from one junkie to another!

On My Mind June 6, 2012

Filed under: State of Mind,Writing/Words — Annie Maier @ 3:29 pm
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June 6, 2012 




  • a relatively mild mental illness that is not caused by organic disease, involving  symptoms of stress (depression, anxiety, obsessive behavior,   hypochondria) but not a radical loss of touch with   reality. Compare with psychosis;  (in nontechnical use) excessive and irrational anxiety or obsession.


I don’t like round tables. Especially really small round tables. I prefer squares. I discovered this as I caught myself looking longingly at the square, handicap person’s table in Starbucks. I covet that table, as I bang out words in my cramped circle. As long as I’m renting space from Starbucks for the ridiculously low sum of a grande soy latte, I want to work with all of my writerly, editorly, accoutrements around me—notebooks, calendar, books, coffee, ice, computer, pens, pencil, eraser, paper, trash, Brad’s manuscript, my manuscript. Everything I need to be ready… ready for what? Whatever. Any, EVERY, eventuality that may or may not occur, thus preventing me from functioning at full capacity.

I watch this table, so often empty, and fantasize about dragging it over to my usual spot by the window, taking up the entire space without fear of bumping someone, or inadvertently catching someone’s eye, or knocking the whole damn lot to the floor. Without fear of someone coming along, reaching over my head and lowering the shade, because that shade is the only thing that stands between me and freezing my ass off.

This table, I realize, is a buffer. Holding the world at bay while I try to function.

Starbucks understands. They don’t outright forbid me to sit there. Rather they post a tiny, square note that reminds me that this table is designed for people with needs I can’t imagine. I can sit there, but I have to move on in the event that a person with a handicap shows up. Which is fine. I don’t begrudge anyone this table. In fact, I’m really glad it’s available. Life is hard enough without trying to fit your wheelchair or crutches or non-bendable knees under a little round table. Still, I want it. I want my name engraved on it, a little square sign reading: Please offer this table to our customers with spatial issues.  Instead of a wheelchair, my picture could accompany the words.

That way, I could sit there without guilt. I could be grateful I’m not in a wheelchair, or on crutches, or that all of my joints bend as they were meant to, while occupying a space large enough to accommodate such issues if they did exist. As it is, whenever I am forced to sit there, usually by a large mid-day crowd, I do so with the awareness that I’m a usurper. This isn’t really my table. I’m only borrowing it.



Hauntings (part 3) June 1, 2012

Filed under: Writing/Words — Annie Maier @ 12:29 am
Tags: , , , ,

Previously on wordjunkies:



I’m a snake

(not a snail)

I shed my skin

like Mithral mail


Head and neck

no problem there

throat and shoulders

lick the air


Only catch—

as we found out—

is that my arms

can’t come out


No arms no hands

no words escape

No words no voice

no me takes shape


About those arms:

It was right after commenting on the half-assed state of my molt (noun; a loss of plumage, skin, or hair, esp. as a regular feature of an animal’s life cycle), that Life Coach Jackie mentioned my parents. As in, “How do your parents feel about your writing?”

Two damn good questions.

I don’t know how my parents feel about my writing. I have an idea. I conjecture. But without being able to ask, I’ve no access to the truth. By the time I decided to pursue words as a vocation my dad was dead. My mom… well, my mom offers no opinions.


Except where the book is concerned. Should that particular gathering of words ever see daylight, the remaining parental unit would not be happy. See:




  1. of or relating to a body in motion according to the laws of ballistics (the science of the motion of projectiles in flight)
  2. extremely and usually suddenly excited, upset, or angry; wild

I know to expect such a Newtonian reaction not because I asked, but because Mom confronted me before I ever had the chance to ask. Said confrontation makes a good story in itself, but hang on, let me finish this line of thought first.

Is that why I stalled? Because my parents, one live and one dead, might or might not be happy with my words? Maybe. But not entirely. I stalled for a few reasons, I would think. That is perhaps only the most obvious.

