Monday, December 31, 2012

file under: more clonazepam, please

On Thursday, I received a letter from Women's Health Laboratories, informing me that my recent pap was normal and encouraging me to have another done in 1-3 years. On Saturday, I received a phone call from my doctor's office, informing me that my recent pap was ABnormal and urging me to schedule a medical procedure as soon as possible. Cervical cancer was hinted at. Stunned, I set up an appointment for January 11. After I hung up, I thought back to the letter and tried to call the doctor's office back. They're out until this Thursday.Site Meter

Sunday, December 09, 2012

I survived, sort of

I sat in a wooden coffee-shop chair for nearly ten hours, yesterday. I revised, composed, and pored over reference pages for improperly hanging indents. I switched back and forth, between APA and MLA formats, until I had half a dozen tabs open.

I ordered a Mole Mocha and the barista asked me if I wanted whipped cream and cinnamon, because that's the only way she can drink it. I said sure, why not. Back at my table, I stirred the whipped cream into the drink and watched the surface become a cinnamon-flecked oil slick. It took me nearly ten hours to drink it all.

With nothing but a pane of glass between me and the sidewalk, I typed for hours, a storefront display for weekend shoppers. People walked past: fellow students with over-stuffed backpacks, young families with over-stuffed strollers, a few locals walking dogs and running errands.

I watched outside turn from foggy daybreak to wintry sunlight to early twilight. The street lights came on, then the spirals of fairy lights that decorate our downtown trees' bare branches winked on. The day-shift barista left, replaced by another who shouted weekend plans at the back of her head as she hurried out the door.

Early-morning runners came in, followed by families running errands, followed by study groups, followed by grad students with project binders, followed by post-shopping coffee-getters, followed by people grabbing coffee to kick off their evening.

I took mental breaks, staring out the window. I people-watched. I got up, used the bathroom, stretched, refilled my water bottle. I tested sentences out loud, under my breath. People came in, sat next to me at the window, finished up, left. I stayed.

I finished my papers, only to find there were no assignment submission links yet. I saved my documents, texted Nick to let him know I'd be home soon, put my cup and saucer in the bus bin, re-packed my bag, and shivered all the way back to my car. When I'd left the house, it was foggy and 65.

I walked into a crisp winter evening, with a stiff breeze running around building corners and down my shirt. My car didn't have a ticket on it, the 2-hr parking signs must not have been for the entire lot. I drove home, feeling drained and a little woozy. I smelled like coffee beans, radiators, and old floor varnish.

I woke up this morning feeling ravenous, like I'd run a marathon.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

I didn't see it coming

Site MeterIn addition to being a twitchy mess thanks to self-induced finals/paper-writing, I've lost several close friends to suicide/accidents at this time of year. It's just a BAD time for me. The weak, watery sunlight barely penetrates the cloud of foggy memories that marks past grief. I try so hard, every year, to be different, to be hopeful and exhilarated by accomplishments and gains in the past year. Despite my bravest efforts, however, my brain continues to rebel, insisting on commemorating the past, lost loves, missed opportunities. Is this what keeps me grounded, in lieu of sanity? The day I stop wallowing in past misery, will I relinquish my hold on reality and adopt the mindset of the untroubled and privileged, forgetting my friends who didn't make it, the spirits who goad me and beg me to carry on in their memory? Without them, would I keep pushing? Without them, would I be happier?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

balance, focus, rinse, repeat: in which I complain about my tooth

Site MeterRight now, I'm juggling a lot of oranges. I'm still getting used to my new job duties, trying to spend time with Nick and Thing 2, and trying to come up with 40+ pages or original material by December 5th. I've given up on trying to study for any final exams until I get these papers and presentations put together.

