Day 8: Comeback Kid

Dear Reader,

It’s been a few months since I last saw her. Her choice, of course, said she wanted to straighten out her schedule and that she’d give me a call. She emailed me and, though this isn’t a professional or technical opinion, she seemed oddly bound up. Like an old ball of yarn. Same points of stress, just wedged, almost calcified inside of her.

“Your eyes are puffy.”

I’ve been crying pretty constantly the last week.

“Any particular reason?”

Don’t seem to need one lately. Just any little thing sets me off. The other day, a coworker made a mess of a counter that I had just cleaned and I needed ten minutes in the backroom to get myself sorted. It was all a little too much, you know? I kept asking people to do something different. Like, whatever they thought they were doing to help me… just stop it and try something else. Literally anything other than what they were doing at that particular moment. After I got back on the floor, it took me about half an hour to clean up the mess that guy had made. I still have no idea how he did it. Dark chocolate powder… everywhere… up the walls, on the ceiling, in the grout. Everywhere.

“Sounds like you need to find a new job. Have you looked at other forms of employment?”

Not really, no. I don’t see the point anymore. I’m starting school again, and this time is different. Not an undergrad anymore. I have to be able to pay my bills while I’m interning at some theatre company. To be honest, I’m not even looking forward to it anymore. I can’t work because I’ll be downtown and I can’t do anything before or after the internship because I still don’t have my license yet, so I have to leave the house like three or four hours earlier. You see, I’m already giving myself another panic attack. Did you know I still don’t know if I’m getting my Masters via coursework, MRP, or Thesis? Who the hell doesn’t know that at this point in the game?

It’s so weird. I used to think that this stuff made for the greatest of lives. Wear fancy dresses and get interviewed by Stephen Colbert. Shit, I’d be happy to get something out to a hundred people, six nights a week for the rest of my life. So long as it was art-related, like Shakespeare or something. I don’t know. It just seems, impossible to do that anymore and I haven’t even started. My breath is kind of otherwise preoccupied.

“What do you mean by that?”

I played the trumpet on and off for about thirteen years. It’s a breath-robbing instrument. Same as the flute. It has to be for the embouchure. All that force needs to be directed into the mouthpiece and the only thing that can contain it is the tongue. There are probably less creepy ways to say this. What I’m failing so miserably at saying is that I’m constantly chewing my words as I say them. Things I’d like to say die before they get a foot away from my mouth. If I want to show that I’m upset, I shout a lot, but what I’m saying gets lost in all the noise. And then no one comes to help.

I can’t help but feel like it wouldn’t matter anyway. No one believes me, however, just based off of how I was as a kid.

“How so?”

I used to grab people by their cheeks and make them look me in the eye when I wanted something. Or else, I’d climb up the back of their chairs and sit on their heads.

“What stops you from getting what you want now? You still know how to reach out to people and climb on chairs.”

I don’t know. Developed shame, I guess. I don’t like who I am. I see myself in the mirror and I don’t care for the person staring back at me. I sit on my stairs alone in the dark and I wish to be different when I stand back up. I constantly think about what I’d do differently, the kinds of limits I’d put on myself. I think about what I’d do if I had superhuman abilities and set more reasonable goals from there. And I find myself back where I started: I want a great life. Not the shallow representation of one. I just feel like I sat and watched the clock countdown and I have to leave because now I’m out of time and that this is all I have now.

“So, why are you back here again? I don’t really speak with people who don’t intend on changing.”

Figured it was worth the shot.

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Day 7: Drinking (Boat Cruise 2012)

Dear Reader, she missed yesterday’s appointment. She says it’s because her work, school, and social calendars have been all mixed up. But, when she arrived in my office, she appeared to be nursing a hangover. Either way, I get an extra $150 for rescheduling.

“So, how are you feeling?”

I don’t know, not great. I feel… salty? I don’t know if that makes any sense. But, not like the salt that goes on french fries. I’m talking road salt in February salt.

“Are you hungover?”

A little, yeah. My day off was yesterday and I went a little overboard with the wine at dinner. My mom is pretty mad. She’s got her own… experiences… with drunk people and it bothers her when me or other family members get a little heavy handed with the alcohol.

“How much did you drink?”