“I have problems speaking,” I told LC Jackie. “Writing is easy, but when it comes to putting myself, my work, out there… Well, that doesn’t seem to be happening either. I write to a notebook, to my computer. I write a blog that’s read by people I don’t even know but not by the people I do know. I feel like two separate entities, Annie Maier who goes about her day doing whatever and… some other person who writes. I need to integrate the two. Or at least introduce them.”

Jackie said something helpful. I can’t remember what—by then I was thinking that I had turned into someone unfamiliar. Not in a larger, life context, but in a word context. Because, one thing I’ve never censored is my words, at least not the ones I could write.

A diversion: Put one or more writers in a room with a recently successful (i.e., published) nonfiction writer and someone invariably asks, “How do you set boundaries when writing real life?” or “How do you keep from hurting someone’s feelings?” or “What right do I have to write about other people?” To which the speaker invariably answers, “Your job is to write your story. Don’t think about ‘other people.’” Amen. I think about what other people think too damn much already. I can’t do it while I’m writing, too. Not and stay sane.

So what a surprise to find that yeah, I’m great at taking this advice while scribbling words to an invisible audience, but introduce real people into the situation and all hell breaks loose. Or rather all hell comes to a screeching halt.

Then LC Jackie said something else helpful, something I remember: “Lot’s of people live two lives where their families are concerned. Do you need your parents’ approval to get the book out there?”

Which is exactly when I realized I had told her nothing about the actual contents of the book.

“I don’t need their approval. I need…” Damn, what do I need?

Amid this struggle, Jackie asked, “Why do you think you stopped working on the book?”

Dammit all to hell. I thought having a life coach made things easier. “Well…” I stopped. Why? I’ve no idea. But I bet it has something to do with that skin trapped at my arms. “So, the book… The book is about… I wrote the book.” I was trying. Valiantly. “The book is about my dad.” Jackie made a sound, but held back any articulation. “The title is Please Kill Me and Other Life Lessons. I wrote it right after he died.”

I heard another sound, but forged ahead. Stopping then would’ve meant another 10 minutes of stammering, “He had a stroke. It was a miserable death. It took three years.”

“Wow,” Jackie said.

Yeah. Wow.

Or, whatever.

It depends on what day you ask me. And whether “you” is someone in my head, or someone outside my head.  It’s a heavy subject for sure. He was my dad. He died. It was miserable. But lots of peoples’ dads die. It’s often miserable. And lots of people write about it. I hear that some of them even publish what they’ve written.

To be continued? I don’t know. This whole exorcism thing is harder than I expected. Twisting necks and lava-vomit aside, the devil is no match for the demons we carry in our heads. Jackie is amazing and EFT is effective, but trying to relate the details of how and why is exhausting. I’m tempted to leave it up to you, the invisible audience. Do you want to hear more? But that seems cowardly. Aren’t I supposed to determine the direction of this blog? Or am I being sneaky, too sneaky even for myself? Changing the subject when things get tough.

Let’s talk about you.

How are your ghosts?


Hauntings (part 2) May 23, 2012

May 23, 2012

With additional thanks to Liz Wong, illustrator.

Previously on wordjunkies: Annie Maier is haunted by a ghost of earthly existence. Flesh and blood and yet also of her own creation. The identity of said being must remain hidden, due in part to Annie’s desire to remain among the living. When we left her, Annie was inching toward a conclusion: what did this specter have to do with forward motion, writing, and escape?

Before I jump to any hasty conclusions about the presence, temporality, and effect of my ghost, I must call the reader’s attention to the plural s at the end of this week’s (and last week’s) title. Hauntings.


Ah, a surprise! But maybe not. Perhaps you’re way ahead of me. Perhaps you noticed this “s” and made your own conclusions. No self-respecting human has just one haunter, after all, why should I be any different?

I am not. (That is, in a nutshell, the whole point of this blog. We are no different from one another. We look different, give or take a few centimeters between our eyes or drops of melanin in our skin, and we sometimes disagree on important issues like human rights, the efficacy of universal health care and voting regulations (to say nothing of the unimportant question of who might win American Idol), but beneath that, in the pulse and clatter of our veins, we are pretty uniformly crafted. A little blood, a little bone, a few pounds of viscous tissue and viola! a human.)