I'm having trouble focusing, however, due to a poorly-set crown on one of my molars, which my dentist installed a few weeks ago. I'm fairly certain it's not fully covering the original tooth (or what's left of it). I take 800 mg of ibuprofen 3 times a day, now, just to keep the pain down to a dull roar. I can't drink anything below room temp without searing pain, and warmish-to-hot liquids still hurt, just less. I chew on the left side of my mouth, and wake up a few times a night from the pain. Due to my work and school schedules, I can't make another appointment until after classes finish. I find it really hard to focus on writing, though, with constant pain. My dentist won't prescribe anything stronger than ibuprofen, and my regular doctor won't prescribe anything for a dental problem. Doctors are so afraid of helping drug-seekers score, that people with actual pain suffer needlessly. My biggest worry is that the exposed part will start to decay because of exposure to bacteria and acids, since there's no enamel to protect it. I can't dwell on that thought, though. My only focus right now is keeping my shit together until finals wrap up.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

accept this, too

Site Meter I'm looking forward to reading this book I got from the library, Exit: The Endings That Set Us Free. It ties in closely with the Sociology of Death class, exploring how people say goodbye to places, things, and other people. In class tonight, we talked about the grieving process and how it varies by culture, gender, locality, and so on. Primary loss, secondary loss, disenfranchisement of loss. Big ideas.

Monday, October 15, 2012

I can't look my advisor in the eye, these days

Site Meter I'm taking an AWFUL lot of Sex and Death classes. Of course, Sociology and Psychology offer plenty of classes on the subjects, but mainly I take them because they're SUPER-INTERESTING. I'm trying to temper the lust and morbidity with a little do-goodery, so one of my classes next semester will be Environmental Sociology. That should balance out the Sociology of Sex Roles and Psychology of Human Sexuality classes. Lord knows what fodder they'll give me for the Non-Fiction Writing class I'm also taking.

Friday, October 12, 2012

wuv, twue wuv...

Overhearing gripes about a recent wedding. Too over-the-top. Overhearing (STILL!) gripes about gay marriage. Why is the next logical step ALWAYS marrying one's own pet?

I'm in no position to pass judgment. I showed up to my wedding in pigtails and a flower garland, and appropriated dialogue from The Princess Bride for the officiant's portion of the ceremony. I don't care if you're sitting in front of the minister on circus ponies with a squirrel monkey ring-bearer (although, please may I be invited?) and use a confetti cannon instead of throwing rice (please, seriously, invite me if this happens). All I ask is that you mean what you say, when you say it, and don't get divorced 72 days later.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

all of just keeps...going

Site Meter Time wears away, dulls memories, dulls experiences. Sometimes that's a blessing, sometimes that's a curse. I spent the first part of my grown-up life with these lyrics in my head:  

Some things...will never change 
They just stand there looking backwards 
Half unconscious from the pain

Thinking to myself, "This guy knows what it's like to be me, what I've had to survive, how I stand every day looking backward half-unconscious from the pain of my MEMORIES."

Fine, I was 19 and may have misheard the lyrics a bit. Of COURSE it's a song about heroin. They all are.

Anyway, right now it's a blessing to forget and let some things fade. I'm changing habits left and right, trying to shake myself out of this funk. I start with lists. Sometimes the lists get me through the next hour, but mostly they get me through the next few days. I pay the bills, I go to appointments, I cross items off my lists. I feel productive and useful.

 I get to work before sunrise and get out of class after dark. I'll miss the sun but my skin will be amazing. That must be the secret to my amazing skin: my late teens and 20s spent sleeping during the day and working all night may give me cancer someday, but my corpse will look a good ten years younger. So, I've got that going for me.

I went in yesterday for a pre-crown appointment, the logical end and culmination of Medicaid dental services from 1995. Just in time, too, as small pieces of the cheap filling started to crumble away last week. I had to go right back in this afternoon for a new temporary, as the first one didn't seal correctly. The pain was so bad that I cried in the dentist chair. I was so embarrassed. I didn't even cry from the twisting grinding pain of childbirth or the dull ache of bone break when my face got smashed, but there I sat, leaking tears like a kid. Toothache can bring down monarchies, I'm sure of it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

left and leaving, part II

Site Meter
It's okay to put things down, to find something else to do with your thoughts.
To stop looking over your shoulder, to let things go.
Relief for a cluttered mind.

"Here is the charge I carried, the ballast
I chose to go down with,
the ponderous soul.
Here is the light I was born with, love.
Here is the bleak radiance that levels the world."

- Louise Erdrich

Sunday, September 23, 2012

how do you want to go?

