Goodbye Forever, Box

30 Aug

At some point during the life span of this blog I wrote about how the state of my room (AKA a mess assessment….amessment? Yes? No?) was a clear reflection of how things in my life were going. And, actually, perhaps more to the point it was, is, a reflection of how things in my head are going. I don’t mean that in any big way, really. I am a relatively even keeled person. I would say that on a happy-to-sad spectrum I generally reside closer to the former than the latter, with some forays into sadness and a vacation home in anger and disbelief. I would categorize myself as my friend Ashlie described herself, a loud introvert. I had never really heard that term before but the second it came out of Ashlie’s mouth I thought to myself,

yes, that’s me.

Anyway, my room. Ask anyone who knows me well and they will tell you: my room is always a little bit of a disaster. In college a pile of clothes would migrate from my bed to my desk chair and back again depending on which of those things I needed at the moment. As I’ve gotten older I’ve been better about putting my clothes away (although truth be told a bag of clean laundry sits outside the door of my bedroom because I haven’t felt like dealing with it) but still the clutter remains. Shoes litter the floor, piles of New Yorker magazines reside on my desk and coffee table, unopened mail with personal data lies unopened, awaiting an afternoon of shredding. For years my awesome ex-boyfriend kept my mess, and my mood, in check but since he moved away about a year and a half ago things have gotten progressively messier. Both in my head and in my room. I stopped doing the things I have always done by sheer force of will, desire and habit: writing and running. I started keeping to myself more, seeing friends less, allowing my room to become an embarrassing disaster. The worst of it all was The Box.

You see a few years ago me and my roommates, boyfriend included!, moved from the second floor to the third. My landlord was redoing the apartments and the girls upstairs had moved out so we took over the newly renovated space. We all sort of haphazardly packed up our things and carried them up the single flight of stairs to restart our lives in a slightly better version of the place we had been living in for years. At the end of the packing process, I threw a bunch of odds and ends into a big box, figuring I would unpack it and put the things away. That was years ago. The box has remained packed, if you can even call it that, since 2012. Every time I went to deal with it I would be overcome with anxiety. Where does all of this stuff go? What do I do with it? How do I organize it? I would inevitably throw everything back in the box and head out for a run in an attempt to refocus and have another go when I got back. I never had another go. The Box stayed. And then, last week, I had enough. I came into my room with the intention of going through the box, organizing things, putting things in rightful places, feeling accomplished and like having The Box take up this huge swathe of space in my room, and my brain, for the past forever actually had some purpose. Like it wasn’t all for naught. I stood in front of The Box, looked inside, and simply said

Fuck it. Fuck you, Box. I hate you.

I got the garbage can and simply threw everything away.* I threw away the old articles from grad school. The weird candle holders I never used. The picture frames I bought at Bed&Bath in 2002 (saved the photos, though). The broken jewelry. The notebooks. All of that shit that has been causing me anxiety for all this time just gone. I took the garbage out, went back to my room, changed into running clothes and went out for the first run I have wanted to go on for as long as I can remember. And I started thinking about my next blog and my next marathon.

It’s been a long and sad road this past year and a half. And it’s crazy how you don’t even realize you’re on it until one day, you just make a turn and all of a sudden the fog sort of lifts. One day you just go into your room and you tackle some seemingly small project that is somehow the physical manifestation of all of the shit that has beaten you down over the past 19 months and you look outside and the sun is shining and rather than forcing yourself to go out there you want to do it. It’s a crazy thing and I don’t know what did it but whatever it is, fuck am I grateful because this shit — the sadness, the anxiety, the overwhelming feeling that I have been letting everyone down, myself more than anyone else — was getting tired. And was starting to make me feel like I had made some turn away from my old bright self into someone far more muted, someone about ready to burst into tears without reason or warning at any moment. I thought I was the only one who noticed but apparently I was wrong.

A few weeks ago, after visiting my parents for the night, I received the following text message from my father:

Hi, glad you came out yesterday. I missed you. I have to say I am a little worried about you. Seeing you made it easier. I hope you can use this trip as a reassessment period to come back and just be happier. Anything I can do to help let me know. I love you.