In fact, the second surprising outcome of my first visit to Life Coach Jackie was the discovery that my other ghost is quite regrettably, and no less irrevocably, dead. I can share his identity due to this state of non-temporality, as well as to the fact that he, my second ghost, Ghost #2, haunting plus “s,” is not a succubus (however reluctant) but is, rather, a poltergeist; in death as in life, he is here to support me, love me and cheer me on. (Because that’s something he and Ghost #1 have in common, though absolutely real the roles they each play in my life are manifestations of my own, often overwrought, psyche.)

It is my father to whom I refer—the venerable but no longer fleshy joseph Rizzo (b. 1936—d. 2007).

Now for the conclusion (which isn’t really, but it’s getting there): I had, in seeking Life Coach Jackie’s assistance, three goals—to complete the final edits on my book, to market my book, to get WordJunkiesPress off the ground, and to be able to leave the house on time each morning without causing myself a nervous breakdown. Primary among these was… well, they’re all primary. I can’t do 1-3 without doing 4; I can’t do 2 without 1… Pressed for an answer, by LC Jackie who could, after one brief phone call, see right through me, I chose number 1. Upon being asked to articulate this desire even further, I said, and I quote from however murky a memory, “I want to find out, and address, why I keep putting off the liberation of my completed but as yet homeless book.” I actually don’t think I used the word liberation. I think what I really said was closer to “ I want to know why I don’t get off my ass and send out my book.”

I didn’t tell Jackie the book’s title, or contents, upfront—not out of a desire to be duplicitous, but because it simply didn’t occur to me. The bizarreness of this statement points to my complete lack of self-awareness while also fully explaining the ease with which my ghosts (1 and 2) infiltrated my head. I mean, really, if I don’t even know I’m up there, how could I possibly be expected to detect anyone else?

Instead, LC Jackie had to do a little digging. Meditatively speaking, she picked up a series of impressions in association with my birth name, Annmarie Rizzo turned Ann Marie Rizzo turned, well, me. Interpreting those impressions was my job.

“The word I see for you” she said by way of intro, “is hesitancy.”

“HAHAHAHA!” I laughed aloud. Perhaps the only more accurate term would have been COMPLETE PARALYSIS!

“The image I see is that of a snake.”

Now, some people might not like being called a snake, but I adore the slinky slithery ophidians. To me they are mysterious and beautiful, adapted in a remarkable way to an environment that prefers long legs and shapely teeth over cold blood and venomous fangs. That they are also considered evil by the bible is just an added bonus.

“But,” LCJ continued, not knowing of my affinity and unwilling at this early date to put me off the whole EFT thing, “this snake has arms.” (I admit it, the arms did creep me out a bit.) “It appears to be shedding, but it’s only gotten half way—its, your, arms are pinned. Have you been having trouble writing?”

Writing? No. Publishing, speaking, putting myself OUT THERE? Why, yes. Yes, I have.

To be Continued….


Earthly Ghosts May 18, 2012

May 18, 2012

So, it turns out I’m haunted


  1. (of a place) frequented by a ghost
  2. having or showing signs of mental anguish or torment

The “place,” in this case, being my head. The “signs” including but not limited to cuticle biting, eye twitching, intermittent spells of spasticity and lassitude, anxiety (more or less constant), nightmares, night sweats, night terrors, and a fascination with death.

Far from being alarmed by said haunting, I am in fact quite relieved; I’ve known since pre-language toddlerhood that there was something other inhabiting the soft tissue encased in the slowly fusing bone mass that would become my skull. How nice, after all these years, to be able to address this suddenly concrete and thus assailable entity.