Site Meter These are a couple of the videos I've had to watch for the Sociology of Death and Dying class that I'm taking:

A Death of One’s Own from on Vimeo.

Watch Facing Death on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

In which I outline my plan for world domination, and re-cap the tearful pep talk I gave myself late last night...

Site Meter This new life takes some getting used to. Busy, busy, busy, and no one's quite sure whose turn it is to do what. I used to track the checking account to the penny, and now it's all I can do to clear off my desk every Sunday night. I haven't balanced the checkbook in 3 weeks and this is not like me. I know we're on the same budget, though, and with the new job we have a little more of a cushion. It'll just have to wait.

The weather's nice enough that everyone's windows are open. I'm learning all kinds of things about the new neighbors across the street, including their love of 80s metal. Could be worse. They could know...doin' it. I used to fall asleep to Rockline when I was in junior high...I can sleep through some noodly guitar riffs.

I love this time of year. To me, this is the New Year. I make my resolutions and rev up the energy to blaze right through winter, the better to gain momentum and sail clear through the other side. I have goals for winter break: watch ALL of the Harry Potter movies. I've read the books over and over since they first came out, but have never seen the movies. That point of fact becomes important when talking to people about the series, because the movies have replaced the book details in people's heads. Also, I've noticed that certain elements that weren't as visually striking in the book really demand notice in the movies. For example, the Deathly Hallows sign, which is shown once, I think, in the book, and then referred to several times but not shown. For whatever reason, it never stuck in my head as an image, but more of an idea. Then I visited a friend's place this summer, and kept looking at this embroidered design he had hanging up on the wall. "Wait, what's this from?" I asked. He practically guffawed in surprise. "What?! I thought you said you read Harry Potter! That's the Deathly Hallows sign! My sister made that for me for Christmas!" I felt like an idiot. We'd just been talking about the series not a full day before. So, yeah. At the risk of losing the characters and events I'd populated my head with while reading the series, I need to sit down and watch ALL of the movies if I'm EVER going to be taken seriously as a nerd.
Oh, c' you would've immediately kno--oh, you know what? Never mind. 

Other plans include focusing on school, changing my work habits to be more efficient, and freeing up some time to study for the next promotion at my job. I've been super depressed at work for about the last month, like ridiculously depressed. So much to the point where it's starting to bleed into my study time and make it impossible to focus.

But here's the thing: Nothing's standing in my way except for me.

Work is good: The mean, scary, shitty boss is gone, and the interim boss is supportive and kind. Everyone's in a better mood, and I no longer have to personally deal with one of the nastier researchers because her project's over since my friend Paul, who was her research assistant, quit the lab in order to get a M.Ed. in Science Education up in Somewhere-Ridiculously-Beautiful, WA.

School is good: I have about 8 classes to go until I graduate, and it's all stuff I'm excited to learn about. By this time next year, I could be in my last semester and fulfilling the promise I made myself at 17, when I found out I was going to be a mom. A teen mom. A homeless teen mom. A homeless teen mom who was quickly learning how to take a punch and stay standing. I'm SO CLOSE.

Family life is flippin' excellent: We successfully launched Thing 1 into college, and Thing 2 is doing great in 8th grade. Nick is making up for a decade of sleep deficiency, and not only is he happier than I've ever seen him, he's still picking up slack so I can focus on school when I get home.

So there is really NOTHING preventing me from making this a good year, except the part of my brain that likes to pick at emotional scabs and wallow in misery. But, like I said, this is a time for new habits. It usually takes about six weeks to make something a habit, so I'm giving myself until the MN conference to get my act together. The first week in November, I should be in a much better place. Right? Right. statistics

Friday, September 14, 2012

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Reason #24 that I miss you: You held yourself accountable to me. For whatever reason, whether it was your nature or because you saw that I needed it.

I show up. It's just what I do. I don't like to make promises I can't keep, and sometimes I come across as a commitment-phobe because of that tendency, but the up-side is that I do what I say I'm going to do.