And so to my dad and everyone else: I am back. The Box is gone. And now I am going to go out into the world because I want to. And see my friends who I love. And get ready for an awesome fucking adventure through Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. And then, who knows. But I think it will probably be great.

*To be fair I recycled some of it but I felt like that took away some of the drama.

The Great Realization

25 Aug

This past Friday night following a shift at work I arrived home to find blood on my desk. Obviously I freaked out because it was a clear indication that something was wrong with one of my cats. I immediately, and correctly as it turned out, figured it was Grete. She had been acting a little bit weird the past few weeks. She’s always been kind of a brat – waking me up in the morning by head butting me in a desperate attempt to get under the covers and knead me with her dagger-like claws and pissing on the floor right in front of the door to my bedroom if I didn’t feed her the second she started her dinnertime siren call – but she had never been overly vindictive. That is until a month or two ago when she decided to pee on my bed. That is the ultimate sign of feline displeasure. I will be the first to admit that there have been times when I have been remiss in my duties as a kitty mom. At that time, though, I’d been on top of it. So, what the fuck? I figured maybe something was wrong so I decided to take the two of them into the vet for their annual check-up (they get better health care than I do) and just see if maybe, just maybe, there was something beyond general cat-assiness that caused the problem. The vet seemed to think everything was okay. Great. I had an asshole on my hands.

Fast forward to the past week when I started noticing little dribbles of pee around the room. I started to feel like I was playing a game of whack-a-mole. You know, every time I would mop and then spot-clean the floor another dribble would appear. I started to get concerned. And then there was the blood. Clearly that was the last straw. Had to make an emergency appointment. So on Saturday morning at about 10, after sleeping barely at all following what amounted to a 16-hour bar shift between two places, I called the vet and made an appointment. And then I had to get Grete into her carrier. Have you ever tried putting a cat into a carrier? It is no easy task. It’s like they grow extra legs at every possible angle and use all those legs, and the claws that come with them, to forcibly keep themselves from being lowered into the chamber of doom. And then once you finally get them in there the yowling starts.

MEEEEOOOWWWWWW!!!!!!!! RRRAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWWRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!

It’s horrifying. It’s the sound that I imagine a whale would make if it was experiencing a slow and painful death. It would actually be funny if it didn’t make you ears bleed. (Okay, nevermind, it’s funny.) Anyway, I walked my screaming cat half a block down to the vet (bless you, convenience!) and checked her in at the desk. I then put her carrier down on one of the chairs in the waiting room and tried to distance myself. By this point she decided that yowling wasn’t working and thought that perhaps making sounds in a desperate attempt to evoke pity from me would be a more effective technique.

Roooooooooooooooo…… roooooooooooooooooo.

She has it down. At this point I noticed another lady in the room who was alternatively looking at me judgmentally (she had her carrier on her lap and was whispering through the grates to her noticeably silent cat) and then glancing at the carrier that housed Grete with a great deal of pity and concern. Obviously I must be a terrible cat mom since I was standing 5 feet away, giggling to myself. I looked at the lady and said

“She is very dramatic.”

At this point the lady realized I had a heart afterall and asked me what was wrong with my cat.

Lady: Just a check-up?
Me: No, an emergency appointment. (I realized right after I said it that this probably did not make her feel better about my relaxed stance.)
Lady: Oh! Bless her heart!
Me: I think she’s okay. I mean, she’s eating and drinking the normal amount. Has energy. There was just a little blood this morning so I think maybe she has a UTI or something like that.
Lady: Bless her.

At this point, two younger women came in with their cat which they set down on a chair in between where they both were sitting. They took turns clicking lovingly at her. Then one of them looked over at my carrier where Grete was now alternating noises.

MEEEEEEOOOOOWWWWW!!!! Roooooooo………..

I looked at them and I said

“She’s fine. I swear. Just dramatic. Tough to be a kitty, you know.”

Then, this.

Young Lady: Oh, she sounds just like Maddie! This is Maddie. (She gestured at the carrier.) Her name is Madison, actually, but we call her Maddie for short. Oh your cat is just beautiful. A tabby?
Me: Um…yea?
Young Lady: So cute. (Addressing who I assumed was her partner) Doesn’t she sound just like Maddie? I keep hearing her and thinking Maddie is throwing her meow! But she isn’t! It is a completely different cat!

