Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What To Do When You Have 14 Hours to Spare in an Airport

Today, I am Tom Hanks.

There are a lot of ways to be Tom Hanks, sure. There's the beloved Forrest Gump version of Tom Hanks, but my IQ is OK & I've never had leg braces or saved anyone's life in war, so that's out. There's the Captain Phillips version of Tom Hanks, but I've got a wicked fear of water & New England accents, to say nothing of pirates. There's the horrible, bearded, survivalist version of Tom Hanks whose best friend is a volleyball in a movie so abhorrent that I refuse to give it further thought (and plus, I don't really like the beach).

Today, though, I am Tom Hanks in The Terminal, that movie where he... resides in an airport? I don't actually know because I've never seen it, but I think I get the gist of it, & at least half a dozen people have made that reference to me today, so I must be Hanksing pretty hard.

My situation is this: I vacationed in Las Vegas this weekend, & I booked a stupid flight back, a red-eye to DCA by way of Boston. I'm scheduled to leave at 11:55pm, but all the friends I traveled with had flights earlier in the day, so I came to the airport with them to see if I could fly standby this afternoon. I could've gotten a noon flight to Boston, but I wouldn't have been able to fly standby on an earlier flight from Boston to DC - because my flight is technically tomorrow - so I would've been stuck at the Boston airport until 7:30am. I figured it was better to spend a day in the Vegas airport than a night in the Boston one, so here I am.

FOR FOURTEEN HOURS.

In my spare time, I compiled for you a list of things you can do should you find yourself in an airport for more than half a day.* Naturally, most of these things should be done while sitting cross-legged on the floor in some carpeted terminal corner, with electronics perpetually plugged in.
  • Get everything off to an optimistic start by watching the newest episode of Game of Thrones. It's important to do this before your iPad's reliably awful battery begins to dwindle.
  • Call your mother.
  • Read everything, including many round-ups of tweet responses to the US Airways toy plan/porn snafu & Jenny McCarthy's lying oped about how she's not actually an anti-vaxxer & a Jewish pop culture piece on the rise of the "BeyoncĂ©der"
  • Text everyone you know multiple times.
  • Shame-eat a Whopper because fast food calories count for less in airport.
  • Put all your vacation photos on Facebook Listen to a RENT song & accidentally begin crying in public because of Feelings.
  • Try to write a deep & powerful piece that draws on all your Feelings. Scrap every version, but keep trying over the course of all the hours.
  • Watch last week's episode of Grey's Anatomy.
  • Look through 48 hours' worth of other people's Instagram photos.
  • Consider purchasing an ugly souvenir hoodie for $40 to keep you warm in this cold airport because this is Las Vegas & you didn't pack anything long-sleeved.
  • Drink 2.5 soy lattes.
  • Photograph an epic '80s rock star mullet sitting in your terminal.
  • Wash your face, brush your teeth, reapply your makeup, & try to degreasify your hair despite the fact that you've run out of dry shampoo.
  • Watch the Oreo Cookie Balls video three times.
  • Take an online quiz telling you the color of your aura but immediately write it off as bunk when it tells you your aura is "temporarily black."
  • Forget to eat dinner.
  • By the time you remember to eat dinner, realize that all the restaurants in your terminal are closing. Find a sandwich shop that's still open. Remember that it's Passover & you can't eat sandwiches.
  • Shell out $7 for a small package of trail mix & a banana, the only items you can eat.
  • Text everyone you know multiple times again, but feel kind of bad about it this time because it's now approaching midnight on the East Coast
  • Read the newest issue of Glamour
  • Search Rent the Runway for a dress to wear to a "black tie optional" wedding in Chicago next month 
  • Brush your teeth again
  • Spend an hour formatting a blog post in the useless abomination that is the mobile version of Blogger 
Now here's the kicker, & you get bonus points if you can accomplish this one: Learn that you have a middle seat on a full flight across the country. Burst into tears mid-sentence as the gate agent informs you that no other seats are available. Enjoy your flight!


*YMMV.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

18 Things I Couldn't Do While My Phone Was in a Box of Rice

This afternoon at approximately 1:15pm, I dropped my cell phone into a toilet. The toilet was clean, as far as I know, though it was in a public place - a restaurant in Dupont Circle - so perhaps "clean" is debatable. The back pocket of my favorite black pants is just a bit too shallow, it seems, & when the phone hit the water, it made an unmistakable plunkkk sound that sent me into a frenzy of retrieving, drying, panicking, & running to the nearest CVS to purchase a box full of Minute rice.

