By Audrie Bretl Roelf
This was not the scene she remembered: gray ceiling, brown water stains, cracks…the usual signs that point to years of neglect. She felt the carpet; a bit damp and a lot crusty. How was it possible to be both damp and crusty? It took a certain type of decay, she imagined.
Nothing appeared to be broken but the ringing in her ears and pounding in her head told her all was not well – and there was the issue of lost time and not knowing where the hell she was. No voices, no light, just a dank, dirty smell and lots of questions.
She left the car by the side of the road. It had been faithful but you can only kick a dog so many times before he bites. And bite it had – all smoke and flames before coming to a dead halt. It was after 10 on a Sunday night on I-80; what chance did she have of grabbing a ride?
Obviously, running down the median with a tiny suitcase and backpack made her look like a mark. She had no choice but to find shelter, a ride, some food…any or all of the above. As she ran, she looked up and saw a sign, Secret Fantasies. She had a few of those but not the kind they were selling. Right now, her fantasy was a hot bath and some bubbles which she could probably get there if she were willing to service a trucker or two.
She was no stranger to the odd proclivities of others. There was the time she was out with her friends playing darts and drinking; a usual Saturday night. She thought to go out at the last minute. She was ready for bed when her friend texted and asked to meet up. She threw on her Ramones tee, pulled her hair back, slapped on some eye liner, and bolted out the door.
She noticed him sitting at the bar but didn’t think anything of it until he sauntered over to the table. “I’m going to sit with you guys. It feels weird sitting at the bar alone,” he shrugged and laughed. His teeth were jacked.
“Yeah, man. Whatever,” Aaron said, throwing (and missing) the next shot. He was an amiable guy, always willing to welcome a new soul. The guy made small talk, had a couple of cigarettes, and seemed nice enough. After a bit they stood to walk to another bar. He followed.
“You guys together?”
Aaron shook his head.”No, man. Why you ask?”
“Body language, I guess.”
“We’re friends. I tattoo her, so I guess we’re kinda close.” She shoved him and grabbed his arm.
“The next time someone asks something like that; we ARE together!” She snarled.
“Right on,” Aaron agreed and went to put his arm around her.
“Too late,” she growled and huffed ahead.
Later that night, the guy talked both of them into going back to his apartment. He lured Aaron with the promise of pizza and beer. A student of human nature, she was just curious. She wanted to believe in humanity despite the mess of the world.
Long story ended with both her and her companion hauling ass down an empty street trying to get away from the guy in the horse head mask, brandishing a butcher knife. So much for being a good judge of character.
A smile waved across her face as she thought about the absurdity of it all. People…No wonder God sent the flood.
Then there was the time the old man walked up to her and her best friend as they walked out of the mall. He asked if he could pay Kay a compliment. That ended in the perv taking photos of Kay’s feet for about 10 minutes and telling her how gorgeous they were. Flood part deux.
If she hadn’t been amusing herself with these anecdotes, she may have heard the car. She may have felt the hair on the back of her neck stand at attention.
She remembered a van with no seats. Her wrists and head screamed. She still smelled whatever was on the rag hanging in the air. She knew better and this is what she was telling herself when light began to peek through the windows.
“Wakey, wakey. Time to play.” That horrible smell again. She couldn’t see him but she knew he was there. What little light crept in under the blindfold went dark.
Gasping for air, she woke in what she could only surmise was a bathtub of ice. Her body felt hot against the extreme cold. “We’re done for now.”
He grabbed her by the hair and pulled her from the tub. Her body lagged behind as she slid toward another room, the carpet scraping her up and down. What was hiding in this carpet? It couldn’t be good.
Another night, she lay still watching bits of light slide across the wall in quick succession. It was so very cold and there was nothing to cover herself. She heard rustling in the next room and braced for his return, but he never came…Rolling to her other side she felt the pain of her missing limb. She hoped she bled to death before she found out the rest of his plans.
There was no concept of time but it seemed as if days passed. She had survived on the scraps of leftover fast food he brought her, if she were lucky. He brought a bucket for water for drinking but her bodily functions took place on the carpet. It didn’t seem to matter much to him. She was allowed to pull herself around the floor now that there was little chance of her escape. Her arms were getting quite strong from the constant army crawl.
It’s amazing what the human body gets used to. The frequent beatings didn’t weren’t as painful and if she didn’t struggle, his rutting was swift. The scars from his cigarettes gave small relief for the next extinguishing. The hot iron wasn’t so bad once you got used to it – at least it was quick. But she still hated it when he washed her with bleach after finishing. It was kind of him to leave her untied now though. The rope was creating a crevice in her wrists that he didn’t care for.
After playing, he always washed her. Due to the lack of running water he brought more buckets. It was cold but refreshing to her tired body. Before the bleach, he washed her hair and it was nearly pleasant as he brushed it out for her before expertly apply her makeup. He liked her to look presentable before and after play. He would allow her to focus in the mirror for just a minute before dousing her in the bleach. It hurt her more to remember who she once was.
Nights had passed and he hadn’t returned. She was hungry and cold and the animals were becoming more brazen as they would approach to sniff and chew at the bandages on her stumps. She felt betrayed because they had lived together so long now; it was like a friend forsaking her. Nature and the circle of life. We’re all just animals after all – this had become abundantly clear.
Thankful for the light of the vehicles passing, she crawled around the room until she found a door. At this point, it didn’t matter where it led; this was her last chance to feel the outdoors again. She reached up and turned the knob. How long had it been unlocked?
Autumn air rushed passed her as she pulled herself over the threshold and on to the balcony collapsing onto her back. As what she believed to be a semi passed, she caught a glimpse of a long-forgotten sign calling for travelers to stop and rest – they had free cable TV – at the Pine Tiki Inn.
By Nicole Cater
I normally write only about personal experiences. But it is my firm belief that no matter the illness, all sufferers cringe a little upon hearing this phrase: Are you taking your pills?
What sounds like an innocent combination is a loaded question even when asked in the most casual way. The answer is fraught with danger. And so I give you replies to this question. Whether you think them in your head, mumble them under your breath, or go balls to the walls and shout them like they deserve to be shouted; they are true. Hopefully, any well people reading this will pause before asking.
I would like to point out that the hard work my mom does. There is a certain difference that comes over when medicated, call it calmness. It is there that my mom knows I’m in trouble, that a panic attack is eminent. She is the unsung hero of my disease, who deals with my crazy mood swings when I can’t sleep for a week and a start seeing this out of the corner of me eye. And no matter how nice I try to be to her, it comes out strained, shaky, and sounds mean. I love her, and everything she does for me.
