgery."

So that's that. Surgery's scheduled for the 15th of February, which means no candle-lit dinner for me on Valentine's day. I'll spend a long weekend recovering on my parent's farm, letting mom and Jenny fuss after me.

It's gonna be a long three weeks.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

January 17th

"Mo? Mo, honey, you gotta wake up." Pea nudged the slumbering lump he assumed was my shoulder under the mountain of covers in the middle of the bed.

"Groway," I growled, cinching the sheet down around my head.

"C'mon, Mo. We gotta go to work." He nudged me again. I flipped the sheet down, scowling. Pea knelt on the bed, holding a lit candle. "Happy birthday, Mo."

I smiled, wiping the sleep out of my eyes. "Make a wish." I thought of all the things I could possibly wish for. Settling in on the thing I wanted most, blew out the candle, grinning at Pea.

"You're too sweet," I said, leaning up for a kiss.

When I got to work, my fellow cubby-gophers had strewn my desk with streamers that reached to the ceiling. Kay, the gal who sits next to me, laughed as I shook my head. "Happy birthday, Mouth." She'd baked me a dairy-free birthday cake, which sat on my desk amid the crepe paper.

"Thanks guys!" I beamed. At nine, my mom and sister called to sing me the Happy Birthday Song, completely out of key, with my sister catching on every third word or so.

Pea sent me an email saying to expect a FedEx package, which showed up shortly after lunch. It was full of all sorts of lavender-scented bath products. The night before, he'd run me a bubble bath, complete with candles and music. The disc was one he'd recorded - music he knew I'd love, and in between songs he was reading poetry. He'd sent it to work with me so I could listen to it over lunch.

L took me to dinner at a great local Italian joint over near the River Market. The last time we'd gone there, it took us nearly an hour of driving around to find the place. He'd driven down there during his lunch hour, so he could drive straight there that night. We laughed for hours over ravioli and gave the waiter absolute hell.

"What's that island down under South America?" L had asked him.

"I have absolutely no idea!" We'd all three laughed. A few minutes later, he practically ran back to the table. "Madagascar!" he crowed.

"See, I told you there was an island down there!" L squinted at me, playing the part of the all-knowing teacher.

"I didn't disagree. I simply said you didn't know which island it was. And you, young man," I said, turning my attention to the waiter, "have just cost me bragging rights." He bowed, grinning, and trotted back to the kitchen.

A year ago I resolved to take better care of myself. I've cut ties, trimmed fat, and discarded dead weight. I've removed obstacles and jumped hurdles. I've streamlined and minimized and toned down. The people in my life now are those who contribute positively, those who support me, those who love me. The things in my life are things I enjoy. M and I have fallen into a happy friendship. Despite the physical difficulties I've recently encountered, life is good.

The resolution for next year? Health and education. Seems like a cakewalk, comparatively speaking.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Happy Birthday, Twenty-Something!


Well, it's official - I've been doing this for a year now. I went back through and read some of my earliest posts - my how time flies. It's amazing how much can change in a year.

If you're new, welcome. I'm glad you found me. If you've been reading the whole time, thanks. I appreciate all the emails and IMs. Sometimes they make me laugh, sometimes they make me cry, sometimes they make me think. I'm just glad to know I've got friends and strangers out there sharing my life with me. You guys are the best!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Round 2

The announcer screams into the microphone, "In this corner, wearing the white lab coat and completely unnecessary stethoscope, we have Doctor Gyno! He's spent the last 15 years staring down the gaping holes of women all over the city in preparation for this very moment. In the opposing corner, wearing the exceptionally revealing paper gown and complimentary threadbare lap sheet, we have the increasingly suspicious Mouth! She's spent the last month worrying about the turnout of tonight's fight. Let's get ready to rumble!!"

And the crowd goes wild....

-------------------------------------------------

"Mouth?" The nurse standing in the door way looked expectantly over the crowded waiting room. I'm not sure why I feel this way, but a crowded waiting room at a gynecology office is usually a good sign. "Mouth?"

The nurse is smiling, revealing braces with multi-colored bands. She's not much older than I am. It takes guts to sport a hunk of metal in your mouth at that age. She's got a no-fuss ponytail and generic, single-colored turquoise scrubs on, with bright pink tennis shoes. She's carrying a laptop, which probably has write-ups of every patient in the place and then some. I like her instantly.

