I should have known – a study in anaphora

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anaphora: the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses to build emphasis.

I met him at a work party. He told me his name, and I didn’t believe him. Looking back I almost – but not quite – laugh at that…I should have known. But I gave him my phone number, and a kiss, and we met again the next night for a sloppy game of pool, and the night after that, and before I knew it I was making him the most important meal of the day in his basement bedroom most days out of the week.

He was charismatic, and sarcastically hilarious, and his slow moving, crooked smile would always precede a wise crack or a dirty joke. He was daring – driving his car with no insurance and always getting into fights with his room-mate over dish duty, and he would prank call me at work asking for climbing gear that didn’t exist, or pretending he was British – just to make me laugh. I was clumsy, and always covered in bruises from blowing a move at the climbing gym. We would joke about it in the movie store, and I’d sacrilegiously fake a quiver in my voice, asking him to next time please hit me where it didn’t show. ..I should have known.

He was hurting from a recently tragic relationship, but he told me that I made him forget her. He could listen to songs now and think of me instead. He showed me her myspace page once, and told me that I was a better lover than her…I should have known. He quoted ancient poets and compared me to slender trees and ballerinas. He loved me immediately and completely, and told me so. I don’t think I will ever feel so loved as I did those first months. We held hands as I paid his insurance bill so he could drive safe…I should have known.

He was against “institutions” – he didn’t have a bank account due to past indiscretions, and didn’t return his library books on time. Then, he was as punk as fuck, but I should have known.
His Kerouac heart decided that he needed to be in an open relationship, which meant he slept with a young woman from work. Feelings hurt, I asked “why her?” He told me she was cute and had big boobs. I was ok with it..he was just that free. I kissed a boy on a rooftop in Chicago, and we had a fight, and he decided that he was ready. He got drunk on Carlo Rossi that night and, puking into a five gallon pail, told me that when he was sober he wanted other girls, but when he was drunk he wanted Just Me. I should have known.

Summertime brought us Chicago. We lived in an overpriced, undersized studio on the top floor of a converted hospital with our cat named Soupcan. We didn’t have any money, but we went on long bike rides and had marathon sex and drank too much wine and listened to Beyonce with the windows open, and we were happy. Our relationship was passionate, and I saw that as good..I should have known. On Monday we were desperately in love and couldn’t stand to be apart, but by Wednesday I would be tired when I came home from work and we would have a colossal fight, ending in tears and wild making up. Now that we were living together, there was constant pressure to have “good sex”. He told me that his ex wasn’t adventurous, that she didn’t like morning sex. He was afraid of boring, so we role-played and teased each other and it was fun. But I should have known.

In the autumn, about 8 months into our relationship, the arguments turned violent. Holes in walls and curtains ripped from windows, I would sit on the bed and wait for him to calm down, so we could talk about it and he could apologize. He convinced me that I was the reason he was unhappy – in my birkenstocks and wool socks, I didn’t look like the DePaul sorority girls he would point out on the streets, I would argue with him about politics, pacifism, and vegetarianism..he didn’t like that. The fights were my fault too – I was often tired from working two jobs to pay for school, and he couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just let it go that he had slept with that woman without protection when we were not monogamous. He gave me an ultimatum one day – drop it or he would leave. I dropped it – I already didn’t know my life without him.

At first, the jealousy was flattering. Early on, he told me that he loved me so much he just didn’t want to share me with anyone, and he was afraid that his love would cause him to lose control. I was thrilled that someone could think so highly of me, but I should have known. He would call and check in on me when I was out with friends, telling me he missed me and to hurry home to him. If I didn’t answer the phone, he’d keep calling until I did, telling me he was worried I was lost on the El. One night, my phone battery died. When I got home, he was in a rage, accusing me of being with another guy, and throwing things, and crying. He told me that he would kill himself if I ever cheated on him, or deserted him. That night in bed, he begged me to humiliate him. I didn’t want to, but I wanted to make it up to him, and I wanted him to be happy. I should have known.