And what would I do without Jeremy, The Keeper of the Sleep. He has seen what lack of sleep can do, and it can turn me into a not-very-nice person. And so, with one sleepless night under my belt, he takes me from the writing room, Fredo too, and the current book I’m reading and let’s me fall asleep.
I mention this because they never ask, “are you taking your pills?” They trust me… with a few peccadilloes. I, a normal human. Show me human without peccadilloes and I’ll show you a human that doesn’t exist. We all have strange quirks. People with mental illness just have to take medication for our strange quirks.
Dedicated to Shelby Keister
By Nicole Cater
I want to take you back, far back, back to ancient history, people. These were the carefree days of my youth, when I went out and partied often, had copious amounts of friends, and if I felt a little twinge in my back, so what?
I was a receptionist at a bank. I worked in the Davenport office in the morning, and then traveled to the Moline office on my lunch break. I heard all the jokes: Have I seen you somewhere else recently? Do you have a twin? Do you get paid double to work in two offices (NO)? But these were made by gross old men who had hair in their ears and if I was a smarter girl, I would have jumped for one of them because they also had large trust accounts.
Alas, it was a copier technician there to replace a printer who was surprised by my double office duties. A copier technician with bad hair but a good sense of humor and that’s what counts, in my book. And wouldn’t you know it; he honest to god had the nerve to ask me on a date? Not would I like to hang out sometime… not coffee. This man, whom I did not know, was brave enough to ask me to dinner and a movie. I was impressed, not by him, but by his nerve, and said yes.
Flash forward three weeks and I’m telling my mom and my best friend, Laura, that I can’t do this. I feel nothing for this guy. I must break up with him. Give him time they counseled, it was early yet, and I may just be nervous. Well, one of us was right.
I’ll skip the boring parts, no one cares. But let me say this, there is more than one kind of abuse. And the man I pledged my troth to forever and a day was a master manipulator; he was a destroyer of all forms of confidence; and he was a warrior at getting control.
For starters, little things that I had come to look forward to when we were dating stopped. There were no flowers, no deliveries of candy, and no surprise getaways. Just who the hell did I think I was? That kind of shit is for girlfriends. I was a wife, I already bought the package, sorry, no refund.
Shortly after we married, my AS reared it ugly head. My treatment at that time made me gain an enormous amount of weight. That and not being able to exercise, feeling fatigued all the time and not sleeping. I ballooned up from an average 145 and I stopped getting on the scale when it registered 220. Of course, this was all my fault. As if I wasn’t feeling bad enough about the weight gain, being blamed for it was certainly the death of my confidence. He bought me work-out tapes and a Gazelle, never realizing I was too tired and fatigued to do any of it.
And cleaning! His mom’s sole purpose in life was to make sure her house was spotless. You know what my mom did all day? She taught four-year-olds to write their name and hoped my brother and I didn’t kill each other after school (it was possible.) And then he entered, a much respected institution not known for its lack of cleanliness. He fit right in.
I never truly learned the art “a place for everything and everything in its place,” nor much care about the occasional clutter my books made. And most definitely if no one can see it, it’s clean. Theses were my rules.
And my rules, like everything else, weren’t good enough. I dusted, rarely, and with a dry cloth, not furniture polish. I, rarely, vacuumed and I went around furniture, not moving it to clean under it. I did not wash the floors at all, because they would just get dirty again. I separated my laundry on the basement floor because it was already dirty. I didn’t use a brush to clean the toilet because a hand and washrag work better. And the kicker, I didn’t get out of the shower correctly. Huh? Excuse me? Perhaps I heard you wrong. There is a wrong way to exit the shower.
But the most telling state of our marriage came during one of our fights over my slovenly (I would argue unorganized) ways. He was yelling me at the top of his lungs - berating me for being the person I am and always had been. He wasn’t even bothering to hide his disgust with me. (Just so you know, I’m not disgusting, I’m delightful!) Finally, in as calm a voice as I could manage; I informed him that we had lived together before we were married. He knew I was like this. It shouldn’t be a surprise. And he responded, and I quote, because it’s just too good not to: “I thought those were traits of Single Nicole, not Married Nicole.” Are you, like me, picturing the marriage fairy sprinkling married magic dust on me while I sleep? Or are you conjuring a Stepford Wife?
It matters not. This argument took place in the first year of my marriage. And with that one fucked up sentence, the scales fell from my eyes. This man honestly believes he is a reborn Ozzie. And there is no way in hell I am his Harriet. But because of my illness, I wasn’t working. I had no money coming in and no insurance. For three years I pretended I loved this spawn of Satan to survive. I could do that. Because I had my eyes on the prize: Divorce. I didn’t know when or if would happen, but I would be ready.
In the fourth year, when we entered counseling, I was drinking a six-pack a night just to let him make love to me. He, with his lack of education, didn’t believe a word the counselor said. I began playing a game in my head. When the counselor talked, I would play “beat the clock” on my husband’s rejection. And then one day he asked me to wait outside while he spoke to the counselor alone. I had no idea what was going on, but I was not prepared for what did happed. My husband told me he never wanted me to have children, ever, with anyone.
Let me digress here a minute. My doctor who treats my AS said that I was cleared to have children. And I had a small window of time when I could have children and keep up with them, as opposed to having them and being too tired to care for them. This was my window. He was shutting it.
As we had arrived separately from our jobs, I didn’t even pretend to go through the rest of the session. I left. And I refused to talk to my husband all that next day. It was the day after that he greeted me at the door. “I want a divorce.” Four easy words that I wasn’t even sure I was going to say once they were out. My husband, soon to be my ex-husband, knew nothing of my plotting and fervent hoping to get out of this marriage, thought it was all his fault, He gave me whatever I wanted, which was meager. I didn’t even hire a lawyer. I moved out and back into my mother’s house.
My family worried and clucked over me as families will do. Finally, about a week in, my mother confronted me about everyone’s worry; that I was showing absolutely no post-divorce emotion. And I said to her the same things that were going through my mind when I left session, when I worked in limbo all that day, that still come to me as a gift from the gods on high: “I can’t believe he made it that easy.”
By Nicole Cater
I remember it as clearly as if it were yesterday… the day I entered into legal limbo. Of course, I had no idea. But sure enough, I joined the rank and file and became a cog in the great machine. I was an inconsequential ant and Social Security Disability insurance was the great and mighty boot.
It was a beautiful, August Thursday; the perfect day for a nervous breakdown. This was not my first nervous breakdown; I’d had at least two in the past 10 years. The treatment was leave from work and antidepressants, a treatment that never worked, the reason which soon became apparent.