Yes, there's something ironic about having to keep your phone in a box of Minute rice for 24 hours.

As someone who is perpetually tethered to my technology, going half a day without a phone was, well, different - sort of in a good way & sort of not at all. I'm thrilled to report that after only eight hours in Minute rice, my phone is working just fine (in fact, miraculously, it never actually stopped working), but those eight hours - combined with the fact that my phone died on a very long bus ride home yesterday - were enough of a flashback to 1998 to tide me over for awhile.

Here are 18 things I couldn't do while my phone was in a box of rice.
  1. Google what to do when you've dropped your phone into a toilet
  2. Check the time
  3. Tweet the photo of the guy I saw on the bus wearing jeans screen-printed with Tupac's face
  4. (Re)read Divergent on my Kindle app while riding the bus. Instead, I looked over the shoulder of the guy sitting in front of me, who was reading some ridiculous science fiction novel.
  5. Look up the weekend weather in Las Vegas so I can pack appropriately for my upcoming trip
  6. Excitedly text with travel buddies about our upcoming trip to Las Vegas
  7. Pay for a soy latte using my Starbucks card, which is app-based. I didn't bring my wallet (it's a block from my office, & I usually just bring my phone), so I had to ask my friend Sean to spot me a croissant.
  8. Check my work email, which meant I had to send an embarrassing email to coworkers admitting my phone-in-the-toilet fiasco
  9. Work! I usually check social media throughout the day, but I had to ask a coworker to do it while I was between computers.
  10. Read the news while in the bathroom (don't pretend like you don't do it)
  11. Participate in absolutely vital #photos projects on Instagram (I kid, I kid, though there were certainly a few things I would've photographed.)
  12. Check on whether a transfer I made between bank accounts went through
  13. Figure out when the next bus is coming. Just gotta wait & see!
  14. Hail (& pay for) a ride home using the Uber app
  15. Jam out to Aloe Blacc's "The Man" on Spotify while walking home
  16. Kill time on Twitter while awkwardly waiting for my apatment complex's slow-to-arrive elevator with a stranger
  17. Call my mother 
  18. Set an alarm clock for tomorrow morning
Luckily for me (& thanks, in part, to my bulky protective Spigen case), my phone seems to be in fighting shape, & I'm thrilled to return to 2014. It made me think, though: Would it kill me to power down every now & then?

...probably.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Time Macaulay Culkin Made a Sexual Innuendo To Me

http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/music/pizza-underground-live-macaulay-culkins-meme-band-sends-em-home-hungry/2014/03/22/8947575a-b1d2-11e3-a49e-76adc9210f19_story.html

"Do you like punny songs about pizza?" the show began. "Great!" Because, hey, who doesn't?

On stage was Macaulay Culkin, Home Alone star turned not-so-starving weirdo artist, performing with his band Pizza Underground, a pizza-themed Velvet Underground cover band. In its on-point review of the show, The Washington Post's Chris Richards refers to Culkin's latest endeavor as a "meme band," which about sums it up. Tickets cost $20, & the demand was so high that the sold-out show was moved from The Black Cat's side stage to its main stage to accommodate hungry (ha) fans.

Maybe you're aware of my deep & abiding love of  the Home Alone movies. In fact, I own all four of them - yes, four - on DVD, though Culkin appears in only the first two (which are obviously the only ones worth watching). Long before BuzzFeed started obsessively sharing movie factoids, thus effectively solidifying the film's cult-classic status, I was watching the first movie approximately a dozen times a year, irrespective of the date on the calendar. Because Home Alone is a cinematic masterpiece that cannot be confined to Christmastime.

It goes without saying, then, that I was no-holds-barred enthusiastic about seeing Kevin McAllister in the flesh, & fortunately, I found a few friends who were a mix of A) similarly enthusiastic, &/or B) willing to indulge me. None of us was delusional enough to believe this would be a good show in the traditional sense of the word "good" - & we got exactly what we expected.