An aside: wouldn’t it be cool to find out that somewhere within the recesses of your body, perhaps buried deep within your liver or your spleen, there lurked a twin? I first heard of such a possibility on CSI, which was a decent series back before they killed off Gary Dourdan and William Peterson left the show. TV drama politics aside, the victim, who was really the perpetrator, did not take the news of his slightly unorthodox cohabitation well. (I can’t remember though if it got him arrested or got him off.) But really, think of the benefits! Live twins are said to be one of the closest, most perfect relations we can have, but even they, after all, have limitations. A micro-twin, on the other hand, would have all the benefits of a true mini-me without the obvious drawbacks. (Really, do I want another Annie Maier in my life? No. And you probably don’t either!) You could, for instance, call on your twin anytime of day or night without having to worry that he/she might not pick up the phone, or worse, that your brother/sister-in-law might pick up instead—because, clearly, if light-hearted banter was something you were good at, you probably wouldn’t be fantasizing about having a hairy bone mass lodged in your organs with whom you could have a conversation. You could visit without your twin without calling, take him/her out to dinner without a care as to who would pay the bill, and wear their clothes with complete impunity!

However, I digress.

My ghostly friend is neither dead nor encased safely in my spleen. And while I cannot reveal his/her identity, for fear of endangering the innocent (that is, me), I can say that he/she is someone with whom I am both intimately and irrevocably connected. I am not unique; we all  sanction the presence in our lives of at least one person who wants nothing more than to possess us. As is the case with my possessor, said people are often


  1. display, exhibition, presentation
  2. sign,indication, evidence, token, symptom, proof, substantiation, reflection, example, instance.
  3. outward or perceptible indication; materialization
  4. the state of being manifested, (that is) a conscious feeling, idea, and/or impulse that contains repressed psychic material

As such, my apparition at least must also, in addition to ruthless, insatiable and often cruel, be fairly labeled innocent. A fiend perhaps, but a reluctant fiend.

What, you may be wondering, if you are still here to wonder, in the hell has this to do with ANYTHING? It has to do with hesitation. With indecision. It has to do with goal setting, goal reaching, and self-constructed barriers. It has to do not with writing but with allowing what it is we have written to escape from our souls, our pens and and computer screens to a concrete existence in the greater, larger, infinitely more entertaining world. It has to do with my book. And maybe yours.

To be continued

(thank you to Liz Wong, illustrator)


Reality -vs- Fantasy (=wall) April 29, 2012

Part 2; April 29, 2012

Previously on wordjunkies: Stubbornly rooted in the fantasy of an anxiety-free, socially well-adjusted existence, Annie Maier prepared for an appointment with a client. Dressed and ready to go, she climbs into her car only to see:

There in my lap, south of my naval, northeast of my thigh… a bright swirl of white and red. But wait! What was this curlicue of color doing in a place that should, according to all calculations, contain only black? As my perfect world doesn’t include someone to remind me to zip my fly, and so I often don’t, I hastily patted my nether regions, all the while assuring myself there was NO PROBLEM. A quick tug and I’d be all set. Except there wasn’t anything to tug. Jumping from the car, I bent double to get a better view… of my underwear.



  • rip, tear, split, hole,slash, slit.
  • gorge, chasm,fault, rift, fissure, crevasse

Damn damn and damn. I sprinted back into the house and up the stairs to my closet. Like many women, I have several pairs of black pants. Unfortunately one was on my body with a gaping hole where there should be none, one was downstairs waiting to be ironed, and one was dirty. That left only one other pair, bought at Macy’s 15 years ago. I remember because I lived in Arizona at the time and I’ve forgotten nothing about that period in my life. (Unlike the years spent in Connecticut, details of which I’ve spent a fortune on drugs and therapy trying to forget.)

Balancing on the side of the tub to get a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I realized that age wasn’t the only problem facing my geriatric drawers. They were also gray, not black, and of an indeterminate material reminiscent of polyester. Vowing to start a new Goodwill bag, I ripped them from my body, praying for a miracle as I ran back to the closet. But no miracle awaited. Spinning about in a swirl of indecision—different pants meant a different shirt. what shirt? maybe the white one? what about a skirt? too cold. brown pants? okay but what shoes? sandals? no boots. then what about socks, are the good ones clean? undies? they’d have to go, can’t wear red with brown. earrings, oh no I’d have to change the black earrings and then the bracelet, that would have to go too. could I wear black jeans? I’ll call bill, he’ll know. didn’t the website say “business attire” only? Sydnor wouldn’t care, but everyone else might. what if they refuse to seat me? they might—my bubble finally, irrevocably burst. Ten days of anxiety and 40 odd years of dueling states of existence crashed around me in an audible burst. It was 11:55. I had exactly 35 minutes to get dressed and get uptown. Pulling the tacky gray pants back on, cursing the entire time, I ran back out to the car, this time grabbing only a towel to wipe my sweating forehead. It might be 60 outside, but inside my head it was about 107.