When the proposal came, I was so excited to see him happy and planning for our future that I said gladly yes. Later that day, Christmas, he grabbed me and asked, “Who does this pussy belong to now?” I should have known. The ring – a handmade swirl of silver with a jade stone – became a a bargaining tool. He would get furious, call off the wedding, take the ring back. The fights got worse when I stopped trying to make up with him. He would break things, enraged that I was not fighting to keep us together. I was afraid of him, but I was more afraid of me without him. I told myself that if he ever touched me, then I’d leave.

Time passed, but our problems didn’t. The holidays found us living in a cabin in Montana. I was trapped by the blizzards and, increasingly, by him. None of my friends were good enough for me and he was jealous of everyone – he had started telling me that my family was crazy, and they were trying to change me. He started telling me that everyone – my manager at work, my friend Joel, our room-mates – were all out to get me, and he wanted to protect me. He told me that the reason for our now daily fights was me. He blamed my birth control for my moodiness, so I switched birth control. Too depressed to work from a business venture gone wrong, he stayed home and watched hours of daytime TV and I would come home from working a double to cook him thankless spaghetti. One night I had the stomach flu and not in the mood to play degrading sex games with him, and he lay in bed next to me and watched porn. Then, finally, I knew.

But I didn’t know how to leave. We were in significant debt from his attempts to find happiness in things – a truck, a flat screen TV, a Mac Book, kayaks, and I had no means of escape. The day I told him to leave, he took my car and I had to walk for hours to get away. I still, strangely, madly, loved him, and I didn’t want to hurt him, and so he persisted in coming by the house, and finding excuses. My manager at the bookstore banned him, telling him he’d call the police if he came in again. Finally, he convinced me to sit in my car on my lunch break and talk it out. He tried to force the ring back on my finger. I refused to compromise, and he punched a dent in my dashboard, screaming that he hoped I got raped. I moved to a house across town, and he found where I was staying.

Five years, changed phone numbers, blocked emails, and threats of restraining orders later, I am free. It has only been in the past few years that I have been able to admit to myself and to others that I was in an abusive relationship.

As a proud member of a radical community of strong women, it was unbelievably difficult to first speak out about how emotional and verbal abuse has been a part of my life. Left feeling exposed and vulnerable, and even ashamed, I was amazed at the women – women who I had assumed would never allow themselves to be put into a similar situation, who could commiserate with my experiences. And thus my story becomes our story.

As sisters, daughters, aunts, mothers, lovers, and comrades, we need to set each other free from the culture of shame and fear that surrounds domestic abuse. We talk about periods, about our best orgasms, our insecurities about the size of our breasts, we share our birth stories – but we can’t talk about how we don’t feel respected and supported by our partners? Unacceptable. We need to create space in our relationships and interactions where it is ok to speak out about how our partner is sexually demeaning to us, or we don’t feel safe, or valued. A space where there is no more “I should have known”, because we all know.

Being a victim of domestic abuse does not make us less powerful unless we allow it to. I am a survivor, and, in speaking out, have gained a strength that is greater than anything I could have imagined had I kept silent. The stigma has been stripped away, and there is nothing but love here.

New Years Resolutions? Check and check.

I’m sure you noticed, lovely readers, the distinct lack of the obligatory “New Years Resolutions” blog on OverBaked and UnderGround or (OBUG, as I am wont to refer to this fine publication). Is it possible, you may wonder, that a driven young woman such as myself really did not resolve to better herself at all in 2014? Perhaps, you might contemplate, it is because she is not sure she will be able to follow through on resolutions (you may have caught wind of my resolution of 2013 – to wear less jeans and more classy pants and how by mid-may I was back to schlepping around in that cursed denim leg wear once again). Not true, not true. I did, actually, have resolutions…two in fact.

As of today, I have officially achieved both of those promises to myself. Firstly, I have found The Best Bottle of Gin. It is called Junipero, and when I sip it, it tastes like I am licking a juniper tree. Paired with high mountain snow, a bit of tonic water, a hunk of lemon sawed off by a buck knife, and a smoke-filled winter cabin, one is taken back to the days of yore, when ice was a novelty, and gin was known as Mother’s Ruin. I plan on quality controlling several more bottles over the year, just to make sure I didn’t get a particularly good bottle..consistency is one of the talking points of a fine gin.