The show started with the "band" passing out a few boxes of cold pizza, & that was probably the most normal thing that happened all night. During most of the songs, Macaulay Culkin played a tiny plastic trumpet (think glorified kazoo). One of his bandmates spoke with a faux German accent. He introduced his actress girlfriend as "Edie Breadstick," & she performed a weirdly sexified version of "Perfect Day" with modified, pizza-centric lyrics. A poor-man's Kurt Cobain impersonator sang an esoteric, past-tense version of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." And at one point, the band stopped playing & started dancing like crazy... to Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire," set to a PowerPoint presentation of cats & the inexplicably appropriate hashtag #PUSSYJOEL.

At one point, Culkin asked the audience, "What's the difference between a pepperoni pizza & a boner?" After a pause, he announced casually, "I don't have a pepperoni pizza right now. But seriously, you guys are giving me a hard-on."

OK, so it wasn't directed at me. Or was it? Pizza Underground was on stage for a mere 45 minutes, which was plenty bordering on too much. It was everything I wanted it to be & more.

Photo credit: Chris Richards, Washington Post

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Lessons in Adventuring: Ask More (Or Any) Questions


Much to my dismay (& entirely my fault), my apartment is still relatively furnitureless. I scour Craigslist with some regularity & recently joined a Yahoo Group (apparently those still exist) called Freecycle to try to score some key (free) pieces. In particular, I've been on the lookout for a nightstand & a coffee table & a microwave, though I was planning to probably just buy one of those at some point because who wants a stranger's microwave? When a friend texted to ask if I'd like to buy his coffee table & a microwave, though, I was eager to take him up on it. He sent me one photo of the two, & we made a deal for me to come pick them up last Monday night.

Mid-week, I received a shiny, new microwave - a red one! - as a really lovely surprise gift, so I told my friend I'd just be taking the table. On Monday night, I had dinner with two other friends, & when I mentioned my plans to go pick up this new-to-me coffee table when we parted ways, they had a number of questions for me.

How are you going to transport the table? I'll carry it! You cannot carry a coffee table all the way from Mount Pleasant. But it's only a mile & change! Kaaaate. As their questions persisted, I realized they were right & that I was probably bordering on delusional to plan to carry a coffee table by myself all that way. I insisted that if it was too unwieldy to carry, I'd catch a cab to help me transport it, but they pointed out that this, too, was rather irrational, given the general size of coffee tables (Did you ask for measurements? ...no...) & cabbies' general unwillingness to serve as movers.

This shouldn't have become such a thing, but suddenly it was, like, a bona fide thing, where my friends thought I was a crazy person incapable of planning basic adult errands. I hate asking for help, so I didn't - but one friend volunteered, & then she convinced the other friend to "volunteer," somewhat against his will, to secure a Zipcar & drive us out to Mount Pleasant to obtain said coffee table. I apologized profusely & tried to bill it as an adventure. Wheeeee!

Notice how I've been calling it a coffee table this whole time? But I didn't ask for its measurements? You probably know where this is going.

As we arrived at my friend's home, I could see the "coffee table" through the front door - & that's when it occurred to me that he had never actually told me it was coffee table. I just needed a coffee table, so I assumed that's what it was.

Alas, it was a kitchen table. Huge, by the standards of my apartment's square footage - dinner-for-four huge, in an apartment that sleeps no more than one. There was was no way I could've fit it into my miniscule studio apartment, & it certainly wasn't going to fit into the four-door hybrid sedan we'd rented. So I walked inside, hugged my friend, waffled for a minute, got really embarrassed, admitted I couldn't take the table with me after all, apologized profusely for the second time that night, & then walked out the door empty-handed.

You can imagine how hard my friends made fun of me when I got back to the Zipcar (which we used for a whopping 26 minutes, given our ultimate lack of transportation needs). Did I mention that just over dinner, they'd accused me of landing myself in all kinds of shenanigans that don't happen to most, you know, normal people? (Another friend refers to this as "having trouble living," a unique-to-me life descriptor.) Well, what a grand way for me to disprove that theory! And so I apologized profusely for the third time that night & returned home to my tiny, still-furnitureless apartment.

Adventure indeed. So, uh, anyone selling a coffee table...?

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Time I Went to the White House, Finally


Though I work with a great many people who have visited the White House a great many times, I've somehow never been - not since moving to D.C. in 2007, at least. I went once with my parents when I was 7 years old, in a pre-9/11 world that didn't require advance screening or extreme security measures, & longtime readers will recall the devastating time that I got to the White House but couldn't get in. In all my time living here, I've never figured out how to make it happen.