But this breakdown was different, more severe, on a deeper level, an intensity I had never experienced before. I wound up in the emergency room (don’t I always?). And unlike your run-of-the mill general practitioner, the doctors are trained to recognize mental illness. I have nothing against GPs, and they are certainly your friend if you have a cold, earache, or the stomach flu. But anything psychological makes hoof beats, and therefore must be a horse, or depression. They are not trained to see the psychological zebras, or other mental illnesses that also make hoof beats.
In my ER visit I was given a choice. Go straight to Robert Young (a local mental health facility), do not pass go, do not collect $200. Or see my GP and also see a Robert Young diagnostician. I wasn’t ready for a visit to the center yet. Had I known what great cookies they had, maybe I would have changed my mind. The GP was absolutely no help at all, besides booking me an appointment with Dr. Evil, may she roast in hell for that.
I spent three hours with the diagnostician. Enough to think I was never leaving, that suddenly this had become a hostage situation. All he did was page through a book and ask questions. “Do you drink?” “Are there any alcoholics in your family?” “Is there anyone with mental illness in your family?” “Do you have insomnia?” “Do you spend more than you earn?” Uh-oh. “Do you feel guilty about it later or exhilarated?” Oh yeah, uh-oh. “Do you feel your mind racing frequently?” This is bad. “Do you have a history of promiscuity?” Why, what have you heard? “Do you have burst of energy at odd hours and feel you must follow through with them?” That’s it, I’m fucked! So Mr. Never-Ending Questions was happy to tell me that I had a bipolar disorder. But unlike most people with the illness, I skew heavily manic, which means all those antidepressants doctors have tried aren’t going to work because they’re treating something I really don’t have.
Dr. Evil tried this approach too. He couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting better. He accused me of lying to him and holding back information. The truth was he was treating me for depression, from which I rarely suffered. He was so evil; I had to take anxiety medication before his appointments. And I had to have my mother go with me. I wouldn’t talk to him; she would talk to him for me.
Eventually I got a good psychiatric nurse practitioner who gave me very low doses of antidepressants and tolerable doses of antimanics. Antimanic drugs, who knew there was such a thing.
All of this brings me back to legal limbo. I have the autoimmune disease Ankylosing Spondylitis, which attacks the tendons in my spine, causing massive amounts of arthritis, which can cause my spine to fuse. It is incredibly painful. The treatment (which does not stop the disease, nothing can stop it, it only slows the process down) is to take immune suppressants. Immune suppressants! You name it, I get it. Flu shots are not an option; they are a necessity for me and anyone who lives with me. Until I got my tonsils out at the age of 32, I was getting strep throat five times a year. I still get ear infections, normally a child’s disease. And if you come near me with a cold, I will get it and it will last longer and will affect me worse. And this is the best treatment available for my AS.
Like many people with auto immune diseases, I also have fibromyalgia. This, among other things, causes muscle pain and tenderness for no real reason. The fun thing about all three of these illnesses is they each cause chronic insomnia. So you can imagine the effect when all three are combined, I’ve been suffering from lousy sleep for 20 years. As an added bonus, I also get migraines and irritable bowel syndrome.
I am the person for which SSDI was created. I haven’t worked in three and a half years. Because even though I went to college for business administration and every employer will tell you I’m the best, conscientious to a fault and hard working , no one can keep an employee who misses an average of 5-6 days a month.
And so I wait. Dealing with denial after denial. Thanking God I have the support of my parents and boyfriend or else I would surely be homeless. And I wait and wait in legal limbo hoping fate will be decided in my favor. I wait in limbo, scared of the answer, scared of another denial, yet scared more by the silence. And still I wait. For this limbo can’t go on forever. Can it?
By Lea Anne Stoughton
The Hole wasn’t always in my closet—at least, I don’t think so. But it’s there now. It’s been there since I was little. Different closet, you know, but still. Always the closet.
The first time I saw the Hole was right after Liam was born, so I was maybe 4? I remember having to push my old snow pants to one side to get a better look.
It’s a funny Hole. You can’t look in it and see through to the other side of the wall. I remember peeking into it and thinking I’d see Liam’s room, his crib and the rocking chair. But it’s just black. Not dark—black. It’s definitely a Hole, though, because I can sense space beyond the blackness.
I wanted to put my hand in it.
I wanted to crawl through.
Even now, the thought of crawling into that funny Hole gives me goosebumps.
I didn’t, of course. I tried to forget about it, but there was no forgetting it. The same questions that plague me now echoed in my child’s brain: Where does it go? Is there another world over there? Or is it just . . . nothing?
That night was the first time I sat in front of the Hole. God, I remember it so clearly. It was almost 20 years ago now, but thinking back, here, in this dark closet, I’m that girl again, in that room, in that closet. I’ve had a bath. My hair is dripping down the back of my nightgown. I’m cross-legged on the floor, staring at the Hole. There is the Hole, nothing else, nothing but the whispering . . .
It was very faint, then, the whispering, like a sheet rustling in another room. I wanted to hear, wanted so badly to hear, I was leaning forward, my ear inches from the Hole. If mom hadn’t knocked on my bedroom door just then, I don’t know what would have happened.
I might have fallen in.
Barbie, though. Barbie was just a doll. She wasn’t even a good doll—Allie next door had pulled off her leg and her hair looked chewed. At first I just pushed her foot through, the only foot she had left. It was weird; it looked like Barbie’s leg just stopped at the ankle, like it was chopped off, right where the Hole was. I kept pushing her farther in, and Barbie kept disappearing, one piece at a time.
Then, all that was left was her head. Just her head, chopped off at the neck. Oh, but her smile, she kept smiling, it was horrible. I didn’t want to see that smile anymore, that painted false smile, so I pushed it in the Hole to get rid of it.
And then Barbie was gone.
God, I wish I had a cigarette right now.
After Barbie went in the Hole, the whispers were louder, just barely. All I ever wanted to do after that was sit and listen.
It was right around that time that my parents got divorced. I admit, I threw quite a tantrum the day we moved. Mom had gotten some crappy apartment that was so small I had to share a room with Liam and leave most of my stuff behind. No one knew it, but really I was mad that I was leaving the Hole behind. It already had its hook in my brain, you see.
Turns out, I didn’t need to be worried. The Hole was waiting for me in the new closet.
While we lived together in that room, I never let Liam near that closet, near the Hole. Did he know about it? Over the years, in that apartment and later the house with the porch, did he ever wonder what I was doing, sitting in the closet for hours on end, alone? I wish I could ask him now. Of course, I wish I could do a lot of things now.