She extends her hand to me, balancing her computer on her hip. "Heya Mouth. I'm Doc Gyno's nurse, Sporty. Nice to meet you." I smile and accept the handshake. "Wanna follow me?" I look at the wall clock before we disappear down the hall. Ten minutes before my appointment was supposed to start. That means they're running on time, which means that the waiting room isn't crowded because the office is late. They're just that busy. It's a good sign.

She shows me to a room painted in a subdued blue and plops her laptop down on the countertop. We chit-chat about weather, what I do for work, if I'm dating, her fiance, and somewhere in there, she manages to squeeze my medical history out of me. Just about the time Nurse Sporty breaks into overwhelming laughter from my dry sense of humor, there's a knock at the door.

A man with spikey hair and glasses perched on the end of his nose peeks his head in. "You ladies mind if I interrupt?"

"Of course not!" chirps the nurse. "Mouth, this is Doctor Gyno." The doctor shakes my hand and smiles at me.

"So, what's up? I hear you're having some problems."

I hand him the copy of the medical record I carried from Dr. Lee's office. I tell him that I only vaguely know what's going on, but that they want to do surgery next month. He flips through the chart, taking note of the diagrams and lab results from the past few months. We chat briefly about my sexual history. He gets out a marker and starts drawing all over the examination table paper. "This is your cervix. These are your problem areas. All this needs to be removed." He draws a circle around the bottom third of the illustration. "If you were in your forties and I knew you weren't planning on having any children, we'd take all of it - cervix, uterus, the works. Because you're so young, and there's still a possibility you might be able to carry a child, I'd like to take a more conservative approach. I still think you're borderline pre-cancerous, rather than cancerous. I don't think at this stage that you're spreading, but I don't want to mess around with this thing. We need to get this taken care of as soon as possible, so no flying off to Europe for the winter until we're done, okay?" I laugh. He's a good doctor.

We talk about pregnancy, and my previous miscarriages. He mentions nine months of bedrest and a few stitches in my cervix. I ask him if he thinks it's possible. "Possible," he says, "yes. But not likely. We'll see how the surgery goes, okay?" I nod. I had already braced myself for that.

I mentioned that I'm in pain, that it flashes off and on throughout the day and night. "Well, then, that's something different altogether, isn't it? We'll want to take a look at that before I get you under anesthesia. Can you schedule an appointment for an ultrasound first, then we'll do the surgery to take care of the other, okay?"

When I leave his office, I'm all smiles. I feel like the Governor just called in a reprieve. The ultrasound is scheduled for the 22nd, with the surgery to follow shortly behind that. I'm nervous, but at least now I have a firmer grasp of what's going on. I hear the remake Cake did of "I Will Survive" playing in my head. Guitars whine as the singer breathes over the mic, "I will survive. I will survive! Hey, hey!"

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

To every thing there is a season...

"Ten minutes!" a dippy blonde cried. Black mascara was smudged under her eyes as she swayed on unsteady feet, trying to take a drink from her bottle of beer and not dump it down her shirtfront. Ashes from the end of her forgotten cigarette floated from her hand to the floor.

Ten minutes, and a new year. A fresh start? Not for me. Ten minutes before I got to dive right back in. I sat on the sofa, wondering what I was doing there. What had driven me out of my house at 11pm on New Year's Eve, when I didn't at all feel like being around people.

I wondered where M was, and what he was doing. He'd graciously allowed me to beg off on the Tennessee trip. I didn't have it in me to be bright and shiney.

"You okay?" Pea asked me, his brows knitted in concern. I've been seeing Pea for a few months now. He's quiet, and thoughtful, and mindful of my space. He knew I wasn't in the mood for people, but I didn't want to be alone, either.

"Yeah, sweetie. I'm okay." I leaned over and kissed his cheek. He sighed and laced his fingers through mine. We sat on the couch in silence while the rest of the party danced around counting the seconds to midnight.

The ball on the television reached it's final destination. The party cried simulntaneously, "Happy New Year!" Somebody blew a horn. Somebody else spilled their champagne.

Pea looked at me furtively, a small smile playing across his lips. "Happy New Year, Mouth."

"Happy New Year, Pea." We kissed briefly, dryly.

I lost myself over the next few hours in contemplation. I don't know what the next year will bring, only that it won't be like anything I've yet experienced. Life is changing for me at an alarming pace. I feel like I'm on a speeding train, heading towards a tunnel. I have no idea where I'm going, and there isn't any way to see from where I am. I guess I'll just have to try to be patient, and wait to see where this ride takes me.

Friday, December 29, 2006

House Call

"Gynecology office!"

"Hello, Perky. Is Doctor Lee in?"

"No, I'm sorry, he isn't. May I help you with something?"