A friend of mine did campaign work a few years ago & has a number of well-connected colleagues who work in places like... the White House. When I mentioned that I'd never been, he quickly set up a tour with a friend who works in the Office of Presidential Personnel. I left crazy early for our 7:45 meeting time in case I happened to get lost along the way (& because I know better than to count on public transportation to be timely). As my bus made its way down 16th street toward 1600 Penn, I had a nerve-wracking realization that spurred me to send this frantic text message to a friend who visits the White House with some regularity:


As I waited for a response, I grew more & more nervous. I texted two other friends. And when the bus dropped me off two blocks outside the White House gate & I still hadn't heard back from any of them, I decided to take precautionary measures.

I sat down on a park bench in snowy Lafayette Park & stripped off my boots & both pairs of socks - the furry rainbow socks that looked like they were made of a skinned Muppet & the tall black knee socks underneath them. (For the record, I was wearing two pairs because A) it was cold, & B) my boots are too big.) I put the Muppet socks on first, then the black ones, ensuring that if I was asked to remove my shoes at White House, it at least wouldn't look like I was wearing half a Fraggle.

And then we went on a tour of the West Wing. And it was amazing, obviously, because it was the West Wing, & I wish I had a better word for it than "amazing" because that's the same word I use for, like, really delicious mac & cheese, or a refreshing midday nap. They only give tours at night, so it felt a lot like a cross between a museum & a movie set - pristine, all roped off, inaccessible, beautiful. I couldn't step foot in the Oval Office - because, you know, it's not a museum or a movie set but the president's actual office - but I did get to lean over the velvet rope far enough to say that I'd been inside.

The West Wing has a strict no-photos policy, so I couldn't share my presidential adventure on Instagram (though I did snap a selfie in the bathroom outside the Oval Office that I'm too scared to post for fear of, like, being reprimanded by the Secret Service). I was able to take two photos: one with my friend outside the entrance to the West Wing, with the seal above the doorway, & one in the James Brady Press Briefing Room, where I was photobombed by an American flag that appears to be a very patriotic wizard hat.




Now if you'll excuse me, I think it's time I tried to get into The West Wing again. The TV show, that is. Because I've already been to the real one.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Uncomfortable Exposure of Crying in Public

http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinglin/4842852387/sizes/l/in/photostream/

There is a girl crying in this Starbucks, & I am the first person to notice.

I pass her on my way to the restroom, taking my purse but leaving behind my jacket & computer & various empty cups. I'm scanning the faces of the people sitting near me to see if anyone looks like they might rob me - whatever that means - & I've decided to risk it, that my bladder cannot wait. I hope that by making eye contact with a kind stranger, someone will feel obligated to speak up should they see my belongings being stolen in the 60 seconds it takes me to pee.

The old man sitting next to me is wearing massive headphones attached to a clunky, old-fashioned-looking machine, a recording device of some sort. He would get tangled up in those cords before he could ever walk away with my stuff. The old man next to him is gregarious & friendly & walks with a cane; it would take him, too, some effort to rob me. Next to them is a middle-aged women deep in a book & with her a young woman in her early 20s who was, just moments ago, engrossed in a GRE study manual.

She's not reading anymore. Now, she's holding her iPhone very close to her face, & she's crying.

She's trying not to cry, actually, & I know from personal experience that she's about to fail miserably. The pursed lips, the furrowed brow, the red cheeks, & the telltale watery eyes all give her away, as does the embarrassed look on her face, the fixed focus on her hands so she doesn't have to look up & face the prying eyes of strangers like me. She's trying not to cry, but she's going to, & no one else has noticed yet.

I think about what I might be able to do for her. How can I make her feel better, less alone, comforted in some small way? I think about all the times I've been that girl almost-crying in a Starbucks, or in the grocery store, or on the Metro, or somewhere else where crying doesn't belong, simultaneously wanting to go unnoticed & for someone to tell me everything will be OK. I think of all the times I've been that girl actual-crying in private, in my apartment or my car, balancing the desire to reach out to a friend for help & comfort with the need to appear perpetually self-possessed & unfazed. I think about what it feels like to be a disastrous mess in the midst of a world full of other people who never seem to be & how sometimes, you feel desperate for some sort of reassurance that you are a regular human being & that your feelings are OK to feel, even if they happen by accident in public.