Not much happened with the Hole while we were in that apartment. One time I got angry because Liam wouldn’t stop crying for daddy, so when no one was looking I took his favorite blankie and threw it in the Hole. Mom thought dad had taken it and they got in a huge fight. She probably still thinks he took it.
Another time my teacher had sent home a note wanting mom to call her about a fight I got into with another kid. I was terrified to let mom see that note, so it went into the Hole.
The house with the porch was much bigger, which is what happens when your mom remarries and the guy has money. The guy in our case was named Larry, and he liked to drink. I listened to the Hole a lot in those years (it was waiting for me, of course, in my big closet at Larry’s house). I was 11 then, and when mom would go out with her girlfriends and Larry would get extra drunk, I was very aware of my new breasts. I would lock my bedroom door and listen to the Hole and its whispers. They were louder then—not as loud as they are now, oh no, but I didn’t have to listen quite so hard anymore.
I started talking to them sometimes, the whispers. I don’t know if they can hear me, and if they do, whether they can understand what I say. I think that’s best, really, the not knowing. I’m not sure whether I want them to know so much about me. Hell, I wish I didn’t know so much about me.
My grades sucked. It’s hard to find time to study when you spend all your time either in a closet or being accidentally groped by your mom’s new guy. Mom and I fought a lot, and Liam went to live with dad.
When I was 15, I dragged the entire contents of Larry’s liquor cabinet to the Hole and disappeared the bottles one by one. That was funny. They both wanted to think I drank it all with friends, but they knew I didn’t have any friends. They were so mad they couldn’t prove anything, and I was off the hook.
By the time I managed to graduate from high school I was beyond ready to move out. I landed a job working nights as a grocery store clerk, and moved into an apartment with a girl I found on Craigslist. She was going to school to be a nurse, so she was gone a lot, which suited me fine. I didn’t want to have to explain who I was talking to in my closet.
A couple years went by and I moved to the day shift. I met a guy, one of the stock guys. His name was Dave. I started bringing him back to the apartment. It seemed like something to do. When he did his thing, I would lay on the bed and try to listen past his grunts. Afterwards, we’d smoke a couple cigarettes from the pack he would bring and he’d tell me about his dead parents and how he wanted to get into the electrician’s union. I’d kick him out before he fell asleep.
The other day, he came over reeking of gin. I told him to leave, but he started shouting at me. Told me he was sick of the one-way thing. He wanted to know if I was just using him. He accused me of being frigid. He grabbed at me and shook me and tried to make me kiss him, but I kneed him in the balls and he fell. His head hit the corner of the dresser.
He didn’t move for a long time. I think maybe he was dead. I couldn’t bring myself to check. I smoked the last half of a stale cigarette I found in the ashtray and listened to the whispers from the closet. They seemed very loud. Screaming whispers.
I think he’s dead now. He must be. But I don’t know. I can’t know, really. It doesn’t matter much at this point. He’s gone in the Hole.
Oh, Dave! I wish I’d checked to see if you were dead first. Maybe you were alive but you’re dead now. But maybe . . . maybe you’re alive now. Are you alive? Are you with the whispers? What is it like there? What are they saying? What are you saying? What are you telling them about me?
Ah, shut up! Shut up, whispering Hole! Shut up and tell me if Dave’s dead! Was he dead? Is he dead? Is he alive?
I have to find out. I have to. Dave, I have to know if you’re alive and what you’re telling them. I have to get these screaming whispers out of my head.
I just wish I had a cigarette first.
By Nicole Cater
I mean the race for gender equality. The funny thing is I always assumed this was a problem that was getting better, not worse. But the more I read, the more I see, the more absolutely pissed off I become. There are now “manly” restaurants. As if women somehow can’t appreciate a fabulous juicy burger or a perfectly aged steak. Meninism is actually a thing, where men have the audacity to claim they don’t have the same rights as women. But I think the one true thing that brought home to me just how bad gender relations have gotten is when I took a trip to my favorite coffee shop.
It was at night, after dark. The parking spots in front of the shop were full. Unfortunately, women are no longer allowed to walk alone at night. So I parked around the corner and down a block. Before I exited my car, I grabbed a six-inch cylinder. Would I really be able to mace a man if he dared to bother me? No, I didn’t think I could do that. Instead, tucked up my sleeve was a stylish pink collapsible police baton. This was my city. I may have felt the need to arm myself with a non-lethal weapon, but I was still going to live my life, lurking men in the shadows or not.
So I decided to study up on some of the most common Meninism complaints. To be honest, I was very confused. And before we delve into this sticky issue, it must be pointed out that no, every man is not like this. To believe so is stereotyping. However, it does seem as though these so called “Meninists” are fond of stereotyping themselves. But let’s break it on down, shall we?
“I want a woman to take me out on a date and wine and dine me and pay for everything.” Okay, that’s fair. But here’s the question. Did you ask her out? Yes? Then pony up. If she asked you out and you’re still paying, you don’t have a problem with women, you have a problem with A woman, specifically the one who decided to ask you out in the 21st Century and stick you with the tab.
“The movie Magic Mike promotes unreal expectations of how men should look.” Every minute of every day promotes unreal expectations of how women should look. There’s a reason plastic surgery is a multi-billion dollar industry and it’s not abdominal implants to give men six packs. Its breast augmentations, tummy tucks, liposuction to achieve that all important thigh gap, butt implants, collagen injections to plump the lips and cushion feet for high heels, Botox in the brows. Why do women pay so much to enhance their bodies? Certainly not for themselves, but because some (notice I did not say all) men have the bad habit of changing out their wives for a younger model. So who really has to deal with unreal body expectations?
“Why aren’t there more men in history?” I can only assume this person can’t read. I have no other explanation.
“What do you call a man under 6’? A friend.” “Where does a man whose 5’11” live? The friend zone.” No matter how many women say this, it never seems to sink in. Size doesn’t matter. Personality matters. If you have a wonderful personality that a woman connects with, she doesn’t care about your height. She doesn’t care about your weight. And surprise, surprise, most often, the size that matters most to men, really only matters to men. In general, when a man hears a woman has a great personality, he assumes she’s ugly. When a woman hears a man has a great personality, it’s exciting. The brain is the biggest sexual organ. Men, stimulate that and the rest will fall into place.