I get so tired of those empty, polite promises people make, the ones I take seriously because I'm not good at reading all of those hidden social cues that other people take for granted, the ones people make that are never meant to be followed through. I can't remember if I ever complained about it, and that's how you knew, but I always appreciated it when you showed up. You skipped out on a lot of other stuff, usually half-hearted plans based on some social hierarchical algorithm, and would tell me about it later, but you never skipped out on plans we made together. You showed up, you made the time for me, and it meant the world to me. Site Meter

Friday, September 07, 2012

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

How was your weekend?

Thanks to a combination of upcoming inspections (as in tomorrow morning) and a three-day weekend (which left 4 days in which to do 5 days of work), I worked nearly 12 hours, today. After I got home, I showered and got to work on a paper for my Wednesday class. I'll get up in 7.5 hours and do it all over again. My brain is officially fried. Super glad I don't have anything on the schedule besides work and school, this week.

Later this week, I'll attempt to document the 2012 Labor Day Weekend Vacation Fail and Attempted Salvage Thereof. It involves a psychiatry museum, torrential downpours, me quietly crying on the couch Saturday morning, and a surprisingly delightful drive through Missouri back-country. It does not, however, involve anything resembling our original plans. website statistics Site Meter

Monday, August 27, 2012

left and leaving

Site Meter And then there are times like this, where I get hit with a wall of missing-you that knocks the wind out of me and sends me under.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Is the nest half-full or half-empty?

It's a brand new semester, and I'm at the end of the first week of classes. A lot of new things to get used to: Nick has a new job and different work hours, Thing 1 doesn't live at home anymore, and I have new PIs at work. This is me most mornings, just rolled out of bed and super thrilled about getting up at 5:30am on the days I have class after work:

And by "super thrilled," I mean "ZZZZZgzhkzzzz...wait, wha...fughh."

KU's quickly becoming our second home. Nick and I grab lunch and coffee a few times a week, and Thing 1 stops by the Union to talk to Nick nearly every day. Rather anti-climactic, for as life-upending a transition as this was supposed to be. It's super quiet around the house, too, now that we just have one kiddo living at home. No fights! This means I'm able to do some of my assigned reading at home instead of having to find a quiet corner in some downtown coffee shop. With classes starting at 4:00pm, I'm not able to grab coffee on the way out of town anymore, but I also get home a little earlier so it's not as necessary. I still find it's less distracting to work on actual assignments somewhere else, so staking out a corner and testing my caffiene receptors' load capacity is still totally necessary:

"Bitch, sit in that chair and I will cut you, so help me Jesus. PERSONAL BUBBLE."

Thing 2 still struggles with Thing 1 being gone. I remember going through the same thing when my older brother left home. I was heartbroken, and couldn't understand why he didn't seem to miss me as much as I missed him. I tried to explain to Thing 2 that his older brother is really excited to live on his own and go to school, and to not take it personally if he doesn't call. He'll come around eventually.

My classes are awesome, once again. Other than the terrible Am Lit I debacle of last spring, I've been lucky to have excellent teachers and fascinating course material. This semester, I'm taking a couple of English classes and a Sociology class about death rituals across various cultures. I have trouble not reading ahead, no matter what I've been assigned. I'm back with one of my favorite English professors, and the sheer oddity of the topics and random quips in class make me want to live-Tweet the entire thing, MST3K-style.

Other than that, it's been kind of a weird week. The temps dipped down 20 degrees or so as soon as PK left, and it's been cloudy and rainy for the past few days. Buskerfest is happening downtown this weekend, and all of the students are back, so the sidewalks are crowded and the atmosphere is generally obnoxious. I'm hiding out, putting away laundry and getting ready to make raspberry waffles for dinner while Nick's at a KJHK meeting. The one downside of Nick working a "normal" schedule is that household chores had to be shoved over to the weekends. I'm trying to pitch in and help with dinner on the nights I don't have to be at class. So, yeah...woohoo. Trying to work out a care package exchange with PK, since he keeps raving about the local wine.

Okay. Time for statistics

Saturday, August 18, 2012

I know I promised letters but I probably won't send them

I had big plans of attending Sean's birthday party tonight, but I went to brush my teeth and started throwing up. And there's your dose of TMI for the day. Oh, no...wait...there's more.