Ultimately, I decide there's nothing for me to do that won't be terribly awkward or make it worse for her. When I return from the bathroom - unrobbed, by the way - her waterworks have begun, her mother has noticed, & eventually, she composes herself in the bathroom before the two of them link arms & walk out the door. End of story.

But I hope that the next time I start to cry in public, I think of her, red in the face, & how I felt, a helpless stranger watching it happen. And I hope I remember that we are never alone.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

I Was Made for Sunny Days

I'm a winter person. I love cold weather, & I live for snow, & I would make for a great Stark. I feel most comfortable in boots & tights & sweaters, & I've never minded dreary days. I generally dread warm weather & dislike the heat & spend most of the summer waiting on fall. I've never given much credence to the idea of Seasonal Affective Disorder because cold days are my jam, & winter is my happy place.

I'm a winter person, but today, it was 65 degrees & sunny & it felt like such a relief. All the snow melted, & I didn't have to wear a puffy coat, & people were out & about, looking happy & healthy & lively. At noon, I met my friend Allison for coffee & we hopped a bus to Southeast DC, where we went in search of a vintage pop-up shop located in... someone's hipster home in a weird, old, warehouse-style building. Allison bought blouses, & I bought boots, & then we walked over to Eastern Market to soak in the sunshine & obsess over inexpensive scarves. When we tired of wandering, we caught a bus back across town & ate massive, delicious, gourmet pork sandwiches at G by Mike Isabella (where we spotted the man himself back in the kitchen!) before parting ways. And as I walked home, at that strange winter time between daylight & nighttime (is that when twilight is?), I took a few deep breaths that felt like the world was settling into place. Finally.

I'm a winter person, but today was the first time in a long, long time that I've felt alive & hopeful & right. When I got home, I turned on Lydia & danced around my apartment a little bit & eventually shed a few tears because I am a person prone to crying on the occasion of experiencing extremely positive emotion. All of a sudden, I just felt overwhelmed by the happiness of it all - of being with a good friend in a city I love, of exploring & adventuring & shopping & walking & eating & talking & just being.

I'm a winter person, but if it means feeling the way I did today, I'm ready for winter to end. Right now. And if it's not quite time yet? The way I feel at this very moment will, I think, carry me through.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

I’m Not Responding to Your Text Message Right Away, and Here’s Why

[Note: At the end of 2013, an article from xoJane.com had me up in arms about text messaging response time. Because the good folks at xoJane rejected my counterpost by way of radio silence, I've decided to share it on my own blog... two months later. How's THAT for response time?]

I’m a notoriously fast text messager (messenger?!). Maybe I’ll regret saying this, but for the most part, I usually respond within five minutes. Like most twentysomethings, my cell phone is all but glued to my hand, a condition exacerbated by a job in social media. At nearly all times, I am technologically “on.”

I was surprised, then, to find myself so peeved by Shani Silver’s recent post on xoJane titled “15 Things I'm Thinking When You Don't Text Back.” Subtitle? “Buy some backup cell phone power already.”

Yeah, I hate this line of thinking already, too.

In her post, Silver responds to 15 excuses for not responding to text messages, originally presented in a Thought Catalog piece by Phoenix Aksani. Aksani’s excuses for temporary text avoidance run the gamut from common (“My phone is dead”) to absurd (“I am helping my friend look for her pet rat that escaped”). Silver shares her feelings on each of these individual excuses and, 86.7% of the time, finds them wholly unacceptable.

The only two excuses she gives a pass to? Dancing and smoking pot. Because priorities.

In every other instance, though, her response can be summed up thusly: “Not good enough. Respond immediately!” Even if you are asleep or grooming yourself or masturbating or having actual sex, you should respond to text messages as soon as possible – and if you cannot (you know, because you’re having actual sex), you should apologize as soon as possible for your delayed response time.

This is neither healthy nor realistic, even if it may be socially accepted and expected. Why? Because, with the exception perhaps of doctors and the president, none of us has committed to a life of being on-call at all times for all people. The idea that we should be is totally dismissive of the vital but increasingly disrespected concepts of individual space & sanity.