On to my second goal. I resolved to defrost the freezer. Having given myself a full 365 days to accomplish this, you all aught to be impressed that it only took me 36. My freezer as of late has been resembling a glacial ice cave. At the initial defrosting which began at approximately 10:!5 this morning, the only items that would fit alongside the stalactites and stalagmites were a bag of “Velvet Hammer” coffee (yes, it tastes as sultry as it sounds), a trio of Gelato, a block of pork fat, several obligatory frozen bananas because some day we all intend to make banana bread of out of old bananas, and, ironically, several ice cube trays. After reading several blindly optimistic DIY blogs, I gathered the necessary accouterments – a pan of boiling water and a few rags – and plunged into the great unknown.

The concept was straightforward. Empty freezer, turn it off, pour boiling water into pan, place pan in freezer, shut freezer door, wait and let the “magic of steam” do it’s work. This is where things began to stray from what PerkyPennyPincher312 had brightly promised would be a “double quick task”…what followed was a 5 hour test of faith, will-power, and stamina involving phone calls home for support, frostbitten phalanges, Junipero Gin, and a new found resolve to never defrost my freezer again. I am still shaken and chilled, but have composed myself enough to clear up a few things that perky penny pinchers may not have been clear about..

1) Instead of a few rags, plan on using every absorbent piece of fabric you have in your house. Melting ice turns into lots and lots of water..I wish I had tried harder in science class..

2) When spelunking in ice caves, don’t use a glass dish to pour boiling water into. Apparently when very hot water connects with very cold glass, dangerous things happen and you may end up cleaning up shards of glass along with icicles. Again..science class..

3) When storing frozen items for safe keeping, it is advised to NOT take advantage of the subzero temperatures outside and store the goods on the veranda. Crows don’t hibernate, and they really really enjoy pork fat and “Velvet Hammer Coffee”.

Now that that’s over, my new years resolution for 2015 will be to actually make damn banana bread.

As Laura Ingalls Wilder penned, “All’s Well that Ends Well”, and this day is ending well with a gin hot toddy.

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The Hot Gin Toddy

serves 1
1 teaspoon honey
5 whole cloves
1 whole anise star
1 whole cardamom pod
1 1/2 oz London dry gin (I used Broker’s)
1/2 cup boiling water
Slice of orange

Add honey and spices to the bottom of a heat-proof snifter or mug. Pour in the water, add the gin, and squeeze the orange and drop it into the glass. Stir until the honey is melted.

Greetings from the land down under

and by down under I am referring to the fact that I am currently down under two blankets and some patagonia fleece pants and am still quite chilly.  Welcome to winter, we’re glad you’re here.   

I’ve missed you, faithful followers.  It has been nigh on 2 months since I’ve penned a blog post, and that makes me feel like I’m being neglectful.  I’d like to say many swashbuckling adventures on the high seas have happened in my life since you’ve last heard from me, but my experiences of the past weeks can be summed up in one long, somewhat run-on sentence.  ”Emily wrote a 25 page paper, longed to wander in the mountains, served hundreds of over-easy eggs to a similar number of churlish, scrambled customers, ate some excellent polenta, was very cold, and then broke her teeth off.” With such an exciting, fast-paced life these days, its so important to find joy in the small things, like the fact I have a 98% in my first ever graduate class (once a nerd, always a nerd, I’ve heard tell), and the way I used churlish a minute ago, and the way I took this panoramic picture of The Roost, as I have taken to calling my house, and it looks topsy turvy. 

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When it comes down to it, life is what you make of it.  Perhaps I will leave you with a new twist on my life of the past two months, “Emily wrote the beginnings of a novel, used it as an excuse to not brush her hair, daydreamed of future backpacking trips while serving organic, local eggs to lucky customers, ate some excellent polenta, and celebrated autumn by falling.”  As a wise, red-haired man once said, “If life gives you a dilemma, you make dilemmonade.” I tried to make the dilemmonade regarding my teeth a little sweeter by requesting a gap between my two front incisors when they were patched up, but the dentist politely refused..

