Sunday, December 14, 2008

At the Carwash...

There are unspeakable atrocities of terror that infiltrate our society on a daily basis: the plunging economy, the moral deprivation, the fact that you can still rent "Showgirls" at Family Video... Terror, it seems, finds the most minute cracks in our moral fiber and slowly leaks in, kind of like that Gorilla Spit foam we used last winter, along with six rolls of duct tape to weatherproof our house.
But I have seen terror, complete and utter terror, terror with no escape, terror with no relief, terror with no hope for deliverance...okay maybe it wasn't that dramatic, but it was pretty darn scary because on Thursday I got trapped in a carwash.
I've never trusted automatic carwashes. I'm an old-school kind of girl and kind of claustrophobic, so the idea of driving into a small dark cave where superpowered streams of water are going to be fired at me behind a thin veil of glass and steel causes me just a slight bit of unrest. Besides, when you drive in there's all that clanging and crashing and you're never really sure whether or not you are in the right place or with the next bypass of the ginormous water gun you might possibly have the top or side of your car ripped off in a tragic automotive hygiene mishap.
Nevertheless, Thursday it was beyond my control. A couple of trips down mud roads causing zero visibility out of all my windows except for the windshield and the fact that I was wearing work clothes led me to the LaserWash.
It started out fine. I pulled in until the light blinked and told me to stop. The ginormous water guns began powering up and gave me a presoak. It was during the soap cycle that I noticed a strange grinding noise within the confines of my carwash cave. It sounded like Fran Drescher with a head cold caught in a vice. I tried to ignore it, but I immediately knew that something was amiss and I had seen enough disaster movies to know that something horrible was imminent. Flashes of The Poseidon Adventure, Titanic, and the first installment of DieHard flashed through my mind. I tried to breathe deeply in an attempt to calm myself, unfortunately the carwash was one of those that has the automatic door on one end thus cutting the ventilation factor to next to nothing and breathing deeply resulted in what I still believe might be a slight case of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The grating groaning sound continued to get worse through the soaping and the high powered rinse. At this point I was paralyzed by fear and a little high from the exhaust fumes. This was not the way I wanted to go out...crushed to death by a ginormous water gun and/or suffocated by carbon monoxide fumes from own car. I thought about backing out, but there was a line of people behind me and I didn't think my Dodge Caliber could pull off a Gravedigger and drive right over the top of them.
It was the triple foam that brought about the beginning of the end. I always enjoy the triple foam. It's like mousse for my car and I imagine my car kind of feels like she's at a spa when the triple foam kicks in. I was enjoying the kaleidoscope of colors gently wafting down my windows, getting kind of used to the exhaust fumes pushing me to a really happy place when there was a loud bang and everything, except the foam, stopped. Then this alarm, reminiscent of the Sci-Fi "intruder alert" alarm starts going off. At this point there is a mounting pile of triple foam on the hood of my car, my ears are starting to hurt from the alarm and I'm pretty sure there is a talking lavender unicorn in the passenger seat thanks to the exhaust fumes. I'm afraid to open my door and run, I can't drive through because the huge ginormous water gun is in front of me and the door is down, and I can't make it over the hood of the car behind me to pull off my Sunday, Sunday, Sunday monster truck moves. So I did what any educated, claustrophobic mother would do. I asked the lavender unicorn what she thought I should do, but she was busy talking on the phone to her agent... so I started honking my horn on the off beat of the alarm sound. It took me a couple of times to get it right but once I got it going it worked out pretty well.
By this time there was a Mt. Everest of triple foam on my hood, I'm in a state of panic, the alarm/horn alternating rhythm, although entertaining is obviously not working, and the lavender unicorn has just worked out a deal to be the next Bond girl. This is when the car wash attendant came running into the bay. He looked about as qualified to fix the situation as I felt and I felt pretty darn confident when he began patting himself down either looking for a gun to shoot the possessed monster that was holding me hostage and attempting to kill my car by way of triple foam asphyxiation or he was looking for a cell phone to call someone who knew how to fix the thing. I wondered what would happen if we had to wait for someone to come and help us...eventually my car would be completely submerged in triple foam which I was pretty sure couldn't be good for the paint job and would probably really push the lavender unicorn over the edge...
The triple foam would then spread to the parking lot and eventually the street stopping traffic. It would follow the main traffic byways and veins and eventually would take over the world. It would be like a horrific M. Night Shyamalan movie...only without the Academy Award nomination.
And then, it was over. The attendant had jiggled a hose or tweaked a wire and it was moving and working. The lavender unicorn informed me that she might possibly seek legal action against me, the ginormous water gun stopped sounding like the Nanny with a head cold and the high powered rinse did away with the mountain range of triple foam. The garage door lifted and the sun came shining into the windshield of my car causing the lavender unicorn to explode into five million tiny shards of glitter...It was beautiful.
I reflected on my brush with death, once I came into my full mind again after driving about 10 miles down the interstate with my windows open. Suddenly the sky seemed bluer, the air, fresher, and I had a sudden zest for life. I was going to start giving back more, I was going to appreciate my friends and their diversity. I was going to live more of life because I had just met death, head on, in the LaserWash.
And with my new resolve and my VERY clean car I rolled up my window an struck out with new determination that would last until I turned my heater on and blobs of triple foam shot out all over me and the interior of my car...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Things We Leave Behind...