At this point Grete and I got called into the office. I quickly smiled around the room, accepted the well wishes and the “bless hers,” walked into the exam room and explained to the vet tech what had been going on in my house the past few weeks. A few minutes later the vet came in, asked some more questions, did some feel tests and said it was likely a UTI, as I had suspected. We left the office $150 poorer and with a prescription for Clavamox. After dropping my still yowling and slightly traumatized kitty at home, I went to run some errands. During the errands I got to thinking about my experience in the vet office and I had a realization: I am not a cat lady.

Okay, so as a back story, when I adopted my cats over 4 years ago (I have two of them), my mother and I had a very serious (okay only sort of serious) conversation about what it takes to turn into a cat lady. At what number of cats is this an inevitability? We came to the conclusion that you could have up to three cats but once you found yourself at four and up you were basically screwed. I told my mom, at this point in all seriousness, to cut me off at three. We made it sort of a rule: over three, definite cat lady; under three, not so much. We did not, however, discuss the incidence of cat lady-ness at under three cats. It never really came up. I trusted in the fact that I was not a cat lady because I had under three cats, but perhaps there is more to it. Can one, without having an absurd number of felines, actually be a cat lady? I have a lot of thinking to do.

PS Grete is fine. Antibiotics are really something.

You’re Not Actually Jewish

17 Aug

The other day after working a night shift at my bar I decided to fulfill a promise I had made to someone. I decided to do the thing that I very rarely do now that I drive to and from work: I stopped in somewhere for a nightcap. The reason I did it is quite simple. The guy who owns the bar I popped into works behind it on Friday and Saturday nights and occasionally comes into my daytime spot to have a sandwich before going up the hill to do his ordering, or whatever he does. The sandwich costs $12 or $13, depending on what he gets. He pays with a $20 bill and leaves the change. I am of the mindset that tip karma is a thing and so I figured it was my responsibility as a bartender to return the favor. See, that’s how it used to be back in the day. (And still is, among a certain set.) Bartenders would go out and visit their friends at work and drop money on them with the understanding that those friends would, at some point, return the favor. I think that’s a nice thing and so I do my best to remember who visits me and visit them when possible, keeping my wallet and my liver in mind of course. So on this Saturday night, after getting out of work slightly earlier than usual, I decided to go return the favor and drop some money on this dude.

I walked through the door at about 3:45 to a more or less empty bar. Perfect. If I had seen the dozen or so people that are apparently usually there on a weekend night at that time I likely would have kept driving because the last thing I want to do after working a busy bar all night is go and hang out in a busy(ish) bar. No thank you. So I walked in, took my seat by the door, and ordered a single pour of Don Julio and soda in a pint glass. I figured the more hydration the better. For some reason, and I am not entirely sure how this even happened, the conversation at the bar turned to everyone trying to figure out where I am from. Not like where I grew up – New Jersey all the way! – but where my family came from. And, as usual, the answer was shocking to people. I am Russian and Irish and Jewish. Apparently I look everything but those things and so it always becomes a longer conversation than I necessarily want to have. Such is the life of being an Irish, Russian Jew with long, dark, wavy hair and a good tan. At some point the dude sitting at the bar who had not just come from work and was therefore significantly less sober than I was asked me if it was my mother or father that was Jewish. I knew exactly where this line of questioning was leading and so I said what I always do:

My mom converted to Judaism before my older brother was born.

“Well,” he said, “then according to Jewish law you’re not actually Jewish.”

Ugh.

This happens more often than you might think and it drives me up a fucking wall. The first thing is that I identify much more closely with my Judaism than with the fact that my long ago ancestors came to the United States from Ireland and Russia. I have never been to either of those places, I do not speak Russian or Gaelic, I know virtually nothing about the history of either of those countries outside of potatoes and the crumbling of the Soviet Union (okay I might know a little more than just that but for sake of argument let’s go with it), and my name is Rebekah Esther. Rebekah Esther, for crying out loud! That shit is no joke! It’s double Old Testament! Also, I was Bat Mitzvah’d. I always try to ask the people who try and take my identity from me, whether or not they were Bar or Bat Mitzvah’d. The answer is usually no. I don’t know what that means exactly but it means something. Maybe they feel not so Jewish and so they’re like, whatever, that bitch’s mom wasn’t born Jewish so she is even less a Jew than I am!