I want to say four glasses of red? It’s not the best feeling, wine drunk. I told myself never again after Korean BBQ in April, drank a full litre of red and wound up throwing up for like 24 hours. Told my mom it was food poisoning. She knew I was lying. You can’t mistake the smell, you know?

“Why do you think you drink that much?”

I… I’m not sure actually. When I get like that at dinners or parties it’s because I’m nervous and I don’t want to feel that way anymore or make other people uncomfortable. Last night was a mistake. If I get that drunk, I usually don’t go home. Or, I try to sober up a little before. Like I said, mom doesn’t like drunks.

“And you’ve always done that. Even the first time you drank?”

Oh, especially the first time I drank. I had just turned 19 and the summer camp I was working at was throwing their annual boat cruise. I took out $20 for booze on the boat and the drinks I bought with that money were going to be the only ones I had. Then, I got invited to this pre-game thing. I’ve never been to one of those. I didn’t drink in high school. Ever. So, I went. After hanging out for a bit, the guy who invited me decided to take shots with me.  I got up to three with him, before he left me with the bottle and went to talk to other people. I took a few more shots by myself before he came back to bring the vodka back inside.

Then it was time to take the bus there. I remember being an absolute idiot. If it were possible to just forget that that bus ride ever happened, I would be the happiest person on earth. I was talking all sorts of stupid, awful things. Surprisingly really dirty things too. At that point, I had seen like, what? One penis? I thought I was some hot shit apparently. Bragging about all the sex that I was definitely not having.

“So, what happened once you got to the boat?”

I got breathalyzed. Twice. Three times the legal limit. Obviously they aren’t taking me on this boat, no way. So they pack me back onto this bus with a guy who was underage and then sent the both of us home. And if I thought the bus ride there was embarrassing… the one home wasn’t exactly my finest hour too. Called my boyfriend at the time to come pick me up and told my mom that I was going to be later than I expected from the boat cruise. Sobbing the entire way. Slept it off at his parents’ house. I twisted my ankle at one point, though. I was being chased to the bus.

“They chased you?”

Yeah, they had these staff videos at the end of the summer. I was, um, heavily featured.

“Oh no.”

Looked like a drunk, pink hippo. And you’d think, you’d think, having that image in my head. Having a sober image of how disgusting I am when I drink. You’d think that would help me slow down. And yet, from my very first time… the brakes were not there. I took this, Am I An Alcoholic test and the result wasn’t optimistic. It’s a cause for concern, apparently.

“So, you know what you need to do then. We’ve discussed more effective coping strategies for your tendencies towards negativity and nervousness. Why don’t you make some lists about what you can do differently?”

I’ve been keeping journals, I’ve been healthy and keeping up with all my obligations. I’ve got to be more careful, obviously. More sensitive to my mother, obviously. But I’m not sure that The Brand could stand another moral flaw on my part if I went full Recovery Mode and curbed it all together. I really think I can get a hold of myself.

“Difficulties with anxiety and alcohol are not moral flaws.”

Look, I know that. It doesn’t feel that way though, and that’s the problem.

Day 6: Everyone is Hanging Out Without Me (Other Things My Brain Tells Me)

Dear Reader, she doesn’t get out much. I wouldn’t hold it against her. Lonely nights make it easy for her to forget how to smile. Tonight, she seems tempted to fall apart. Fortnight reminds her that the best things in life are free, and that this is the only time where she might be richer than all of us. That is to say, awesome things are all around us. But she repels them like a black hole in deep space.

 

July 2015 (One Year Before the Night We Don’t Talk About)

Pretending not to cry in a bar can be scary. You don’t want bartenders to think you’re too far gone and to refuse service. I’m in this local bar in my old neighbourhood, currently being reminded of how very alone I am. I don’t know anyone in here and I used to think I knew everyone in this town. Maybe it’s because I went to a big high school, took the bus everywhere, or spent many a summer in the library up the street but I really thought I had to know at least one person here. Nope.

Why am I crying? It’s not like I was actually invited to tonight’s outing anyway. I mean, I was invited. Just not by the person planning it. You see, this one supervisor at work liked working with me and told me that a bunch of them were planning on playing pool after work and that I should come. She told the others that I was coming and, while the others didn’t seem to be as enthused as Cat was, she promised that she’d help me learn because I am not a world class hustler.