I cleaned out the closet last week, both literally and metaphorically speaking. Boxes full of old poems and love letters I never had the nerve to send, odds and ends from banquets and movies, pop tabs, the key to my first apartment, a conglomeration of my life dropped carefully into shoe boxes and scribbled down in journals. I sat in the closet, enjoying the peace and quiet and ran my hands over the random items and enjoyed the joy and the sadness that came with remembering a time when love was unrequited, friendship was practically effortless and the measure of importance was on a scale of whether or not I was willing to spend the money to have something laminated or had the concern to put it in a ziplock baggie.
Then came a great cloud over my heart as I realized I had moved on from what now seems like frivolity but back then was so huge and magnanimous I could take the smallest, most insignificant object and turn it into a treasure simply because it reminded me of someone else, had been written on by a hand that I desperately wanted to hold or had been in the presence of myself and someone else on what was probably no extraordinary evening for them, but for me it was just one breath away from perfection.
I'm not that girl anymore, that desperate poet, that romantic idiot who believed that love was found in one-sided suffering. I believe that when in love, both people should suffer...just ask my husband! Call it growing up, call it self-actualization, call it whatever you like...the fact of the matter is that as precious as those treasures were to me when they were collected, they are twice as precious now because they are proof that at some point I was innocent, gullible, naive and a packrat and I really truly believed in an idealistic, romantic form of love.
I do not believe in that type of love anymore. I sat in the closet trying to figure out what to throw out and what to keep and I realized that I can't throw any of it out; I need every one of those little treasures. I can't leave them behind. I can't leave that part of myself behind.
We are a figure it out, fix it, file it away and forget it society that can't seem to accomplish any of those things. We spend hours on the couch trying to figure out why we are the way we are, more hours trying to fix it. We watch Oprah and Dr. Phil hoping that they will tell us something that is going to flip the switch and shed light on all of the darkness we carry around within ourselves. We don't just carry our baggage, we build outfits around it, we allow it to grow into our very substance, we allow it to shape who we become. We leave the wrong things behind when we finally give in and "move on."
But we don't ever move on, not really. See, really moving on, as I have learned over the past couple of weeks, means holding out love to the person who has caused you pain. We leave people, we get angry at people, we shut people out of our lives and we put on the brave face or the righteous indignation face and strut around like we have done something when in fact all we have done is cauterized the nerve endings that lead from us to that person.
My father has never been in my life. I have used the absence of my father as a means to explain away my faults, my shortcomings, my irresponsible streaks. I have used the absence of my father to get things, get out of things and get to things. And in all my bravado and callous stupidity, I have bragged about moving on when all I had done was plant plastic flowers in the pit of crap I was standing in.
But I am moving on...I really am. I received an e-mail from my father recently sent through the Facebook account of my half sister who I have been communicating with for about a year. I can tell you that when I opened up the message and saw who it was from I had two incredibly polar impulses at the same time: overwhelming excitement that made me want to attack a Christmas tree and overwhelming guilt. Here was my excuse for bad behavior, my living breathing crutch and he was reaching out to me. All of my prolific poetry and deep thoughts about his absence began to smell like the manure they always had been.
Some people would say that to truly move on I will have to ignore those e-mails. Some will marvel at his nerve. I marvel at his courage. I'm moving on by clawing my way up out of the crap pit using those plastic flowers as my footholds. I'm moving on by inviting him into my life and hoping beyond all hope that he reciprocates. I'm moving on because I've finally realized, 37 years into this game that I was not the thing he left behind. I'm moving on not because it's the noble thing to do or because it's what Jesus would do. Jesus would have never let it get that far and I don't think the Son of God would spend a lifetime in a crap pit decorated with plastic daffodils. I'm moving on because I have an empty shoebox with my father's name on it and I am ready, so ready, to start filling it up with all of the little treasures that we will share. I'm moving on because deep down, underneath it all, a little bit of the girl in the closet is still coursing through my plasma.
And so, in this moving on, I will leave things behind and I will not look back at them with regret. In this moving on, I will abandon the crutch that was my father's absence and embrace the blessing of his presence. I will discard the baggage that gave me an excuse and embrace the relationship that will bring about reason. I will leave those things behind and become defined not by what I never was, but by who I will be...the daughter of a good man.