Sunday, August 23, 2015

Amazing Grace, Part 1

"Okay, here we are," the gentleman driving the ambulance says as we pull into a large, packed to the brim parking lot.

"Just hang tight. I'll get you unstrapped in just a minute."

The ambulance is a long, noisy van. I am strapped down to a long, cushioned seat. The ambulance, to me, looks like my dad's first travel trailer, the one with all the good memories, long, narrow, and packed to the brim with whatever supplies the paramedics need to keep people alive while they are rushed to the hospital.

As far as I can tell, the seat goes from one end of the van to the other. And it isn't really a seat. It's more like a long, thin bed or couch.

I hate being all strapped in. I also feel nauseous from the ride. It had only been five minutes or less from St. Peters Hospital's emergency room to the Evaluation and Treatment Center up at BHR's headquarters but I had to sit backwards in the van and watching the world whizz past going backwards made me feel a little queasy and dizzy.

I feel like a caged animal. I've felt like one for twelve hours, maybe even longer. Time has escaped me. There is no way to tell time when you are locked away in a windowless room for twelve hours. In fact, I was so out of it that when the ambulance came to get me, I was rather shocked to see that the sun was still shining brightly and that the birds were singing their chorus of happy, carefree song as the day continued to unfold. I had thought it was much later. Before the stretcher had wheeled me outside, I had thought that I would be met with a black sky and some shining, playful stars and maybe even a little sliver of the moon, or maybe even a full moon. I had not been expecting to find a full-fledged day, still in bloom.

"Okay," the man says to me.

"I'm going to come around and unstrap you. Hang tight."

He walks slowly to my side of the van and unstraps the stretcher. It lurches to a steady speed as he pulls it out of the van. Still moving backwards. With a sigh, I squeeze my eyes shut and hope I manage to keep the microscopic bit of food that I have left in my stomach.

The sun is bright. Too bright. I'm glad that my eyes are closed and that the intrusive glare can't reach me. I want to kill the sun, would kill it without hesitation if I only knew how. I would blot it out of the sky forever and ever. So what if the world dies because the sun is gone. I don't care! I wish that it was nighttime. Nighttime is the best. The sun is gone, my eyes don't get poked and prodded by too bright of daylight, and all is finally quiet and peaceful in the world. I heave a sigh of relief when the sun glare suddenly disappears as the stretcher rolls noisily through a set of tall, heavy, unbreakable doors.

SLAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!

Stuck inside!

Trapped again!

Not getting out anytime soon!

CLICK!

The doors lock. And away slips my freedom along with every ounce of dignity that I still have left. How did they manage to get out, I wonder?

The stretcher stops and the buckles are taken off of me.

"You are in good hands," the ambulance driver tells me.

"Thank you for cooperating. You were one of the easiest passengers I've had to deal with all day."

"You're welcome," I say. I'd like to thank him for the ride, thank him for not turning on the ugly, ear-shattering sirens on our way to the nuthouse because it would have totally done me in, the sound, you know, but right then, a gripping fear overcomes me and I find myself unable to say anything more.

Oh Chrissie, where are you?

Oh Nevaeh, where are you?

Oh Smm Smm, where are you?

Oh Bryan, where are you? I need you more than ever and quite possibly more than the rest of them. Where, oh where, are you?

Oh dear Satan, Mary Meyers, where are you?

Where have you all gone?

Oh, dear Satan, my wicked, unholy father, where are you? Why have you forsaken me?

"I'm here,"

Minnie May sneers at me from a corner of the room. Her voice is sweet like honey and it sounds like my mother. I shiver.

"Go away!" I yell.

"Not a chance," Minnie May says and twitches her little whiskers gleefully.

Oh, how could they have let her escape? HOW?!!!!! And to think that she managed to get out from a tiny hole in the wall behind her TV, a hole that nobody even knew she could fit through. The hole was for the TV so that it could get better reception and reach all of the surrounding satellites. But how on Earth did she manage to escape? And why wasn't anyone watching?

She has only been out for 19 hours and my world has come crumbling down, just like the World Trade Centers on 911.

"It's okay."

Firm, strong hands clasp my arms, which are swinging rapidly, trying to keep the ever present Minnie May at bay.

"I won't hurt you."

It's the security guard. Swiftly he begins to lead me down a long, narrow hallway. He is in a hurry to get me through the next set of doors because he just witnessed me yelling at an unseen being to go away.

Only it isn't an unseen being. Just a minute ago, it was right in front of my face, mocking me, taunting me, hoping to twist the last screw in my head loose so that I would really lose it and have to be put in restraints. The only problem is, I am the only one who can see her. And that's because the bunny wants ME! I am her target and she will stop at nothing to get what she wants, my ultimate demise.

We walk to another set of doors. They are open and we are greeted by another man.

"Come right in," he says, a very thick accent to his voice.

"There you go," the security guard says and gives me a shove, not unkindly but just enough of a shove to keep me moving, towards the man and the impenetrable doors.

The man grabs my hand and we walk through the doors.

WHOOOOOOOOOOOSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHH!

The doors slowly but purposefully close in on us.

SSSSSSSSLLLLLLLLLLLLAAAAAMMMMMMMM!!!!

CLICK!!

There is definitely no escape now. If I thought I was trapped before, I know for certain that I am now.

"Are you hungry?" the man with the thick accent asks me.

"Um, I guess so," I say, though the last thing I am feeling right now is hungry. But I should be hungry. I haven't eaten since early, early this morning and, just minutes before the ambulance took me, my stomach had been growling in protest, demanding that food be put into it at once. So yeah, I MUST be hungry, right?

"You need to be evaluated first and then you will be fed," the man says. His voice is gentle and kind. The fear loosens its death grip on my chest, making it possible to take in a deeper breath.

The evaluation takes forever. I'm glad for it, though, because, before too long the gut wrenching, heart thumping fear quickly turns to irritation and then fury as the questions keep coming at me in twos, fours, sixes, and eights. Question after question after question assaults me. I want to reach over and strangle the little bitch who's interrogating me. I want to squeeze, squeeze, SQUEEZE until every ounce of air has left her body and she is nothing more than a black and blue corpse, ready to be taken down to the morgue where she will be burned for her utter audacity to insult my pride and dignity and turned into nothing more than dust mites and ashes and then forgotten about by society and eventually even her own family. That is, if she even has a family who gives a rip about her.

Oh wait, that's right! My dignity is outside, enjoying the picturesque view of the hospital parking lot. What was I thinking?

I laugh out loud.

"Is there something funny Miss Levcun?" the interrogator asks me.

"No, nothing really," I tell her. But I think to myself You're lucky to still be sitting calmly in front of me talking. I could have your head on a platter in seconds if I wished.

When the evaluation is finally over, I am excused. I walk out into a long, practically furnitureless hallway where tons of commotion is going on. It hurts my ears and my head. It makes me murderously angry. Good thing they took away all of my sharp stuff or this place, these PEOPLE making all this goddamn mother fucking noise, would be massacred in seconds!

The room is so loud because there is no carpeting whatsoever to flush out some of the noise. And the lack of furniture surely doesn't help.

"Come on Ashlee," the man with the accent calls to me.

"Come on here to the kitchen. It's time for you to eat something."

"Where are you?" I ask him. I have been robbed of my cane. Supposedly it is being held hostage in some locker inside the hospital but who really knows. Will I ever see it again? Who knows.

"I'm over here," he calls

"She is blind," another staff person, a woman tells him.

"You're going to have to come over to her and guide her."

"Oh, okay," he says and slowly, he ambles over to me.

"Can you see me at all?" the man asks.

"Yes," I say, feeling grateful that I have some useful vision in my left eye to track him. If I didn't, I'd totally be screwed in this hellhole of a place where recovery and wellness is supposedly possible to obtain.

The man starts walking and I follow him. I'm pretty certain that there aren't any stairs in this building but, just to make sure, I slide my feet across the smooth, linoleum floor. And that's where I find the hump.

"Whoa!" I say and slow way the hell down.

"Are you okay?" the man says, looking behind him to see whether or not I'm still following behind.

"Yeah, it's just the floor. It's uneven here. Are there any more humps here?"

"Just a little bit more," he says.

"The linoleum's coming up in places here. They're supposed to fix it soon."

Still sliding my feet, I make my way to the kitchen. Eventually, the floor levels out again and I take more confident strides, trying to catch up to the fast walking gentleman ahead of me. Making up for lost time! My stomach growls and I know I'm doing the right thing.

A hot, plastic TV dinner tray is handed to me. I explore it curiously with my hands and discover that the top of the tray is covered with plastic that must be peeled off in order to get to the good stuff inside. As my hands travel over the plastic, I wonder whether I'll be privileged enough to get some silverware tonight. After all, I haven't really done anything to misbehave tonight. Don't I get a reward for that? Rewards are small and very few a part in this place, that I can see right off the bat, but being able to use some damn silverware would definitely brighten up my night and overall outlook on life.

"Here is a fork," the accented man tells me as he slides a plastic fork over the counter towards me.

"What would you like to drink?"

"Just some water, please," I tell him. My voice is quiet. I still feel very afraid. There is still way too much noise going on in the main room and it's making me both nervous and absolutely outraged all at the same time. Thank Satan I managed to sneak my earplugs in here!

It wasn't really all that hard really. When I went into the emergency room, one of the nurses, a friendly nurse, told me to take off everything but my underwear.

"It's for privacy, you know," she told me.

And that's where I got the idea. I can hide the earplugs in my underwear! They'll never know they're in there and that's ONE thing they can't and WON'T take away from me.

So, once the nurse had left the room, I carefully took the earplugs out of my socks, which I knew would be taken from me once I changed into the ugly, slippery hospital socks, and slid them behind my butt cheeks inside my underwear. And, sure enough, they never found out.

Carefully, I pick up my TV dinner, my plastic fork, and the plastic cup of water and walk slowly to the tables in the room, sliding my feet in case I run into more uneven ground.

"Are you having trouble walking?" one of the staff members asks me as I struggle to spot a table.

"No," I tell her.

"Oh, okay," she says, sounding relieved.

"It's just that you look like you're limping."

"No, I'm not limping," I say, feeling irritated all over again.

"I'm just sliding my feet so that I don't trip over all this uneven ground. And, I also have scoliosis, which makes my step a little uneven."

She is satisfied with this explanation and, thankfully, she moves on to hassle another patient. Sighing heavily, I find an empty table, the farthest I possibly can get from all the noise, sit down with a very heavy feeling inside and begin to peel the plastic off the tray, revealing the food for the evening. So far, it looks to be some kind of macaroni casserole with beef in it and warm, soggy apples. Not very appealing but, at this point, I'll eat just about anything. Except for those disgusting, mushy warm apples on the top corner of my measly little tray.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

What I Want for My Daughter and Her Nose

I need to hold back the urge to die, to beat back the urge to just let go once and for all of the ones I love. Of everything and everyone. Of light, sound, taste, breath, of life itself! I need to beat back the wild urge because I need them just as much as they need me. In fact, I might need them more than I even realize right now. It is so hard, so very hard right now, to see anything past the black, murky rabbit hole of my dark, disturbed thoughts.

"But it's easy," the bunny tortures me with her words.

"It's so easy to let go. All you have to do is DO it!"

But I know it won't be easy at all. The bunny is lying. It won't be easy on Amira, my friends, and certainly not on Chris.

"Who cares about them?" the bunny asks, gentle, fake sincerity oozing from her round little mouth.

"What about you? Who cares about you? Nobody does. That's why you need to let go. You are living for them but it's not what you want at all Ashlee! Stop living a lie and just let goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! You won't have to be sick anymore!"

"Mommy, what would become of us?" Chrissie's words ring out, sudden and frantic, almost pleading. I jump and turn unfocused eyes on her. Her body is stiff and tight like cardboard.

"If you die, so do all of us."

"But it won't be your problem anymore," retorts the bunny, its tail twitching wickedly back and forth as it basks in the humid, hot, torturous afternoon blaring sun, cackling gleefully as its words sink into my mind, tempting me to say goodbye and fade into the darkness once and for all, no looking back.