Should you leave a text message lingering in the abyss forever? Probably not, unless it comes from someone who has no business texting you (like the time my friend was being sexually harassed in the form of unwanted dick pics from a guy she met at a movie theater). In almost all cases (except that one), I’m a proponent of exhibiting the basic human characteristic known as compassion, which means treating other the way you’d like to be treated. Would you want your text to be totally ignored, forever and ever? Of course not. But is it sometimes/often/always appropriate for the person you’re texting to respond at his or her leisure, rather than immediately upon receipt of your message? Unequivocally yes.

Remember the good old days, when the only way to reach someone was to call them on their landline and leave a voicemail on an answering machine? Often, those messages weren’t received for hours. Days, even! Today, of course, that’s unimaginable. Technology has made it easy to reach people, so naturally, we expect everyone to be reachable at all times. The proliferation of technology has raised our expectations: If I text you now, I expect you to respond now, or at least soon, even if you’re busy or your phone is dead or you just don’t feel like talking.

For the most part, though, many of us are available – perhaps too available. Studies show that 27% of adults admit to texting while driving and 75% text from the toilet; I’m guilty of face-planting into a few curbs because I often do it while walking. But that’s not enough for Silver, who writes,
“Why is ignoring the default behavior? Do you like being ignored? Do you? It's the Bog Of Eternal Stench Of Feelings. You can't wash them away, and they can negatively affect your self-esteem.” 
To this I say: Your self-esteem issues are not anyone else’s problem. It’s not my responsibility or a man’s responsibility or any other person’s responsibility to uplift or uphold another individual’s self-worth, particularly at the expense of time, energy, and safety. We’ve all been there, wondering, “Why doesn’t he like me enough to respond?” and “Is everyone hanging out without me?” But it’s unreasonable to expect friends and crushes to prioritize us in the exact same moment and with the exact same magnitude with which we have prioritized them.

I love a good, instantaneous text conversation as much as the next girl, but I recognize that sometimes, my text message is not the most important thing in someone else’s world – period. 

Sometimes, when you’re sitting in your bedroom eagerly awaiting a response, the person on the receiving end of your text message is doing something that prohibits them from getting back to you posthaste – like sleeping or working or walking across a street or driving a car or pooping or otherwise living life. We’re all entitled to that level of technology-free enjoyment of our lives, to taking a break from perpetual multi-tasking and focus on one important thing that – gasp! – may not leave room for immediate responsiveness.

And sometimes? Sometimes, the person on the receiving end of your text message just doesn’t feel obligated to cater to your every conversational whim at that very moment. And we’re all entitled to that feeling, too.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends (But Could Ask for More Of It)

My mother doesn't like asking people for help, & growing up, I didn't understand it at all. She'd call our neighbor if it was urgent - like the time(s) she found a bat in her bedroom or when she needed to borrow a snowblower. When it came to more important things, though - the kind of things you just can't do by yourself - she'd say, "I don't want to bother anyone."

Bother anyone? I always thought. But they're our friends! That's how friendship works! I never understood the hesitance to reach out to people who clearly care about you & who would likely be happy to do whatever they could to lend a hand. If my friends asked for my help, I thought, especially on something really easy or something that tapped into a knowledge base I had & they didn't, I wouldn't mind at all.

And I still think that way. Need me? I'm in. I would go to great lengths to help the people I love, because, well, that's what you do when you love people.

Yet when it comes to the inverse situation - the times I need help - I find myself, in adulthood, becoming my mother in the one way I'd rather not. I'm hesitant to ask anyone for help, ever, because I really, really don't want to bother people. I don't want to be an inconvenience to those who care about me, because in my mind, inconvenient > bothersome > needy > clingy > get the hell away from me. Yes, my mental slippery slope is apparently so slippery that I fear my friends will literally stop being my friends if I ask them to help me do something I can't do by myself.

Do you know that when I wrote that post about not being able to assemble my new bed frame, I received four emails from nearby friends offering to help the next time I found myself in need of a toolbox? Four friends, all at varying degree of closeness. They just, like, offered, unsolicited, for next time. I was blown away.

Tonight, my friend Aaron - who was one of those to offer up his tools for the future - drove me to pick up a couch for my apartment. I didn't ask him to help me, even though he'd offered his help a few times in the past. When he offered to help me today, I begrudgingly took him up on it, feeling terrible the whole time. The couch didn't fit in his SUV, so we had to walk to CVS to buy rope & bungee cords to secure it in place, & in all, the whole process took an hour an a half - 90 whole minutes that he could've spent hanging out with his wife or playing with his dog or watching TV or cooking dinner or doing just about anything other than schlepping a loveseat up & down the stairs & across town & fastening Boy Scout knots out of clothesline in freezing temperatures.