Last Saturday night, Nick and I went out ONE LAST TIME (for the love of god, I know right?) with PK. It was the very last of the very last going-aways. I've been attending these for months, it seems. I did okay, right up until it came time for him to hug me, say he loved me and would see me in December, and walk out the door of the Pig. I fucking shook and sobbed like a little kid. Nick and Travis took turns hugging me and rubbing my back until I calmed down. It took a while. You'd think he walked off to be shot by the Gestapo. It's embarrassing.

And that, my dears, is why I'm slow to make friends. It's not that I don't feel enough. I feel too much. I can't walk around handing out that much emotion to just everybody.

Sunday morning, I woke up with a resolve to make the most of this week. So much happening: Nick starting his new job with KJHK, me getting ready for classes to start, getting plans together for a work conference in November, moving Thing 1 into McCollum, and setting up appointments while I still had time during the day. I took Thursday and Friday off ahead of time, and it was the smartest thing I could have done.

The first few days back at work felt a little rough. I'll have to get used to working with a different research assistant now that PK's gone, and to be perfectly honest, it was a little difficult to walk into certain hallways and rooms without expecting to see him. I felt better knowing Nick was on campus, though. I stopped by his office in the Union after work on Tuesday, and we got to walk home together.

Thursday, Thing 1 had orientation at KU, so I treated myself to a day of wandering downtown before I picked up my textbooks for the semester. Friday around noon, I took him up to McCollum and helped him carry his clothes and bedding to his dorm room. It took all of ten minutes to move him in, it was over before I knew it.

I waved goodbye and walked down the stairs with a lump in my throat. A flurry of emotions came and went: scared for him, happy for him, accepting that I can't help him get through this, relief that it's not on my shoulders to do so, relief that he made it to this point, pride that he made it to this point. And it was the pride that made me cry. Site Meter website statistics

Friday, August 10, 2012

So this poopface is leaving today...

...and leaving for Seattle on Sunday. Last night, I gave him a haircut and pizza, not to mention that Nick and I also gave him a book that's all about the secret of happiness (okay, it hides a flask) and a shirt from the Bourgeois Pig. Now all that's left is to dive back into work and school. I don't think any more of my friends are leaving any time soon. Please don't, or if you do, break it to me the night before you leave. I don't think my heart could take it, otherwise. I'm not good at goodbyes, and I've known this day was coming for the last six months.

Me & PKwebsite statistics Site Meter

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Up too late. Can't sleep. The usual. I had fun tonight, but it sounds like Nick is starting to get sick. At least there's ice cream in the refrigerator for when he wakes up, so he can't nominate me for Worst Wife of Ever just yet. But maybe he can because I hung out with Sean, Chelsea, Patrice, Megan and Roni until damn near 11pm or something and he probably wanted that ice cream a little closer to 7pm. After I got back to Lawrence, I walked around and ended up at the Taproom, talking to Nick Ray and Joe Noh. I had a Ginger Smash, which is fresh ginger, syrup, and a shitload of fuck-you-up. Then I went to 6th St Dillon's to fulfill my domestic duties, marveled at the caliber of crazy townies in LFK, realized I may be counted as one myself, and drove home with a sneaking suspicion that insomnia would hit before I unlocked the back door. And I was right.

Things I realized this evening:

1) Whether I'm 16 or 36, my heart twinges when I walk or drive past someone's recently-moved-from apartment/house, but only if they totally move out of town. It's like the dwelling is now an emptied husk, and if it doesn't house our friendship anymore, then where does our friendship live? Are you there, god? It's me, Margaret. Right?

I wrote a poem about it once, that I'm too intelligent to post here, but the ache that made me write that literary turd still raises its ugly head when I'm dealing with transition and loss. I'm nostalgic to a fault, at times, even in towns I'm just visiting. I get choked up in house museums and random streets in Chicago. Yeah, it's like that. If I still lived in Belvidere, I'd most likely be prostrate with grief. So many bad memories in that town, and so many dead friends and friends who moved away. Don't ever let me visit Boston, I'll probably die of crying-induced dehydration after visiting some random 400-year-old wooden house. I think I may have some abandonment issues.