"Once you let go, you will feel nothing anymore. You will be free at last! Isn't that what you've been wanting all this time? To be free at last?"

It is what I want. It has been what I wanted for so long. But I just don't know how to get it.

"You get it by letting go," Minnie May, the bunny says.

"Don't be afraid! Come with me! Don't fear the reaper. Don't you want to see your dad again? You don't want to be sick anymore, do you? If you let go, you won't be. You'll be set free forever."

"By letting go," chirps the bunny again, its tail twitching faster as excitement swells ugly and monstrous in its evil heart.

Sometimes, the urge is just a faint tickle in my mind, like a tickle in someone's nose when they feel like they might sneeze but that it might just also pass on and the person might not sneeze after all. Other times, it comes at me like a monsoon, eager to drag me underneath, down, down, down, to its black, murky ground where letting go is possible but returning to the ones you love is not, to breaking through to the surface is just an illusion rather than actual reality

"Amira needs her mom!" Chrissie shouts at me, trying desperately to drown out the ever present voice of the bunny, the demon who tortures me nonstop when I am feeling the most fragile and vulnerable. Like my imaginary friends, the bunny is also a demon. The only difference is that the bunny is out to hurt me. The bunny is out to destroy me, and it won't stop until the deed has been done and my imaginary friends and I are nothing but a memory in this ever changing world. Just a memory in Chris's head, hardly a blur of a memory in Amira's head, a memory that will get smaller and smaller until it shrinks altogether and then what? Nothing! Nothing but victory for the bunny.

My imaginary friends, who are also demons that possess my soul, are good demons. They are here to help. They want to survive, to thrive, and, most of all, they want to cause trouble and mayhem wherever they can and whenever they can. As long as all of us, including me, are happy. That is what they live for. To make sure I can cause enough trouble that I want and that I have enough excitement in my life to keep it worth living.

"Have you ever really thought of what you want for Amira?" Chris asks gently as we lay together in my bed.

"No, not really," I finally admit after a couple minutes of silence have passed. It's not really an easy thing to admit but it's true. I haven't really given it much, if any, thought at all.

"Not to be mean or anything," I start to say, my voice low and unsure about whether I should really keep talking.

"It's just that I don't really think of Amira as a person yet. I mean, all she does is cry, scream, screech, and do everything that you DON'T want her to do or get into. To be honest, I think of her more like an unruly puppy that needs constant care and attention. I try to think of her as a person but it's just too hard. I haven't been able to get myself to think of Amira thirteen years from now, eighteen years from now and in college, or even thirty years from now. I just take one day at a time and hope I can manage to hide my sheer frustration with her so that she won't think I dislike her like I thought My mom did when I was a child."

"Well, maybe we should talk about it," Chris encourages as he wraps his arms around me.

"Okay," I say my ear close to his nose so that I can hear it whistle every time he inhales. It's one of my favorite sounds in the whole, entire world, hearing that long, wide, pointy, strong nose whistle its high-pitched tone, announcing the arrival of yet another breath. Letting me know that Chris, the one I love the most in the whole wide world, is still alive and with me.

"I want Amira to grow up feeling appreciated and loved," Chris told me.

"I want her to know that she can count on both of us when she needs us or wants to be supported or to talk."

"Me, too," I say, wishing that I could contribute more to the conversation but feeling oddly disconnected with his words. I can hear them and my mind is processing what he is saying, but there is no feeling associated with his words. Not yet anyway. I do continue to find comfort in the whistling of his nose, though, and find myself wishing that my nose would make the same sound.

CONCENTRATE!!!!! I yell at myself silently.

I'm supposed to be the kind, caring, loving, involved parent here! How can Amira feel that she can count on me if I can't even focus on a conversation about what I want for her when she's just a year old? Can she feel how disconnected I feel from the world right now? Oh, Satan help us all, I sure hope she can't feel that. I don't want her to know what that's like! Hell, does she think she can count on me now? Does she think I love her? Those questions scare me and the urge comes back, punching me in the gut, knocking the breath out of me, almost making me surrender to its invitation.

But then I am jerked into the present again by Chris's words. His words always bring me back. They remind me that I can't go, I can't leave them. I love them too much. I can't leave.

"I want Amira to be surrounded by creative, intelligent people," Chris continues talking.

"And, most of all, I want Amira to be encouraged to be creative, not discouraged from it like I was. I want Amira to see exciting, new places where creative things are going on all around. I want her to have excitement in her life and I want her to know that she can do whatever she wants so long as she makes connections with other people and doesn't close doors that could lead to something big because she doesn't have any support from family. That's what happened to me. I think that if I had more support and encouragement from my family I would have gotten somewhere with my art. People would have seen it. Who knows, maybe I would even be famous for some of my works of art."

"I really want that for her, too," I say and, for the first time all during this conversation, I really start to feel sincere about it.

"I was discouraged a lot for being creative, too, and it was very frustrating."

Chris then went on to tell me about an aunt that he had who encouraged him to be creative and took him to exciting places whenever he spent the night with her.

"She was poor just like we are but I had a great time whenever I was over there," Chris tells me.

"I had a better time hanging out with a poor person than I did hanging out with my middle class parents. I always looked forward to going to my aunt's house but I never, EVER looked forward to going back to our big, boring house when the visit was over."

"It would be nice for Amira to have creativity around her all the time," I say.

"Not just sometimes, which it sounds like happened with you and your aunt. She was in and out of your life and it wasn't a consistent, positive thing that you could look forward to all the time."

"Yeah," Chris tells me.

"Seeing her was a luxury. It was a treat. But I want Amira to be around it all the time. She'll have a better start in life and a better life than we had."

"My dad was pretty creative," I tell Chris.

"He played the guitar very well. He was a true musical artist. I didn't get to see him all the time, either, and it made me sad. I'd like Amira to have consistency in her family. I want us all to live together so she feels like her family unit is strong, and unbreakable."

"It's too much work to have that happen! What you want is impossible!"

The bunny continues to hiss evil into my ear.

"MMMMMM-MMMMMMMMM," Chrissie yells at it. It is her way of telling the bunny to shut up without actually saying shut up. None of us want Amira to learn bad words for as long as we can help it. Blissful silence surrounds me as the bunny backs off, sad and defeated and super furious about the conversation that Chris and I are having. Chrissie always knows how to get the bad voices to shut up. All of them do. And, when they have trouble, there's always the mallet.

"I want Amira's nose to always feel loved," Mary Meyers breaks the silence suddenly.

"I always want to make sure that it is happy. When Amira gets a cold, or even the beginnings of one, I am going to cheer Nevaeh on as she goes inside of her nose to get all the gunk out before it turns into a major cold that lasts for a week or longer."

"I want Amira to feel like she has patient parents she can come to," I say.

"I don't really know if she can count on me for that, though. I have no patience at all! The more I am around Amira the more I realize just how much like my mother I truly am and that TERRIFIES me! That's why I spend so much time away from her. I can't stand it when she shows me just how much like my mom I am. I don't want to be cruel to her like my mom was to me. I don't want to ruin her life, to screw her up and break her until she has fallen, broken and bleeding, onto the cold, hard, relentless, merciless concrete. That's what happened to me. You have healed me a lot, Chris, and so have all of you guys", I point to my imaginary friends. "But I am still broken. I haven't been able to find all the lost pieces of my broken heart and put them where they belong in the puzzle. I don't know if I am good for Amira to be around. I don't want to fuck her up. I don't want to be like Jennifer."

"You don't have to," Chris told me.

"Your friends will help you learn how to cope when you are frustrated with her. Who's going to help you when you are frustrated with the baby?"

"All of us!" Chrissie shouted.

"See, they want to help you!" Chris says as he sits up.

"You don't have to be like your mom. And you don't have to stay away from the baby to not be like her. That will just make things worse. Do you think that's what your mom did? Stayed away from you and went on the fishing boats for months at a time because she realized how unsuitable she was to be a mother? Why she spent so many days a week on the road at her new job as a flight attendant when fishing got to be too much for her to handle?"

"Maybe it is," I say.

"I don't know. All I know is that I always threw a big party inside my head when she went away and even while I watched her pack all her stuff into her suitcase. The best memories I have during my childhood are when she's not present."

"Yes, I know," Chris says, flopping back down beside me.

"But she might have been a better mother if she had stayed and learned how to cope with being frustrated. You might have had a better experience with her, a positive experience, growing up with her if she had stayed."

"Maybe," I say.

"It's too late to know."

"It's too late for your mom," Chris tells me, resting his hand on my tummy.

"But it's not too late for you."

"Yeah Mommy!" Chrissie shouts, jumping all around the bed on her trampoline that moves around the room whenever you jump on it.

"You're going to be a much better mother than your mother was. She didn't have imaginary friends to consult when times got rough. But you do, Mommy! You've got us! And we'll never let you down, okay?"

"Okay," I say, suddenly feeling a little more optimistic.

"I'm going to spend more time thinking about what I want for Amira now. I really should do that."

So, over the last few days, here is what my demons and I have come up with.

Chrissie: I want her to be happy!

Mary Meyers: I want her to know that she is loved.

Nevaeh: I want her to know that she can count on us to cheer her on when she accomplishes something big or small. If she's proud of it, so are we.

Me: I want Amira to feel that she can talk to me about anything. I might not be happy with some of the things she tells me but I want her to feel like I am a safe person to spill the beans to.

Me: I want her to know that I will never hurt her physically or emotionally like my mother did to me. Sure, we all say hurtful things to one another so yes, I probably will hurt her feelings just like she'll most likely hurt mine, but I will never do anything intentionally to abuse her. I don't think everything my mother did to me was intentional in the ways that she hurt me but I do believe that a lot of it was. And, if it wasn't intentional and she knew she had hurt me, which I know she knew she did, she should have let me stay with more positive people in my life, like my grandpa or my dad when he could care for me, until she felt she could talk maturely to me and not use violence to get her way and make me afraid of her in the so many ways that she did.

Nevaeh: I want Amira to know that I will always go inside of her nose if she gets clogged up down there.

Chrissie: No, it's UP the nose, not DOWN the nose! That's why I say Smm Smm Face Up the Nose, not Smm Smm Face Down the Nose! IT'S UP THE NOSE!!!!!!!!!!!!

Smm Smm: I want her to have an imagination and to never let anybody try to stamp it out of her the way your family did Mom.

Me: I want her to know that I will never make her do something against her will that she feels strongly about not doing. For example, once when I was eight or nine, Mom, Tim, and I went to Hawaii for a vacation. We were on a beach and Mom wanted me to wade in the water with her. I had learned after spending a couple of days there that some of the waves that roll in can be dangerous and very powerful so, after a certain point of wading, like when I was up to my knees or so, I halted and told Mom I didn't want to go in any further.

"Oh, don't be such a big baby," she taunted me, and yanked my right arm, forcing me to move further into the ocean.

"Stop, STOP!" I cried but she was merciless, taking no heed of my obvious and very valid fear.

I slowed down and tried to stop but she pulled harder on my arm until it hurt.

"Don't be a chicken," she said and made "Bock Bock" chicken sounds at me.

All of a sudden, from out of nowhere, a huge, thunderous wave came speeding towards us, fully intending to grab us in its salty, wet ridges and bring us down and out into the deep ocean where rescue was impossible and death was immenent.

I screamed shrilly and a huge burst of saltwater invaded my wide open mouth. In hindsight, I should have kept my mouth closed and held my breath in case we were going to go underwater, but I was too scared and young to think rationally then.

Mom managed to grab me and hold me tight to her but we both did sink as the wave came up over our heads and it took me several minutes to be able to breathe normally, as my mouth and nose had both been taken over by the wild, tropical waters of Hawaii.

I don't remember if my mother ever apologized to me for leading me straight into danger or what happened next. All I know is that, after that incident, I trusted her less and would continue to trust her less as the years went on.

Mary Meyers: I want Amira to have a good education so that she has many options of creative ways to express herself when she grows up.