The store closes at 10, they’ll get out 10:30-10:45, so I should be at the bar for 10:50. I got dressed at least five different times. I charged my phone, made sure I had enough for a taxi, I told my mom I’d be out late, and left. It was about a 2 km walk to the bus stop from my old house. I thought I was going to be late, but nope. I beat everyone there and I ordered and waited and even grabbed a booth for everyone to sit in.

And then no one came.

I walked around the bar. Maybe I missed them, I thought. You know, despite the fact that I had been checking the door every thirty seconds. Did I have the wrong night? No, no I distinctly remember Cat said after work today. I know she said that. Cat hates being late, where is she? I thought about sending her a text. I wrote one, deleted it. Wrote another one, deleted that one too. I feel like everyone is watching me, feeling sorry for me. I feel like I’m choking on my Heineken.

I’ll stay another fifteen minutes and then I’ll leave.

It was like I summoned her. Cat appeared in the door and I practically jumped in front of her. She looked at me for only a second, and then she gasped.

“Oh no, no one told you.”

Apparently no one wanted to come anymore. They texted Cat and then I guess everyone forgot to text me. As I listened to her apologize, I awkwardly peeled the sticker off my beer bottle. I shrugged and gave a couple breathy laughs. You know, tried to make it look like it didn’t phase me. Like I didn’t just finish writing an inner list of all the things that were so wrong with me that made people suddenly decide that In Stone Plans were breakable. Lists are calming, but they don’t always have to be positive.

Oh God, I had to work with these people tomorrow.

April 2016 (One Month Before The Night That We Don’t Talk About)

I’m added to this group chat by Cat out of nowhere. Apparently there’s to be a surprise birthday party for one of our coworkers.

I think Stef might be interested is the last message on the group before I was added.

I scroll up to see the rest of the messages, and I seem to scroll forever. This party is in about three weeks, but it’s been planned for almost a month. Apparently no one thought I might want to be included. Half the store is invited.

And I get this sense that I am growing even smaller than I already feel. And I feel like I just get smaller every year. And I feel like I’m shrinking into this bug and I feel all squishy. I feel my skin get hot and splotchy and… and I don’t… I don’t know what to say. Cat’s message is seen by everyone, I can see everyone’s picture at the bottom of it. And no one says anything. Not even a ‘hey.’

And I flash back to how far I’ve come since I started working with them in June.

July 2015

“What’s wrong? You look upset.”

Why didn’t you tell me you weren’t coming? I waited for an hour.

“We didn’t know you were coming.”

Cat invited me, she told you that she invited me. I was there.

“Well, we forgot.”

Pretending not to cry at work is hard. You got to keep your head down and hope that customers or coworkers don’t see your face. You got to do something, like mop floors or wash dishes. Anything to keep you from adding to that list you’re already making in your head: Why People Want To Hang Out Without You.

Day 5: High School

Dear Reader, Fortnight is a project wherein she frantically tries to piece fragmented memories back and distills them into what one might call “word vomit.” She doesn’t seem to mind that association because at least it’s purged. She thinks it’ll make people relate to her better. Or in the way she wants them to. We’ll see.

“So, how was the last two weeks? Have you been journaling?”

I honestly can’t bring myself to write in any of the books that I have at home. I have like ten unused journals and I just sit there and stare at them.

“You won’t write in them?”

That’s the thing, I want to write in them. I think of things all day that I can talk about later, and then I stare at this empty page and I don’t enjoy any of them. A lot of the time I just think my problems are stupid and relatively meaningless and I’d be mortified if I even burned calories writing that garbage down.

“You have a lot of negative self talk. Any idea when that started?”

I always talked to myself, I just internalized it more as I got older.

“Okay, but was it always negative?”

I have spent a lot of years trying to pinpoint the exact day and time that I first felt this way. It’s like an episode of Hoarders in my brain, I frantically pick one memory up to see if this one has been untouched by existential dread and then another and another and then I get dizzy. I’m proud of the things I actually can remember, because I think that lately, I get stuck on the grand scheme of things and the future. And then I get dizzy. Bigger pictures are just smaller details in disguise. Steps that I took and the ones that are available to me now.

