In approximately one short month my contract at the smalliest small-town paper will be up. The woman whose shoes I have been filling may or may not return. So, I have one short month to decide whether or not to hang around and hope against hope that she decides to take some more time to be at home with baby, or to seek employment elsewhere and move out of my (beautiful, fabulous) apartment post-haste. Eeshk.
The (sort of) obvious choice is to head to the big city. At least three of my favourite people are living there currently PLUS Boyfriend will be moving there in about a week. I've been saying all year that for my next job, I would like to be either in a more populated area or at least closer to family and/or friends. It's been a fairly lonely existence here, despite a couple of lovely neighbours and co-workers. Moving to the city would theoretically do both.
But bleurghh. Did I ever not have fun the last time I lived there. Granted, I was only there for three months, living in a horrible, noisy, suffocating coffin-in-hell of a dorm room and spending my days fearing the wrath of the higher-ups at the very swish magazine I was interning (unpaid) at. Oh, and I felt lonely there too!
But this time would be better, right?
I just need an apartment I don't dread coming home to and a job that doesn't make me break out in hives. I might even need to learn to drive my car in the city (ew). I also need people to start buying more newspaper and magazine subscriptions so that I can actually do the work I love.
Anyway, my point is, didn't I just do the whole big scary leap of a move/new job thing?
The idea of starting a tiny quinoa farm and living off the grid somewhere is starting to look like less work. Kind of.
Isis is the owner of the most hilarious yowly voice I've ever heard. She also thinks she lives in my apartment. Every time I open the door to visit the food fairies, she's past me and up the stairs like a shot. I kind of love her.
On January 23, 2005, at 4:00 a.m. I was awakened by severe pain in my abdomen. After an unsuccessful hour of wishing the pain away, my mom convinced my needle/blood/vein/hospital -phobic self that it was time to go to the emergency room.
Three hours and several unpleasant tests later, I was sent back home.
I woke up again a couple of hours later and got halfway to the bathroom before realizing my leg wasn't working properly. Suddenly I was in such blinding pain that I didn't even know what hurt.
I remember my mom and my brother awkwardly dragging me downstairs half-conscious and my dad stuffing me into the car wrapped in his coat, or maybe my brother's. I remember the horrified concern of the neighbour across the street I hadn't met. I was just home from school for the weekend.
It's hard to say now whether I was outside my body or if I retreated to some corner deep inside, but I know it was from far away that I tried to reassure my dad that I was still there, when he anxiously passed his hand in front of my eyes. I could feel my mom in the backseat, quietly trying not to give way to hysteria.
What hurt was DVT and a pulmonary embolism. A clot in the deep veins of my left leg that reaches from below the knee up to the groin, and a couple of pieces that travelled up through my heart and into my left lung for good measure. I don't know if it was the perplexed doctors (who needed a day and a half to find the massive clot) or just luck that saved me.
What followed was a week in hospital and about a month in bed at home watching my leg swell up to a grotesque and unrecognizable mass twice its normal size, and willing the clock to move faster while I lived from dose to dose of pain medication.
I remember the embarrassment and frustration of being exhausted by a walker-assisted limp down the hallway of the blood clinic. I remember the thrill the first time I was able to get from my bedroom to the bathroom ten feet away without assistance.
Suddenly I was forced to face my fear of needles every couple of days, as the doctors monitored my blood to make sure I was taking the right dose of Warfarin (rat poison). I had never bruised easily, but now I was black and blue at the slightest bump. Once I bit my lip and it just bled and bled. Shave my legs? No thanks.
I (insanely) insisted on returning to school, despite not being able to walk the distance from my apartment across the street to my classes. I just knew if I didn't finish my first year of college, if I didn't at least try, lying around thinking about what was happening to me would just kill me (ha). I was sick of feeling afraid all the time. I needed some distraction.
The night before my first day back, my boyfriend of four years called to say, "I don't think I'm in love with you anymore."
It was Easter when one of the doctors told me that because of the genetic mutation in my blood, I would be on the drugs for life. "You will suffer from internal bleeding and if you get pregnant, you will probably die, and so will the baby." And of course, I can never take birth control again. At 19, it was difficult to absorb.
I was already nursing a broken heart and a broken body, what was I supposed to do with that information?
I remember telling my mom, "I just wish it was 3 years from now." But there was no going around it, I had to go through it.
I threw myself into my schoolwork and finished an honours student. My hematologist decided that it would be just as harmful to keep me on the drugs, as to take me off and run the risk of another clot. So I'm rat poison free.
The ones in my lung have dissolved. The one in my leg is still there, and doesn't let me forget it. I wear a pain in the ass compression stocking every day to keep it from ballooning up. I can't run or crouch or sit for too long. Feeling uncomfortable has become the norm.
I miss my healthy leg. I miss being someone who doesn't wonder if every little twinge in her chest might be a rogue piece of the sinister clot monster lurking in her leg coming back for revenge. I miss the girl I was before. The one who never had her strength tested.
But. I am so happy to be here.
So today is my day to grieve and to celebrate. And tomorrow I'll go on living.
