Monday, May 31, 2010

My Memorial Day Weekend Mini-Memoir

Friday . . . morning . . .

Screaming pigeon babies had my eyelids fluttering open. My nostrils flared, air passages blocked, the pillow against my face making it so hard to breathe. My frantic thoughts yelled for the still drowsy, slow to respond, body of mine to do something.

Can’t breathe need air need something to help me!

It took four tries before the message was relayed to the right places. My fingers scrambled over the white linen sheets in a frantic search. My mind ticked away the seconds . . . tick . . . tick . . . as my lungs struggled. A small inhaling of breath sneaked around the pillow’s edges and bought more time. My finger tapped against the slick surface of my cell phone . . .

call for help

... knowing that with the body position I was in, I would be unable to flip open the Samsung screen. I cursed again for getting the cheap flip-open phone and not those boxy ones where you just push a button and start talking without any mechanical fiddling. The brief image of the hammer entered my mind. It lay on the floor beside my bed, a ready device in case someone uninvited into my apartment would decide to take a few parting gifts with nary a “thank you” or and IOU. Not that I have a dislike for uninvited guests. I have a dislike for uninvited guests who try to rob me.

- In April, burglars broke into my sister’s apartment and stole her possessions.

- In May, I had to stop a burglar from breaking into my apartment.

- Last Thursday, a coworker found a burglar in her home. He had rushed along the stairs toward her bedroom. She heard the dog barking while in the bathroom, assuming her husband was home, calling out that she was taking a shower. She stepped out the shower and stood naked-body-to-surprised-face with the unwelcome guest. The guy ran off.

A hammer. The hammer would work. Yet my scrambling fingers found what I truly needed: soft paper material. I yanked it out, placed it between the pillow and my face, and blew the clogged snot from my nose.

Groggily, and for the hundredth time that week, I whispered, “Stupid allergies.”

I had left the window open during the night to cool the hot apartment. In a short tee and underwear, I pushed myself from the bed and stepped toward the window, staring out.

With the nest tucked into the bank sign’s nook across the street, Pigeon Mama stood poised, her scavenged grub clutched in her beak, wings beating as if in laughter upon waking the sleeping humans. She fed her babies as her body bloated out and contracted, droplets of whitish goo streaming from her backside and missing, by inches, the early-risers’ heads as the people waited for the transit bus to arrive.

I took this sight as a signpost for things to come. Fate. Destiny. God’s practical poop jokes upon my unwary head.

This should be an entertaining weekend.
Saturday . . . evening . . .

My cell phone beeped. Once.

My body jumped in place while I typed. The Samsung’s tiny window lit up, a square beacon of life within something lifeless. Wires and transistors and thingamabobs that the tech people probably had no names for except, “those thingamabobs,” showed it can do things I cannot. Such a small device as its incessant presence emphasized it WILL do stuff without my say-so at times inconvenient to me and perhaps even disastrous to my well-being.

The phone reminded me of the novel by Isaac Asimov, “I, Robot,” and the killer robot movie featuring the same name and starring Will Smith. With a shaky hand, I reached toward the cell with a litany running through my brain.

Remember, phone. You must obey The Three Laws set forth by Asimov pertaining to all robots: 1 - A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. 2 - A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. 3 - A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

I saw the little icon of an envelope zooming forward in the screen, silently beating against the cell window as if trying to break through in importance. A text-message from my Boss.

Why was he calling me at 7:48 in the evening?

Thoughts of winning booze and a vacation cruise had me eagerly reading his message. The Boss and I had a good relationship. We called each other names - like weirdo. We joked and laughed at our meetings in the park or café. We sent phone texts talking about people considered douche-bags who made life harder for everyone.

He asked (through text) if I still planned to meet him at 6 at the café near where he lived. Confused, I sent him a message, reminding him that I wasn’t working this weekend because of the holiday (I had said that at our meeting on Friday, since it was obvious he had family plans for the weekend and didn’t want to work himself). He laughed - or rather I imagined him laughing - at the mistake. We shared some more humor involving douche-bag people and ended our texts.

Several hours later, I heard someone shouting outside my apartment. I recognized my name. I recognized the name the person spoke. I didn’t recognize the person’s voice.

“Michelle, this is K—. Give me a call.” Then the voice grew distance as he threw back parting words. “I hate the bitch.”

Huh? It sounded like a primitive form of communication, smoke signals lifting up into the prairie sky for the distant Indian tribe, informing them of Asimov’s three robotic rules. Since my phone had played good before, and I was still in a fantastic mood, I called up K— (or rather I sent a text-message) to ask if he was the actual person who sent the smoke signals.

K— said it was him outside. He had been the one to shout up toward my window.

I asked him why. In a flurry of strange messages similar to a ninth-grade smack down involving words such as “You’re weak. You didn’t do me any favors” and insulting phrases toward certain female body parts as personal names, he unleashed his pent-up frustration. During the often bewildering and sarcastic texts of his, one phrase kept popping to the forefront of my cranium.