I really liked Canadian History in school, I had this great teacher. Ms T never watered down anything. Take, for example, the invention of the Model T Ford. We spent an entire period talking about how this one car changed the face of social, technological, political landscapes. It literally changed Canada’s landscape. You ever think about how different your life would be if it weren’t for that one thing that happened that one time? Or if that thing that happened that one time happened in a different place? This was a class that let me obsess and memorize and bring some kind of order to the world around me. And for once, despite whatever the hell was going on in my social circle, I thought that I was going to be okay.

“So, what happened?”

Ms. T had to take a leave of absence. There were rumors about why, someone said that she was having a nervous breakdown. I didn’t know what else to do or say except to just stand there and stare. I mean, I got it, I still get it now. I know everyone needs some time away at some point or another. I just found it hard to see in someone that I admired so much. I had this mythological woman in front of me that I had to rebuild into a human person with flaws and vulnerabilities. I didn’t like it. I can see why talking about my anxieties kind of bothers my mother too.

When she came back, a little quieter than she was before, she told me that I had a great grasp on the material and that I should seriously consider taking AP American History with her next year. It was, I think, one of the first times someone other than my mom thought I was smart and told me so. This is why I don’t take (or shouldn’t take) compliments from people who are not in my immediate family anymore. I wasn’t really prepared for what happened in that classroom next year.

See, the problem with high expectations is that you don’t ever win. You don’t meet the line, you fail. You meet the line, and now it’s moved miles and miles out in front of you. You don’t ever win, and when you eventually get there, there’s always someone there ready to let you know that they were there first. I did pretty well the first few projects, and then got back a long string of mediocre B’s in a row. Red pen. Always red pen. You can do better than this. You need to do better than this. This would never be accepted in university.

You ever get an EKG? Or a chest X-Ray? I thought I had cracked my ribs for an entire semester. I kept having panic attacks and muscle spasms. Could barely move my arms over my head sometimes. There’d be moments where I’d be having a good time in class, I was in my flow, and then remember: I am the worst student in this class. Aaaaand the tidal wave of pain and shame would crash back over my heart. We had to write a ten page paper for that class, she stopped reading mine after six pages and it felt like she took something from me.

“Like what?”

I don’t know. My will to live probably. I kept it together, and then then my brother opened the door and I lost it. I cried for hours. My mom even called my dad home from work. They both took me out for tea. It was nice. I wish I didn’t break down in front of Ryan though. Following him in high school was hard. He’s a genius and I’m more of a grindstone kind of girl. My siblings and I are all spaced out two years apart and… There was supposed to be three of us, you know. And then there wasn’t. And then I didn’t have anyone there for me and I got dizzy. Small detail – bigger picture, remember?

“What mark did you get in that class?”

74%. Felt like I won a congressional medal of honor. Can’t really brag about that to anyone though, it feels stupid even saying it out loud. I think what I might feel like if I never took Ms T up on that offer.

Day 4: Why Aren’t You Talking? (Scream Crying in Jamaica)

Dear Reader, she seems to be a little cagey about Jamaica 2013. She’s trying to walk back the amount she drinks, or drank, she’s not very clear about it. Her family isn’t the family that they think they are and I think that gets to her. Or, actually, got to her when she was over 2,500 km away from home. This isn’t a fun story, but she seems almost determined to tell all her most drunken, most terrible adventures as if they don’t matter. Just be careful, Reader.

“So tell me about Jamaica, why did you get so upset?”

I don’t like talking about it.

“Well, what happened? Start from the beginning.”

We got the e-vite in 2012, my brother couldn’t go and the timing wasn’t great for my mother either. She doesn’t really like destination weddings either, no one ever seems to pick the Alaskan Cruise excursion. It sounded like fun to me, I rarely get to see the older cousins on my mother’s side, we RSVP’d for one.

Then, a lot of things happened at once. My boyfriend broke up with me, said he didn’t love me anymore. Almost got fired from my job. Got in a car accident and went to the hospital. Caught walking pneumonia from the hospital. Had to go visit my grandparents in Timmins by myself for a week. Granny knew that I was already coming to her a little used and worn in, and that I probably didn’t want to spend the entire week hanging out with two senior citizens. She did try to call my cousins and try to get together while I was there.