Needless to say, I was late. Made later by getting lost not once but three times. And by driving the wrong way in the parking garage, which understandably upset the attendant.

At 12:45, I panted my way up to the lobby, finally found Sydnor, made my apologies, and then set about the business of enjoying lunch.

All of this is to say, I hit a wall. Not suddenly, but in slow motion. I saw it coming toward me, like a barricade at the end of a crumbling, blacktopped street. Getting larger and more solid with each step I took, until there it was at my nose, and I was suddenly bleeding.

(to be continued)



Reality April 23, 2012

I live in a perfect world, where clocks never stop, traffic never snarls, and pants never, ever get holes in them. I wake up to a neat house each morning, eat my Kashi in a clean bowl, read the newspaper, complete sudoku without cheating, and let my kitty in and out only once. The washing machine never jams, the dryer never stops spinning and there is always hot water. My car starts every time I place the key in the ignition, my phone only rings when it’s convenient and no one comes to the door unexpected. Even if they did, that would be fine because my hair is always in order and I never smell funny, not even when I tumble, eyes half-shut and jammies still warm, from bed. Neighbors stop to say hello, but only when I have the time, and inclination, to talk. Clients arrive on schedule, as do I, and doctors see me within 10 minutes of my scheduled consultation, during which time I am not at all disgusted by climbing onto and off of the enormous, porcelain-white scale with numbers so large Mr. Magoo could read them from 15 feet.

Hang on, I think something just exploded in my head. Do you hear that ringing? And what’s that cloud of blue dust? Let me check my manual…

Yes, it’s just as I thought; I exceeded my brain’s capacity for delusion. That last bit about the scale must have put me over my daily limit. Way over. Because, as you may have guessed, I don’t actually live in a perfect world. I live in an average world. Things are not tidy and clear. They are sticky and snarly and surprising. I just act like I live in that other place. I do indeed wake up each morning. And I do eat my Kashi in a clean bowl with the newspaper spread before me. That, however, is where the resemblance ends. Because, there’s


  1. the faculty or activity of imagining things, esp. things that are impossible or improbable
  2. the product of this faculty or activity
  3. a fanciful mental image, typically one on which a person dwells at length or repeatedly and which reflects their conscious or unconscious wishes (my personal favorite!)

and then there’s



  1. the state or quality of having existence or substance
  2. a thing that is actually experienced or seen, esp. when this is grim or problematic (hahaha!)
  3. the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them

I’m a big fan of both words/worlds, as each has it’s own charm. Fantasy (mine, I obviously can’t speak for yours) is exciting, dangerous without being threatening, and, often, colorful. Reality (also mine), on the other hand, is solid, finite, and, often, reassuring. As number 2 above would suggest, however, reality has its downsides. I mean, existence is all well and good, but toss “grim and problematic” into the mix and it’s suddenly not so rosy. Maybe that’s why I tend to prefer Neil Gaimen to Stephen Hawking (though Hawking is way cool, too.)

Still, I’m not a total dreamer. I do surface from my subconscious (read: delusional place of cute puppies and a nest of chickadees in every tree) from time to time–mostly to see what’s for dinner, but occasionally to make an attempt at writing (living) from/in a state that remotely approaches nonfiction. This isn’t really a problem, as I’ve lived my entire life on this earth flopping between various states of being, not all of them as clear cut as fantasy and reality. The fun starts when I am not allowed to surface on my own but am instead jerked, hastily and unceremoniously, from that lovely, warm refuge where everything runs and goes and happens on schedule and with comforting regularity and then tossed into the slightly more foreboding, infinitely cooler pit of chaotic happenstance.