Chrissie: I want Amira to know that she is free to have feelings, like you were forbidden to do Mommy, and that she is free to express them in constructive, creative outlets to help her deal with them.

Me: I want her to grow up in a calm, peaceful environment where there is no screaming at each other and fighting. I want her to learn that, when people run into disagreements that we sit down or take a walk and talk about them, not yell, scream, use violence, get weapons involved, and have the cops called almost every time one little disagreement happens like it did in my home.

Bryan: I want her to know that it is okay to be lazy when the time calls for it. I don't want her to feel ashamed of being lazy like you were Mommy, nor do I want her to struggle on a project or with certain people when it is apparent that it isn't working and the only thing to do is be lazy and wait until something does work.

Me: I want her to feel like she can totally be herself. I want her to be proud of her decisions and I want her to feel like she has a say in what goes on in her life. Just because it didn't happen in my childhood doesn't mean it can't happen for Amira. And, after all, it is her life we're talking about here. It would be crazy NOT to let her be able to make her own decisions and feel like she can care for herself and think for herself. It will build her self esteem and will hopefully give her a good, strong self image that she is proud of.

Smm Smm: I want her to know that we all love her.

Me: Me, too. Sometimes I find there is no love in my heart for her when I am super frustrated and that scares me. I wonder if she can pick up on that and if it scares her. I wonder if she wonders whether I love her as much as her father does.

Smm Smm: Do you?

Me: I'd like to say that I do but… sometimes, I just don't know. She is a very needy, demanding child. All children her age are like this. It's normal but it's very difficult to love a screaming, screeching, biting monster who pushes your face away when you try to hug her or sticks her fingers up your nose and gouges the inside of your nose or who pokes your eyes and then laughs about it when you say "OW!".

Nevaeh: I think you're afraid to love her Mommy. You are afraid to love her because loving her means that you need to work hard on not becoming like your mother. And, you are also afraid of losing her just as you are afraid of losing Chris because you lost your father when you were so young and at such a vulnerable, fragile age. Sixteen is a very difficult year for any kid who's got a good life and both sets of parents looking out for the kid. But, when a kid's got a ranting, abusive whore for a mother and a father who died from drug and alcohol use and because he was a diabetic, it just makes it all the more difficult to live with. When you needed your father the most, he was savagely taken away from you and that's why you are afraid to love your baby. You are afraid to love anyone. You are even afraid to love yourself.

Me: I guess its true. I don't really know what to do about it. I don't know what to do about a lot of things.

Minnie may: You see, it's IMPOSSIBLE! It's not worth it! They're not worth it! Just LET GO!

Chrissie: MMMMMM-MMMMMMMM!

As I write this story, I know that there is way more that I want for Amira than what you can see in here now. This story might have more parts to it later. I know I should think about Amira more often, but, when I do, it scares me. She scares me! And, the horrible part is, I don't really even know why.

Love, in general, is scary. It can be right in front of your face, bright and lively and warm and fuzzy, making you feel so happy you could die. Then, just as quickly as it came, it can up and leave you with nothing but tall, thorny weeds and a sense of loss, emptiness, and longing. Longing for what you once had, for what you lost, not by any fault of your own, but because the treasure, your beloved treasure, was taken from you to a place where it cannot be retrieved or seen ever again. The world can be a very cruel place sometimes, and sometimes I am scared to death to find out what other nasty surprises it has in store for me, ready to show me its neatly wrapped disguised package that looks interesting and fun, but, when you get a closer look and see the thing for what it really is, its too late, and before you know it, your life can take a turn for the worst.

HAIL SATAN!!!!!!!!!

HAIL SMM SMM!!!!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Nick Ali Naficy, Part 3

Just as I had predicted, the honeymoon phase was quickly dying. Grandmamma was starting to tire of Nick and began treating him bad. By this time, they had been dating for six months tops, maybe even less. I could tell that Nick was trying to win brownie points with Grandmamma but he wasn't having any such luck. I thought that he would give up and move onto another woman but, no. He stayed right by her side, always trying to please her.

By this time, I considered Nick a friend. I was all done telling Grandmamma that I didn't like him, nor was I threatening to not let her in my house if she came to visit me and brought Nick along like I had done months before. I found that the more time I spent with Nick the more I began to respect him. Nick also seemed to respect me at this point, too. His voice still had that hard, stern sound to it but he no longer regarded me as though I was a tiny child, unworthy of respect. He started letting me come up to his house even without Grandmamma with me to play on his drum set, which was quite a bit bigger than mine. It fascinated me a great deal.

Unlike my drum set, which was just a standard Pearl drum set, his had two or three symbols, two of which he called gongs. He also had two high hats and, to the best of my knowledge, he had two bass drum petals instead of one, which was what my drum set had. He didn't let me play very often because they were special to him but, occasionally, he would let me play a few beats and then he would get on the set and show off all of his drum rhythms, pounding on the gong symbols a great deal as he played.

During these visits, I learned a great deal about Nick. Now that he had warmed up to me, he began confiding in me, which wasn't something he did very often with my grandmother. He told me that he didn't have many friends in school and that he didn't make friends very easily. He confided to me that, all throughout his elementary and middle school years, his peers made constant fun of him because of his oversized ears.

"My ears are bigger than most people's ears," he told me on one of my visits to his house without Grandmamma around.

Nick's peers also made fun of the way he talked. Nick never could fit in with any group of people so he mainly was a loner, wandering the halls of his school all by himself.

"I can relate to you in some degrees," I remember telling Nick when he confided in me.

"I don't have many friends either. I can't relate to any of my peers because none of them are blind. When I was in elementary and middle school, kids always came up to me, shoving their hands in my face and saying, "How many fingers am I holding up?" It was annoying as hell so I, too, found refuge in being alone."

Grandmamma was spending less and less time at Nick's apartment and his visits to hers became shorter and shorter. One day, while I was visiting my grandmother, Nick called her and invited us up to his condo for a visit.

"I've got some really delicious wine," he tried to bribe my grandma.

"It's really, really good! And I've already poured a glass just for you."

"Okay," Grandmamma conceded.

"We'll be up there in just a few minutes."

So we went up to his condo and, as soon as we walked into his condo, I looked down at the delicious thunder cake carpeting and thought of chocolate. As we walked into his living room, shoes still on our feet, I wished that the carpet was a REAL cake so that I could REALLY eat it instead of just pretending to.

I never had to take my shoes off at Nick's house because his carpet was pretty dirty. Whenever I visited Grandmamma, though, and at my mother's house, it was absolutely REQUIRED that EVERYBODY who entered their homes had to take their shoes off so as not to attract mud and dirt onto their spotless floors. Nick was a landscaper, though, and said that his carpet was really dirty because he was always attracting mud and dirt in when he got home.

"That's why I have such dark carpeting in here," he told me on one of our visits. The explanation made perfect sense to me, but Grandmamma was always making snide remarks about how dirty his house was.

On this visit, I really remember feeling angry for the first time about how Grandmamma treated Nick. I mean, I knew how nasty she could be but this was really the first time I had seen her treat a man who had done nothing to deserve such harsh treatment with such disrespect.

Nick and Grandmamma sat in the living room drinking their wine. Sports was playing on the television and Nick was watching the game and not really engaging in conversation with us. Grandmamma hated watching sports on TV so she began singing really loudly, purposefully trying to make it impossible for Nick to follow the game.

Finally, after some time had gone by, Nick gave up trying to watch the game and said to Grandmamma, "I need to shave. Will you shave my face?"

"Sure," she said, glad that she had sabotaged Nick's afternoon of sports watching. I could just HEAR the satisfaction dripping from her voice when she answered him.

"I want to help shave your face, too Nick," I called out to him as he started heading to the bathroom to collect his razor and shaving cream.

"You can help," Nick said to me.

"But only if your Grandmamma is guiding your hand. I don't want you to cut me."

"Fair enough," I said.

A couple of seconds later, Nick arrived with his razor and shaving cream.

"Let's go out on the deck to do the shaving so the hair doesn't get all over the carpet," suggested Grandmamma as she jumped up from the couch and headed for the deck without waiting for an answer from Nick.

As if facial hairs will really dirty up the carpet more than it already is, I remember thinking as Nick and I slowly followed her out onto his deck.

"Wow, she's so bossy," Nick whispered in my ear as we walked.

I giggled quietly and just shook my head in agreement. It amazed me how much Nick allowed my grandmother to boss him around so much in HIS OWN HOUSE!

Once we got onto the deck, Nick turned the electric razor on. It was loud and rearing to go.

"Come here Ashlee," Grandmamma called to me.

"You grab the razor and I'll guide your hand."

Excitedly I walked over to Nick and felt his face. It was quite hairy. He was indeed LONG overdue for a good shave.

I grabbed the razor and relished in it's power as it vibrated violently in my hand. Grandmamma grabbed my hand and then she started roughly moving the razor across his face.

"OUCH!" exclaimed Nick as he backed away.

"What?! What did I do?" I was horrified that I had hurt him.

"No, it wasn't you. Your very impatient grandmother didn't wait for me to put the cream on my face first."

"Well, hurry up then," Grandmamma said, impatience radiating from her entire body. The feeling was palpable in the air.

Nick hurriedly applied the shaving cream to his face and then said, "I'm ready now."

I was still holding the vibrating razor. Once more, Grandmamma grabbed my hand and began again to roughly scrape the razor across his cheek.

I could tell that Grandmamma was shaving him too roughly. I hadn't ever shaved someone's face before but I could hear it in the way the motor of the razor protested as she applied way too much pressure and speed to Nick's face with the razor.

Here's how it sounded. I'll try to describe it as best as I can.

Before I started shaving Nick's face with the razor, the motor just made a smooth VVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVV sound. When Grandma began using it with force to shave Nick's face, the sound was much different. The motor was clearly in distress and I'm sure Nick's face was, too. When Grandmamma was being forceful the motor sounded like this:

VVVVVVVVRRRRRRRRRVVVVVVVRRRRRRRDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDVVVDDDDDRRRRRRRR, only it wasn't in one smooth motion. This was the speed that Grandmamma was carelessly using to shave his face.

VVVVVVVRRRDDDD

VVVVVVRRRRDDD

VVVVRRRRRRDDD

VVVVVVRRRRDDDDDD

VVVVVRRRRDDD.

Again and again she continued brutally slashing the facial hair from his face. Sensing how aggressively she was shaving him, I tensed my hand a little bit and tried to force Grandmamma to guide my hand more slowly. Tensing up my hand and arm, I thought, would force her to go slower. But it didn't. Rather than taking my hint, she simply applied more pressure to my hand and went even faster. I can't even imagine the expression that must have been on Nick's face as she worked her brutality on him. It must have been a painful one.

Finally, Nick had had enough. Backing away from us, he said, "Stop, STOP! I'll take it from here."

"I'm sorry Nick," I said. I knew it wasn't really ME who needed to do the apologizing; it was Grandma who should have done it. But I knew that she never would admit any wrongdoing and I felt very strongly that Nick really did deserve an apology so I decided to apologize for the both of us. As much as I knew that I really shouldn't be feeling any guilt, I felt it anyway. Why couldn't I have stopped Grandmamma from being so ruthless? Why didn't I tell her to be more gentle? How could I have let this happen? I did have some involvement in Nick getting hurt because I had been the one helping him shave, too. Yes, the feelings were stupid, but I couldn't make them go away.

"Owwwwww," Nick complained, rubbing his face with the palm of his hand.

"You cut me!"

"Oh," Grandmamma said with absolutely no emotion in her voice.

"Well, it wouldn't have been so hard to shave your face if you had taken better care to shave it more regularly yourself."

Nick went inside to clean the cut and then he came back on the deck to finish the job. I watched him as he slowly and with much care, shaved his face. Again, the razor's motor began to sound normal.

VVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVV!!

VVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVV, VVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVV!

Even with Nick making it work, it still sounded smooth. There were no ripples in the motor sounds, no sounds of distress coming from the poor razor.

"Okay, well, thanks for the wine," Grandmamma said as she turned and started heading for the inside of Nick's house so that she could collect her things and leave.

