Thursday, August 25, 2016

helen died.

she's been gone for a whole week and i still listen for her. grumbling while hauling her bulk up the stairs, panting in the dark next to the bed in an attempt to get me up and into the kitchen to put seven diet kibbles in her bowl, mocking me under her breath as i attempt to make vegan posole ("what is the point of living if that's what you're eating to stay alive"), the sawing of the nail file as she shapes her claws into tiny razors.

when i sent helen to test out michigan prior to my arrival i didn't miss her even a little bit. finally, i could luxuriate in informercial jeans with an elastic waistband without fear of judgment from the fetid hellspawn grooming her privates atop my pillow! i wouldn't have to lock myself in the bathroom to enjoy a six packs of beers and slab of ribs that i'd otherwise have to guard with my life as she plotted a way to take them from me! WHAT BLISS. i got a picture every few days of her in her new home doing something awful (glaring at a bird, hissing at some actor on television, breathing) and smile thinking about how i no longer risked waking up to her tiny paws desperately gripping my throat.

ken's neighbor found her when she was only a few weeks old, a slimy and disgusting ball of hair and worms that was barely clinging to life, and i hated her guts from the minute i laid eyes on her. she hissed at me when she was still too young to open her eyes, sank her little needle fangs into my jugular (in a vain attempt to kill me) before she even had the motor skills to walk across the cage. i only took her home because i never thought she'd make it a week, let alone last long enough to have a significant impact on my finances and serenity, and i'm pretty confident she only grudgingly packed her suitcase and came with me because she overheard me talking about how often i order chinese food. neither of us planned for this to be much more than a one night stand. she had a chronic, incurable upper respiratory infection and the personality of old shoes, but she was funny and refused to die and i respected her tenacity. plus i couldn't euthanize her without all the bitches at my job judging me. that jerk ended up puking and sneezing all over my shit for almost nine years.

it feels weird writing about my little dead homie after sitting at the emergency vet in the wee hours of last wednesday morning, alone and rolling my crying eyes at the unqualified mansplainer in the waiting room yelling at a helpless receptionist about phenobarbital, trying to decide whether or not having the techs make a paw print would humiliate her in the afterlife. so instead of confronting my vulnerable feelings about grief and loss head on and unpacking them in an unhealthy way without a therapist, i instead found a template for a eulogy on the internet and madlibbed our info into it in the hopes it conveys how deeply sad i am. about an awful cat who mostly hated me.

we are gathered today to remember the life of the worst cat on the planet. my beloved companion animal friend, helen keller, was a marginally sufficient substitute for romantic human love for many years. she was mostly loved by me, her owner + daily tormentor; many strangers on the internet; and approximately 137 homeless feline siblings born near o'hare airport before her mother was eventually caught and spayed and rendered unable to continue filling the streets with her demonic progeny.

although she came from simple beginnings, helen worked her way through my nerves and had a long, successful career stealing chicken wings off my plate and trying to escape my apartment with various maintenance men and food delivery drivers. hard work and determination characterized this dreadful and hate-filled piece of actual garbage.

she was born to a flea-ridden stray gray tabby and [father unknown] in an abandoned garage in chicago. it was a shitty, overcast day (probably?) in september 2009. a neighborhood girl recorded in her diary that all of their relatives and neighbors from the surrounding sensible bungalows and single family ranch-style homes had gathered to greet the baby hellion. perhaps as her father and mother looked over the first sproutlings and blossoms of springtime, they were reminded of the life and growth awaiting their new nightmare with teeth.

her childhood is best described as both humble and wondrous: while her adopted mother got by on what meager money i made from being continuously belittled in a grueling customer service job every day, young helen ripped holes in the bed linens and vomited in my shoes. an avid malcontent, i helped the young albatross i'd been saddled with learn the hard work and dedication it takes to be an unrelenting asshole. the time we spent in mutual dislike for one another cultivated a love for mindless emotional eating and antisocial indoor activities that would stay with helen for her entire life.

at the time of the tragic neurological episode that took her life, helen was a sickly, angry 56 in cat years old. unlike many cats her age, who are sweet and smart or cuddly and adorable, helen was awful and judgmental and not worth the expensive-ass pine litter i had to buy for her. throughout her life she cherished two major things: her filtered water pitcher and the burn book in which we documented the various transgressions mounted against us by our enemies.

i loved helen as much as is healthy for a 36 year old woman with no children and will miss her kind of a lot but hopefully not so much that it creeps anyone out. helen's lifetime of excessive flatulence and pointed disdain for decency and manners serve as a monument to the exemplary cat she was. her lack of humility, integrity, and hard work continue to inspire those who knew her.

i worked with animals long enough to know what a relief it can be when a sick pet dies. shuffle off this mortal coil and take the antibiotics you bit me 137 times while administering them to your ungrateful ass with you. everyone's being really nice to me and trust me, i am definitely trying to milk as much goodwill as i possibly can out of my friends, but i also found a pair of tom ford frames that old girl had dragged to the crawlspace she liked to plot crimes in and had obviously been chewing on prior to her demise, and you're cool and everything helen but not designer eyewear cool. and now i can finally cop some new furniture without having to seriously contemplate what color couch will hide dagger marks and best coordinate with "blood-tinged cat mucus." but who even cares about any of that if helen isn't around to physically attack me for deigning to sit on it. or to growl menacingly at shadows. or to eat the carcass of a spoiled honeybaked ham that I WAS PLANNING ON EATING, YOU SAVAGE. man, i'm gonna miss her. pour some gravy out for the hardest bitch to ever do it.