For instance, last Friday I had an appointment with my best client, a man with whom I’ve worked for the past six years on various projects. He is an angel. A LOM with about 8 hairs on his head and eyebrows that spring in 13 directions. He’s also amazingly well-spoken, Oxford educated, and professionally/politically/socially successful. All of which render me damn near speechless every time we get together. To say I need to be on my toes for our meetings is a vast and unfortunate understatement. Usually, I start stressing about a week in advance. Last week was no different. At least not until he left a message suggesting we meet uptown at the City Club. Two things: I hate driving uptown, and I’ve never stepped foot in any place that ended in “Club.” Stress doesn’t come close to describing what went  on in my head as I dialed his number and heard myself say, “Perfect! I’ll see you then.”

Friday morning came. I set my alarm for 8:30 for a 12:30 appointment. Pretending I wasn’t nervous about driving uptown and didn’t feel like throwing up at the idea of having to act ladylike and professional, I relished the crunch of my oaty ohs, read the paper from inky cover to inky cover, worked the puzzle without cheating, and called my daughter, all with due diligence. (I also let the cat in and out about a hundred times, but we won’t go there.) So steeped was I in the fantasy of not being anxious, I decided I had time to clean the not-so-neat kitchen, which led to scrubbing the also not-so-neat bathroom, and straightening my seasonally confused closet. Then, remembering I hadn’t printed directions to the Club, I sat down at my computer, checked facebook and email and only then googled places where people not me eat lunch. At 11:15, I noticed the time. 11:15! RUNNING up the steps, I jumped in the shower, scrubbed, shaved and rinsed all the important parts, jumped back out and dried my hair.

Now, this is the point where I often slip from my reverie. I can, on any given day, spend upwards of 15 minutes trying to decide which of my unsuitable garments to place upon my equally unsuitable frame. But Friday, the reverie held. My favorite gray sweater was clean, my red shell had just arrived from the hotel in Chicago (where I had inadvertently left it behind), and my black pants–the ones I hadn’t worn in about 5 months–still fit. I pulled my shoes on, poked earrings into my lobes and headed out the door, grabbing keys, purse, and directions in one swipe.

Climbing into the car, I checked the time. 11:45. Perfect. I had 45 minutes to get uptown, get lost, call my husband, get more directions, get found, and find Sydnor. Phew. I pushed the key into the ignition, took a few deep breaths to center myself, and reached for the seatbelt.

That’s when I saw it. There, in my lap, south of my naval, northeast of my thigh…

to be continued. 


S*** Sandwiches, (Non)fiction, and Truth April 13, 2012

Filed under: Philosophy,Writing/Words — Annie Maier @ 3:27 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

April 13, 2012

The last three posts sort of took it out of me. Or maybe it was the (blissfully few) shit sandwich responses I received. For those of you unfamiliar with this term (surely there are others besides me!) I will explain it to you by paraphrasing my dear friend Raki: A s*** sandwich is when someone gives you negative news (or in my case, negative feedback) bookended by something positive. Though Raki didn’t explicitly say so, I would also add that there are some seriously passive aggressive vibes associated with such a sandwich. I mean, really, if someone says, “Wow, that sweater is great. Didn’t they have your size? Well, have fun on your date!” what they really mean is, A) you look like hell and should go home, immediately, and change, or B) you shouldn’t be surprised if your date stands you up. I don’t know about you, reader/writers, but I’m an honesty kind of person. Just give it to me straight, sans bread and sans… well, you know.

Anyway, that was way more than I meant to say about that. Must be talking with Raki that set me off! I laugh every time I think about her explaining this simple cultural concept. (For anyone who needs more, there are an amazing array of results when you do a web search. Here are my two favorites: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Shit%20Sandwich and http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/shit_sandwich)

Anyway, while I am undaunted in being perfectly honest, and in speaking my mind as far as common decency allows, I’m going to take a break this week and give not a word essay, but a word poem. Or maybe a word story. Let’s see what my infected brain spits out.