"We're leaving now."

"You're leaving already?" Nick asked.

"Yes we are. All you're doing is watching sports and just sitting there like a lump on a log. It's a sunny day outside and I most certainly do NOT want to be sedentary and stuck in a dark, smelly house all day. Ashlee and I are going to take a walk and enjoy the sun. Come on Ash, let's go."

"Bye Nick," I said, still in shock over how brutal and emotionless my grandma had been.

"Oh, is your face all right?" I just had to ask him.

"It's a little sore still," replied Nick.

"O he's fine. He's just being a big baby. Come on Ashlee, let's go enjoy the sunshine."

That was Grandma talking.

"Bye guys," Nick said a sad aire about him.

"We'll see you next time Ashlee."

"Bye Nick," I said to him and then walked up to him and gently touched his hand.

"Enjoy your sports game today."

"Thank you Ashlee," Nick said and then I had to half-run through the sliding glass door to catch up with Grandmamma, who was already halfway out the front door.

"Weren't you going to wait for me?" I asked as she slammed his front door shut behind us.

"You were being too slow," Grandmamma told me.

"I don't wait around for slow pokes."

There are a lot of times where I remember very clearly Nick being very mistreated and disrespected by my grandmother and mistreated some by my mother and aunt Giselle, too. I plan to share all my memories that I have about it in other parts of the story.

There was another weekend that I came to visit my grandmother at her condo. I can't remember what time of year it was, I only remember that I was visiting her and Nick, of course, was around then. We were hanging out at my Grandmamma's house. It was just Grandmamma and me. Suddenly, we heard rapid footsteps on the stairs, followed by the strange knock.

TAP, TAP!

TAP, TAP!

By then, I knew it was Nick and jumped up to answer the door, excited to see him.

"Hi Ashlee," he said when I opened the door. Only he didn't say my name quite that way. You see, for some reason, whenever Nick spoke my name in greeting, it sounded more like he said, "Hi Ashleeee,", making my name sound longer on the EE part. I hadn't noticed it before but I did notice it then for the first time and I liked how it sounded. I wanted to tell Nick about it but, remembering that he had been ridiculed a lot in his past; I decided to keep the thought to myself. I didn't want him to think that I, too, was now going to start picking on him.

"Hi Nick," I said, throwing my arms around him in a bear hug.

"I'm so glad to see you."

"Hi Giovanna," Nick said, walking up to my grandmother, hoping for a kiss no doubt.

"Hi," she said and offered him a very short, stingy kiss on the cheek. No make out sessions this time.

I wished that I could enjoy the fact that they weren't going to take forever to make out right in front of me, planned to enjoy the moment, but I couldn't. Instead I found myself feeling sorry for Nick. It was so obvious how much Nick longed for her affection, how much he had been craving it for so long, and yet there she was, being cool and abrupt, affectionless as a sleeping bear. Right then, I found myself wishing that Nick would dump her already and find himself a kind, loving woman who would give him all the affection that he so craved and deserved. It was inevitable. Grandmamma was going to dump him sooner or later, I could just tell, and I knew that Nick wouldn't take it well at all. Nick, I was starting to learn, was a very sensitive guy, who often cried when he felt upset or someone hurt his feelings. I hadn't seen him cry then but Grandmamma said that she had seen him cry and I believed her. I was quite sure that, when the time came when Grandmamma decided to pull her love completely out from under Nick once and for all, that he would cry like a baby over her. I could tell that Nick really did love her and wanted to live a nice life with her. But Grandmamma would never go for him. He wasn't rich enough for her. He didn't have fancy stuff like she wanted him to have. Nick would never have a life with Giovanna, of that I was dead sure.

"I came over because I have a little surprise for you Ashlee," Nick said, turning back to address me.

"What is it?" I asked, hoping it was something chocolatey.

"Well, your Grandmamma told me that you were coming over to visit her this weekend in advance, so I took some time to create a little agenda of fun things that we will do this weekend for you."

I stood there, mutely, wishing I could speak but finding myself unable to. This was the first and only time that someone had ever created an agenda of fun things that we would do for an entire weekend.

"What's wrong?" Nick was on point now. I guess Grandmamma had been scolding him a lot and he was on the defense. I totally knew the feeling and I empathized with him.

"N-nothing's wrong," I stammered.

"It&helip; It's just so&helip;"

I struggled to find the right word.

"THOUGHTHFUL!"

There, that was the correct word.

"Oh," Nick said, visibly relaxing.

"I'm glad you like it. Would you like me to read what's on the list of fun Ashlee Weekend things to do?"

"Absolutely," I told him and sat down on the wicker couch to hear it. Nick sat down at the barstool and began to read it.

As thoughtful as his gesture was, I am afraid that I can't remember everything that was on his agenda. I only remember a couple of the things on it.

"Okay," Nick said and then cleared his throat.

"This list is called Ashlee Weekend. This weekend is all about Ashlee," he began to read.

"The first thing we are going to do is make brownies with extra chocolate. We will have them with ice cream. If there isn't any ice cream in the freezer, your Grandma can take you to the store to pick some up."

He paused, probably waiting for Grandmamma to say whether there was any ice cream. She said absolutely nothing. Instead, she busied herself with watering her plants, not bothering to sit down with us and acknowledge what he had written up. I knew that the weekend was all about me but&helip; STILL, the least she could have done was sit with us and PRETEND to listen.

"Next," Nick began again, seeing that Grandmamma would not provide him with an answer.

"We will go swimming at our pool here and we will soak in the hot tub. This is all for today, which is Saturday, just so you know. After that we will go to the King's Wok All You Can Eat Buffet and feast until we nearly EXPLODE!"

Mmmmmmm! The Kings Wok was one of my favorite restaurants. Grandmamma liked it, too, so I was surprised when she still made no attempt to say anything about Ashlee Weekend. Was she jealous that Nick hadn't made a list of things for her for her own special weekend? Had Nick ever done that for her before, or tried to, and she gave him the same cold shoulder that she was giving him now? All these questions wandered in my mind as I listened to the list as Nick read on.

The list was long and, as hard as I try, I cannot for the life of me, remember what he had planned for the rest of Saturday and Sunday. I only remember feeling really special and, well, noticed. Noticed and respected. Respected in a way that I never had been before. All by this very strange man named Nick Ali Naficy.

When Nick finally finished reading the agenda, he said brightly, "Okay, well, let's start making brownies now. Oh wait, what about the ice cream?"

He turned to my grandmother, this time very expectant for an answer. She gave him one but it wasn't the one he was expecting. I was half-expecting it but it still gave me an unpleasant jolt inside when her answer came out in harsh, lashing words, like a whip beating the air as words flew from it with each cutting lash.

"Nick, I'm not making brownies right now. In fact, we aren't doing any of what is on your 'list'."

"Nick and I sat there in stunned silence, waiting for the next round of hurtful words, words that would leave huge, bleeding welts. Welts that would eventually shrink over time but that would leave behind a red, faded scar. A scar, which in turn, would last a lifetime.

"Ashlee and I, for your information, have our OWN plans for this weekend. And your agenda&helip; Well, it's very long and overwhelming. I don't want to feel like I'm on a set schedule for the entire weekend. So take your list and go somewhere else with it."

"Okay Giovanna," Nick said his voice just above a whisper as he got up and headed quickly for the door.

"I won't taint this house with my presence anymore."

He left, closing the door with a sharp CLICK behind him. Then I could hear the steady STOMP, STOMP STOMP of his feet as he quickly ascended the stairs, eager to take refuge in his house, where he could cry and nurse his emotional wounds with another round of wine. Or maybe even a little snort of coke. Yes, Nick was a cocaine user. He only used occasionally but, rumor had it that he used whenever he went to parties and hung out with his friends. I personally never saw him use cocaine before, but something about the way Nick acted and sounded and the way his life was for him, hard and brutal, made me believe my grandmother when she told my mother and me that he used coke from time to time. Apparently Nick had even admitted it to my grandma on one occasion when she confronted him about his pupils being dilated and his eyes being red and bloodshot.

"Wow," Grandmamma said as she poured a cupful of water into the pots of one of her plants in her living room.

"That was quite the long list. What did you think of it?"

"I thought it was very thoughtful," I replied, knowing very well that she would disagree majorly with my statement. I couldn't have cared less.

"Nick spent a lot of time on it and it was obvious just how much thought he put into it. What did YOU think of it?"

I kind of already knew what she thought of it but I wanted to make her say it.

"I thought it was overwhelming," Grandmamma said, coming back into the dining room to refill her cup so that she could wander into the bedroom and water that needy, thirsty plant, which stood, tall and pretty, beside her bed and dresser.

"It felt like I was in the military or something, like I was on a strict regiment all the time. I didn't like it at all. I'm glad he went back home. That's where he belongs."

"Making brownies sounded like fun," I told her.

"I'll make some later," she told me.

"I just didn't want to share any of them with HIM. And, I want to make them on my terms, not his."

When she told my mother about the Ashlee Weekend agenda, they both laughed and ridiculed Nick over it. Nick, of course, wasn't there to hear it, but I was.

"He sounds like he has WAY too much time on his hands," Jennifer said, laughing her evil, witchlike cackle.

"I'm telling you," Grandmamma said, laughing to.

"Seriously Mom, you've got to get yourself a new man," Mom told Grandmamma.

"He's such a loser, not to mention BUTT ugly. What's up with you and bald men?"

"Nick's bald?" I asked. Somehow I had failed to notice that.

"He's completely bald," Grandmamma answered me.

"Bald and UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU-GLY!" added my mother.

"Yeah, I'm getting pretty tired of him," Grandmamma told her.

"He's so immature. It's because of his drug use, you know. His mind is stuck at a teenage level because he's killed his brain cells with all the drinking and drugging that he does. Sometimes I can't STAND to be around him. I feel like I am dating a child, not a strong, reliable man. And, he doesn't have any MONEY! He's in so much debt Jennifer, it's crazy. And, he hardly works. He says that he plans to get rich when his parents die and he inherits something, but I told him that they probably won't die for a long time. His parents are old but they are very healthy and active."

"Yeah, say bye-bye to that one Mom," Jennifer encouraged her.

"Seriously, just say BYE-BYE!"

They laughed again in delight over their next victim to make fun of, poor Nick. I wondered when they would run out of things to make fun of with Nick and when they would move on to their NEXT victim. I was sure it wouldn't be long. Disgusted with both of them, I got up and silently made my exit to my room, my sanctuary, my place to vent and swear and rock back and forth and listen to music and, overall, just be myself. Which, if you have been following my stories, was absolutely FORBIDDEN in my mother's home. No being yourself allowed, rule number 1 in big, bold letters, figuratively written right in our windows in front of the house for all to see.

HAIL SATAN!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Nick Ali Naficy, Part 2

"Come on honey bunches," Grandmamma said.

"Let's go."

"Okay," I said and got up off of the white wicker couch in the dining room of her condo and headed into the living room to collect my shoes. It was summertime so there was no need for a coat.

Once the shoes were securely on my feet and tied tightly, we headed out the door. Grandmamma put her key in the door once it was shut and locked it. It was then that I noticed that she didn't have her purse with her, which was something she always carried around with her when we were going to go on an outing that involved taking her car. Something fishy was going on here, of that I was certain.

"Where's your purse?" I asked her as she yanked her house key from the lock.

"It's inside the house," she replied.

"Why? Where are we going?"

Grandmamma took a moment to decide what to tell me. Finally, realizing that she had been caught red-handed and was cornered by my intuition and questions, she broke down and said, "We're going to Nick's house."

"WHAT?!!!!! You said that I didn't have to see him this time. You told me that this visit was only going to be between you and me, that we would have a private Grandma/granddaughter date!"

"Well, it pretty much HAS been a private grandma/granddaughter visit, hasn't it?" she countered.

"I mean, your visit's almost over. Your mom is going to pick you up in just a couple of hours to bring you home."

"I don't want to go to Nick's house," I said and planted my feet firmly on the ground. Grandmamma took hold of my hand and attempted to haul me away from the door but I didn't budge. I flexed all my muscles and fought back. Eventually, her grip slackened and she dropped her hands to her sides in exasperation.