Goals for September

Having seen some serious life-changing accomplishments in August come to fruition, including finally convincing Craig to let me drive his 1965 (1964 & 1/2, if you ask him), Mustang named Sally, going to live theatre in Bozeman to see Mark Twain’s recently discovered opus Is He Dead Yet, buying my first pair of truly grown-up, fancy, shoes, and getting accepted to graduate school (in no particular order of importance), the dawn of September; ie, The Birthday Month, has me tingling with anticipation.  I have set a few goals for myself to keep me grounded and focused as I start out my career as a graduate student.  I expect to have this list checked off by the time the 31st rolls around. 

eat lobster.  It’s true, a woman born in Maine, the Land of the Crustacean, has never consumed one of those bad boys.  The main reason I am so insistent on checking this off my list of to-be-dones is due to the vast amount of butter I will be imbibing in with its succulent flesh.
turn 29. It may seem like a gimme, since whether I want to or not, on September 10th at exactly 4:09 in the afternoon, I will be turning over a new page in the calendar of my life.  However, there were times in my life when I was never quite sure I would make it to Almost 30, so I plan on checking this one off in style. 
get a pedicure. I’ve never been one to give into peer pressure, but somehow, for better or worse, I will be getting the second pedicure of my life next Tuesday, accompanied by drinks at Plonk, and my dear might-as-well-be-sister-in-law.  I am a bit hesitant to accept the challenge of this goal, since my last pedicure was right before I hiked the Grand Canyon, and my newly de-calloused, nubile, pink-toed feet were ill-prepared and are still upset about the massive amounts of blisters and pain that followed. 
start Grad School – it does not bode well for my future that I was extremely relieved to not be starting this last Monday when all the underlings (undergraduates) did.  However, I have taken this last week of freedom to reflect and set up my printer, and I feel like I am now both physically and emotionally ready to rumble.  I already have my first day of school outfit selected, and my path to my first class passes an apple tree, so I will come bearing fruit for my teacher.
Have a wine and cheese party. Tis the season for mulled wine! With my new pedicure, and a hearty supply of clove and orange, I am sure to throw a successful Autumn soiree. Details soon, you’ll probably be invited!
Fall housecleaning – it’s important to have clean floors and bedding, since I’ve got this new pedicure to maintain. 
Enjoy Autumn – last but not least, I plan to thoroughly revel in the changing of the seasons.  I’ve started out strong, with a drive through Gallatin Canyon with my darling and some apple cider.  This morning, I took a walk through a morning so crisp you could practically hear the bacon frying and found so many beautiful maple leaves, which will soon be trampled into my new carpet, but for now are displayed autumnly on my window sill.
forgive my vagabond puppy for eating 2 pairs of shoes and my $150 splint – Aaron says that Moose eats all my sweet stuff, including an entire vintage leather suitcase and any amount of nutritional yeast that I buy, because she loves me, but its small consolation.  This one will be a challenge, I’ll let you know how it goes.  

Thanks for reading, I expect you all to hold me accountable in completing this list. 

p.s. On a more existential note, aspen trees are my favorite tree, not only because of the amazing color change, but because they are so much more than a beautiful tree.  A grove of Aspen is actually one single living organism, having the same root system.  I have heard a grove of aspen compared to a community;  each tree appears to be a separate entity, but they all live as one and nurture each other.  I always mull that over   when thinking about my role in my community.  It’s sometimes easier to feel like I am an island; unaffected by and likewise unaffecting what is going on in my community around me.  But it’s so not true! It’s said that it takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to raise a village.  We all need to work together, to nurture each other and support each other, because damn it, if one aspen tree dies we are all affected because there is less oxygen for us all.  Or something like that.  Hey, just be nice to each other and help each other out, ok? Which brings me to my last goal.

Find somewhere amazing to volunteer.  We all have to do our part to make the world a happier, more beautiful place, and I don’t need to get paid to do it.  If there was a non-profit that took kids out to stomp around in the leaves, that would be ideal, but I’ll take anything working with kids. 