This gives me a lovely segue into another pet peeve, the friend zone. Because let’s call it what it is, an unrequited crush. Most likely that woman does not see you as a friend. She sees you as an annoying guy who keeps hitting on her and thinks he’s entitled to date her. Women are much more honest about this phenomenon, thanks to Sex and the City. We call it “he’s just not that into you.” So gents, news flash, every person in the world is allowed to have a certain “type” they are commonly attracted to. If you don’t fit that type, she’s just not that into you. Since time began, women have been conditioned by their mothers to be mindful of the fragile male ego. (It’s my opinion that if we stopped being so mindful of it, perhaps it wouldn’t be so fragile, but I digress.) Therefore, this woman is allowing you the chance to be her “friend.” But chances are good she doesn’t even really want that. It doesn’t matter how nice or wonderful you are, if she doesn’t like you, she doesn’t like you. Accept it and move on. It’s not a personal flaw on her part, so quit acting like she’s wronged you. Bow out gracefully and stalk less.
And then there are the unbelievable Meninists who loudly proclaim that “Men can get raped too.” This is a statement that can’t be argued with. However, it is misleading in the extreme. First of all, just because men can be raped does not diminish the horrendous effects of the crimes perpetrated on women. No one in their right mind will ever say “Jill was raped, but Joe was also raped and so that makes Jill’s rape not so bad.” At least one would hope that this never would happen but the world is full of horrible people and sadly we still can’t tattoo “Horrible Person” on their forehead so that the public at large is warned. And the glaring fact that omitted is that men are by and large statistically much more likely to be raped by other men. Nice try at giving females a black eye Meninists, but you just punched yourself in the face.
Men will never know what it is like to be a woman. From a young age you are taught to behave like a young lady. This means you don’t get to play rough and tumble, you shouldn’t get dirty, and you can’t play with boy’s action figures, even if they are cool. Instead you should practice in your fake kitchen and fake laundry, drudgery that you must get used to for you’ll be saddled with it for life. You should be smart in school, but not too smart, because everyone knows top grades go to boys. Athletics will make you dirty and smelly and are definitely not lady-like. When you mature, you must do everything you can to look absolutely stunning, but shun all attention from boys. Your entire self worth is tied to whether you are a virgin or not. And if you lose your virginity, you are damaged goods. From puberty on your feelings are constantly invalidated as merely an effect of hormones. You walk down the street and strangers feel entitled to make all sorts of comments at you. As you become an adult, you are most certainly not supposed to enjoy sex, but once you get married, you are supposed to have it frequently and if you don’t, your husband will leave you. If you don’t want to have kids, you are told you’ll change your mind. If you really don’t change your mind, people tell you how much you missed. If you try to establish a career first, people hassle you not to wait too long. And then once you do, everyone else knows how to raise your child but you. And any opportunities at work, no matter how hard fought for, should be met not with celebration that you succeeded, but with thanks that you were actually able to accomplish something. As a woman, your whole life is never good enough. And now we have to deal with men bitching about not having doors opened for them?
Feminism has gotten a bad rap. It had become associated with man haters. This simply isn’t true. Yes, you can bust out the Webster’s dictionary definition of Feminism. But here’s what it really boils down to. If men treated women they didn’t know like they treated men they didn’t know, we most likely wouldn’t have any of these problems. And the truth is all men should be ashamed of Meninists. Because unless they are wearing a shirt, which I hear has become very popular, women can’t tell who they are. These Meninists are disrespectful to women simply because we dare to exist. And since we can’t tell them apart, we are forced to treat all men as guilty until proven innocent. Are you a Meninist? I don’t know. So I will continue to walk around the corner with my police baton. Because until real men stand up and say that is someone’ daughter, sister, wife, mother and take back your good name, you will all suffer the Meninists shame.
By Nicole Cater
Lucy left all the comforts (both real and imagined) of Schaumburg behind when she split off Interstate 90 onto US Highway 20 outside of Cherry Valley. It wasn’t so much that she minded skirting Rockford, it was more the knowledge that she was traveling west. West in Illinois toward the Mississippi River. It was the last direction in which she wanted to head.
Her silver 2005 Honda CRV was crammed full. She was thankful that the car gods had smiled on her and given her SUV had a towing package. She had never needed to use it before. She had never thought about the tow hitch after the second month she bought the car and stuck a fancy heart cover into the hitch socket. Now the CRV and the U-Haul behind encompassed all she owned in the world. With rent so high in the Chicago suburbs, and her elementary teacher salary below average, she hadn’t had much extra to spend on frivolous items. Most of her money went toward her three bedroom apartment in the Legend Park complex in Schaumburg. She splurged on the extra room so her family could visit her and always have a place to stay. It was worth it to stay on the east side of the state, never returning west.
Besides, her apartment complex offered just about any amenity she could wish. Between the lush and immaculately kept grounds, the swimming pool, athletic center, sport courts and clubhouse, something was always happening. She had a ready-made social life. Not that she socialized all that much. Even her West Highland White Terrier, McTavish, was welcome and had his own pack of friends. And the complex was close to her school, Edwin Aldrin Elementary, just on the tip of Eagle Park. She was a highly respected sixth grade math teacher, covering both regular and accelerated programs. She was one of the faculties responsible for the STEM club and its high achievements. She was most definitely on the top of her game.
At eighteen, she had entered Chicago’s DePaul University, pursuing a teaching career with laser-like focus. For four years, she lived on campus, in various dorms, until she worked her way up to a single, where she wouldn’t be bothered by other students. She didn’t care that the students around her called her “the nun.” She worked in the library for extra money, and the rest of her time was spent studying for her major in Early Childhood Education and minor in Mathematics and Computer Sciences. She didn’t join any sororities or clubs. She rarely socialized, unless it was over a meal in the common cafeteria. As smart as Lucy was, she knew the other students thought her snobbish, aloof, elitist. In truth, she thought herself no better or worse than any of them. She just displayed a level of dedication that her fellow students couldn’t comprehend. It was almost as if she were on a military tactical mission: get in, complete the objective, get out. And it was how she lived her life. The payoff was walking across the stage, collecting her degree as the announcer called her name, her major and then added Summa Cum Laude. The principal at the school where she performed her student teaching deemed her smart, capable, deferential and quiet. At twenty-two, she had her pick of schools, and she chose Schaumburg.