"Why are you being like this Ashlee? What has Nick ever done to deserve this kind of dislike from you?"

"He hasn't done anything," I admitted.

"But he's very cold and detached and I don't like him. Why do I have to see him anyway? It's not like you guys are going to stay together for life."

"Well, you never know, maybe we will. And we're not breaking up anytime soon. Nick is my partner for now and if you want to continue to come over and visit me you're just going to have to accept him and push back all those negative thoughts and feelings towards him."

So, basically what she was saying to me was that it was Nick or nothing. If I didn't accept Nick, I wouldn't get to see her anymore. Back then, I still really loved her and felt close to her, much closer than I felt towards my mom. So I decided right then and there to try and accept him and push aside the negative feelings I had towards Nick. After all, she was right, I thought to myself as we climbed the stairs leading up to the sidewalk.

Nick really hadn't done anything to deserve the harsh feelings I had towards him.

"Where does he live?" I asked as I waited at the top of the steps for Grandmamma to catch up.

"He lives on the third floor, just two floors above my condo," Grandmamma said as she clippity clopped up the stairs in her obnoxiously loud heels. I always wondered how anyone could walk in those things. I still wonder to this day about it sometimes whenever I hear someone clippity clopping around in them. I tried wearing them once and I felt like I was drunk. It was a total disaster and I had to take them off to prevent a major fall from occurring.

When we reached the third floor I began to feel shy. Now, I'm not a very shy person. I never was and I never will be. But, standing there next to Nick's door, I felt like I didn't belong there, like I really didn't know what I would say once Nick opened the door. It wasn't like Nick would be warm and welcoming when he opened the door. He just wasn't a hearts and flowers sort of guy.

"Knock on the door," Grandmamma said her voice sweet like honey.

"You knock," I told her, backing away back to the stairs where I had come.

So Grandmamma went up to the door and knocked much louder than necessary, loudly announcing our arrival. I kept my distance from Nick's door, hoping that, by some miracle, Nick wouldn't be home to answer the door.

But luck wasn't on my side, for, no sooner had Grandmamma knocked on the door I could hear footsteps approaching.

The door opened and Nick's head came peeking out of it.

"Hi there," Grandmamma said, pushing her way into Nick's house and throwing her arms around him. A second later I could hear the sound of them making out. Right there in front of me.

When they were done, Grandmamma said, "Come on Ash, come in. Nick made a delicious lunch for us."

"We're eating at his house?" I asked, baffled. I thought this was just a quick visit, just a quick hello to get me slowly warmed up to the guy. This was way more than I had bargained for.

Slowly and reluctantly, I came towards the entrance and then stopped.

"Come on," Grandmamma said, her voice heavy with irritation now.

"He won't bite."

So in I went. What choice did I have? I didn't want to annoy Grandma more than I already had and the thought of not being able to see her anymore if I didn't behave myself around Nick really concerned me and stuck in my mind. So I plastered a big, fat, fake smile on my face and said, "Hi Nick, how are you?"

"Fine, thank you," he said tersely.

Now, this is going to sound strange to you folks, but I've always liked to imagine everything in the world as food. Ever since I was little I've always found great enjoyment in doing this. I still do it today. I'll write more about it later in another story.

Anyway, when I finally entered Nick's condo, I immediately looked around the place with the limited vision that I do have just to get a feel for the place in case I really wanted to leave by myself if Grandmamma wouldn't leave with me. The carpet in Nick's housed really grabbed my attention. It was very, very dark carpeting. It reminded me of very rich, dark thunder cake. Thunder cake is a very rich chocolate cake with extremely rich chocolate frosting. There is a recipe available online for all to read if you are curious about what thunder cake is. Thunder cake is a very rare cake that I've only had the honor of eating twice, once when I was in the first or second grade and after I graduated from high school. The first thunder cake I ate, which was when I was in elementary school was the best one because it didn't have berries all over it, tainting it and taking away the very important flavor of chocolate like the one someone made for me for my high school graduation present.

This thunder cake carpeting had NO berries in it at all. It was pure chocolate. I wanted to bend down and touch it because I was curious about what the texture felt like and I wanted to pretend like I was eating the thunder cake carpet to relieve some of the anxiety I was feeling then but everyone was looking at me so I decided not to. I was always being scolded for doing strange, out of the ordinary things in front of strangers, and I wasn't in the mood for being scolded. Well, I never was in the mood for it but, on that particular summer day, it was even MORE crucial that I didn't do anything out of the norm. If I did, I might not get to see Grandmamma anymore until she broke up with Nick, which, judging by the way they made out and hugged might not be for a long time.

The other thing that caught my attention was the way the house smelled. As soon as I had walked inside, I smelled a hint of cigarette smoke accompanied by the scent of rich wine. I remember standing there, smelling the fragrance of the house and imagining that I was at my dad's house instead of being at Nick's house. I would have much rather been at Dad's house than where I was then. Cigarette smoke smell often offends people. It often makes people wrinkle up their noses and make snotty comments about the smell. I, however, basked in the smell of second hand smoke, so long as it wasn't very strong. A light perfume of cigarette smoke always makes me feel happy, safe, relaxed. It reminds me of being close to my dad.

So, after smelling the faint odor of cigarette smoke, I started to relax a little bit. Maybe Nick wasn't such a bad guy. Maybe, just maybe, I had enough room in my heart to accept this strange, cold, dry, boring man. Just MAYBE!

"Come on Ashlee, let's go out on Nick's deck," Grandmamma said, grabbing my hand and steering me through his thunder cake carpeted living room, through the sliding glass door, and onto the sunny, warm deck. Once outside, I squinted in the sunlight until my eyes adjusted a little better, then I started to look about me. There was a small table and a set of chairs on the deck. To the right of me I could hear a SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS hissing noise and I could smell the rich, tender flavor of meat on the grill.

"What is Nick grilling?" I asked, turning to where the hissing sound was coming from. Next to the sliding glass door, which was open to let some fresh, non-cigarette tainted air into the house I spotted a small grill, working diligently to provide us with a delicious lunch of some meaty sort.

"Why don't you ask Nick," Grandmamma told me. It was her way of telling me I needed to have a decent conversation with Nick instead of ignoring him. Taking the hint, I sighed and then called, "Hey Nick, what are you grilling? It smells delicious."

It didn't exactly smell DELICIOUS but I thought that I could ham up the compliments a bit to get on Grandmamma's good side. Perhaps if I earned enough brownie points with her she would reward me with a Derry Queen treat after this visit was over.

"I'm grilling chicken. We're also going to have some prawns."

Prawns! Gross! I hated seafood! I kept those thoughts to myself and said, less enthusiastically this time, "Sounds good."

Nick had a certain name for the barbecued chicken but it isn't coming to mind right now. I think he might have called it Casian chicken or something. It wasn't any ordinary chicken. I think it might have been a sort of Swedish dish, but who knows.

It wasn't long before the food was ready and set on dishes for all of us.

"Where are we going to eat?" I asked, standing there on the deck, not sure where to go and feeling very out of my element in this strange, somewhat comforting but not quite all the way comforting house.

"Let's eat outside," suggested Grandmamma animatedly.

"It's beautiful out."

So we ate outside. Nick asked Grandmamma if she wanted to have some wine with her meal. She said sure and so Nick poured two glasses of wine. One for her, one for him. Nick, I had learned by now, was a pretty major booze lover. He always had a drink in his hand it seemed, the one exception being the time Grandmamma introduced him to me. I guess Grandmamma had told him that he needed to be sober for our first introduction and, not wanting to get on her bad side, he obeyed her orders and came down to her condo empty-handed and as cold as ice.

"What would you like to drink?" Nick asked me.

"I'd like some water please," I told him, staring at the huge plate of food that Grandmamma had set in front of me. It smelled strange, not bad but not quite good either. I sat there, wondering if I should wait for them to sit down and eat or if I could start eating. I decided to wait for them, not wanting to be rude and scolded for it. Grandmamma never seemed to mind if I started eating before everyone else at the table normally, but it was a HUGE no-no in my mom's house. And, this was no ordinary occasion. I had no idea what was expected of me then.

"Why aren't you eating?" Nick asked in his deep, nasally voice as he came back with a tall glass of water and set it on the table next to my almost overflowing plate.

"Aren't you going to try it?"

"Yes I am. Um… Um… Er, I'm just waiting for you two to start eating, too," I finally managed to stammer out.

"Okay," Nick said, the tone of his voice lightening up just a teensy bit.

"That's good because I was starting to think that you were going to be rude and not try the meal that I worked so hard to make all morning long."

"Never," I said and quickly picked up my fork.

I was surprised when, after I had taken my first tentative bite of chicken, that I decided right away that I liked it. The chicken wasn't spicy nor was it bland. It was tender and easy to chew. There was no fat or gristle on it at all to be found.

"Mmmmmmmm Nick, this is good," I found myself saying before I even knew I was about to compliment him.

"Good work!"

"Try the prawns," ordered Grandmamma as she sat across from me and right next to Nick.

The tentativeness returned as I surveyed the prawns. I really didn't like seafood at all, yet I had never tried prawns.

"Just TRY them," Grandmamma insisted. The irritation was starting to come back. I could hear it at the very edges of her words, could feel it in the air. Behave, behave, And BEHAVE!!! I had to keep reminding myself of that for almost the entire visit.

I caught a prawn between the tongs of my fork and slowly brought it to my mouth. After a tiny pause, I took a tiny bite out of it. And again, I found myself very surprised. The prawns were absolutely SCRUMPTIOUS!

"Wow Nick, where did you go to chef school?" I asked him, totally serious with the question.

Nick just laughed and said, "No chef school for Big Daddy. I'm just a natural born excellent cook. Do I get an A on lunch for today?"

"No," I told him as I took another bite of the prawn, this time a more confident, bigger bite.

"You get an A PLUS!"

Grandmamma laughed and all the tension vanished. FINALLY!

"The prawns are fried, breaded prawns," Grandma explained to me as I ate hungrily. I hadn't even realized just how hungry I was until now.

"Well, they're outstanding," I said and this time, the smile that spread across my face was sincere.

I ate until my plate was clean. After the meal, we all just sat there on the deck, enjoying the beautiful summer weather and the refreshing, fragrant breezes that kept coming over to say hi to us and shower us with coolness and wonderful natural smells from the woods, and overall, a feeling of contentment. It was in this visit that I began to feel differently towards Nick. Just a little. I didn't trust him all the way yet, nor was I about to give him a hug, but I did give him a handshake and thanked him earnestly for our yummy lunch.

"A person who knows how to meet my high standards of eating often becomes a true friend for life," I told Nick as we got up to clear off the table and wash up.

"I'm glad you liked it," Nick said. At first, I thought I was just imagining it, but no. I wasn't imagining it at all. His voice had changed. It was lighter, more jovial. It was the kind of voice that one hears when someone who isn't quite sure about you either finally decides to accept you into their own hearts and become your friend, too.

So, it was in that moment, standing there on his deck, that both Nick and I decided silently that we would accept one another. He showed me by being friendlier and regarding me with more respect and dignity. I showed him I would accept him by thanking him and talking to him more freely and with less tension.

As the story unfolds, you'll see that we got even closer still. And that's when things all went CRAZY!!!! My life, indeed, would never be as I knew it before Nick came waltzing, unexpected and unwelcome, into my once innocent, once pure, once untainted life.

HAIL SATAN!!!!!!!!!

Nick Ali Naficy, Part 1

It's time to finally address the elephant in the room. It's time to buck the monkey off my back. It's time to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about what really happened in the summer of 2008, starting on June thirteenth and ending on either Friday, August first or Saturday, August the second. Yes, it is time now, to tell the world about a man named Nick Ali Naficy, starting right now.

I don't really want to write about him because it hurts, but I have to or the monkey will never get off my back. If I don't, the elephant will take up too much space in my mind that could otherwise be used for further creativity. All five of my imaginary demons say that it's time now.