 

That woman in the mirror

     I dream of swimming with the goldfish in mango sweetened waters, citrus blasting in marmalade cascades out of a pumpkiny spout. My present bathroom is arctic white; an igloo sized five foot by six foot room, with polar bears lurking under the sink and penguins nesting in the shower.   I’ve tried to warm it up; a curtain blooming with peonies sprouts from the shower rod, and a carefully placed piece of stained glass cuts the light shining into the bathtub into a summertime fruit salad, but the pristine porcelain still avalanches out into the hall.  Currently, my bathroom bleats like an Easter lamb.  I want it to roar like a tiger. I want to paint it tangerine orange. Orange combines the energy of red and the happiness of yellow. Orange represents enthusiasm, fascination, happiness, creativity, determination, attraction, success, encouragement, and stimulation.  All these emotions fit neatly into my bathroom, folded next to the clean linens, crumpled up with the dirty socks after a long day waiting tables, floating peacefully around me during my sacred Sunday night baths. 
    My first bathroom was a long narrow room with the toilet at the far end, a little green curtain on the frosted glass window, and a lock on the door; a haven of privacy.  I was the first of 8 girls, shared a bedroom with 2 sisters, and my hairbrush with no one.  My multitude of siblings and I were used to having community possessions; all my clothes were handed down to my younger sisters, we shared books, friends, classes, bikes, and even boys we liked.  But we did not have to share toiletries.   There was a staircase of drawers in that bathroom, one for each sister, cascading with headbands, hair ties, nail polish, Teen Spirit, combs, brushes, acne cream. I had the top drawer; a privilege granted to me being the eldest, and I was the first to tuck a little box of tampons and a razor in the back, afraid of being caught in the act of growing up.  It took me a month to work up the courage to shave those first curly armpit hairs.  It was in this bathroom that my mom gave a tutorial on how to change a sanitary pad to three blushing girls, but she kept the industrial sized box in her bathroom, a large double-sinked wonder with a huge tub.  I remember well the walk of shame down the long hallway toward that box of hygienic paper product; the fact that there was only one time of the month a Harris girl used that bathroom became a running joke in the family.  And I continued to seek solitude in my bathroom, learning how to cut my bangs much too short, plucking those stubborn hairs between my eyebrows that just wouldn’t stay away, obsessively brushing and flossing my brace-laden teeth.  The lock on that door got a lot of use in the 5 years that I was a teenager, and those soft blue walls comforted me during the butchering my legs with that cheap razor that I lifted from my mom’s bathroom.   
    Off I went to college where shared a dormitory bathroom with 20 girls who were not my sisters.  The floor was concrete, the shower curtains offered no privacy and a little mildew, and the sinks were often full of rainbows of hair.  In this dungeon I learned to sleep curled around a toilet, writhing with too much boxed wine, and I realized that lots of women had small breasts and knobby knees. I grew comfortable walking around with only my hair wrapped in a towel.  I never got better at shaving my legs, and grew to love the way the now soft, long hairs blew in the air of the old radiators that lined the walls, strung with damp bras and drying t-shirts.   Those brick walls and beige bathroom stalls were hung with posters that taught me about chlamydia, and student government, and vegetarians.
     I found myself in Chicago, living in a studio with Lauren, and we barbequed out of the bathtub one evening, for lack of a backyard, and the once white walls were stained with smoke.  Lauren was still writing Bible verses on little slips of paper and tucking them into that vanity mirror for me to read while applying lipstick in the morning.  John 3:16, Evening Plum, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, Hot Tahiti, resist the Devil, and he will flee from thee, RazzleDazzler, Psalms 27:1.   A year later, when I was moving out with my first real boyfriend, we painted over those swirls of soot and talked about everything I had got away and Lauren had put up with in that apartment; the cat, boys coming and leaving, dance parties, and the indoor smoking.  
     And then the basement bathroom happened.  I tried to make it pretty, but the sheetrock walls and the dented washer and dryer were as hard to overlook as the holes that the man I was in love with had punched out during our frequent fights. Every month brought a pregnancy test, I was sure that this man I was terrified of had gotten me pregnant. Finally, I patched the walls, and packed my bags. 
     Now I am living with this bathroom that should be orange but is white.   Orange is the color of joy, sunshine, and warmth.  It is the color of a cool bath and Eva Cassidy on a hot summer day, it is the color of my boyfriend’s hair, it is the color of my coppery dog, it is the color of happiness with who I am and where I am. 
     And so I stand in front of my toothpaste speckled mirror, surrounded by a halo of bleached fluorescence.  I tuck a paint sample under the cracked corner of that glass that has seen squeezed zits, experimental electric blue eyeshadow, the first smile lines, awful hairstyle choices, various men brushing their teeth, that perfect shade of matte lipstick. Orange Burst.  Tahitan Sunset. Dreamsicle. 