Anyways, no one got back to her. I wasn’t really surprised. Tensions between this side of the family are, um, really tense. Everything’s more tense in a town with a population of less than 45,000. Granny seemed really surprised that this tension passed over to me, however, I had hope that maybe it wasn’t personal. They just didn’t know me that well and I could change that perception.

“It’s not your job to make people like you, you know.”

I know, I knowwwwww. I know that. Unfortunately, 2012-2013 turned into the year of Get People To Enjoy My Company. When you make that an initiative, the campaigning process can get really aggressive really fast. My best friend stopped talking to me that year, I feel like I might as well be dead when it comes to her –

“That’s a little negative.”

Well, at least it’s honest. I might like to know exactly what happens all the time, doesn’t mean those stories aren’t self edited for The Brand. I lost a lot of friends I made that year. Got really sick. It was an odd combination of me refusing to eat and food refusing to stay eaten by me, and I lost quite a bit of weight. I was a little thing when May came around. Eventually. Finally. It was a bad year for the Smoking Frenchman voice in my head.

I was almost late for the check-in because I couldn’t find my camera that morning. I remember thinking: Christ, who even cares? Why are you even going? They’re all going to hate you. You know they’re all going to hate you. They don’t care about you.

Well, wouldn’t you know it. My campaign hat was back on. Only to be quickly removed at the airport. L’s younger brother, B, came over to say hey and ask how summer school was going. I was having an actual conversation, a real life Out Of My Head Conversation! And then it stopped. It never started again and I just… I started a lot of conversations that week like that. “I just…”

Well, I told you the main gist last time. I got drunk. A lot. I woke up in my own vomit quite a bit that week. I never put on sunscreen. The layers of skin coming off was my punishment for being so, so, so stupid. I lost $300 American the first day, you see. I left my bag that had my passport and money at one of the bars and, while I got my passport back a few hours later, the rest is history. You know, I had thought that that was embarrassing enough, but everyone in the wedding party seemed to know about it. A couple, two people I hadn’t spoken to in my life, gave me $50 because they felt bad.

“You’ll pay us back,” they said. I didn’t.

You know who didn’t actually talk to me at all about it, L’s dad. Or L, or her three other siblings B, C, or E. Mario, L’s dad, was a tough guy to pin down. I tried to get him to have breakfast with me once. It didn’t go well.

“Why aren’t you talking?” I got asked that question a lot, by like ten different people. “You only talk when you drink, I think you have a problem.”

I wanted to say: I actually do talk, I have lots of things to say. I try to talk to you before the alcohol makes me go full Shame Demon, but you never listen. I don’t know what else to tell you, it’s giving me a lot of stress.

Mario: “What do you mean you’re stressed out? I have a job in the real world, you don’t know what stress is just yet.” Cue epic eyerolling.

I wasn’t drunk at the wedding. I think that gets lost a lot, but I wasn’t. I got drunk at the reception. It was, um, I can’t really remember it. Not from my own eyes, I mean. I seem to have been pushed to the back of my brain and Shame Demon is the one who remembers. I didn’t do anything bad, I didn’t ruin the wedding or anything, I was just… very, very drunk. This one couple was nice to me, they even bought me nachos on the way home from Jamaica. They were kind to me. They were really, really kind to me and I don’t know why. I didn’t have that with my cousins.

The last night, I gave up trying to be nice. Something happened the night before, I get that back in waves. I was tired, but C said that we should party at the disco they had at the resort until they closed. I was so drunk. I was being half pushed, half carried back to my room. Talking some bullshit, I don’t even remember.

“Jesus, Stef. You don’t shut up when you drink.”

I don’t shut up when I’m sober either, C.

“Nah, you don’t talk at all. It’s so weird. You’re weird.”

I stopped. Seriously. I just stopped moving. I thought for a second that I might have died, except I seemed to have enough breath in me to say three words: that’s not nice. I get bits and pieces back from time to time, none of it actually sticks. But, if I’m remembering the look on their faces properly, what I was saying was horrifying. Full on scream crying. Like, it hurt the next day. I woke up in the bathroom and my eyes were swollen shut from crying. I put on sunglasses and pretended to nurse a hangover all the way back to Toronto. All the way up the stairs to my room. I shouldn’t have left in the first place, I really don’t know who I thought I was kidding.

“What were you and B talking about at the airport before all this?”