"Why today?" I ask them.

"Because, if not today, it will be never," they all say. I have no other choice but to plod along and tell the story. Not unless I want to continue to have the monkey and elephant close to me, forever holding me back from experiencing true joy, happiness, love, and, hardest of all, trust. Since it's been so muggy and hot for the last couple of days, it's been causing me to be triggered and to think about Nick and the things that happened during that summer. No matter how much I try to distract myself or to think about something else, IT keeps rearing its ugly head in the most inopportune of times, causing me to experience a host of negative feelings, like sadness, hurt, and anger especially, ranking the top of the stack. Sometimes, sadness makes its way to the top of the stack, other times its panic attacks. Today, it's both anger and sadness. Anger and sadness are fighting and scrambling, each one wanting to top the list. Right now anger's winning but the night's still young. You never know what can happen in any given minute when it comes to the feelings of someone who suffers from PTSD.

I don't normally use a person's entire name when I share my true stories, real life experiences with you readers, but this is no ordinary story. I know that, by sharing his full name, I am putting myself out there and setting myself up for a risk of being sued for slander and deformation of character. Try as I might to convince my friends and myself that I should come up with a different name for him, my friends insisted that his real identity needs to be revealed once and for all. The silence must be fully, completely, and totally broken. There must not be any chunks of information left out of the story. Everything must be told so that the silence has no way of putting its broken self back together once this story is completely written and available for all who wish to read it. And, I couldn't really think of another name to give to Nick, so I decided that my friends were right.

The Naficy family, if they find out about this story, can sue me all they want. I really have nothing to give them. I am flat broke and I own nothing. I am far below the poverty line and I am okay with that. Actually, I am more than okay with it. I am quite satisfied with it. Being below the poverty line is what helps give me the courage it takes to do things like this. I really have nothing to lose and, once the Naficy's do some research on me if they so desire, they will soon learn that I have nothing they can take from me that will make me shut up. Once they see that, they might turn around and offer me a settlement, begging me to erase Nick's name from my story, even begging me not to tell the story at all, but I will deny all their offers because the truth and only the truth, is the only thing that will set me free. No amount of money or material goods or anything else they might offer me is enough to keep me silent. I have been silent for way too long and now I'm ready to break it, chop it up into tiny, microscopic fragments as I slowly write this story bit by bit. If I am taken to court over this, all I have to say is that I hope Satan will work in my favor as he has so far and that he doesn't disappoint, which I'm sure he won't. I can only hope that the judge will understand why I am doing this and that I am not defaming anyone. As sad as I am to say this, the story is completely true and correct to the best of my knowledge, so may Satan strike me dead right now if this is a lie.

Nope, I'm not dead. I'm still here, writing this story, so look! He's already on my side. That's good because I need him right now more than ever. AAAAAAHHHHHH, deep breath. Inhale. Exhale!

Okay, here goes!

Nick Ali Naficy came barreling into my life no different than all the other boyfriends my mother and grandma introduced to me. Grandmamma had recently divorced grandpa Ed and had sold the big, open, enchanted house in Keyport. Nobody really had liked the Keyport house that much, but I did. Mom claimed that she never slept well there and that it was too drafty and cold. Giselle often heard strange noises from different rooms in the house but couldn't ever find the sources of the strange sounds so she ended up coming to the conclusion that the house was haunted by ghosts. I must admit, I did have a pretty strange experience there once when I was all alone that made me wonder about the house being haunted, too, but I wasn't as frightened by it as Giselle had been. I didn't run to my mommy when she came back to get me, like Giselle would have done, nor did I cry. It was just yet another strange thing that happened in my life. I was pretty used to odd things happening all around me by then. Grandmamma had too many bad memories there with Ed and didn't feel it was healthy to continue living there. And the courts gave Grandmamma custody of Giselle and ordered Ed to move out so, whether he wanted to stay there or not, the judge didn't allow him to. Or so they told me. I don't really know all the details of what happened then. I was only ten when all that shit went down.

Once the Keyport house was sold, Grandmamma decided to downsize a lot and so she moved to a one-bedroom condo that she bought.

"Everybody hates me," I remember her telling my mother during a rough patch in her life after her divorce when her and Giselle weren't getting along at all. No, they were fighting like lions and tigers.

"So I might as well get a one-bedroom condo instead of a three-bedroom. It's not like anybody's going to spend the night or anything."

"Nobody hates you," Mom tried to comfort her.

"I'll spend the night with you sometimes," I added.

"Well then you can sleep with me in the bedroom," Grandma said and that was that.

I was living in Naples, Florida when she sold and moved out of the Keyport house so I didn't even know that she lived in a small condo until I came to Washington for a visit and then, Once Tim finally realized that Mom was never going to come to Florida to live like she said she would or that she would come back for me in Florida and bring me back to Washington herself, Tim decided to send me back to Washington to live permanently again and that's when I got to know Grand mama's condo a little better. That's also when I was introduced to Nick.

Grandma had been living at the condo a while before I moved back to Washington and she had been dating Nick for some time, too. I can't really remember everything that happened or all of what was said when Grandmamma introduced him to me. I only remember that I was at the condo, sitting in the dining room, I think, or maybe the living room, sitting on her wicker couch just hanging out or sitting on her old, worn-out regular couch and it was summertime. If I had been sitting in the dining room I would have been sitting in the white wicker couch. At least I think it was a white couch. The wicker was a light color that really did look white, but I tend to get my colors mixed up a lot, so who knows. If I was sitting in the living room, I would have been sitting on the old, worn-out, faded couch.

Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. It was a very strange knock, a knock that I had never heard before. Usually when someone knocks on someone's door, it sounds like:

TAP, TAP, TAP, TAP, AND TAP.

Or:

TAP, TAP, TAP!

This knock was very different. I didn't know the significance of it right then, but I would learn about it later.

Nick's knock sounded like this:

TAP,TAP,

TAP, TAP.

Huh, I thought as Grandma went over to the door to see who it was.

That was an unusual knock. I couldn't decide whether I liked it or not, but before I had a chance to figure out whether I liked or disliked it, Grandmamma had opened the door and said, "Oh hi Nick, come in. I'd like you to meet Ashlee."

This is where things go fuzzy. I can't remember what Nick said to me or whether we shook hands. I can't remember whether I thought he was worth actually getting off my ass for and standing so that I could be more at his level or whether I addressed him sitting down. I think I was sitting down. I kind of remember thinking to myself:

Oh, here we go again. Just another boyfriend to add to the list of ex's. I wonder how long HE'LL last before Grandmamma gets tired of him and leaves him in the dust and then comes home with another one to introduce to us, claiming that THIS one is "the one" for her.

What I do remember from that introduction was feeling a very strong dislike for Nick. For one thing, he didn't seem very happy. Nick reminded me very much like Tim, humorless and dry as a piece of unbuttered, burnt toast. His voice was very nasally and he didn't laugh or speak softly. I remember shying away from him a little because he spoke very loudly and it irritated my sensitive ears.

Nick didn't really seem like he thought much about me. He just seemed very, well, how would I say it? I guess the right word would be neutral but also kind of cold. So, Nick regarded me with a sense of cold neutralness that, I don't know, just didn't sit well with me. To be honest, I couldn't really put a finger on why I didn't like him. He just gave me a weird feeling and not in a warm, fuzzy, gentle, kind sort of way.

Nick didn't stay very long. Once he left, Grandmamma came to me and said, "So, what did you think of him?"

"He's all right," I said, not wanting to cause a stir. I was okay with being rude when the time was right for it but, once Grandmamma got her feathers ruffled I knew she would give me the third degree for HOURS! That's what she always did when she was met with an answer that she wasn't satisfied with. That's how Mom was, too. That was THE VERY LAST thing I wanted to deal with then, getting the third degree for the rest of the morning.

"Why is he just "all right,"?"

Damn! She wasn't satisfied with even THAT answer and, really, that was the nicest one I could have given her. Oh well, I tried! I guess MY rest of the morning is going to be filled with invasive and demanding questions about my feelings and lectures about how I "really need an attitude adjustment here." Oh goodie, sounds like fun!

"Just what I said. He's all right. What more do you want me to say?"

"Why don't you like him?"

Damn, was I really being THAT obvious? I mean, I knew I didn't have a good poker face whenever I needed to have one but I had thought I was keeping my thoughts and expressions under control. Guess I was wrong.

"Well, he just seems cold and humorless," I finally said. If she really wanted to hear the truth, I'd give it to her. After all, she was asking for it.

"What else don't you like about him?" she continued to grill me.

"You know, I really don't know," I said honestly.

"He just gives me a weird feeling, that's all. He doesn't seem very friendly I guess."

"Well, what it sounds like to me is that you are just jealous that I am dating someone. You are feeling jealous and afraid because you don't want me to give anyone else any attention but you."

That was the furthest thing from the truth, but whatever. I wasn't going to argue.

"Okay, that's it I guess," I said, wanting very much to change the subject.

"I have to pee. Excuse me."

I got up to head to the bathroom and she followed right on my heel, something that Mom always did, too, when all I really wanted was to have some time alone to think and process stuff.

"Ashlee, you and I will still get to do things together. Nick is a really nice man. He is just a little shy around strangers but he'll warm up to you. Just give him some time, okay?"

"Okay," I said, trying to pee but finding it impossible because she was standing right in front of my face.

"Now can I please have a little privacy here?"

"Yes," Grandmamma said and, finally, made her exit. Finally, finally, I was alone.

Time went on and my feelings about Nick didn't change. He still regarded me coldly and he talked to me like I was a baby rather than a teenager. Grandmamma told me that I should think of him as aloof or standoffish but I just thought of him as a humorless, boring jerk who I really didn't want to hang out with at all.

Shortly after Grandmamma introduced Nick to me, she introduced him to my mother and Tim. Somehow Mom hadn't met him yet, which I remember thinking to myself that I really didn't know how that was possible, being that Mom and Grandmamma were close and saw each other often. I was very surprised to find out that neither Mom nor Tim thought much of Nick either.

"Ashlee, you were right about Nick," Mom told me as we drove home in Tim's Dodge pickup one evening after a visit with Grandmamma.

"I don't like him. You didn't like him at ALL, did you Tim?"

"No I sure didn't," replied Tim, keeping his eyes steadily on the road.

"What didn't you like about him?" I asked, glad that I wasn't the only one who didn't like him anymore. Maybe Grandmamma would finally get off my back once she saw that none of her immediate family members liked him.

"He gave me the creeps! He didn't give me any eye contact and… I just don't know, he is creepy, that's all I can say about him. I hope Grandma dumps him. She's too good for him."

"Yeah, the no eye contact thing WAS really weird," commented Tim. Then, just like that, the subject was changed and no more was spoken about Nick.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Disgusting: Wearing Ear Plugs in Public

Dear Dad,

I am officially on a roll again. It really helped to write to you yesterday about what was going on inside my head. Today my motivation and drive are back. Today is sunny and warm and just perfect for writing another story for Disgusting.

So Dad, do you remember making fun of me for being sensitive to loud noises when I was young and even as a teen? Well, I sure do. It's not something a child can easily forget when one or both of their parents make fun of them for something, especially when they are already self-conscious about it to begin with. Yes, Dad, I'm talking about me wearing earplugs when there was too much noise going on around me and it was making me feel overwhelmed and very anxious, the desire to flee to somewhere quiet and safe strong in my mind.

You weren't the only one who picked on me about this and made me feel bad about it, though. Jennifer did it, too, though her way of doing it was way more humiliating and hurtful than what you did. Not only that but she also supplied me with the ammunition that she needed in order to pick on me about it. Yes, she was the earplug supplier.

Ever since I was little I have always been very sensitive to loud sounds. I've always preferred being somewhere quiet and peaceful over some place loud and crowded. As a result, I have never been to a major concert like Pink Floyd or System of A down because I knew I wouldn't enjoy it at all. Well, my mother knew this about me and, one day, she decided to give me something to help relieve my anxiety over loud sounds. Or, at least I THOUGHT she was trying to help me. Little did I know then that she was using it as another one of her evil mind fuckery tools to add to my already warped and weak self esteem.