2) I can have female friends, it just takes a very specific type of female.

3) Pretty much anyone Chelsea chooses to hang out with is friendship material. In fact, sometimes I can't believe she likes me, because she only likes cool people.

4) I may never be able to shake the resentment that wells up whenever I have to deal with pretty, rich people who've had a relatively easy life. There is shit that they just do not get and probably never will. I don't know whether to work on my reaction or work on their frame of reference. Their conflict and self-loathing seem just as genuine of emotions as I might have, even when I'm seething over whatever boneheaded nonsense they've dished out. I don't know. Someone always has it worse. Site Meter website statistics Site Meter

Friday, August 03, 2012

Site Meter"You know when sometimes you meet someone so beautiful - and then you actually talk to them and five minutes later they're as dull as a brick; but then there's other people. And you meet them and you think, 'Not bad, they're okay,' and when you get to know them ... their face just, sort of, becomes them, like their personality's written all over it, and they just - they turn into something so beautiful." - from "The Girl Who Waited"

Sunday, July 29, 2012

If you need me, I'll be in the bathtub...


According to the National Weather Service, we'll bake until October.Site Meter website statistics Site Meter

Saturday, July 28, 2012

a memory retrieved is a memory remade

we teach each other the story of us
what we have is hours
and ours alone
I will teach you by telling myself
and you repeat the words back to me
with each telling
shaping the structure
selecting for strength
so you can know it by heart
and carry it with you
so I can hold it
like a focused light
and when we need to lean
sagging in our broken moments
it will support us

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Thing 1's 18 years old, today.

In July of 1994, I was a miserable pregnant teenaged girl. I was living in a 10x14 room with a full-size bed, a refrigerator, a hot plate, a toilet, a sink, and a shower. The toilet and shower occupied the same footprint in a tiny closet paneled with showerboard, meaning I could sit on the toilet while taking a shower if I really, really felt like it (I never did). We had two windows, one had a box fan blowing hot air out of the room. Being Florida, and near the ocean, it rained every afternoon. All of my possessions fit in a duffel bag. The refrigerator had a break in the door seal, so finding groggy roaches hanging out on top of my WIC cheese and juice was a daily occurrence.

I shared this room with a guy who chain-smoked and drank beer for most of the day, when he wasn't picking fights, stealing whatever money I managed to save, and hitting me for hiding money from him. About a week before we left, we took in a room-mate, who slept on the floor between the bed and the window. He paid us in food stamps and a flea infestation. I weighed about 175, up from my normal 115-120. Most of this was water weight, caused by the excessive heat and humidity and a swiftly developing case of pre-eclampsia. I had stretch marks from arms to thighs, thanks to the rapid weight gain. The day before I had Tony I started having contractions, but the hospital said it was just due to the amniocentesis the week prior, and sent me back home. The next day, I came in for a follow-up appointment. They discovered I'd been leaking amniotic fluid pretty much since the amnio, and so they admitted me to the hospital and started a Pitocin drip. I wasn't prepared for an overnight trip so I didn't have anything with me. The Pitocin drip kicked in pretty hard after two hours, so they gave me Demerol, which is how I learned that Demerol gives me hallucinations, and not the good kind. After another six-hour nightmare of rolling panic attacks and hallucinations that I was drowning in an undertow, I delivered a 6lb 5oz boy. The father was downstairs chatting up a girl and trying to make a date for later that week, which I learned after she accosted him on the bus two days later. She was visibly horrified to see me holding a newborn and asking my then-boyfriend to help me with my nursing bra strap, as he'd assured her he was single. Hilarity ensued.

I used the first welfare check I received to buy a bus ticket out of Florida. I never looked back. Thing 1 lists his birthplace as Daytona Beach. He must think it's exotic to be from Florida. I could have had him in a gas station in Albuquerque, for all the attachment I felt to the place. I could have been anywhere hot and miserable. I shut my mind down for the last two months of my pregnancy, except for trips to the air-conditioned public library where I read books like Geek Love and Dolores Claiborne, any work of fiction where abusers got their comeuppance, and let myself pretend to be human for a while. I dreamed of getting myself out of this mess, and it was the first dream I made come true.