Oh, um, I was trying to explain to him how the courses are weighed at my university. He thought 15 credits during the summer was bad, but it was just three courses. I was going to start asking him about how his own degree was going, cause he switched majors and that was something I had seriously considered that year. I just… I just never got the opportunity to.

Day 3: Martha Stewart Weddings V. Weddings I Have Been To

Dear Reader, trying to get her to tell you these stories is like pulling teeth. Even though they’re rotten and poisoning her on the inside, she insists that they’re embarrassing. She thinks you’ll hate her in the end. You shouldn’t feel bad for her. You know, she kind of brings it on herself.

“What do you do when you feel yourself slipping?”

I either drink, sleep, or make lists.

“Let’s talk about lists, lists are productive. What do you make lists about?”

Anything, really. I am a Mighty List Making Machine. But, the subject that I have the most lists about are DIY Weddings. Yes, I know, Pinterest exists. But there are only so many notifications I want my friends getting about DIY Weddings. They send you notifications, you didn’t know? Yeah, I’ll make a board of tattoos I like, and next minute my mom is yelling that I am under no circumstances getting a tattoo. I have five now and she likes exactly zero of them.

Can I just say that lists are not productive? They give an illusion of productivity, something that you trick yourself into thinking “yes, not only do I have the ability to make a birdcage out of plastic forks, but I also have the will to do so.” But, anyway, I have a couple in front of me, I wrote these in… I want to say First Year? I don’t know, I think I was 18 maybe 19. There’s a giant brick wall hiding that time. I only seem to remember it from my Wisdom Teeth Removal and episodes of First 48. Anyways:

  1. Knitted wrist corsages
  2. Melted crayon heart coasters
  3. Painted pine cone bouquet
  4. Glittered plastic animal candelholders
  5. Recycled CD’s glued on a wine bottle as a centerpiece vase

It goes on like that for about 10 more pages. Single spaced. Double sided. I’m not sure if I thought I was going to get married in a daycare, but the crafts seem to reflect that as a very real possibility. I don’t even know how to knit. I must tell you, however, that I got half of these ideas from Martha Stewart, my personal Lord and Saviour. Let me explain, she took Snoop Dogg and made him palatable to more people like my grandmother and dental hygienist. But, that’s beside the point. What I’m trying to get at is that I don’t know anything about weddings, obviously. I know how to act at funerals, things like weddings are…

Look, maybe I’m telling this wrong. I’ve been to two horrible weddings: my aunt’s and my cousin’s.

I’m not going to even touch the groom at all, though if a priest tells you that you shouldn’t marry a man… listen to the priest. For Christ’s sake, listen to the priest. He speaks to Jesus, auntie. He knows. First of all, if you’re getting married in the dog days of summer, forcing your four-year old niece into a floor length dress is bad enough. Sticking metal twine flowers into her scalp is bad enough. You don’t need to stuff that baby fat into opaque tights as well, auntie. Are you trying to kill me with heat stroke? Was it your intention to have those pins gouge into my head? Secondly, do you want this flower girl gig done right, or not at all? Right? Okay, then tell your guests to take the fucking flowers you told me to hand them because I will hold up the receiving line if it forces your fifth cousin thirty-two times removed to take the goddamn flower out of my balled up fists. Lastly, I don’t know who told you that a four year old could participate in a flower toss, and now that I think about it – that’s kind of creepy, but one of your bridesmaids rugby tackled me. And no, removing one of my scalp flowers and telling me that it’s my prize doesn’t count. I already had those flowers, whether I liked it or not.

My cousin, L, got married in an all-inclusive in Jamaica. A few things: why did you invite me? I made several attempts to try and visit you before hand when I was in Timmins and got no reply each time. I had to spend $2000 to see you get married, and it wasn’t exactly like you even spoke to me then either. It hurt. Kind of a lot. No, not kind of, just a lot. Do you know how embarrassing it is to come with a camera and a few packs of batteries and be so sure that I would be using it, only to have exactly twelve pictures that I took of myself? I spent more time arguing with TV’s Nancy Grace about the Jodi Arias trial than I did with you, and I was sleeping literally down the hall from you. It wasn’t exactly like I was having a good go of things before I even came either. So what if I was desperately drunk everyday? I wasn’t drunk at your wedding. And you know what? At least bartenders weren’t finding every excuse to ignore me or… you know what, it doesn’t even matter. I just… it’s fine. I don’t want to talk about this anymore.