trailer treasure

Continuing the chain of changes in my vida dulce, our little camper, Rosinante (inspired by the oh so wonderful John Steinbeck and the oh so brave Don Quixote) has been sold for $200 to the highest bidder, a feisty republican named John, possibly a relation of the man the camper was inspired by, as he also had a large poodle and a way with words.   That camper may have been tiny, but I figured out the reason it weighed so much; not because it was old as shit and made out of plywood, but because it was weighted down with all the memories of the 6 months my darling, myself, and two dogs lived as nomads/squatters in the wilds of the southwest. 

So much nostalgia is coursing through my veins as I type this Ode to a Camper.  It was love from the moment we moved in; on that fateful day I met my destiny with a broken pyrex dish and had to be driven down to Phoenix with a severed artery, sliced nerves, no tendon in my left hand intact, and all our worldly possessions rattling around behind us in our new home.  The memory of living in that little icebox through a high desert winter with 6 blankets on the bed, a transformer cast and oven mitt on my crippled hand and the propane heater pumping out so much carbon dioxide and hardly any heat will always warm the cockles of my soul.  We’ve been through so much together, so many washboard roads, so many hot springs, so many states, so many illicit transports under false floors of guns whose legality may or may not be in question in certain states, and that camper stayed almost in one piece almost the entire time.

That’ll do pig, that’ll do. 

 

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to bang or not to bang…

that is the question.
Whether tis nobler for the forehead to suffer
The glare of the sun on its mirrored sheen
or to be confined beneath a sea of troubles
and suffer the torture of early morning brushings.
To snip, to grow-
o, that lunatic fringe.

Every time I quote that famous bard, my sophomore year of college, back in ought 8, comes to mind.  It was a bright sunny day when I came up with the cunning plan to get both of my required Shakespeare courses out of the way in one semester, under the (oh, so false) pretense that at least some of the plays studied in the two courses might overlap.  3 torrid months later, I had read 8 Shakespearean epics and everything was so convoluted by the time finals rolled around I ended up thinking Hamlet was a small pig, and his soliloquy was referring to his curly tail.    

All that Shakespearean prowess is going to come in real handy once I start my next endeavor/adventure.   I am going to be returning to school in the fall to quest after my Masters in Education with licensure to teach secondary English.  Nervous, excited, already know what I’m going wear on my first day of school!  Its been a whirlwind of activity, getting all of the mountains and valleys of paperwork turned in.  Now that I’ve been accepted, there’s a whole new mountain range of forms for me to tackle, hopefully I’ll descend from the Alps by next weekend.

In my further endeavors to be a grown-up, Aaron and I have found an abode to rent.  No more slumming it in the woods, or in campers in friends yards, for these two wanderers, at least for the next two years.  Tomorrow, we sign the lease on a sweet little studio loft with views of the Bridgers and Tobacco Roots, access to the creek, endless gardening possibilities, and within biking distance of everything important in town (the Co-op and the Haufbrau).  I’m surprisingly alright with being settled for this next chapter, but I’m going to have to pick up smoking, since the front porch is perfect for it.   More nervousness and excitement, since we haven’t had to pay rent in 6 months, but I am so stoked to have a little space to decorate, and not have my clothes stored in a box under our kitchen table, which is a bed half the time.

In other news, the Biggest Puppy in the World has consumed two 16 oz. containers of nutritional yeast and a bottle of wine in the past few weeks.   That girl knows how to party.

I leave you with this amazingly glutenous picture.  The simplest things are always the most beautiful.

 

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