Oh wait, hey, before I begin, I just thought of something in connection to the word of the day (which is, though I haven’t told you, “truth”). This sort of relates to what I say above, in a convoluted, literary way. There’s a lot of discussion about “truth” in relation to creative nonfiction (as opposed to basic nonfiction, otherwise known as journalism, which is even more black and white than the paper it used to be printed on). One side thinks truth is set in stone and the other side thinks truth, in this context, is necessarily flexible. (Here’s a great blog/article from Brevity: http://brevity.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/the-derrata-controversy-why-truth-matters/ ) Perhaps not surprisingly, I fall in the stone camp: truth is, for me, way too fluid to be messed with. Which means truth, even in the realm of my own writing must always be qualified. As in, “I think this is how it all came down, but really, what do I know?”

Taking this train to its logical conclusion, I also believe that fiction is an excellent genre for exploring, perhaps even exploiting, truth. Hence:



  • the quality or state of being true
  • (also the truth) that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality
  • a fact or belief that is accepted as true

as in:

Vomiting Half Naked on a Plane

This story is true.

Three women sit on the lawn. It is lunchtime, but only one is eating.

Woman #1 is young, dressed in a white tee shirt and black jeans. Her hair is curly and wild and she doesn’t wear any makeup. Her eyes are small and the lids wrinkle shut when she laughs in a way that makes her look adorable rather than decrepit. As she speaks, she picks at a sandwich, alternately eating a piece and tossing a piece off into the grass. Curious squirrels stare at her from a distance.

Woman #2 has her back to me. All I see are stubs of short hair beneath a black and white bandana. She has a tattoo on her left arm, running from the crook of her elbow up and around her shoulder. I can’t make out what the tattoo depicts, but it seems intricate—perhaps a swirling green dragon.

Woman #3 has straight black hair bleached on the ends, pulled off to the side as if that half of her body belongs to a gypsy. The half that is exposed reveals a very small ear, the lobe of which boasts two pieces of spiraling black plastic joined in the middle. The earing is ugly and somehow threatening and I can’t stop looking at it. She wears a black shirt over black capris, with brown sandals on sunburnt feet.

I should say I know all three. I should say I transcribe the following conversation as it flows from their mouths, just as I will go back later, collect all the bits of discarded bread and toss them to my own, less timid, squirrels. That is, verbatim. I should say we are strangers and they are unaware of my presence. I should say I am in hiding, though they can see me sitting before them on the damp grass. I should say I am concerned about grass stains.

Woman #1: …so there I was, sitting between them with my pants ripped away, vomiting.

Woman #2: What happened to your pants?

#1: They ripped away, I told you, like tear-away pants, they just ripped away. I was sitting there vomiting (she imitates someone vomiting into a bag).

#2: Did the people next to you say anything?

#1: What could they say? They had a half naked woman puking right beside them without pants.

Woman #3: Okay, I so you were on a plane, vomiting, but what happened to your pants?

#1 starts from the beginning: I was rushing, late, hung over. They’d had to hold the plane for me and everyone was pissed off, grumbling and shooting me evil frowns. I bent to shove my bag, a duffle bag from the army store with all kinds of hooks and things, under the seat and one of the hooks caught on my pants, they were cheap-ass pants from Old Navy, you know how their clothes are, like crepe paper, all thin and cheap. Plus I had worn them every day for a month but didn’t wash them much because I was 23 and gross with dreads and shit. When they caught on the hook, they ripped away.

#3: What did they do?

#1: Who?

#3: The people around you.

#1: Nothing, they were trying not to look at me. I mean I was standing there without pants. Thank god I had on underwear.

#2: I was gonna ask that.

#1: Yeah, I did.

#2: So you vomited because your pants came off?

#1: RIPPED off. No I vomited later. I have a really sensitive stomach (her companions nod). I puke all the time, in stores, cars. I threw up at a movie last month. I ran out into the lobby and vomited in a trashcan, I was standing there heaving and some guy who worked there felt bad for me. He kept saying are you okay, are you okay. I said yeah, that movie is just really disgusting. He gave me free tickets.

#2: You threw up because of a movie?

#1: It was GROSS!

#3: And they gave you free tickets?

#1: Yeah, which was nice, but useless, I lost them. I lose everything.

Her companions nod. The squirrels move closer.


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