And now an entire childhood has passed. Thing 1 is older than I was when I ran away from home. He's graduated and finished one semester of college. I don't feel like I've lived long enough for this to have happened. In my head, I'm still a kid. Just somehow older and wiser.
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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

in which I disclose that I am, in fact, not good at this shit, but I'm trying

I don't make new friends easily. For one thing, I'm just not built for walking up and introducing myself to anyone, ever. People usually have to be outgoing, like my friend Ashley, one of the techs I work with. They have to get right in my face, ask me a lot of questions, and draw me out before I start interacting, and even then I tend to operate under the notion that it's a trick of some sort. I'm incapable of making small talk. I have trouble maintaining eye contact. My face turns red anytime I start talking and realize that people are actually paying attention to what I'm saying. The main perk of my job is that I can go HOURS without seeing another human face, and scientists are notorious for mentally being on another planet at all times so I don't have to make much conversation with the researchers. It's quite lovely.

But pretty soon after starting my current job, I realized I needed to get to know the various labs whose animals I care for. I was in email contact with all of the labs, but nobody knew who I was, and being on a friendly "Hi!" basis would help if I ran into problems later. So I started saying hello to people when they came in the rooms. I introduced myself, got through the red face, and asked their names and tried my goddamned best to match names with faces. After a few weeks, I had a contact in nearly every lab. It made my job easier, because I could just ask directly about issues with the animals. Also, I was able to do my job better, because lab assistants started sharing information with me about their projects and started giving me a heads-up about supplies or testing. I was able to HELP because I was COMMUNICATING. Holy shit, it was scary.

I wasn't looking for new friends, but one lab person kept showing up outside of work, at various coffee shops and shows I went to. We had both glanced at each other enough times on awkwardly silent elevator rides that I was able to place him when I saw him at the coffee shop one day, studying. Since I was there to study, too, I screwed up some nerve and walked over. I just wanted to say hi, and I was always a little excited to see someone from the labs when I wasn't wearing scrubs and covered in bedding and mouse urine. Lab people tended to be friendlier when they found out I was also in school. It turned me into a fellow student, not just a nameless grunt who mopped floors and changed cages. So I asked if he was PK, from one of the labs. Yeah, he was. I can't remember who, but one of us mentioned that they came to this particular coffee shop to get away from everyone, and the other person agreed. And that was it. I was now beet-red and out of conversation topics. I found a place at the opposite corner of the shop and started studying.

That was in September. It was January before I felt comfortable adding a few people from the labs on Facebook. So I added him, and he added me back. I had a little bit of an agenda. I was trying to figure out if I wanted to get into research, and the research assistant I'd originally wanted to shadow left her job in December. I shot him a message asking about his experience in the lab, and we started writing back and forth. He agreed to let me come in and observe some of the testing, and we actually started talking to each other and found out we had TONS in common. By the end of the afternoon, I'd made two decisions: research was not for me, and PK was worth getting to know better. I invited him to one of the Nerd Nite presentations, secretly terrified that he wouldn't show, that he said yes just to be polite. But he showed. And he seemed to really enjoy himself and really let go. At one point, he looked back at me and said "This is fantastic! I love it!" And I beamed. Part of it was due to alcohol (first-class in getting over social anxiety in short bursts), but part of it was due to OMGIJUSTMADEAFRIENDHOLYSHITBALLZ. He started working as a freelance reporter for one of the university organizations and got a Twitter account. We added each other, and in one of my tweets I made fun of myself for borrowing and reading his Lit Crit textbook:

Who else reads Lit Theory textbooks for fun? I really shouldn't be allowed around other people. #bookgeekery #socialleotard

To which he replied:

Does this mean I'm enabling your social maladjustment? And what about people who take Lit Theory classes for fun? #justcommitme

And I said:

