29 January 2012

...And Everything In Its Place

It started with planning. Planning meals, planning events, planning homework schedules. The planning became a compulsion, a temporary world where (if the spreadsheet was done right and the colors complemented each other) everything made sense. Planning gave her a sense of power and a feeling of control. She liked the control. Control of the order in which the house was going to be cleaned, the number of loads of laundry that would be completed, or the vision of a sparkling clean and peaceful home. The order and plan varied by project, naturally. But the picture in her brain of the end result...that stayed the same. At the end of the day, there was always to be a spotless home, a warm cup of coffee, candles flickering with tropical scents, all her homework assignments complete, and the serene quiet that is only really yearned for by heavy metal roadies and mothers of toddlers.

Mediocrity became her arch enemy, and done well and half-assed became synonymous. Somehow, she felt that if their household was organized and her desired level of perfection attained, the feelings of peace and accomplishment would overshadow the emotions she fought tirelessly to ignore. The longing to have her husband home, the dull ache in her stomach as she waited for the phone to ring, and the fear that the phone would not ring, and that she could easily become one of the many that...well, you know. As long as their home stayed dust free and in precise order, the dust covered Afghanistan would somehow balance karmically and keep her husband safe. She knew the thought process was as senseless as some of the war casualties were, and she knew that if life were to change, the absoluteness of the situation wouldn't be altered or sugar coated by a clean bathroom floor or laundered curtains. But she scrubbed and washed, nonetheless, until everything shone and smelled pleasantly of bleached flowers.

Bit by bit, she worked her way through their home. Meticulously wiping, scrubbing, vacuuming and rinsing every inch of reachable space. Nothing left undone, for fear that it would mess up the order of the never ending task. Although two pets and the spastic three year old loin fruit rendered the task of cleaning down to little more than a vicious, lavender scented circle, she scoured every inch of the self-imposed first circle of Hell like each stroke of the sponge put a gallon of fuel into her husband's plane home.

The plastic doctor's kits and floppy brown slices of apple became par for the course, and were picked up daily without thought. Spiderman stretched proudly across the comforter that was tucked in neatly every day, and the dinosaurs knew better than to stay the night with the train sets or the puzzles. Once the task of righting the toddler-topia was complete, she would move to their room. Although it had long since felt like her room, she worked around it as though doing it wrong would make him uncomfortable. So she continued to fix the sheets on his side of the bed just the way he liked them. Sometimes she'd pretend that he would be there to sleep under them that night, and sometimes she'd allow the knowledge that she'd sleep alone again. In either event, she'd convince a smile onto her face and keep tucking, as though tucking the bedding tightly enough would coax her sanity to stay in place, too. She kept his soaps and razors in the shower caddy, although they were so light from being nearly empty that the bottles frequently fell down onto her head when the caddy was bumped. She put the t-shirts of his that she wore back in his bureau, even though she was the only one there to take them out and wear them. She left his cologne taking up space on the shelf, missing his scent but terrified that if she smelled it, the emotions would take over. So there it sat and there it would stay, dust free and full of the smell of the love she missed, encased in green glass and silent mocking.

Most days she was able to ignore the pain and loneliness. Even when their son cried relentlessly for Daddy. Even on those days, she was able to keep a brave face and provide comfort. But some days...some days, being human took hold. Some days she would cry relentlessly with the boy, and they would hug each other back into solace. But those days, the days when humanity flexed its awful grip, the glorious feelings brought on by cleaning, organizing, and perfection came to a screeching halt. The glorious feelings were then replaced by feelings of anxiety, discomfort, and fury with the marital dislocation. Most times, she was able to push them down so they weren't so overwhelming, so it was just enough to feel like things weren't the way they were supposed to be. Like when you pick up a pencil and your brain and hand don't agree, so the pencil takes flight. Easily remedied, but still askew and still all her fault. Still needing to be fixed, regardless of the situation the repair interrupted.

It wasn't all bad, though. The hard work and exhaustion, whether from algebraic equations or furniture polishing (or, more often than not, both) were rewarding. For each dish put away clean, each sheet smoothed and pillow plumped, each paper typed and resource cited, she checked off a block on her mental list that equated to keeping up her end of the bargain. She'd traded in her dusty boots and guns in favor of securing the home front, and she would be damned if their home ran like anything other than a Swiss timepiece. As long as he was away, she'd keep the world they'd built in order.

As long as nothing was out of place, in her mind, he was safe.

05 January 2012

When Holiday Travelin' Bitches Be Crazy....

I have to be honest, guys. I respect the casual flier. Now, I'm not talking Wal-Mart Couture or anything. But decent jeans or sweatpants, hoodies, t shirts, sunglasses, sneakers, ponytails...you know, the kind of shit that you wish you were wearing during travel, but never are. I love it. My standard uniform whilst flying is jeans, t shirt, hair in a bun, iPod, purse, and flippie floppies. I swing by a Starbucks, and my coffee, my iPod and I sit at the gate. You know, because there's nothing like drinking something with an octane rating and resting up to sit down for multiple hours. What can I say? I like coffee, and I enjoy sitting.