I'm coming to recognize that my reluctance to ask for help when I need it shows a fundamental lack of trust in my relationships - that somewhere deep within, I don't believe people love me enough to stick with me when I am an inconvenience to them. This is silly, really, because I know that helping people I love with the occasionally inconvenient task or chore isn't going to affect my overall feelings for them. I just expect them to pay it forward, to eventually help someone else, because that's how friendship works & how humanity works.

But I don't trust people to feel the same way about me.

There are other factors, too. On my own, here, I feel terribly vulnerable, more susceptible than ever to the possibility of "inconvenient > bothersome > needy > clingy > get the hell away from me" because so many of my friends are married or engaged or in serious relationships, & suddenly, I'm all by myself. There's no default person to turn to when I need something, & friends or not, I feel as though I shouldn't intrude on someone else's person to ask for any sort of serious help. It's the ultimate third wheel syndrome - but ultimately, it's also bullshit. You don't have to be someone's significant other to give a damn about their well-being.

I value my independence, & there are a whole hell of a lot of things I can do alone - but I want to be a person who trusts others to step in, too, who trusts the people who love me to keep on loving me even though I sometimes need a little backup - even when it's inconvenient or bothersome. I love my mother dearly, but this is a characteristic of hers that I never meant to inherit.

Yeah, I'm gonna try with a little help from my friends. (And I'll try not to sing out of key.)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

When Finally Set Free

https://www.etsy.com/listing/128968246/valentine-and-anniversary-decor-red?ref=shop_home_active

Note: I wrote this piece in late February of 2013, typing into my phone while sitting in my mom's car at the cemetery in my hometown. Next Monday will mark the nine-year anniversary of Dave's death; yesterday, I finally clicked "buy" on a small, engraved stone off Etsy to leave at his grave. Don't worry, its actual engraving is not as self-centered as the last line of this post is.

I've been here so many times, it feels like a million. Have I really only been doing this for eight years? And have I been doing this for eight years already? I remember when I counted the time since your death in Thursdays - one week, two weeks, three. For quite awhile now, though, we've counted the days not in weeks or even in months, but in years. And, soon, in decades.

When Sean & I got into the car that day to drive here from the funeral home, after the wake, the rain had already begin to come down in sheets. "It's an emo band, isn't it?" he asked. "Funeral for a Friend?" It was catchy alliteration we'd never thought twice about before, but the phrase hung morbidly in the air between us, then & all throughout the day. Funeral for our friend. Funeral for my dead boyfriend.

It's been eight years now, & there's still no headstone with your name on it. Your father's name is there, the same as yours, & if I don't look at the dates engraved below or the difference in your middle initials, I can almost bring myself to pretend it's for you. It's not the same, but it's the only option.

Yes, I've been here so many times, it feels like a million, but something feels different today. Someone has been here recently, around the anniversary of your death, & cheap Valentine's Day decorations are littered across the grave that doesn't have your name on it. Glitter hearts made of cardboard, a shiny white wreath, a banner of little felt hearts all strung together in a row, & two dozen little stars, made of glass & painted red. Everything is brightly colored but still dirty, weathered by a recent snow, & I'm finding the result unpalatable, more uncomfortable than my usual trips here. Below the bench is what remains of a tile I painted, years ago already, that used to read, "Wherever you are, angel for me" - lyrics to a Jimmy Eat World song - with your initials & the dates of your birth & death. By now, it, too, is faded by the elements, most of the paint chipped away from the porcelain. All that remains is "DJK, '84-'05," but that's all that matters, anyway.

I pick up one of the little red stars & pocket it. I pick up another, pocket it, too. But it's not all take. I also leave something behind: I set a fresh spray of yellow roses atop the bench, a pop of foreign, unsullied color amidst all the dirty red. The stars clinking in my pocket, I whisper aloud a promise to you that I won't be back without something more permanent bearing your name, something that tells whomever comes here next that you lived & that you died & that you're buried here, too.

"Here lies the other Dave Kozak, the one who was only 20," the one who loved me.
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