On a more serious note, though, this plays into the world of identity politics. Listen, I know that I live in New York City and that some people call it Jew York City. We are everywhere. I am safe here. How I identify religiously and ethnically, because I think of Judaism as being more than a religion, does not put me in danger. But how dare someone try and take my identity from me. How dare they tell me that the way that I think of myself, the way that I go through the world, is actually technically not correct. I am not co-opting something that I have no right to co-opt. I was raised by two Jewish parents. I went to Hebrew School. I recited from the Torah at my synagogue. No, I am not the most religious kid in town but I take pride in my background. It is something that, in whatever way, has shaped the person that I am and the ways in which I go through the world. Do not take that from me.

And then it got me thinking just in the bigger sense: what right does anyone have to take someone’s identity from them? I have friends who do not identify within the gender binary and that, in many places (New York City included) is not always safe. But they do it because it is how they think of themselves and how they interact with the world around them. It is not a choice, it is a matter of fact and it is really nobody’s right or business to question that. And I have friends who are biracial who have people tell them that how they identify, how they were raised, who there parents are does not matter because they don’t look or sound or act black or white or Asian or whatever. As if there is one way to look or sound or act. And it’s like, fuck, how presumptuous some people are. And how violent it is to tell someone who they are because you think that it is your right or responsibility or something. My Jewishness is not any less valid because my mother was raised as an Irish Catholic (sort of). She converted because she liked the inclusiveness of Judaism and the fluidity of it. She chose to be Jewish and she and my father chose to raise us in a (some what) Jewish household. My Judaism matters to me so, drunk dude at the bar at 4:15, don’t act like you have any power over it or me.

Instead of all of that, though, I just looked at him, rolled my eyes and said, as my friend Ben would,

Mind your business.

And maybe we should all just do that more. We should all just mind our business. We should mind our business about other people’s religion, race, gender identity, weight, ability, and everything else. People navigate the world with a specific level or engagement with their past. Not only with their personal lived experience but the experience of those in their family who came before. And no one has the right to question that. Especially at a bar, after 4am, when you have no fucking clue what you’re on about. It’s rude. And I do not appreciate rude.

I Am Angry at the World Right Now and the Only Answer is Dirty Dancing

11 Aug

A few days ago a friend of mine who lives in another city messaged me that she had been held up at gun point before sundown a few blocks from her house, robbed and then hit on the left side of her head with the barrel of a presumably loaded gun. Standing behind the bar I tried my hardest to not allow my face to register the fact that my heart and my stomach had both crashed to the floor. I immediately went into response mode. Who of her friends can I track down, knowing that all her contact information was lost? What information can I gather without overstepping? How do I offer my support without allowing my fury to become overbearing? And how unreasonable is it for me to buy tickets and board a plane to where she is?

As the minutes and hours and days have passed by there is one thing that I keep coming back to. He held her up at gun point. He took her things. He had everything he wanted from her. And still, he hit her. She was not about to chase an armed man down the street. No money, credit card or cell phone is worth a life. She was terrified but thankfully unhurt. And then he hit her. I just don’t understand it. I just don’t understand what is so wrong in someone’s head that they would cause another human unnecessary harm. How do you look at someone in the face, see the terror in their eyes and lack even the smallest bit of decency. There was no danger to him. He was in charge. He had the power. And yet it still wasn’t enough.

So here’s the thing. I have gotten this far in my life generally believing that people are good. But as time goes on that belief gets harder and harder to hold onto. The certainty with which I once believed in basic human decency has eroded. And it’s not just this incident. It’s not just the glass I took to the face 6 months ago or the man who is wandering my neighborhood, attacking women between 4 and 6 am, causing me to walk down the middle of the street from my car to my apartment. It’s that it sort of feels like the world is falling apart and our humanity is the first to go. It’s that it feels as though every day it is something new, something horrifying, something inhuman.