Friday, August 12, 2016

yep, i still hate weather.

i moved last weekend. out of my dangerous neighborhood, out of my slightly below average quality crib, out of the state of my birth. i am a central time zone girl to my core: i like my potatoes with meat, my winters ominous and tundra-like, and my late local news promptly at 10pm. other than a brief and unsuccessful attempt at college in the late 90s, i have never lived anywhere other than the city of chicago and the bracketed suburbs to its north. not only that, but until last saturday i lived in the same apartment since 2005. TWO THOUSAND FIVE, MY DUDE. george w. bush was still smirking uncomfortably through his second term, michael jackson was still alive and moonwalking, and i was still making actual phone calls on a knockoff razr homeboy at radio shack swore looked just like the real thing. i was 25 years old the day i wheeled that granny cart filled with books over the freshly-installed threshold. i knew it was home depot fresh because when she showed the place to me the landlord let it slip that the previous tenant had died in there surrounded by half a dozen cats. as we stepped over window fixtures and ripped up teal kitchen tiles circa 1973, she told me to "use my imagination" but i was like "i don't give a shit what the backsplash is made of or who got murdered in here, the rent is five hundred eighty-what now!?"

i'd had lots of apartments prior to it but this was my first real live grownup crib. no terrifying craigslist roommate, no ill-advised spare closet with a bed shoved in it in some shady boarding house, no living out of a backpack while sleeping in my high school friends' old bedrooms: HAND ME MY CHECKBOOK, I AM PURCHASING WINDOW TREATMENTS. i got all the shit an adult-type person needs to have in their crib so they never have to leave it: a toaster that can hold four (four!!!) slices of bread, lightning-speed internet and cable television with premium channels, toilet paper that won't leave microscopic cuts all over your asshole every time you use it. i loved my place. and it didn't matter that i rarely invited anyone in to see all of the things i wasted money on at cb2, it was still dope. and i never had to worry about things like "grout" or "energy efficient appliances."


i was thinking that mavis and i could maybe pioneer a new type of marriage situation some relationship expert would eventually dissect in the new yorker, the kind of marriage where she could continue to hang laundry on a line and churn her own butter in rural michigan while i spent the days counting down to my early death in my dark, refrigerated apartment in chicago scowling out of my peep hole at my neighbors who made too much noise getting their groceries off the elevator. she could keep withering under the blazing sun while picking her own blueberries to make jam and knitting socks to sell at the christmas bazaar while i ordered $17 cocktails at rooftop bars waited four hour for a table at fat rice, and we'd meet up occasionally to talk about married stuff (uh, property taxes? which big box retailer has the best deal on economy-sized containers of soup!?) and pretend we're still interested in having sex. sounds like a dream, right. but oh no fam, apparently marriage involves a little thing called compromise, a concept of which i'd been previously unaware, which for her meant having to wake up to a framed photo of ice cube on her bedroom wall but for me meant GIVING UP EVERYTHING I EVER LOVED.

i've spent such a long time living my old life that instead of being excited at the prospect of this new one i'm almost paralyzed with fear. i've lived in the same hood for twenty years and worked at the same job for fifteen. WHO AM I EVEN WITHOUT THESE HALLMARKS. i have a very limited set of life skills:
-working in one specific dog hospital.
-navigating the best side streets to get home from work in under 7 minutes.
-somehow always having clean underwear in a building that has 60 units and only 3 washing machines.

-maximizing the free drink wristband.
-ignoring panhandlers on the train without getting murdered.
-spotting a com ed disconnect notice with one eye closed from the back of the envelope.

-knowing when to go to big star if i actually want a seat.
-stretching the last of the dish soap because i keep forgetting to buy more.
-tricking racist cab drivers into picking my black ass up.
-turning a box of triscuits and some margarine into "dinner."

how is any of that going to translate to living in a place that has: roving deer who will just walk right into your yard but doesn't have: streetlights!? i get nervous being places that are too dark. remember last time i let this hoe coax me out into the wilderness for her amusement? the time i drove a rented minivan with new mexico plates into the woods on unpaved roads and my gps was like LOL YEAH RIGHT BITCH and i almost hit a cow!? this is kind of like that, except i live here now. gas is 37 cents a gallon. you can buy shoes at the grocery store. the farmers market is full of actual farmers instead of bearded hipsters in distressed flannel bloviating at you about peak asparagus season. i am living in a literal nightmare.