"He was supposed to call me an hour ago to discuss treatment options. When will he be in?"

"Let me check." She shuffled around on her desk a bit, clicked through a few computer screens, then chirped, "In about an hour. He's going to want you to come into the office, though. Can you be here in thirty minutes?"

"No, I can't. It'll take me an hour and a half to get there. I'm at my parents'." That information wold have been extremely helpful before I'd driven out there. I resisted the urge to bang the receiver on the countertop and scream, "Hello, you empty-headed twit! Why didn't you tell me that yesterday!?!"

Nurse Perky, of course, was oblivious to my rage. "Well, get here as soon as you can, then. I'll let him know you're coming."

When I arrived at the office, I was ushered to a room. No need to undress this time - it was just a consultation. Dr. Lee rushed in, chart in hand. He looked at me, eyes wide open behind his heavy glasses. He pursed his lips, then took the glasses off and sighed heavily.

"It's worse dan we thought, Mouth. You have three places dat are bad." He showed me a sketch he'd done of my cervix during the last visit. "Dis one and dis one, day not so bad. Dis one, dough," he tapped his pen on some boxes with a big X over them, "dis one cancerous. We need to wemove it. Schedule surgery with Perky on you way out."

So that was it. No explination. I knew where it came from, of course. There are commercials all over television right now talking about cervical cancer caused by a virus, how you can have it and not know it, and now they have a vaccine for it. It's too late for me to be vaccinated, of course. I've already got it. It's already doing it's damage. The surgery is scheduled for mid-February. My appointment for a second opinion is in one week. We'll see how that goes.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The C Word

"Good morning! Gynecology office, how may I assist you?"

"Hello, Perky. Did you get any results for me yet?" I'd called every day this week.

"Dr. Lee isn't in until tomorrow," Nurse Perky responded.

"I understand that, but I'm travelling tomorrow at noon. I just want to know what the results are."

"He'll call you in the morning, then, and you can go over treatment options."

"Perky, I don't want to discuss treatment with you - I just want to know the results of the test. What did it say?"

"You have cervical cancer, Mouth. Dr. Lee will call you in the morning. Cheer up, though. At least we caught it."

I wanted to scream at her to cheer up while I shoved the receiver through her ridiculously broad smile and down her choking throat. Instead, I very politely said, "Thank you," and gave her my mobile number.

I don't know how bad it is, or how long it's been there. I don't know what the coming months will bring. All I know is that the new year is four days away, and I'm supposed to get on a plane bound for Tennessee to meet M's family tomorrow. I'm supposed to go down there and smile. I'm supposed to be gracious and charming and fun. What I want to do is crawl under my bed and sleep through the weekend, until the bells at the cathedral sound midnight on Sunday.

What I'm going to do is somewhere in between. I'm going to charge my phone tonight to make sure it's got power when Dr. Lee calls in the morning. I'm going to go pick up a new prescription from Dr. Internist - some new wonder-pill he's found for chronic pain. I'm going to call and confirm my appointment with the other GYN's office, so I can get a second opinion on Dr. Lee's treatment suggestion.

After all that, I'll probably sit down and have a nice, long cry.

2007, here I come.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Seven to ten business days

I sat on the examination table, swinging my naked legs, wondering just how much some one walking through the door could see through the gaping back of my hospital gown. Finally, a nurse peaked in. "All finished?" she asked, entirely too perky for my mental well-being. I nodded as she opened the door wide to let in the doctor.

"So, wha's dee pwobwem?" Dr. Lee squinted at me through thick glasses. I explained that I believed I had an infection, that my abdomen hurt, that I was tired all the time and had aches and pains everywhere. "I see. Lay back and le's take a wook."

There's nothing more uncomfortable than laying on a clinic table, legs spread, with nothing between you and the world but a see-through cotton sheet and a paper gown that doesn't close in the back.

"Oh yes, definitely infection. Wen did you have you last annual pap?" It had been two years, with my trip overseas. "I give you medicine for dis infection, you come back in one month for pap. He snapped off his gloves and walked out. I was still sprawled on the table when he pulled the door closed.

One month later, I was back on the table, spread-eagled and exposed. "You wiw get notice in two weeks of wesults." I asked him about the abdominal pain. I'd already been to see an internist about the other symptoms. "You just adjusting to birth control." He was gone before I had a chance to question him further.

Two weeks went by. Two weeks of checking the mail, two weeks of waiting for the postcard with a smiling woman saying, "Your OB/Gyn cares about your health!" Two weeks, and nothing, and then it was three. At the end of the third week, I called the office.