I don’t know, you guys. Planet Earth has been a tough place the past few years. I remember back in late September, 2001, standing in the driveway with my mother wondering whether the world was going to still be around tomorrow. I remember telling her that I wasn’t sure I would ever have children because I didn’t think it was wise or safe or responsible to bring innocents into a world that felt so chaotic, unpredictable, dangerous and hate-filled. She told me that it always feels that way. That back when she was younger and John F. Kennedy was killed followed by Martin Luther King Jr and Robert F. Kennedy it seemed like anything could happen at any moment. That being good was dangerous and that darkness would eventually drown out the light. But time went on and life continued and good things do happen. And we can’t allow the evil to scare us from living the lives we want to live. But fuck is it hard.

It’s just that it all feels maybe a little bit hopeless sometimes. Well, right now it does. To me. Who are we that we behave like this? (I’m about to go on a super rant tangent so stay with me.) That we get so angry that we throw a glass at the face of someone half our size. That we, in broad daylight, rob someone and then hit them with a gun. That we are incapable of having a functioning national database of reported sexual assaults so we can protect women and men from the serial rapists that evade arrest because we are so fucking incapable of being realistic about the dominance and prevalence of rape culture. That black men and women are being killed by police and people still have the nerve to say this isn’t a racist society, that equal opportunity is a thing, that white privilege doesn’t exist. That some asshole American travels to Africa and kills a mother fucking lion because he can. That a woman runs a marathon on her period without wearing a tampon to raise awareness of the fact that women and girls all over the world lack access to necessary products. That people are fleeing their homes on rickety boats because they feel unsafe and are being turned away at the borders, if they even make it that far without the overcrowded vessels springing a leak and sinking. That Donald mother fucking Trump is somehow politically relevant and we think it’s funny but it isn’t funny because this is our fucking government and has everyone gone mad?!?

Okay, breath.

I just sometimes get really frustrated. I guess it’s that I really believe that if we would just open our eyes for a second and look around, like really look, and realize we aren’t the only people that exist that maybe things would be better. And I get it, we didn’t all grow up the same. We don’t all have the same world view. Inevitably there will be conflict. Everyone can’t get along all the time. But I do think we can all agree that we are all people. And then maybe we can take the next step and say we are all worth the same. That, no matter where we were born, what we look like, what we have, who our parents are, what cars we drive, what school we did or did not go to, that we share this space. And that the space isn’t getting any bigger, no matter how many poorly constructed bullshit high rise condos we throw up. And that money doesn’t actually matter. I mean, yea, it’s a necessary evil, but we invented it. It’s actually just paper that we assign value to by printing numbers using machines that we also invented. And some people have more than others. And for some, all of the money in the world isn’t enough. And sometimes, someone doesn’t have anything and they think you have something and they steal it from you. And that sucks, but it happens. But maybe, just maybe, they could steal the money and then not pistol whip you. I think maybe then the world would be ever-so-slightly better.

Or, maybe I should just rewatch Dirty Dancing and pretend that I don’t have the stiffest hips in the world and that I, too, could have an affair with the super sexy dance instructor and make him realize that he doesn’t have to go it alone. If you need me I will be in my room listening to Hungry Eyes on repeat.

Happy Birthday, Rebekah. BTW Everybody Hates You

21 Jul

So this past Sunday was my birthday. I ate a lot of cheese balls, drank my fair share of tequila and hung out with my friends. Who could ask for anything else, really? I consider myself lucky. Although my birthday ended with me hanging out, it started with me being where I so often am: behind a bar. I exist behind a bar these days it seems. Sometimes I feel like I get off work and I am so happy and then I blink my eyes and there I am again. Behind the bar. Feet hurting. Feeling this intense sensation of helplessness and lack of control over where I am. It’s like being in the worst class. For me that would probably be 11th grade chemistry which was taught by this guy we not-so-lovingly called Coach T who always called me Frank Rebekah when he did attendance as if anyone in the world has the last name Rebekah (find me that person, I dare you) even though he understood that everyone else’s name was listed as last name comma first name. He also told us about the time he was maced by some lady in the park under murky circumstances and he threw a chair at me. Two completely unrelated events, by the way. Admittedly, I pressed his buttons on purpose but, really, dude was a ticking time bomb. The lady who maced him apparently was walking her GIANT dog when he approached her and she still didn’t feel safe with him nearby. So, yea, needless to say it was not hard to piss him off and seem entirely innocent of any wrong doing. I was a total asshole back then. Anyway, the point is that sometimes at work I feel as though I am sitting through Coach T’s terrible fucking chemistry class over and over and over again and there is nothing I can do to stop it. And I don’t even hate bartending! I’m just a little worn out. And sometimes it feels, similarly to Coach T’s class, although I am in some alternate universe where my name actually is Frank Rebekah and nothing is as it always seemed.