It was pretty soon after you bought me my new drum set. I was about eight or nine years old. The funny thing about the whole drum set thing is that I still to this day have no idea who actually bought it for me, you or Jennifer. You told me that you bought it and she adamantly insisted that SHE was the one who bought it.

"Your father would never buy something as nice as this drum set for you," she had hissed at me when I had told her that I really liked the drum set that you had bought me.

"Well Dad said that he bought it," I told her, wondering why such little comments that I made, such little, tiny, innocent comments could lead to such a huge ordeal and even violence if Mom got angry enough.

"Well he didn't. I bought it with MY money. So you should be thanking ME for the drum set, not him. I'm tired of you always giving him credit for stuff when it's really ME who deserves it and the one who does it all. Your father does squat to help out with you."

Bla, bla, bla. Automatically I began to tune her out, something I had self taught myself how to do probably since I was a toddler.

I tend to believe that you actually bought it, though, Dad, because, right after you died, she slipped up and actually said that you bought it. I guess with so many lies floating around in her head it's hard to keep up with them all and remember what she said.

"The drum set that your dad bought you is very special," she told me, as if I didn't already know that.

"Make sure you take good care of it. I want to keep it in the family to remember him by and so your children can have something that their grandfather got you when you were little."

"I thought that you bought the drum set," I countered. I was grieving at the time but I just had to catch her in the act. I couldn't resist hearing her floundering for the right thing to say as her brain frantically backtracked, trying to remember the first lie she had told me about the drum set.

"Well," she said her voice tight and clipped, a sure sign of nerves kicking in.

"We both bought it, okay? Does it really matter who bought it?"

"No, not really," I said, trying to hide my satisfied smile.

"It's just that you told me that you bought it, not him. You were very adamant about that."

"Well, it doesn't matter who bought it anyway!" she huffed and then stormed out of my bedroom, slamming the door behind her. If she had a tail, I swear it would have been tucked tightly and stiffly between her ugly legs as she ran away, cowering like a little girl who is about to get a spanking.

Back to what I was saying about the earplugs, though, my mother decided that it would be a good idea to give me some hearing protection for me to have when I played the drums. So, when she went to work at the airport, she went to the crew lounge and stole a large handful of earplugs from the box of earplugs that were meant for the employees that go on the tar mack to wear and brought them home to me.

I was delighted when she handed me the earplugs. I had been having a hard time enjoying my drums because I was focusing more on playing them quietly, or trying to play them quietly, than I was on learning new songs and rhythms.

"Don't stick them in too deep," Mom instructed as I tore open one of the plastic packages that held the two earplugs. I noticed that they were a bright color. They looked orange or yellow. I liked how they looked.

At first I didn't like how they felt in my ears. As they expanded, my ears felt more and more like something was pushing against the eardrums in an uncomfortable way. I worried that the earplugs would burst my eardrum so I took them out.

"There's too much pressure," I complained as I sat in my drum chair, fiddling with the earplugs in my hands.

"They're supposed to feel like that. Come on, put them in again," she encouraged me.

So I did and gradually I began to get used to the feeling of having earplugs in my ears. I began to play my drums and I noticed just how much sound they blocked out and how much more comfortable I was. The anxiety that had always accompanied me whenever there was too much noise had totally vanished.

"Thank you for the plugs," I told my mother. For once she had actually given me a gift that I could appreciate and actually make some good use of. It wasn't her typical useless gift of uncomfortable clothes or fancy jewelry that we both knew I would never wear or a Braille watch that really should have been worn by an elderly person who just sat there all day long because the watch was so fragile. Way too fragile for a child to be wearing.

A few years later, I started band at elementary school and brought the earplugs with me. Almost everybody in the band sucked, especially the people who tried to play bad on purpose and blared their instruments to annoy people around them.

For some demented reason, Jennifer changed her mind about wanting me to wear earplugs. One day, right before my band concert, she told me, "Give me your earplugs."

"Why? I need to wear them for my concert."

"No you don't. Give them to me."

I could feel the anxiety already beginning to build in my gut. Just anticipating being in an echoey room with a bunch of horrible band mates with no earplugs to take the edge off of all that loud noise was almost too much to bear.

"Please let me wear them," I begged my mother.

"I'm not going to play very well for my concert if I don't have them. I'll be too nervous."

"Do you have any solos?"

"No, Peter does but I just have to play along with him."

"Well, since you don't have a very important role in the concert you really don't need them. Nobody will notice if you are nervous because you are just a background person. Give them to me now Ashlee. I'm not going to say it again."

Reluctantly I handed her my precious stash of hearing tranquilizers. For a minute, I considered sneakily leaving a pair out of the stash and wearing them anyway for the concert but having my long brown hair hide them by having it cover up my ears. But then I remembered that, on special occasions, my mother always enjoyed putting my hair in French braids or in a ponytail or some other ridiculous getup and, whatever hairstyle she would be forcing upon me for that day would surely mean that my hair would be pulled back away from my face and, most importantly, away from my ears. So out the window THAT plan went.

Heaving a huge, defeated sigh, I walked over to her and dumped them into her hands.

"Thank you," she said, her voice laced with sarcasm.

"Was that really so hard?"

"Yes, actually it was," I told her, knowing very well that it wouldn't really make a difference, though. Jennifer was the most insensitive woman I knew. The only feelings that mattered were her own.

"Why did you even give me earplugs in the first place if you don't want me to wear them? Why can't I wear them anyway? Do you want me to be blind AND deaf?"

"No Ashlee, I don't want you to be blind and deaf, but you won't go deaf from one concert. I'm not going to have you sitting onstage wearing ridiculous earplugs while everybody else aren't wearing any. You'll look very out of place and chances are you'll get picked on by your fellow band mates. Is that what you want?"

"I'd rather be picked on than be deaf. I don't care what any of those losers think anyway. It's not like I have a boatload of friends."

"Well, the only one to blame for that is yourself. Maybe if you would listen to me and behave like the rest of your peers it would be different for you."

She walked off with my earplugs and hid them somewhere. I contemplated trying to find them later but I knew I'd just get caught in the end and I didn't want to risk a beating before my show. The last thing I needed was to have red, swollen eyes from crying and a red cheek with a palm print where Mom often liked to slap me.

As I knew it would, the concert went horribly. I kept getting off course with everybody else and hit the snare drum at the wrong times. After the concert, Jennifer jumped down my throat as usual.

"What was with you up there? Why couldn't you keep up a simple beat? It's not like you didn't have other drummers to follow their lead?"

Another time Jennifer forbid me to wear earplugs was during a fair where people kept revving up their motorcycles in a most obnoxious way. Even before we got to the fairgrounds, I could hear the commotion. The closer we got, the tighter my stomach got. To this day, I still don't understand WHY people actually find watching a bunch of loud, obnoxious motorcycles doing whatever SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO entertaining! I mean, what are they doing anyway? Nobody ever took the time to tell me. For all I know, their drivers just sit on them and rev their engines, irking my nerves every time. But they have to be doing more than that, don't they? I mean, huge groups of people wouldn't just stand there and watch a bunch of stupid motorcyclists sitting there revving up their engines over and over again, would they? Not to mention cheering after every engine rev.

"You don't need earplugs for this event," Jennifer said as she took the earplugs out of my hands right as I started squishing them so that they could fit comfortably in my ears.

"Hey, yes I do," I yelled, trying to grab her arm so I could retrieve them.

"No you don't. Hey, for once, why not try to be a normal kid and have fun at the fair. This is a place for people to have FUN, not freak out about every little noise they hear."

Of course, it wasn't fun for me. It would have been, could have been, if I could have just worn my earplugs to take the edge off a little. I have discovered that, when I wore earplugs to crowded, busy places, I could actually enjoy myself just like everybody else. They gave me a confidence and an ease that I otherwise couldn't have without them.

That day, I ended up having a panic attack from too much sound stimulation and threw up. Back then I wasn't aware of what panic attacks were and what I was experiencing was severe anxiety. All I knew was that I had an overwhelming urge to flee only I couldn't because people were surrounding me on all sides, front and back, blocking any chance of escape I could have had if they weren't there. Jennifer finally ended up taking me away from all that horrid commotion, hissing in my ear, "When we get home, you'd better brush your teeth and change your shirt. You smell like barf! Why can't you be normal Ashlee? It's not normal to puke and freak out at a fair. A fair for pete's sakes. Go figure you'd have a meltdown at a fair."

She mused about this out loud all the bloody, miserable way home. We were living in Port Ludlow then and the fair was in Poulsbo so, if you are familiar with the Kitsap County and Jefferson County area, you probably have a pretty good idea of just how long and awful the drive home was.

Oh yes, mixed messages galore. One second Mom's all kind and like, "Here are some earplugs to protect your hearing so you can enjoy your new drum set."

The next second she's all like, "Earplugs make you look like a freak. People all around will wonder what's wrong with you. You don't need to wear them all the time. You are only blind Ashlee so, for the love of God, stop making it appear like you have multiple disabilities, especially mental ones. Those are the worst and you certainly are NOT mentally disabled, though you sure act it sometimes."

s if she would know if I had a mental disability or not. Had she graduated with some sort of psychology degree from a secret, underground college in the deep woods of Port Ludlow that only SHE knew existed? I think not.

You weren't as accepting as you could have been about my sensitivity to sounds either Dad. I remember this one time when I was about seven or so. It was before you or Mom or who the heck ever really did buy my drum set for me. We were sitting in Mom's cramped Mitsubishi Eclipse who she called Mitsy. Mom had run in to do some sort of errand but you and I stayed in the car. I was sitting in the back seat and you were in the front passenger side. I was on the right side of the back seat, closest to you. The right side was my favorite side to sit in. It still is today. Some things just never change.

Anyway, whenever Mom would turn the radio on, I'd always make it a point to say, "Not on my side," meaning that I didn't want the speakers to playing music right next to my right ear. It was bad enough sitting in the back with the radio on because the back seat is the closest to the speakers. It was unbearable to sit there and have music playing directly into my ear.

Well, you decided to turn up the radio. I guess you heard a song that you liked or maybe you were bored. Or maybe you just felt like being a jack ass and taking pleasure in my DIS-pleasure.

In any event, you turned up the radio and put the speakers on my side of the car.

"Not on my side," I said angrily. You knew that I didn't like it on my side and yet you put it there anyway, thus pissing me off.

"Not on my side, not on my side," you said mockingly, bringing your voice to a high pitch to match mine and then started to laugh. Then you turned up the radio some more.

"Not on my side," I said louder, feeling edgy by now.

"Not on my side!" you continued to mock me.

Still you turned it up louder.

"HEY!!!!" I shouted, trying not to show a sign of weakness but feeling an intense desire to flee by busting the window out and running far, far away where nobody could hurt my delicate ears ever again. I would have jumped out of the car I'm sure, but I couldn't because Mitsy was the kind of car where there were only two doors instead of four so I would have had to somehow climb over you and get your door open to get out. I don't know if I would have been able to manage that with you in the way. You would have probably prevented me from getting out of the car.

"NOT ON MY SIDE!!!!!!"

I was beside myself. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs. I wanted to punch and kick and bite and claw and do whatever other violent action I could manage to escape. When sounds are too loud for too long, it often leads to outrage along with anxiety and extreme discomfort. I felt like I could cry, only I knew if I did that Mom would get mad and chances were it would just make you laugh harder. I wanted to swear! I wanted to throw something at you. At that moment, I wanted to hurt you back. I wanted the whole world to know just how much I utterly hated you for doing this to me. I wanted to punch you again and again and again right in the face. I wanted to bust all your teeth out. I wanted to gouge out your eyeballs and bust out your eardrums so that you would be completely deaf. I wanted to curl up in a fetal position and just totally shut down. I wanted to die. Yes, at seven years old and even younger, I knew what it was like to wish that I would die. I never shared it with anyone until I got older but the feelings weren't something new to me when I hit puberty and got into the teen years like everybody else thought they were.