But her years of self-enforced solitude had one unintended consequence, a drawback she never noticed. Lucy was bright, gifted even, and had an incredible work ethic. But all that was on the inside. On the outside, she was an average height of 5’6”. And that was where the average stopped. Her long wavy blond hair cascaded down the middle of her back like a cloud. She was an expert at pulling it back into a braid, bun or twist. But when it was loosened, it had a life of its own, and an unimaginable allure. Her high apple cheeks set off her overly-large deep blue eyes. Every aspect of her face was perfectly proportioned, from her button nose to her lips, just shy of plentiful. Lucy had no say in her genetics, she was beautiful. And when she smiled, which was not often, she was gorgeous, her whole face and eyes glowing with an interior fire that couldn’t be extinguished. Lucy abhorred makeup and wore just enough to look professional and presentable to her colleagues and the parents of the children at her school. She didn’t ask for her beauty, nor did she want it, so she wasn’t about to accentuate it. Similarly, she chose clothes that hid the willowy natural grace of her body. She wore oversize sweaters and blouses, long skirts and ballet flat shoes. Her disguise attempts were her one total failure. She continued to look exactly like whom she was; a beautiful woman desperate to hide that fact, even from herself.
Matthew Reynolds took one look at her his first day of orientation at Aldrin and saw Lucy for what she was. It was his first year as the new science teacher, and the reserved math teacher was assigned his tour guide and unofficial watchdog. He was immediately besotted. Lucy was not impressed.
At 6’2”, with his strong square jaw and sandy blond hair just a shade messy, he was quickly the talk of all the ladies in the teachers’ lounge. He fixed his chocolate brown eyes on whoever was speaking to him with such intensity, even some of the men felt they might melt. Matthew was a cross fit enthusiast and made sure that every outfit showed his hard labor. He wasn’t conceited or cocky, in fact most time he was quite earnest and sincere. But his good looks and amazing physique labeled him a jock, and he didn’t much care about arguing with the stereotype. He was also a man who knew what he wanted. And what he wanted, or who, was Lucy.
It took Lucy months to realize that Matt was flirting with her. When she did see what he was doing, she still had no clue of what to do about it. They spent most of that year locked in a tango, Matt flirting, Lucy barely responding. When she thought about it, if she thought about it at all, she had to admit she was attracted to the man. But she had spent the last 25 years avoiding situations such as this, and she was at an utter loss for how to proceed. She went to Sephora and got a makeover. Compared with her days of wearing a little mascara and powder, the bill seemed astronomical. But she went home and put the makeup on again and again until she could copy what the sales associate had done to her face in the store. She took another trip to Woodfield Mall and spent even more hard-earned money on clothing that was more tailored to her body, jackets, pant suits, and pencil skirts. She visited a Victoria’s Secret store for the first time in her life and learned about undergarments, especially bras that pushed her breasts up and gave the illusion of cleavage.
She came home and tried on all these outfits with McTavish as her attentive audience. He didn’t really approve, but he didn’t seem to judge either. She had allowed herself to splurge on a several pairs of shoes with kitten heels, and she practiced walking around the apartment. She didn’t trust herself on anything taller. And she didn’t want it to look like she was trying too hard. With new makeup, clothes and shoes, it would undoubtedly look like she was trying. But wobbling down the hall on three-inch heels was farther than she was willing to go. If only she paid attention when her college roommates had flirted their way into relationships, then maybe this wouldn’t be so hard. She had a split second when she contemplated calling her mother to ask for advice. But she knew the truth; that was a horrible idea. After flipping out for God knows how long over Lucy meeting a man, her flirting and dating advice would probably be sketchy at best. No, she would do this the way she had always done things; she would research, and then apply. It might not be a fool-proof plan, but it was how her brain worked, and she could do much worse, she thought.
Two weeks after her drastic wardrobe change, McTavish found his dinner bowl empty as Lucy went out on her first date with Matt, for a simple glass of wine. And although everything was going well, Lucy still felt too nervous and claimed her dog’s empty food dish as an excuse to leave. Matt showed up the next night at her apartment. Had she mentioned where she lived? The wine… she just didn’t remember. He had flowers for her, a dog bakery bone for McTavish and reservations at an Italian restaurant. Lucy, who hadn’t thought to actually buy any nice dresses while she was shopping, donned a blouse and skirt combo and hoped it looked formal enough next to his suit and tie. He looked so handsome in a suit.
After dinner, which was mediocre in her opinion, but with good conversation, Matt walked Lucy to her door. And then he kissed her. It was no small peck, but a full on kiss, she felt the tip of his tongue parting her lips and she was panic stricken for a moment. She remembered all the girls in sixth grade said this was French kissing and that all couples did it. Yet she was still not prepared that it was being done to her. She parted her lips and stuck the tip of her tongue out in a feeble attempt to match his actions. After a minute or so, he finally stopped. Matt looked dazed and smiled widely. Though still somewhat taken aback, she didn’t dare tell him that that was her first kiss. It didn’t seem the appropriate time to share the information. So Lucy just stood there, not knowing what to do next. Matt solved the issue by leaning back in and giving her a much more chaste kiss.
“I think we should save all this for the weekends, don’t you?” he said, smiling.
“I guess,” Lucy replied, still on uncertain ground.
“No,” Matt said, “don’t misunderstand. I would see you every second if I could. But school, the kids. I just think this should be private time, you and me. Don’t you?”
“Yes, definitely, that sounds like a great idea,” Lucy heard herself agreeing before she really understood if she wanted to agree or not.
“You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen,” another chaste kiss, and then Matt squeezed her hand and walked off to his car, leaving an increasingly bewildered Lucy standing at her door.
“Things are probably going to change,” she said to McTavish as she leaned against the door, now closed against the outside chill. McTavish cocked his head, as if she were explaining calculus and almost grasped it. Lucy smiled to herself; few things could make her smile like that little head cock. She went into her bedroom, shed her fancy clothes, and donned a double extra-large t-shirt from her alma mater. She booted up her computer and ordered a copy of The Joy of Sex. Lucy was always prepared.
But there are some things you can’t prepare for, no matter how hard you try, despite all the studying in the world. Lucy couldn’t prepare for Matt wanting to move so fast. She couldn’t prepare for his immature attitude when she forced him to slow down. When she did feel like finally moving forward, she was shocked at how little effort he seemed to put into lovemaking. Like the kiss, she didn’t tell him it was her first time. But she had read the book. She figured that sex was an even playing ground, some things for her, some for him. But Matt’s style was all for him. The joy the book talked about was nowhere to be found. Her disappointment must have been obvious, because he spent the next hour pouting, before he finally got dressed and left.
Lucy wasn’t exactly sad, she was more perplexed. Was that what everyone raved about? Surely she was missing something. She knew it would hurt at first, but then she expected it to feel spectacular. Instead, she just felt like she wanted it to be over. But it was all so new. Maybe all she needed was practice.