So, back to the story. On Saturday night I was working a relatively busy shift at work. It was challenging, as it always is, but slightly less challenging than normal. You see one of the places I work at is frequented by a lot of very demanding people. And by demanding I mean they demand for me to acknowledge their reality that, regardless of how it might look to the untrained eye, they are in fact the only people in the room. I might look out and see 3 deep at the bar but that would be entirely incorrect. I am, in fact, standing in a room that is entirely empty except for this one person who wants me to “make a drink for a female” while I am running a credit card and pouring a beer. And, to be entirely honest, I still am not completely certain what “a drink for a female” really is. Like, I drink whisky or tequila on ice depending on the season and, last time I checked, which was just now in the shower, I am, in fact, a female. So it stands to reason that “a drink for a female” is some sort of liquor poured over ice and sipped through a teeny tiny straw (it’s for style). But that, apparently, is not correct. I don’t know. It’s confusing. Anywho, in order to relay their needs to me the people at this bar do a lot of yelling of the words “excuse me.” I hear the phrase “excuse me” on average like 150 times a night. And it’s not any of the excuse me’s that I normally use. Like,

(1) Excuse me but would you mind moving that chair over?
(2) Excuse me! Coming through!
(3) Aaaaaa-choooo! Excuse me!
(4) Excuse me? I think I missed that.
(5) Excuse me but is that your credit card on the floor?

No, it is none of those excuse me’s. It’s like “Ummm excuse me?! I have been standing here for 30 seconds and you haven’t acknowledged me so I am going to wave my hand in your face and when that doesn’t work I am going to poke you in the arm and then get angry when you politely ask me to not touch you.” It gets tiring after a while. Because as it turns out, using a phrase that is generally thought of as polite does not pardon the behavior that comes after. Or the tone of voice used to deliver the phrase. As I am sure you can imagine as the night goes on these constant excuse me’s become more and more trying.  And so in an effort to not entirely lose my mind, I try to stay business-like. I just listen to the order and make the drink and move on. No small talk, no jokes. Just drinks. I actually end up speaking very little beyond “Hi what can I get for you?,” “okay that’ll be $15. Card open or closed?,” and “thank you.” I try to use “thank you” as much as possible. I thought this was all very successful until Friday night this one dude told me he needed to talk to me about something. He wouldn’t tell me what it was about which left me feeling anxious all Saturday until I managed to get it out of him that night. After midnight. Which was technically my birthday. This is how it went:

Me: So what did you want to talk to me about?
Him: I don’t want to tell you right now
Me: Oh my god give me a break.
Him: Fine. Everyone thinks you’re a jerk and you walk around here like you own the place. They said you used to be so sweet and now you’re just a beast.
Me: (While reflecting on the fact that I am pretty sure I walk around there like I am trying to keep dudes from grabbing my ass) I’m sorry, what? A beast?
Him: Yea. They used to like you.
Me: They who?
Him: You know.

I didn’t know. And then I got really upset because who likes to hear that everyone hates you. On your birthday or otherwise! And then  I remembered that the last conversation I had with this guy went something like this:

Him: When are you going to let me eat your pussy?
Me: You are disgusting.