“What I think you like about weddings is that they’re nice to look at. The white dress. The smiling faces. The functional family.”

Yeah, and it’s this mirror. To what my life looks like right now. Brides and grooms, in the Martha Stewart pictures anyway, look like they could never get tired of what they see. They look so confident that, like, forty years down the line… they’ll look around and see each other. You know, I don’t know where I see myself next week or month. I don’t know if I see myself at all, and I don’t like how that thought feels in my head.

Day 2: Childhood

Dear Reader,

Fortnight contains unfortunate stories that she has been dying to tell, and others that she’d be more than happy to just throw in a box, label the box “BAD,” and then go on with her life. Here’s a combination of both.

“What is your earliest childhood memory?”

I always just get hit with the same thought about my childhood, that I do when I think of my later teen years: did that actually happen? Both sets of memories are decidedly sticky and smelly. And highlighted by my questionable wardrobe choices.

Let’s play a game: It’s called 3 Or 19.

I once took off all my clothes in a McDonald’s ball pit, how old was I? 3 or 19?

I was three.

I once carried out an entire conversation with my friend’s mom naked from the waist down. Was I 3 or 19?

19!

The only key difference is that memories from when I was 19 or 20 taste like Sour Puss and Blue Curacao. Memories from when I was three taste like Lipton’s chicken noodle soup and Cheetos. Actually, Cheetos might be a crossover taste.

“Well, what’s the first thing that you think of when you think back to when you were three?”

The first thing I can ever remember hiding: my Dad’s car keys. They disappeared down this purple and turquoise vase in our living room. While the panicked parents ran around the house, I sat in the TV room, watching The Sound of Music for the fifteenth time that day. Enter my mother, stage right.

“Do you know where Dad’s keys are?”

“Maybe. What’s in it for me?”

“Where did you hide them?”

I went and stuck my probably grubby hand down the vase… and pulled up the keys… and a brooch… and these bib pins. I think I was 3. I don’t remember taking the other objects that were later emptied out onto the couch. I still hid things until I was twelve.

A bowl that I ate popcorn out of disappeared between the bookshelf and the wall. My sister’s Britney Spears CD… I still don’t know where I hid it. But I took it, that’s for sure.

I like remembering things. It’s My Thing(tm). There’s not a feeling that walks the Good/Bad Feeling Line more than knowing that I can repeat someone’s words back to them verbatim. Good on tests. Devastating in arguments. Having bits and pieces hidden from me are just unmanageable. Like trying to fill a cup with water in the middle of the night. You know, just trying to make shapes out of the shapeless nothing that starts at the end of your eyelashes. Or finding a CD somewhere in a house that you haven’t lived in in six years.

“Why would you hide these?”

“My body told me to.”

I was a weird kid. My brother liked nothing better than to tell me that when I was a little older and his words stuck a little more. Seriously, what kind of three year old steals stuff from kitchen drawers and hides them in vases for no reason? Probably the same one that pretends to be an Elf from November to April.

Jingles The Good Elf was born out of, what I am told, was a desperate situation. I was a bad bath-taker and smelly kids do not have the luxury of being bad bath-takers. My dad would pretend to call Santa in the North Pole to let Him know that I was being The Worst. Who’s better than The Worst? No one. Except maybe Santa’s own helpers.

It was like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Jingles had banished me overnight to wherever it is bad and smelly children go (does Santa have a dungeon?), just so that I could get presents on Christmas. Jingles wore a green collar with bells on the end, would make her bed everyday, and sat very quietly while her hair was being brushed. Jingles ate her vegetables, didn’t push the mean and bitey children at daycare, and even learned to walk away from tantrums that I would normally scream and burst blood vessels over. Jingles was every parent’s dream.

“I miss the old, grumpy Stefanie.” My sister cried.

“Don’t worry,” said Jingles, “Santa turned Stefanie into a dog.”

This didn’t go over as well as Jingles had hoped and my sister was inconsolable for the rest of the evening.

Stefanie came back the next day and Jingles stayed where she belonged at the North Pole. I don’t think my parents ever forgave me, which is fine. I never really forgave myself either. Things went missing again shortly after that.