Part of the funFunFUN of airplanes and airports are seeing people at what they think is their best. They've prepared, scheduled, squeezed the air out of space saving bags, and long term parked. They've caffed, they've coiffed, and they're ready to fly the friendly skies, bitch. Exhibit A:

You think I googled that? Think again, baby. She and her shiny pleather aura of awesomeness were three rows in front of me. She was here, she was in lamineer, and everybody was going to have to get used to it.

Except me. I just snapped a picture and made a mental note. Because there's nothing I like more than a good ole fashioned verbal point and laugh.

What I do not like are surprises. I am an early arriver at airports. I abide by the three ounce rule, and make sure that everything is in its quart-sized zip lock bag. I adhere to the carry-on size and ratio. I take my laptop out of its case and give it its own security bucket. I don't wear belts or jewelry, so as not to take too much time and inconvenience my fellow travelers.

They tell you that you can book seats ahead of time...one of the perks of buying the tickets early, I suppose. I know that it was supposed to be that way, too, because I looked at the seat numbers, and was pleased that we weren't tucked soundly in the ass of the plane like we were on the flight out. 12C and D sounded like super duper seats. After biting the bullet and paying the $50 to check two bags, I wrangled the backpack, small duffel, purse, and Spawn-on-a-String (or Drew on a monkey leash, if you prefer) through security and the small cafe. After securing Midget Bait (Twizzlers) and Mommy's Go Juice, we settled our butts on the ground near the gate. We sat, he with the iPad and I with my Parents magazine, munching Twizzlers and relaxing. The intercom bing-bonged, and I heard them page those poor saps...you know, the sad few always stuck in standby purgatory. I'm sure you can imagine the sadness I felt when our last name echoed across the thriving five-gate terminal. I shoved our shit back into our carry-ons and dragged the boy and his half-chewed Twizzler up to the podium, where we were handed two paper stubs. I glanced down, my gaze greeted by the seat numbers 4a and 5c.


What on United Airline's green, expansive, everloving earth was I supposed to do with THAT? As much as I'd enjoy a silent-ish plane ride minus my offspring, I'm fairly certain that the Mom handbook forbids placing your three year old with a stranger on a flight. I think it was in the same chapter as not leaving them on a city bus or allowing them to attend the Warped Tour at 12. Anywho, upon explaining the issue to the very sweet flight attendant, she rolled her eyes in sympathy and pointed to one side, instructing me to take two seats on one side, and then plead my case to whomever was actually supposed to sit next to my child. Thanks, United Airlines, for entrusting my child to someone who may or may not be required to update their living location every ninety days to their local law enforcement agency.

We weren't seated long. Basically, just long enough to settle the boy and our carry-on circus. And then we were greeted by the sneer of what I'm pretty sure the guy on Nighmare Before Christmas looked like before he lost his skin to skeleton-ism. As he glared down his Burton-esque nose, I explained what the airline had done. As I stuttered the words, I looked at the stupid paper stubs, and realized that I'd gone a row too far. As I wrestled our entourage o' crap to the preceding row under the condemnatory gaze of Airbus McPissypants, we were lucky enough to discover his wife, Puffy McPissypants. Our introduction consisted of the same disapproving gaze in our direction, breaking it only briefly to look pointedly over her shoulder at the FOUR people behind her. In fact, she was so busy not-so-subtly indicating that we were holding up boarding that she didn't notice my leather and reproductive baggage trying to squeeze by her massive, flower-clad, Charlie scented corpulence.

My apologetic motivation and stupidity tolerance waned. Well, they didn't so much wane as disappear, and were promptly replaced by visible irritation and my stern voice. I fought the urge to shout that her wrinkly popover cleavage was not only in my way, but also visual pollution. Sweetly, I explained that if she wanted us out of their seats, she needed to back up a bit and give us some room. She sighed heavily, and scooted back. I settled us down again and seethed. I seethed about the injustice of the cost of checked baggage, the injustice of being tired, and the injustice of the airline's carelessness in assigning a toddler a seat that was not parental adjacent. My silence was rapidly rewarded, though. As soon as they were seated, she began to nag at her husband. From family issues to her discomfort with flying (and flying coach, perish the thought), she wove a verbal web of contempt and loathing that made her sound like nothing short of a lovechild of Dr. Laura and Salinger. Smiling at the slight victory, I hugged the boy and cracked the December issue of Martha.

I shouldn't have smiled. My triumph lasted only as long as the tray tables were in an up and locked position.

As soon as Puffy McMonsterbitch was allowed, she dropped her tray table and began to consume a Ceasar salad of comic proportions. Seriously. This thing was roughly the size of the bottomless Olive Garden salad bowl, and smelled like low tide on the Hudson. After she warthogged through it, she passed out snoring at a decibel that furthered the illusion that we were, in fact, tugboating through NYC.

There are a few morals to this story:

Number one: Booking seats when you purchase a ticket does not guarantee said seats. Number two: When needing to vent on a plane, it's a good plan to have a charged laptop and the gift of wit. Number three: When traveling during the holidays and are surrounded by assholery and embossed gold jackets, just smile and think about the power of the internet and camera enabled cell phones. Because now that it's all said and done, I get to show y'all this shit:

You're welcome.