So I don’t know, maybe he was upset about that. But even still, what a dick move. Like, “happy birthday, I know you think you’re a good person but the reality is that you suck. SURPRISE!” And I thought about it and I realized, I don’t really care if everyone hates me. And I don’t even think it’s true that they do. I am fairly certain that the only people who hate me are the people who for whatever reason expect free drinks and then get really mad when I won’t give it to them. And besides, you try being nice when you are yelled at for like 4 hours straight. It is not easy. And it sort of bleeds into the rest of your life and makes you feel like maybe you’re the asshole. Like you wake up in the morning and you think,

“Man, am I the worst or is everyone else the worst?”

and the only people who really get it are the other people who also wake up feeling that way. Feeling like they are assholes who yell and that everyone hates them.  Anyway, so apparently according to this one guy, my anxiety was not misplaces. Everybody hates me. Happy birthday to me. Have some cheese balls.

Trauma is a Bitch

1 Jun

I feel as though I have been harping on this. As if it has occupied some unreasonable amount of space in my brain and my body. As if I have to apologize for referencing it, for talking about it, for allowing it to impact the way I do my job and live my life. I would say this is the last time I will bring it up here but I cannot say that for certain because I don’t know when, and if, it might come back to haunt my mind again. Trauma, as it turns out, is a strange and unpredictable thing. It winds its way into and throughout your body, it occupies the smallest crevices in your brain. It shows its face at the strangest times and leaves you standing on the street, silent tears streaming down your face, breathing through your racing heart, wondering why all the jokes you make about it can’t just force it to live in the past where it belongs. It makes you doubt your strength and your ability to will yourself to just move forward and leave that experience in the dust, a small annotation in a long life.

A few weeks ago I was informed by my coworker that the guy who physically assaulted me at work had come into the bar. Entirely unrelatedly, and by no intention of my own, I had spoken with him previously, and extremely briefly, over the phone. He told me he hoped we could move forward and become friends. I chuckled and told him not to be crazy, to take care of himself. I got off the phone and I felt good, in control, strong. I worked a shift behind the very bar where the incident occurred and then the next day I wrote him a letter. I knew he wasn’t going to read it, although I would be pleased if he did. It was just a means for me to tell him what I wanted him to know and to take back a little bit of my own power. The goal was to feel a little less helpless and it seemed like it worked. But then the news. I don’t know exactly how to put into words the feeling I got when I was told he had been in the bar the previous week. My hand immediately shot just above my left eye where there is still a pebble-sized calcification just below the skin that I find myself touching when I get nervous or uncomfortable. I looked at my friend in disbelief. My stomach dropped through the floor. I started sweating. I got the chills. So much for power and control. So much for thinking that a guy with a sizeable rap sheet who would throw a glass at the face of a girl who is half his size and two-thirds his age has even an ounce of self-control, has the capability of making reasonable decisions, gives a shit about his own future and his freedom. Joke’s on me, I guess. Seeing the best in a person is simply not possible when there is nothing good there. But beyond that I realized that I had been operating under the incorrect assumption that I was safe and that I was trusting the word of a man who I honestly believe to be a monster. He told his family he would stay away from the bar and me. He didn’t. And according to security he has tried to come into the bar when I’ve been there. Apparently booze tastes better when you get it from a place where you are unwelcome.

And then there was last night. I met up with a good friend of mine to just, I don’t know, catch-up, unload, destress. We went to our local spot which was oddly busy and, just as we decided to go somewhere better suited to our mood I heard it:  violent flesh-on-flesh contact. I grabbed my friend’s arm and just kept saying “oh god, oh god, oh god” until he headed into the mass of people trying to get the man who had struck the bartender out of the room. All of a sudden they were moving towards me. An angry, loud, testosterone-full group of people forcing the guy through the bar and out onto the street. I wedged myself between the bar and a stranger sitting on a barstool. A stranger whose sweatshirt hood I grabbed as I had visions of myself somehow being slammed into the bar or taking an errant elbow to the face. It wasn’t about me, had nothing to do with me, was likely not going to effect me and yet I couldn’t see how something like this couldn’t somehow drag me in. When I knew the coast was clear I fled through the door and leaned against the building, I concentrated on my breathing and willed my heart to just slow the fuck down. I felt weak and powerless. But even more acutely I felt like a self-indulgent asshole as I stood there having a panic attack over someone else’s experience and my proximity to it. Crazy, right?