So after spending an unnecessary amount of time wrestling with the decision, and despite having some reservations about being involved with anything that begins with the word "Twit" I've decided to go ahead and give this Twitter thing a chance.
I've never been a fan of that status thingy on facebook, so I can't see it lasting long.
I have a feeling it might be like a couple of weeks ago when I tried escargot. I didn't spit it out or anything, but I did politely decline the enthusiastic offer of a second helping of snail, thanks very much.
He's my constant traveling companion. He's been with me on every one of my assignments, and his conspicuous absence has been the first clue that the car I'm trying to unlock is not, in fact, mine on more than one occasion.
This weekend, the boyfriend and I were both looking forward to a relaxing and uneventful weekend (read: fairly boring). Unfortunately, our weekends live 7 hours apart from one another.
However, while mine remained as uneventful as planned. His, not so much. He called to chat yesterday and I asked him what he had gotten up to. He said he'd had a pretty low-key Sunday. Then he got around to explaining his Saturday.
"Oh actually, I did get a call from this woman I know for some last-minute work on Saturday."
The fact that he was not immediately immediately forthcoming with the details was red flag number one.
"That's great! What did you do?"
"Oh, I just worked a trade show that was in town."
"Like, you just worked retail for the day?"
"No...no I just sort of, walked the show...
"wearing a silly costume..."
"What kind of silly costume? What are you talking about?"
"...A Spartan costume."
"So by trade show, you mean?"
That's correct. While I sat at home in the middle of a constant rural snowstorm all weekend like a sucker (a bored sucker, with pocket lint), my boyfriend was wandering around tables of vibrators while dressed as a Spartan warrior.
It's not because I've grown so gosh-darn wise, or because without at LEAST 9 hours of sleep, I'm cranky. It's not even because I have some experience with lawn bowling. I feel old today, because yesterday, I fell down the stairs.
Interestingly, my boyfriend's reaction to this news had to do with my age as well. His immediate response was a very compassionate, "You fell down the stairs? What are you? 5?"
I know. His concern for my well-being brought a tear to my eye too.
In my defense, it's not like I fell down the stairs in my apartment, which would be much more impressive and terrifying as my staircase is rather windey. I just fell down the five steps on my front porch.
The ironic thing was, when I arrived home for lunch yesterday I finally made myself grab the shovel and clear them off a bit. Since it's been snowing nonstop here, I just haven't been able to summon up the will. "It's just going to be covered again in five minutes anyway, and what else are my giant winter boots for?" And the chances of someone else actually approaching my door in this weather are slim to nil.
But yesterday, I went ahead and did it anyway. After all, I thought, I'd feel bad if someone fell down these.
However, a word to the wise. If you shovel off your porch steps from above because you are too lazy and cold to walk down them before going inside to eat, you will essentially create a very, very smooth slide, perfect for tobogganing and/or accidentally slipping down in .0001 seconds the next time you attempt to walk down them.
I think the speed at which it happened would have made for some hilarious viewing. I'm sure it looked like I disappeared through a trap door in the porch.
For a minute I just sat there, bewildered, not unlike the baby sparrows who used to regularly fall out of their nest on my parents' front porch and lie there looking around until we found them and stuffed them back in there. Then, after cautiously peering around for witnesses, I dragged my wet-pantsed self back to work.
And today, my whole body feels like it's about 100 years old.
The kiss I like to think of as my first happened when I was 16. I guess from the outside, the circumstances leading up to it were pretty mundane, but to me, that kiss will always be a true epic.
I had been friends with Harper since we were 12 years old. He told me I looked like a hooker; I chased him down the hall. You know, the start of a beautiful friendship and all that.
He was my "date" to the grade 8 graduation dance, although we never actually danced together. He was funny and smart and kind, but often awkward. We always seemed to be paired up to read Shakespeare aloud in English class. He would stumble and laugh over love scenes, voice cracking at inopportune moments while I rolled my eyes, embarrassed, determined to get it over with and no end of annoyed that he wouldn't just spit it out already.
It really bothered me when people said we should date (what's that river in Egypt called?). He was my go-to guy for advice about guys I was dating.
When I played the French Maid in our high school show at 15, he was the only guy to try to help me cover up instead of telling me he had "something you can dust over here, baby!"
It was around this time that I looked at him and thought. "Hmm."
He was protective of me. When I dated the guy with the convertible, I had to stop him from throwing rocks at it.
I spent several months agonizing over the thought that I was nothing more than a sister to him in that special way that only a teenage girl can agonize. By that time I was pretty certain that he and I should be together, and I was pretty certain I would die alone, sitting loveless atop a mountain peak and eating yesterday's cold, soggy cereal until the end of time.
Then one day we were at a party, the two of us squished into one chair. I was flirting away like my life depended on it (because it did, duh). He was... well, who knows what he was doing, I was busy trying to breathe properly and look pretty at the same time.
When it was time for me to leave, I insisted he walk me to the door. I don't remember what either of us said, but as I turned away and stepped down the stair to the door, I felt something graze the top of my head.
"Did you just kiss my hair?" "umm...yes?"
And then it happened. I'm sure it was over in seconds, but for those seconds everything else in the world just fell away.