Several more dates of varying interest with Matt ended in her bedroom. And yet, she still felt the same as she had the first. Matt certainly seemed to be enjoying himself, but Lucy just lay there, not knowing what to do, waiting for it all to be over. And each time Matt would get angrier as if it was her fault. But she knew from the book that it was his. And their last night together, she tried to bring up the book, tried to talk about some of the things in it. It proved a disaster, as did the sex afterward. This time Matt didn’t even stay around to pout. He just quickly got dressed, told her there was something wrong with her, and left.
And the next day it happened. She walked into the teacher’s lounge and everyone fell silent. But not before she heard one word, “frigid.” She knew what this word meant. She also knew if others were saying it, then Matt was talking all about the things he swore were private between them. Surprisingly, the betrayal hurt worse than the label. She came home that night and scrubbed her face clean. The next day she was back at school in her baggy blouse, long skirt and minimal makeup. Matt wouldn’t talk to her, but he would snicker with the other male teachers when she was around. It’s all so useless, she thought to herself. I won’t let him do this to me. But he did, day after day. And soon the women on the faculty seemed in on the joke. And so, with two weeks left of the school year, she went into the Principal’s office and told him she wouldn’t be returning. He was sympathetic, but didn’t act too surprised. And on her lunch break, she rented a U-Haul trailer, one way, from Schaumburg to Galena, Illinois. She was going to go home.
Her family all lived in Galena and it was from them that she ran. She, being an only child, had much to prove, and she wouldn’t stop until she had accomplished her goals. But as she skirted Freeport and US Highway 20 became two lanes, she realized that all she was doing was running away from her problems. She hadn’t liked how her family thought she couldn’t be taken seriously, so she ran east. Now, with the disaster of a relationship still fresh, she ran west. She had been gone nearly eight years. Eight years of making her parents visit her in the suburbs, eight years of trying to forget how to spell Mississippi, eight years of growing and learning. She supposed her cousins grew and learned during the same eight years. But that was hard to think about, a mere smokescreen. She knew Alex was married and had two little girls of his own. He was taking over his parents’ bakery. Claire, who ran the bakery with him, was married too, and was expecting her own child. She wasn’t exactly sure what Danny did, but he was the same age as her. She couldn’t picture him without a high-school graduation cap and gown. And of course, there was Bethany. Bethany and her bookstore and God knew what else was going on in her life. These were her father’s family and they had always bewildered her. She didn’t want to go back to them. But she had nowhere else to go. So she drove west, past nothing towns, wondering what eight years had wrought on the family that she had known, but not quite loved.
By Nicole Cater
“Things are never as bad as they seem because you have to look beyond all the bad and see all of the good…” This quote is from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee said by Miss Maudie to comfort Jem during his distress over the trial.
“Never, never, never give up.” This is a popular misquote by Winston Churchill. The real quote is no less inspiring: “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.” Though succinct, the true, longer version urges one not merely to never give up, but to never compromise.
“That which grows fast, withers as rapidly. That which grows slowly endures,” by Josiah Gilbert Holland
“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” By Will Rogers
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be,” by Lao Tzu
“Live each day as if your life had just begun,” by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
“Every truth passes through three stages before it is recognized. In the first, it is ridiculed. In the second, it is opposed. In the third, it is regarded as self evident,” by Arthur Schopenhauer
“Either you run the day, or the day runs you,” by Jim Rohn
“Every morning we are born again. What we do today is what matter most,” by Gautama Buddha
“Life has two rules: #1 Never quit #2 Always remember rule #1,” by Anonymous
I didn’t set out to write a half page of quotes. To be honest, when I sit here in front of my screen, typing away at the keyboard, I only have the vaguest notion of what will come out. I started with the first quote because it seemed to speak so perfectly to what I intended to say. Perhaps you think the quotes may have gotten out of hand; but the truth is each quote truly represents how I feel. I almost added more. But I think I have the right number, the right amount, and the perfect lines that describe me for me.
Of course, all these positive quotes don’t come without an ulterior motive. Lately, my writing has been negative, sad, even a bit despairing. It has my friends and family worried about me. And with good reason. If you saw your daughter or best friend sharing with the entire world how alone she felt, how very bored she was, how the future seemed no brighter, you would worry too. And I won’t even bother denying the difficult time I’ve had. I was negative and could see nothing worth value in this move. Adjustment and acclimation were so hard for me as to almost be unbearable. I had never lived anywhere but Rock Island. Although only 55 miles away, I felt as if I moved to the moon.
Going through all this, there was no possible way for me to see any positives. I am an outgoing, social woman who loves to be around people and make friends. Despite my illnesses and the unfortunate need to cancel plans depending on my health, I like sharing time with friends. These are people I’ve known for anywhere from two to three decades. And even though I said it before, Clinton is not the moon. I can see my friends whenever I want. But I still miss them.
Making friends here is almost impossible. I usually make friends with the people with whom I work. But I have no job. My volunteer stint at the Human Society, which I was so proud of and excited for, lasted all of one day. Then I was sidelined by a wrist injury, pain, and lack of sleep. Maybe I’ll be able to go back, but not as I am now. It was when the coordinator asked me to set hours and be there for them that I realized it wasn’t going to work. This is the same reason jobs don’t work. When you live with a four on the pain scale on a good and productive day and your illnesses are erratic and unpredictable, you just can’t make plans. Commitments are saved for only the most serious of occasions, and on those days, I put on the mask, pretend I’m not sick, grit my teeth, and get through it.
Most people make friends outside of work based on what their children do, what activities they have in common, what sports team they share. Sky isn’t into sports. Or any other activities where I would get to meet other parents. There are volunteer opportunities at my church. These are much easier and consist of a couple hours one night a month. The people are friendly, but nowhere near my age. I know people my age go to church, I see them in the service. But they aren’t the ones who reach out, who make themselves available. It is the older generation that cares. Much like my grandmother taught my mother, and my mother taught me, these are people well versed in manners and class. And so I will take it, because talking to people twice my age is better than talking to no one at all.
But the truth is the adjustment period is starting to taper off. Some of it is receiving some housewarming gifts, small things for some people, but necessities for which we are grateful. Part of it is living my life with a schedule. Take Sky to school. Relax with a few cups of coffee and read a little. Wash dishes. Keep organizing all the miscellaneous stuff that hasn’t found a home. Sometimes do laundry. Pick Sky and Amaya up from school. Help with homework when needed. Make dinner and do the dishes again. Amidst it all, take Fredo out for his daily sunbath. And at night, that’s my time. I can write. I can play on the computer. I have a cup of decaf and unwind. I chat with friends who are far and not so far. Now Jeremy has signed us up for the YWCA and it’s a new prospect to add to my routine. Swimming, yoga, bike riding, several classes all waiting to be tried. It’s a new aspect to my routine that I’m looking forward to. Maybe I’ll meet some friends, but at least I’ll get out of the house.