I guess it’s just a weird thing to realize that sometimes being well-adjusted, self-reflective and emotionally even-keeled is simply not enough. And it’s infuriating to me to acknowledge that another person, a person who I actually don’t even really know and am afraid I might not recognize, has the ability to throw me into a complete and total tailspin in an entirely different neighborhood and in completely different circumstances without even doing anything. His actions didn’t change his psychology but they certainly altered mine. And then it gets me thinking about the trauma that other people deal with on the day-to-day. In the grand scheme of things, what I experienced was small potatoes. People live through wars, through violent attacks of all kinds, through fires, through abuse, through horrific accidents. I imagine those experiences creep up on them, too. Sometimes even randomly, on a Sunday night, in their own backyard. But that’s life, I guess. All we can hope to do is keep pushing forward, realize our feelings and emotions are important and worthwhile, take care of ourselves as best we can and when we can’t, reach out to others to take the pressure off. That’s what friends and family are for and I am eternally grateful for mine.

Here’s to hoping that this is the last post about this bullshit.

The 4:45 am Compliment

3 May

Oh, you guys. It takes all kinds, it really does. Over the years of keeping this blog, I have written about all kinds of times when I have been cat called, street harassed, spit on and the likes by men in New York City. As a bartender, I get my fair share of nonsense when I am at work also. There was the time I got proposed to on a napkin, my answer requested in the form of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ check boxes. Obviously I checked yes. It was a beautiful ceremony. Wish you all coulda been there. Then there was that time I went to give a customer a kiss on the cheek and he turned his face, landing one on my lips. He thought it was hilarious. Me? Not so much. And then there was last night when, after a request for a hug from a regular, I got the following lovely little suggestion (request?) whispered in my ear:

“Are we gonna have sex tonight? I am going to fuck you so hard you won’t be able to run for a week.”

Charming. Have I mentioned recently how much I love my job? No? Oh. Weird.

Anyway, all those things are neither here nor there I just really felt like sharing. The point of this post, really, was to tell you guys about the most ridiculous pick-up line I got last night. Or, wait, maybe it wasn’t a pick-up line. A compliment? I don’t know. Either way it was HI-larious.

Okay so here’s the deal. I had just gotten off a dreamy night of work. Can we just, for a second, discuss the fact that I said that with absolutely no irony whatsoever? Despite the rather aggressive sexual encounter that was offered to me? Seriously, just as an aside, last night I was transported from the bar that I normally work at into what I call Pleasantville. Seriously, everyone was nice! And they were tipping so well! And saying please and thank you! There was one girl who was only, like, moderately nice and she was the worst person we had all night mostly because she spent half the time crying into her gin and tonic. (My coworker and I did feel really badly for her. I hope you are okay where ever you are today, crying girl.) Oh! And before I forget! We also had this other girl sitting at the bar who spent like an hour videoing herself drinking her drink and making duck face. I so wish I had her Vine information because that shit was fantastic. I can’t even really do it justice. Anywho, I got off work, dropped my coworker at home, and headed back to my neighborhood where I found a parking spot on my block, and in a Wednesday spot no less! Score one for Frank! I got out of my car, noticed I was parked a tiny bit on the curb, made the perhaps poor decision to worry about it later (which reminds me….move car…) when a black luxury car with tinted windows pulled up next to me. It was 4:45am. Here we go.

Guy: Hey sweetie.
Me: (unimpressed eyebrow raise) …
Guy: You’re lookin’ awful pretty
Me: (even more of an eyebrow raise and an eye roll) …..
Guy: What’s your name, gorgeous?
Me: I am not going to tell you that. Have a good night.
Guy: Come on, why won’t you get in the car?
Me: (walking away) HA!
Guy: You have just the most attractive kneecaps

?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

I have to say that in all my years of life and cat calling, I have never had my knee caps admired or complimented. And, honestly, until last night when it finally happened, I had no idea just how neglected they were or, honestly, how beautiful. How shapely. How bendy. And yes, how downright sexy. So thank you, weird 4:45am guy, for sexualizing a previously forgotten area of my body. Hopefully next time you will compliment my armpit, my inside elbow or, if I am lucky, my right pinky finger. It’s a little swollen from an incident with an ice bucket a few months back but it’s still downright hot.

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