"Let me grab your file!" chirped nurse Perky. When she came back on the line, she wasn't nearly as excited. "There was a problem," she said. The news wasn't good. There were some abnormal cells in my pap - possibly pre-cancerous. "We'll need to get a closer look and possibly take a biopsy." I set the appointment for a week later, and sort of dazed through until it was time.

Dr. Lee showed me a five-step scale for the levels of cervical cancer. "I think you awound level two," he said. That gave me a 70% chance of recovery within twelve months, without treatment, and a 30% chance of developing cancer over the next five years. The plan was to do a visual inspection with a magnifying device, then take a biopsy if it was needed. They wound up doing a scraping of my side wall, a tissue sampling from behind the cervix, and two cervical biopsies. When he was finished, the doctor told me to prepare myself for the results. I was closer to a level three or four than a two, which gave me somewhere between 60 and 75% of developing cervical cancer in two years, if I didn't already have it.

"How long?" I asked, shaken, but still in control.

"Seven to ten business days," he said over his shoulder as he walked out the door again. I made a mental note to change doctors, and marked my calendar for the results.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Freedom

6am - December 23, 2005

I woke up to the clang of the phone ringing. Eyes closed, I fumbled on the nightstand, looking for the receiver.

"What time is it?" I grumbled, my voice muffled by the pillow.

"I don't know. Are you up?" My mother. One of two people audacious enough to call me at that hour.

"I am, now."

"Look, when you get up - well, when you get out of bed - and you go to check your email... I just want to tell you I'm sorry. Mo, are you listening? You need to be prepared when you see it."

"Prepared for what? When I see what?"

"George sent you an email this morning, Mouth. He wants a divorce. I'm so sorry."

"What? How do you know that?" I asked, eyes opening painfully against the morning light.

"He sent a copy to your father and I."

"Why would he do that?" I frowned.

"I don't know, Mo. Call me if you need anything."

-click-

I laid in bed for about an hour, thinking about why we'd decided it was best that I leave Bahrain, why I'd come home, and why he'd ask for a divorce two days after I'd had a third heart-breaking miscarriage. Then I thought about money - or the lack of it. It was the end of the month. There was $500 in my checking account, and I didn't have a job. My mortgage was due in less than ten days. I heard his voice in my head, a conversation from three days before.

"I think you should wait to get a job. Get your classes started, figure out how much time and energy you'll have after you're established in your coursework. Then, if you still want a job, get something part-time, on the weekends."

At the time, it had seemed like he only wanted me to be successful. Had he planned it? We'd argued the next afternoon when I came home from the hospital. He perfunctorily asked if I was alright, and moments later laid into me. It hadn't occured to me at the time that the argument meant the end of us.

"It's them or me, Mouth. You canbe faithful to your husband, the man you pledged to love, honor, and obey, or you can keep hanging out with your friends. Them or me, Mouth. Which is it?"

I hadn't answered him. All I'd said was that I wasn't going to let a man dictate to me who I could or could not spend my time with, husband or no. I didn't think it was fair for me to have to give up my support group, people I'd known for years, because of his insecurity. He thought surely a woman couldn't be surrounded by men all the time and not give in to temptation. I'm made of stronger stuff than that. The argument didn't end well, but I didn't think he'd leave me. Not so soon after the baby. Not two days before Christmas.

I called him. The phone seemed to ring forever on the other end. Finally, he picked up.

"Are you sure?" was all I said.

"I'm sure."

"What do you expect me to do about the mortgage payment? It's going to take me a little while to get a job."

"Gee, Mouth, I don't know. Since those friends of yours are so great, why don't you ask them for it?" The line went dead.


... a few months later...

"I miss you, Mo, and I love you. I think I made a mistake."

"Is that an appolagy?"

"No, I still don't think I was wrong, I just don't want to be without you."

"Then we're no better off than we were in December, George. I tell you what: I'll give you a year. One year to the day after you told me you wanted a divorce. One year to figure out what you want, and to get it right. After that..."

I didn't finish the sentence. It didn't seem necessary.

... today.

A year ago, today, I obligated myself to waiting for a man who didn't want me. A man who didn't love me because I wouldn't obey. A man who made our private life public to my family and friends.

Today I got my freedom.

It's a strange feeling. Strange, but welcome.

"Free at last, free at last,
Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last!
The very time I thought I was lost!
Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last!
My dungeon shook and my chains fell off!
Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last!
This is religeon, I do know!
Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last!
For I never felt such love before!
Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last!"