Things are looking good. I feel like I’m able to be happy. After all, I’m with my boys; this is what I’ve dreamed of. And though I won’t be going back to folding paper, I’ve rediscovered my love of baking. The process gives me a Zen-like feeling, a calm I rarely get from any other activity. The act of measuring, mixing and decorating come together in the ultimate test of patience. And when you are in the zone, you make your art depending on what inspires you that day. Although I’m not a big baked goods fan, there is nothing better than seeing a loved one enjoy your creation… or surprising someone with a cake or pastries to brighten their day. That’s a warm fuzzy I treasure.
I moved to Clinton for love, with no hesitation whatsoever. But it wasn’t Clinton I loved and there was bound to be growing pains. And so we come full circle back to the quotes. The day can be disappointing. But only if I let it. And I think I’m done letting it. I will look beyond the bad. I will never give up; never give in, never compromise. I will grow slowly and endure and I will take the right track and keep walking, not daring to sit. I will unleash my potential and become what I might be, living as if the day has just begun. I will understand the truth as self evident, and I will run my day. I will be born anew every morning and make every day count. And I will remember the two rules that are most important to all of us: I will never quit, and I will remember not to. Because my life is a journey, an adventure. And even though it may be scary at times, I want to take the chance. If only to say this was my journey, and it was worth every minute.
By Nicole Cater
As everyone who has read The Gilded Cage knows, my life is boring. No, really, that’s an understatement; my life is abysmally, shockingly boring. So what is a bored girl to do but take up a hobby?
I am a master of hobbies. The phrase Jack of all trades, master of none was written for me exclusively. I like to read. A good book can kill hours of unwanted time. Sleep is a good option. You don’t even feel the time pass, and mercifully, I have been able to sleep lately… quite a bit, actually. There are Facebook games but somewhere around level 12 it gets hard and I just give up. If you’re wondering why I haven’t answered any of your gift requests, well there you go. I like word searches. I do mine with a highlighter. Circling a world in some haphazard way offends my sensibilities. And nail painting. Base coat, color, color, top coat, quick dry, remove and repeat.
But not too long ago I bought a significant portion of origami paper. I bought six packs, because why do anything half-assed? Go big or go home. And there they sat, because all I know of origami is how to turn a dollar bill into a Chinese hat, a tip that bartenders love. But I sat down with my stack of paper and got on the dream machine, other wise known as the Internet. How hard can folding paper be?
That shit is ridiculously hard! Google, normally my friend, turned up a million or so links to directions of what I assume to be the British invasion of Normandy. Mountain folds, valley folds, this is paper, yes? Hell with it, I’m going to be a pro. I selected a website that had pretty flowers. I accomplished two flowers, and only because there were three folds each and glue was involved. I invited Jeremy to participate in this madness with me. Bastard folded a shark right out of the gate. A shark! Someone is messing with my head.
This thing is, the flowers look like nice little accordion folds. Nope. After folding this way and that you start to wonder if you are building a flower or a new Gotham tower. My favorite is the water bomb fold. Somehow, you fold a triangle, and then you take the side of that triangle and put them INSIDE the regular triangle. Lord, sailors would blush.
I watched a video of a twisted rose. Basically I folded the paper every which way possible until it was a big circle, some of which were mountain folds, some valleys. Who needs paper roses anyway? Bunch of crap if you ask me. I could literally twist a piece of paper and I bet it would look exactly the same. Screw you YouTube.
I excelled at two things, the aforementioned three-fold glue flower and the crane. How can I make a crane and nothing else? This defies logic. I bet there’s someone with a fucked up twisty rose somewhere thinking “If only I could make a crane.” Well screw you buddy, because after the third time, I didn’t even need directions. Granted, my yellow crane was deemed a pterodactyl by Jeremy, but it’s got wings, it flies, and it counts.
So, basically this rant is, don’t do Origami. I don’t care how bored you are. Find a hedge to clip or something…because you will fail. It’s not easy. Videos lie. Like a rug. You can rewind and pause and still you get a crumpled piece of poo that you have to convince someone is a fucking daisy. Just say no. Origami is the devil’s hobby. It will suck you in. It will make you think you can succeed and you’ll just get one jacked up flower of varying size over and over. And oh, how the devil will laugh, “Got another one!”
By Nicole Cater
I’m 26 and all is right with the world. I just got married. I love my job at a local bank. I’ve grown from teller to lead teller, to receptionist to commercial loan assistant. I have a hand in making multi-million dollar deals happen and at the same time, making small time dreams come true for basic consumers. I’ve won a Service Person of the Year award. Well, co-won, the other winner was my best friend. No one in the company doubted we deserved it. I was an up and comer, a Jill of all trades. Any questions that needed to be answered, just ask Nicole. Eight years in, I knew this business and my place in like a well oiled machine. And that machine was about to get and upgrade. I was in training for Project Analysist, the step below Loan Officer. And I was doing all this, enjoying my honeymoon and putting myself through college. The one and only complaint I had was an ever present pain in my back that would sometimes hinder my movements, or shoot burning pains down my leg. I was in Physical Therapy for what was guessed to be arthritis, but it didn’t help much. I was out through so many blood tests, I felt like a pincushion.
And so it was just another ordinary day when I went to the doctor to get and update and a refill of the medication that was giving me an ulcer. Instead of those routine issues, lightning struck. I learned one of the many blood tests finally found something. It found HLA-B27 and antigen on chromosome 6 that courses your immune system to attack your spine, causing vast amounts of arthritis that can never be cured called Ankylosing Spondylitis. I grieved. I grieved for the life that would never be. I grieved for the person I was that I would never be again. I fell into deep depression.
Doctors, no knowing what to do, and lacking a Bi Polar Disorder diagnosis, put me on anti-depressants. They didn’t work. I snapped. I lost my job. I lost my husband. I lost my house. I even lost my dog. Another two jobs, another two freak outs. It turns out, lightning struck again. Not that it is ever pleasant. But this time I was prepared. There would be doctors. There would be pills. I would suffer and adjustment period. But I also knew I would survive. After all, the first strike didn’t kill me. Change the course of my life, absolutely. But I’m still her, still fighting. And for those here tonight who don’t know me personally, I fight, I survive, I thrive!
This is our new Wicked Short Stories page with submissions from various Authors. Please look for bio-snippets about the Author at the bottom of the various pieces. Enjoy!