Friends shouldn’t let friends text drunk

My imagination ran wild, picturing K— sitting in a bar, furiously rapping stubby fingers along the minuscule keyboard, burping as every word he sent me was pure genius but for some reason came out as goobily-gook at my phone line end. I responded back, keeping away from the same infantile raving, asking about my laptop. He said he would return it to me tomorrow. Satisfied I would have the return of my property from the name caller, I placed my phone down. I got up from my seat and started laughing.

I laughed. I chortled. I guffawed.

I was going through a state of strange euphoric awe concerning what had just happened. Through text-messages, I had experienced a pseudo-breakup with a guy I had no relationship with. A nasty boyfriend/girlfriend fight when K— and myself weren’t boyfriend and girlfriend. We were never even close friends. We never even dated.

After submitting an article for publication, I went to bed ignoring the single beeps from my phone.

Michelle, you have messages . . .
Quiet, phone! Remember the three laws. Do me no harm

With the window open, I listened to the sounds of people heading from the bars and toward home. Car engines revved. Loud talking prevailed. A mini-argument ensued where the guy pleaded for his angry girlfriend to unlock the car door. A moment of silence. Then a voice spoke. It was a voice I recognized. He sent up another smoke signal.

“She must be asleep.”

Tomorrow should be an interesting day.
Sunday . . . afternoon . . . the true Memorial Day.

Gathering the two baskets of dirty clothes and a library book that a close friend suggested, I headed to the Laundromat across the street. I read to the sound of spinning washers and dryers, fully captured into the memoir. Occasionally, I had to stop and read the blurb, taken in by the sheer bizarre persuasive cajoling the writing lent credence to when it came to never putting the book down until the last word was read.

Running with Scissors is the true story of a boy whose mother (a poet with delusions of Anne Sexton) gave him away to be raised by her psychiatrist, a dead ringer for Santa and a lunatic in the bargain. Suddenly, at age twelve, Augusten Burroughs found himself living in a dilapidated Victorian in perfect squalor. The doctor’s bizarre family, a few patients, and a pedophile living in the backyard shed completed the tableau. Here, there were no rules; there was no school. The Christmas tree stayed up until summer, and Valium was eaten like Pez. And when things got dull, there was always the vintage electroshock-therapy machine under the stairs . . .

I wondered if my life could come in at a close second. With my clothes dried, I headed home. I read more from the memoir until a shout echoed up through my window.

“Michelle, open the door so you can get your laptop.”

I scrambled for my keys and made my way downstairs. K— handed me the computer bag, saying he also left the $2 he borrowed and something else for me inside while hurriedly walking away. I headed back upstairs and placed the bag down, looking for the wires and a ticking of a clock.

Always cut the red wire to stop the explosive. Or is it the black? Wait! What if all the wires are green?

Without fully delving into the bag, I called K—. This time we actually had a verbal conversation.

K: “Yeah.”
Me: “So about your surprise . . . ”
K: “You found it.”
Me: “Found what?”
K: “Didn’t you open the bag? I left my boxer shorts in there. Don’t worry. I washed them first. I wanted you to know I’m not pressed about things.”
Me: “What? Depressed?”
K: “What?”
Me: “I didn’t hear what you said. Depressed?”
K: “No, no, ‘pressed’ over what is going on. I’m not holding a torch or stalking you.”
Me: “I never said you were stalking me.”
K: “Well, yeah, okay. But I need to tell you something and you need to take it into consideration. I think you’re mental. You wouldn’t let me get close to you. You wouldn’t let me do anything for you. You want to do everything on your own. You never emotionally got involved with me.”

You left a pair of boxer shorts (supposedly clean) in with a laptop bag as a parting gift for a woman you only met twice and never went out on an actual date. Before that, you got into a drunken text-message argument in the semblance of a bad boyfriend/girlfriend breakup although such a relationship never existed and the two of you were barely friends. But you’re calling her the mental one . . .

Me: “K—, you do know we were never boyfriend and girlfriend? But you sent me messages calling me names like dike and cunt as if you were breaking up with me . . . ”
K: “I didn’t call you those names!”
Me: “I have the text messages still on my phone.”
K: “Well, maybe I did. But that’s beside the point.”
Me: “K—, you do know we were never boyfriend and girlfriend?”
K: “Yeah, but . . . ”
Me: “Okay, fine.”

I hung up. Then I went back to reading. As the summer afternoon pushed toward early evening, I placed the book aside and slipped on my shoes. From beneath the floorboards, the tenant talked in his inside -the upstairs woman can’t hear a word I say because she’s deaf and dumb so I’ll talk loudly - paranoid grumpy voice, “I didn’t want her laptop.”

Shaking my head, I left my apartment. I picked up my groceries, deciding to fix a recipe an online friend gave to me for dinner tomorrow. When I returned home, I finished reading the strange memoir while wondering what Monday would hold in store for me.
Monday . . . the government’s observance of Memorial Day . . .

My hands scrambled under the pillow for a tissue. I blew my nose, listening to the ringing church bells and wondering if it was 6 or 7 in the morning. Sometimes, the church people rang the bells a little late, or not at all, or at other strange times like 11:30 in the morning or 6 in the evening. Sometimes, they rang briefly. Sometimes they rang for a long period. It’s almost become a game, while I lay there in bed, counting the bing-bongs.