All the way home, sitting beside my dad in the car, I could barely keep myself inside my skin. If I didn't concentrate on every molecule, I would just disolve into glitter, fly out the window and be scattered into the night.
That kiss just kept on going. It wouldn't quit. It sent an electric shiver all the way down my spine. I felt that kiss in the soles of my feet, and at 16 years old, that kiss crashed me headfirst into my first love.
I've covered a myriad of events during my 10 or so months at this little paper: horse races, crop circles, General Romeo Dallaire's visit(can you say, awesome?), rummage sales, book launches, and eighteen billion Christmas concerts. And last week, for the first time since approximately 2001, I was given the shining opportunity (read: non-negotiable order) to attend, of all things, a high school dance.
Walking up to the front doors guarded by rent-a-cops, I had to suppress a reflex to check my camera bag for any suspect "water" bottles that might be confiscated, despite the fact that I don't think I was ever actually the one smuggling vodka into the dances (I mean, I don't know and would not associate with anyone who did that, mom).
But man, did we love our high school dances. There is nothing quite like putting on the maximum of makeup and the minimum of clothing you can smuggle yourself out of the house in to dive headfirst into all the ridiculous romance and drama and general hormonal insanity and bad behaviour that was somewhat held in check during the day (or at least broken up somewhat by classes).
Getting ready for the dance at age 23 was a little different, "Ugh, you mean I can't change into my sweatpants until at least 9:30? Why is my life so stupid??!!!" (There may still be some of that hormonal insanity lingering in my system yet, come to think of it.) I always kind of dread high school assignments. It seems I'm still young enough to be judged by/mistaken for a teenage mutant high school girl. Which is funny considering that I was often mistaken for an adult during my high school days. And as much as I'd like to think I'm impervious to it, a collective death stare from a group of teen girls is still a powerful thing. Plus it always brings back the lingering doubt that maybe, just maybe, my friends and I weren't as cool and non-annoying as I like to think we were.
Anyway, I was not looking forward to skulking around and blinding underage, underdressed girls and the guys desperate to sleep with them. I couldn't help but cringe at the thought of witnessing any of the behaviour I can still (unfortunately) so vividly recall.
So it was a pleasant surprise upon arriving to be directed by a bored looking law officer to the outdoor courtyard where the dear things were bundled up in winter gear too heavy to allow for any kid of effective groping while they bopped around the yard. None of them were even visibly intoxicated!
It turns out the dance was a fundraiser for a memorial garden, so maybe that had something to do with the squeaky clean behaviour, I don't know. But it made for a surprisingly pain-free assignment. Maybe those gosh darn whippersnappers aren't so bad after all. I mean, we were awesome, so it's possible, right?
Last week on my blissful day off, the boyfriend and I decided we needed to get out of dodge and head for the big city. Or at least, a bigger city.
After our meal, we bundled up against the cold and strolled around the park where boyfriend pretended to push the military tribute tank while I pretended not to know him and watched the skaters.
The tableau of kids and adults alike, playing on the ice in front of the bandshell was a familiar one. The usual blur of neon snowpants, parents crouched in the endless task of lacing and unlacing skates and the one or two beautiful skaters who manage to look like something out of a Christmas Cookie tin despite having to avoid the inevitable rainbow explosion of snowsuit collisions.
It wasn't until we rounded the bandshell and headed back to the car that I noticed a far less idyllic scene. Walking briskly towards us was a young man in a threadbare sweater. He had no mitts or hat and I realized with a shock that what he was walking quickly away from was the garbage bin behind on the other side of the bandshell.
By the time I had absorbed what I had seen and what it meant, the man was gone. With no cash on me and no knowledge about London shelters, I don't suppose I could have done much anyway and it's not as though he was sitting there with a sign. It's not like he actually asked for my help. Still, I felt shaken.
It's just that I hadn't seen anyone desperately hungry enough to scrounge through a garbage can for food since I lived in the really big city. It's certainly not something I've come across in my current corner of rural Canada. And even in the city, I never got used to seeing people sleeping on the streets. I wound up carrying around granola bars in my purse to hand out to anyone on my route to work who looked particularly hungry. As futile a gesture as this undoubtedly was, I couldn't just walk by and see these people every day, and not be moved to do something, even if it was a small something.
And the more I did it, the harder it became not to because every time I timidly offered food, I had to stop and really acknowledge that I was interacting with a fellow human being, not just some part of the urban landscape. I like to think that if I'd stayed longer than the three months it took to complete my internship there, I would have found a better way to make a contribution.
So I guess what shocked me about seeing this man, was the realization of how easy it has been not to think about these people and their lives, now that they're not directly in my line of sight. I suppose the best I can do from where I am is support the local United Way and send some letters government way.
Growing up, I thought I lived in a small town. It wasn't until my relocation to take my first job as a newspaper reporter that I realized how wrong I was...Two years later, I'm a casualty of print media downsizing and headed back to the big city to seek my fortune (or at least a social life).
1. Cerebration is the act of thinking
2. Sarahbration is the act of ME thinking
3. ...or partying?...with my brain?