Haha, I predict a feedback loop. #run #now

And I half-meant it. It was a couple of months before I lost that feeling that he was just being polite, and I made a lot of self-deprecating comments in the beginning that were intended to let him off the hook if he wanted to stop hanging out. But he genuinely liked me. We started bringing each other coffee and taking breaks together. We met up for Nerd Nites and Horror Remix shows. We went to concerts, movies, and sometimes just met up for drinks and talked about all the crap going on in his life. We studied together and people-watched at the coffee shop, looking over and raising an eyebrow when other patrons said or did something particularly interesting. We got on like a house on fire, to the point where Nick just started referring to him as "my wife's boyfriend" as a joke. Literally, yeah, he was my best male friend aside from Nick. We were developing this friendship that reminded me of how I felt when I met my best friend Roxanne, or when I met Eddie and Adam in real life after getting to know them on LJ. That feeling of "Holy shit, we have the potential for a lifetime of conversations in us." I introduced him to some of our friends, and it turned out we'd been one degree of friendship away from each other the whole time. I tangentially knew his friend Robert, who worked with my friend Eddie and whom I'd met a few times while hanging out with Courtney and David. Meaning, we ALL should have been hanging out loooong before this. By this time, I knew PK was trying to get out of research and both he and Robert were looking around for grad schools to attend, so knowing that I'd wasted time and delayed the start of amazing friendships by MONTHS due to my own shyness and was going to lose both of them in just as much was a little kick in the gut.

I started to berate myself for reaching out. 'This is what happens," I told myself. "You shouldn't try, because now you get to try and keep up a long-distance friendship. You were better off before you knew how awesome he was." But I knew better. Sure, I could have turned back around at the coffee shop and pretended I didn't see him. I could have had a thousand more awkwardly silent elevator rides with both of us looking at corners instead of speaking. I could have gone to Nerd Nites, movie nights, and kickball games, and had just as much fun not knowing he had the same interests. But at the kickball game he turned to me and said, "This is great! I never knew Lawrence was so amazing! I love this!" He'd been having a rough time lately, and to see a genuine smile on his face, to know that for a few seconds he wasn't worrying about his could I have wished away and written off his happiness to spare myself some pain? So I resolved to stop feeling sorry for myself and concentrate on being a good friend to him for as long as we had together. Yeah, it's hard for me to reach out. Yeah, it sucks having friends move away. I've made amazing friends and watched several of them move away due to jobs, school, family. It hurts every time. But knowing that I've made someone's life a little better by being a friend to them outweighs the feeling of loss when they have to leave. One of the nicest things someone ever wrote to me was, "You made me feel loved at a time when I needed a friend the most, and I'll never forget it." And I cried when I read that, because that's one of the highest compliments a person can get. Maybe I'm awkward as fuck, and a little weird, but I can love people like a sonofabitch. Once you're my friend, I'm in your corner: someone to help you move, someone to help you fight, someone's shoulder to cry on, someone to make you laugh. And all I ask is that you include me right back, and accept my weirdness. It helps if you're a little weird yourself.

But I have a tendency to get too attached, and right now I'm going through a rough patch. Robert, PK, and Ashley are all moving away in a few weeks. I've been to so many goodbye parties in the last few weeks that it starts to feel unreal, that this is just practice. But I know it's coming. One day soon, I'll walk into my office, and Ashley will be in Utah. One day soon, I'm going to walk past the room where PK used to work, and he'll be in Washington. One day soon, I'm going to sit on the bleachers at the Bottleneck and Robert's not going to be leaning over and whispering a snarky comment in my ear during a terrible horror movie, because he'll be in Texas. And I will cry like a motherfucker, every damn time. Nick will have to administer a lot of hugs, but I'll try to keep my whining to a minimum. Nick, after all, is the best friend who signed up for a lifetime and a mortgage and made himself legally obligated to me. As long as he's around, I can get through anything.

I think after Leota died, I got really sensitive to losing friends, especially far-away friends. It's easy to get complacent: people will always be there, you can always visit next year, you can call them another time when you're not so busy. And then one day they're really gone, forever. So I've been trying harder to stay in touch. It's always worth it, and no matter who it is or how long it's been, we tend pick up right where we left off. So I'm going to try my best to get past this. I'm going to keep in touch with the friends who move away, remember stupid stuff we did and smile, and count myself lucky to know such awesome people. And maybe I'll know even more cool people by this time next year, and I'll be astounded that I lived this long without knowing them. You never know.

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