Today there were many bings and then bongs, but not as many as during Easter Passover: 46 times in one morning.

I got up and pulled out my newer laptop. My fingers skimmed over the keys, typing away, as I decide to make this into a Writing Day. I’ll submit my articles after typing up a personal story. But what should I call it?

My Memorial Day Weekend Mini-Memoir, perhaps?


  1. I ALMOST got so stuck on "...God's practical poop jokes..." that I missed everything else. (I love your writing; I may have mentioned this.) But I persevered to find, to my delight, myself mentioned as a friend (thank you, thank you), a lunatic whose equal and THEN SOME you clearly are, and a well-crafted, microcosmic recollection of the weekend. As always, thank you, Michelle. And let me know how the meatloaf turns out!

  2. Wow, what a weekend! That's neat you have such a nice relationship with your boss. I hope you wrote lots today!

  3. Angela: For some reason, I attract the weird guys in my life. And the meatloaf came out EXCELLENT! It's cooling on the counter at the moment but I couldn't help snagging a piece. Yum!

    Aubrie: Actually, besides this, I wrote very little. I have an article rewrite to do before they'll accept that, then I still have to do a few more this evening - when the apartment cools down enough to type comfortably.

  4. Great story. Thank you once more for a glimpse into your interesting life. I'm just glad you remain safe and secure, even if there are still weirdos around you.

  5. Whoa, what an eventful weekend you had! A parting gift of Boxer shorts ?? Wow, now that's a strange bird.

  6. well it certainly was ...memorable!

  7. Ay-yi-yi. You have a habit of meeting, and interacting with... interesting people. I, for one, am grateful to you for taking on more than your fair share of weirdos. You have saved the rest of us from having to deal with them. We are grateful...

  8. Do I properly understand that this not-your-boyfriend guy gifted you with his lightly-used (but freshly-washed) boxers? Is that what you're tellin' me?

    'Cuz, if I understand you correctly, that is one majorly weird individual. . .

  9. You mean to say that the two of you only met twice, never dated...and he is drunk texting you like your an ex, AND he left you with his boxers?

    RUN and don't look back.

  10. Eric: Yes, I'm as safe as could be expected. Things haven't been happening much with the tenant. His major gripe right now is the neighbor's barking dog.

    Ruth&Glen: It was actually a very enjoyable weekend. It's not every day people go out of their way to GIVE me interesting stories to write about - and for free!

    Lime: That's why I think he waited for Memorial Day to do this. Kind of a warped, "She'll remember me always on this holiday" deal. By the end of this week, I'll have completely forgotten about him.

    Suldog: Um... you're welcome? Hey, wait a minute! You're right. I DO handle all the weirdos. I should be getting paid for putting my physical and mental... um... whatever, in such situations. I accept Paypal.

    Craig: Yes, that's what I'm saying. I was going to take a photo, since they were so colorful, but didn't really feel like digging them back out the trash with eggshells stuck to the elastic and grease on the crotch.

    Urban Cowboy: Yes, he did the strange deed. I'm never looking back on this one, although it makes me want to give up on dating completely.

  11. I think your life is just begging to be told in sit-com form. Now, who would be cast in the leading role?

  12. It sounds like you had one heck of a weekend!

    Long ago and far away, there was this weird guy who belonged to the same church group I did who thought I should fall for him. When I told him I had a boyfriend and later became engaged, he didn't believe me. My husband is Jewish, so he didn't come to Catholic Mass with me very often. LOL

    Anyway, when I finally brought my husband-to-be to a church function and introduced him around, this creepy guy apologized to my future husband, but not (of course) to me. I suspect guys this weird usually don't think much of women to begin with.

    On the side, I'm glad to hear your neighbor has found some new people to complain about.

  13. Update: K--- actually apologized Tuesday, in smoke signal format (a.k.a. shouting toward my window). I didn't acknowledge him.

    Chris: I think Halle Berry should play me. She's my spitting image.

    Mary: Guys like that seem to just have a few screws loose.

  14. I think you SHOULD write your memoirs!!! Your stories, your style...everything is so fantastic! You have such an incredible "voice," and like Jim says you DO meet the most interesting people! You are a FANTASTIC read, Michelle!!! I'm such a HUGE fan!!! Love, Janine XO

  15. Don't give up, all us guys aren't bad, but he definitely was a bad apple.

  16. Michelle....just when I thought it couldn't get any 'weirder' than what happened in May, I pull up your Memorial Day Weeknd Mini-Memoir and read it...and hold my breath, again.
    Michelle, you need to move, my friend! I'm wondering, first of all if the burglar the co-worker found in her home was the ding bat that you were/are having to deal with? :) There are just toooo many weirdos there for you to be safe, Michelle.
    Take care of you....and know that your writings (even though they are filled with things that make my hair stand up on the back of my neck) are written with such greatness, that I know that you will have no trouble selling your memoirs, one day. Until then...take care of YOU!!...please.


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