"NOT ON MY SIDE!" you shouted back and then roared with laughter.

Then you really blared it. I think the volume was almost full blast by now. Instinctively I clapped my hands over my ears and began rocking very rapidly back and forth to try and steady my nerves. You just sat there, all smiles and mocking and you let the laughter take over, making it impossible for you to speak and mock me anymore.

I might have been relieved about you not being able to make fun of me anymore if the music wasn't still blasting. I still kept my hands over my ears and rocked faster still.

Suddenly, the driver side door opened and Jennifer got in. I never thought in a million billion years that I would actually write this but Jennifer actually came to my rescue.

"Hey," she yelled, turning the radio down to almost silence.

"What's going on? What are you doing to our child?"

"He put it on my side," I whined to her.

"He blasted it Mommy."

"That's not funny," Jennifer scolded you.

"That was way too loud. That can really damage her ears."

"Will you take it off my side?" I asked. Well, it was more a plea than a question.

"Yes honey," Mom said her voice unusually soft and kind. She switched the speakers away from my side and had the music playing very softly while I sat there, glumly looking out the window.

I remember feeling very confused as to why you would suddenly turn on me like that, how you could be so loving and kind and wonderful and then suddenly turn so evil and wicked, and taking pleasure in your own daughter's pain. As Mitsy drove along the road, I wondered what made you want to hurt me, what I had done wrong to deserve such harsh treatment. I wondered if you were punishing me for something naughty that I might have done. But what did I do? Nothing that I was aware of. If I had done something, you certainly hadn't given me any awareness about it to correct the behavior and try to refocus my naughty intentions on something more positive.

There was another time when you did a similar thing to me. I was older then, maybe eight or nine or ten. Who knows. I'm terrible of keeping track of dates and times and years. All I remember is that we were at your mother's new house on a summer day. At least I think it was a summer day. The sun was out and it was warm outside. We were in the downstairs living room lying on the couch together, wrestling I think. Suddenly, you grabbed my head, drew it close to your mouth, turned my ear to your mouth, and then began yelling, "BWAAAAAAAAAAAAA!"

"OOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWW!" I shouted, taken aback by such sudden, intense, horrible sound.

"BWAAAAAAAAAAA HOOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOO HOOOOOO!" you yelled again. My eardrums buzzed and not in a good way. It felt like my entire head was vibrating. No, like my entire BODY was vibrating and in pain. Too much loud sounds, especially that one, literally hurts me all over. It's not a feeling that I can easily explain.

I struggled but the more I did, the stronger your hold on me became.

"BWHOOOOOOOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOO BWAAAAAAAA HOOOOO!!!"

Your voice had raised several octaves then and that's when I snapped.

Before I knew what I was doing I concentrated all my strength and fury and will power and fear and hate and every other feeling into one big YANK!!!! You were taken by surprise by it and that worked to my advantage. You started to stand up from the couch and I turned and kneed you in the balls as hard as I could. You went down like a bag of sand.

"OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWW!!!!!" you howled in pain.

"JESUS CHRIST!!!!!!!!!"

You sat there, trying to breathe slowly and you were probably also trying to maintain self control so that you wouldn't punch me or something for causing you such pain.

I don't remember what happened after that. I don't think I apologized to you. I remember being pretty upset. I'm also positive that you never apologized to me for either one of those awful times when you, for no apparent reason, turned on me in the most awful way possible that you actually KNEW would physically hurt me and make me very anxious.

You didn't make so much fun of me about the earplugs. Once in a while, you would find a pack of them in my pocket and you would say something sarcastic like, "Oh, there they are again. You can't go anywhere without those plugs. God forbid you forget them one day. I wonder what would happen if that ever happened?"

Today I still wear them very regularly. And, to this day, I am still self-conscious about it, thanks to you and Mom not being accepting of your child. I was no ordinary child and you both knew that. Today, I am no ordinary adult. I am unique and I am sensitive. When I put the earplugs in my ears, I can still sometimes hear my mother's voice in my head saying, "You look like a freak with those earplugs sticking out of your ears. People are going to think you are a freak."

try not to listen to her voice or let it upset me but it's hard to do sometimes. But the earplugs really do help me and so I will continue to wear them. I will not give Jennifer the satisfaction by ceasing to wear them just because she doesn't like how her daughter looks with them in her ears, despite the fact that people don't generally notice me wearing them because my long hair hides them. I have grown out my hair very long, not only because I like it long but also because I know it is a good way to conceal that I am wearing them. All I have to do is make sure that I have a few layers of hair covering both of my ears and nobody can tell I have them.

I know that for a fact because, one time when I was at the casino listening to live music, my aunt Tammy came up to me and hugged me.

"Do you like the music?" she asked me.

"Yeah, it's really good," I answered and I really meant it.

"I'm surprised it isn't too loud for you. I thought you would have surely fled somewhere quiet by now."

"There's no need," I told her, smiling proudly. I felt proud that I could participate in an event that most people think is fun without feeling anxious about the noise. It was amazing to me that I was actually having a good time at an almost concert. It was outdoor so that helped quite a bit but still, I had come a long way from before when I didn't have earplugs to wear.

"Why is there no need?"

"Because I'm wearing earplugs," I told her, pushing back the hair from my ears.

"Oh, you are," she said, taking a closer look at me.

"I didn't even see them in there. Good thinking."

The funny thing about my mother hating the fact that I wear earplugs to stay sane in this noisy world is the fact that she has actually made my need for them more profound. Several years ago, when I was still actively talking to her and visiting home, she had me convinced that I was bipolar and needed to see a doctor and get on medication for it and my anxiety. So I took her advice and went to see the doctor. I didn't tell the doctor that my mother thought that I was bipolar but I did speak about my anxiety and the negative impact it was having on my life and overall well-being.

"I'm going to prescribe you a medication called buspirone," the doctor said to me after listening intently about my symptoms.

"It's not a pill that you should take when you are about to have a panic attack, it's a pill that should be taken twice a day to help prevent the panic attacks from even happening at all."

"Oh," I said, starting to feel very excited.

"I didn't even know that there was such a thing as a pill that can prevent panic attacks. I'll take it."

"Great. I'll also prescribe you ativan. Ativan should be used when you are actually having an attack. It is a fast acting drug that will calm you down within minutes after you take it."

My mom was ecstatic about me being on buspirone. My grandma Giovanna even commented about it by saying, "Buspirone is wonders for you. You're home with us and are actually happy here. This is what's normal. You wanting to be with your family is what's normal. What you were doing before, staying away from us and not coming home on weekends, that was NOT normal. Keep on taking that buspirone so we can have our normal happy Ashlee Rosebud with us, okay?"

As always, I quickly realized that their advice sucked and quit taking the buspirone. It was making me feel super depressed and I was tired of being stoned all the time. Plus, the main side effect of it was nausea, which really wasn't good for me because, when I have a panic attack, guess what the main side effect of it is? Yep, it's a no brainer, it's nausea! I was rapidly losing weight and I had absolutely no appetite. I could honestly get full off of two breadsticks and be full for hours. It was crazy!

Come to find out, another side effect of buspirone was panic attacks! Really? How in the world could a doctor prescribe an anti anxiety drug to someone with panic disorder and one of the main side effects of buspirone is panic attacks? It just blows my mind!

Fed up with all the negative effects of the pill that I was experiencing, I went off of it. Right away, I noticed something was wrong. Every sound, even normal sounds, was excruciating to my ears. When my roommates washed dishes and they clinked around in the sink, I had to seek refuge in my bedroom where it was relatively quiet. The bus engines seemed like helicopter engines with my ears pressed right up against the engines. People's voices seemed unnaturally loud, like they were almost shouting at me.

In order not to be house bound, I had to start wearing earplugs everywhere I went. I wore them to class because the teacher's voice was too loud and so were all the other voices around me. I had to wear them when I was on the bus going to downtown or anywhere else. Pretty much I had to wear them just about everywhere except for in my bedroom.

It's gotten a lot better now but I still struggle with sound sensitivity even worse than before I had listened to my mother and gotten on some horrid pill like buspirone. Slowly, ever so slowly, I have gradually exposed myself to different sounds at different frequencies and, slowly I've been able to wear earplugs to less and less places. I found that I don't have to wear them in familiar places where I am pretty sure there won't be a loud boom or something that will really startle me. I don't have to wear them in grocery stores or at Derry Queen anymore. I don't have to wear them at Evergreen anymore. I do still wear them when I'm walking downtown because the traffic is really noisy and I wear them at our favorite coffee shop in Olympia because they play the music way too loud there. Even Chris thinks the music is too loud there. It's getting better, though, so that's encouraging but it's still a work in progress.

I don't know if I'll ever make a full recovery or how the hell the drug managed to make me even more sensitive than I already was in the first place. All I know is that I am very grateful that Chris doesn't make fun of me for having to wear them and that I know where I can purchase them online now when I start running low on them. I never let myself run out of them, can't let myself run out of them. If I did, I'd be a nervous wreck until I got the package with new ones in the mail. I can go out without wearing them if I forget them at home but it is usually a very long, nerve-wracking outing if I forget them, especially if I am in a city or even in Olympia. Which is why I haven't forgotten to bring them and even a few extra pairs just in case when I go out. All this because of Jennifer's terrible advice and the drug administration's terrible drugs out there that make situations worse rather than help, which is what they are supposed to do and even advertised that they will do.

Before I stopped talking to Jennifer completely, I didn't know that I could buy my own earplugs online. I thought that I could only get them from her work. A very large part of why I kept speaking to her for so long was because I didn't know what I would do if I ever ran out of earplugs. She told me before that she was the only one who could get me earplugs.

"If you run low on them, all you have to do is call me. I'm only a phone call away. Then I'll send you some more."

Stupidly, don't ask me why, I believed her. I honestly do believe that if I had realized I could buy earplugs for cheap on Amazon I would have quit speaking to her even longer ago than it has been now.

Since I hated talking to her so much, I used to start conserving earplugs when I noticed my supply was getting low. I also used to count them to see how many I had and then I would try and figure out how long I could wear the same pair of foam earplugs without risking an ear infection. I also had to take special measures to insure that I wouldn't lose them because if I did, it would mean I would have to call Jennifer sooner than I would if I didn't lose them. It was awful! I would generally wear the same foam earplugs for several days, sometimes even an entire week. Finally, they would grow hard and it would be painful to my ears when I would take them out so I would have to throw them away and open up a new package, fretting all the while about having one less pair of earplugs on hand and that the time that I would be forced to call Jennifer and ask for new ones was getting closer and closer and closer.

Luckily I finally fessed up to Chris and told him some of the reasons that I had for still talking to Jennifer and the earplug reason came up. When I told him, he said, "You don't need to get earplugs from her. They aren't even her earplugs to give you. She's stealing them from work. Here, I'll show you where you can get them online."

Chris took out his computer and went online to find the exact kind of earplugs that Mom gave me. Sure enough, he found a huge box to buy on Amazon for 23 dollars. The box contained 300 earplugs.

"Should we order them?" Chris asked me.

"Yes, let's order them. Then I can stop conserving the ones I have now."

"You were conserving them?" Chris asked, completely astonished.

"Yes I was. I didn't want to talk to Jennifer but I was starting to run out of them. So, to prolong my time of no contact, I conserved them."

"Well, there's no need for that anymore. I'm ordering them right now for you."

"Thank you Smm Smm!" I said, feeling true joy and excitement at the prospect of not having to depend on Jennifer for earplugs and the fact that I would have my very own box of them very soon. It was yet another thing less that Jennifer could hold over my head to control me with. I didn't need her for earplugs anymore and I never would again.

I'm still using the first box of earplugs that I bought with my very own credit card from Amazon and there's still tons of them left. And that's without conserving them. I get to use a new, fresh pair every day. Both my ears and I are very happy about this and so is Chris. Never again will I have to be made to feel guilty about wearing them or about anything else, for that matter. No more Jennifer and Giovanna and everybody else associated to them equals happy, healthy, stress free, wonderful life.

HAIL SATAN!!!!!!!!!