a week ago i was on the front lawn trying to estimate whether or not i would survive the fall (i hope not) if i jumped off the roof and a man walking his dog actually stopped to talk to me. i was flabbergasted. i just stood there, mute, staring at his mouth and wondering what the fuck was going on. he encouraged me to touch the dog (LOL SORRY CHLOE BUT NAH) and attempted some pleasant conversation about the weather (hot, muggy, unremarkable) before extending his hand and welcoming me to the neighborhood. WHAT. WHY. how did he know i was new? could he smell the lingering stench of unreliable public transportation on me? could he see in my eyes that i couldn't really tell the difference between a cucumber and a zucchini without cutting it open? did he register my smooth, uncalloused hands and instinctively know i had never driven a tractor!? what kind of sorcery is this? HOW DID THIS RETIRED MIDDLE SCHOOL PRINCIPAL KNOW MY SECRETS.


you know what i miss most about chicago!? overpriced appetizers? yes. the african scented oil dude at the morse train station? double yes. being able to get practically anything delivered on any day at any time by someone muscular and attractive!? yes yes a thousand times yes! but what i miss most is the anonymity. sure the barista at starbucks knew to get my black iced tea started the minute i hit the line, but he never got weird about it. we didn't have to, like, talk about it. i was at the doctor and this woman asked me to remove my headphones to ask what i was listening to (why not inquire about the state of my bloodwork since we're being sociable), so i told her. which prompted a follow up question about who beach house is and what kind of music they make and how many albums they have and how did i hear about them and yo i really want to blow your mind ma'am but i'm just here trying to get a pap smear and brood to some moody jams.

i hate nature. birds are terrifying flying rats and the sun will fry you and give you cancer and large bodies of water are made up of mostly garbage and human excrement. THIS IS WHY I AM AN INSIDE PERSON. everything here is dangerous and/or irritating: mosquitos the size of a fist biting me through my sweater (i will never change) and leaving itchy egg-sized welts in their wake; loud-ass frogs in our backyard pond with their deafening croaks all goddamned night; bats hysterically flapping their leathery wings while trapped in the woodstove; the maniacal squirrels aloft in the branches over the deck hurling walnuts at our heads as we mind our human business grilling farmstand corn for lunch. sick raccoons falling out of our trees, fat groundhogs busting through the fence to eat the okra and tomatoes i refuse to help harvest, field mice in the basement that the young cats disembowel in the middle of the dining room at dawn. americana horror story.

yesterday i was trying to be a contributing member of this household so, after watching the garbagemen wave to children on the street while hoisting bags of trash that belonged neither in the recycling (kill me) nor in the compost (kill me harder), i put on my sunglasses and went outside to drag the garbage can up the driveway to its proper place beside the house. i checked to make sure no one was close enough to ask "aren't you hot?" while nodding at my full pants and long sleeves, and started up the driveway, when all of a sudden a snake shot out from under the can and flicked its forked tongue at me. we stood in a standoff for several seconds as i decided what to do. should i:
1 scream, thus inviting intervention from some neighbor whose name i don't wanna know,
2 throw the garbage can to the ground in an effort to distract it and try to beat it to the house, whose door i left sitting wide open, or
3 JUST LET IT KILL ME.

"are you poisonous?" i asked voldemort, pushing up my sleeve and offering my supple city wrists to his waiting fangs. "because i cannot live like this and if you kill me i can sail guilt-free right into heaven." helen appeared on the steps, eating from a bag of organic popping corn she'd made on the stove because that's how we do things here (sobs) and he spotted her then quickly slid up the driveway along the side of the house, the same place i needed to go. ordinarily i would be like FUCK THIS TRASH CAN and lock myself in the house but i know there's some old lady across the street peeking through her curtains just waiting to call andy griffith to report that the uppity new colored girl on the block who likes to go to restaurants that take ~reservations~ left her trash can in the middle of the sidewalk, so i screamed a few expletives in my mind and tiptoed up the drive lugging that mobile snake shelter behind me. i spotted him slithering toward the hose and sighed in relief that i'd remembered to include the "i will never water plants" clause in our prenup. he stared at me, i stared back at him, then the mailman clomped up on his horse and buggy, scaring the daylights out of us both.

i don't know how i'm going to survive here. i mean, i'm a nice person and everything but talking to friendly people is excruciating. especially when they don't hate the same things you hate, like talking to people. and living in a place where people just roll up uninvited and knock on your door even though you aren't fully awake and don't yet have on a bra is straight up terrorism, especially when they can look through the front window and see that yes, you are home. this happened a couple days ago and i just shrugged at dude like "yeah i know but i can't" until he got frustrated and left, and now i have to die without knowing about whatever gun lobby legislation or anti-abortion group he was shilling for. i thought my old place was cursed because the ceiling fell in twice and one time my neighbor's water started bubbling up from my sink, but here i gotta worry about snakes coming up out of the toilet and biting my tongue and smiling while chloe shits all over my front lawn. i have to worry about having a goddamned lawn! i'm sure that in time i will get accustomed to it, or maybe i'll just renew my lease so i have a place to stay when i need to go to a bar that doesn't play hair metal all night. or when i miss the ghosts of all those dead cats.