Ohhh… Is THIS What It’s Supposed To Be Like?

The other night, Rick and I accidentally stumbled into what might have been the most grown-up conversation I’ve ever had with a man I was dating.

He had texted me – this is the vast majority of our communication, which is both cute and kind of annoying because I prefer actual voice-on-voice action, but guys don’t like to talk on the phone – anyway, he had texted me to say he was sorry he’d been MIA in the last few days, but he’d been surprisingly busy with work. I knew he’d been busy and he hadn’t been completely MIA, but I had heard from him less than usual. I also knew there was a lot more reason than that for his relative quiet. And out it came.

“To be honest, I’m not looking to rush into anything,” he said.

Well of course not! He just got out of something two months ago, and last week she boxed up his stuff and dropped it off in a state legislature office building where he no longer works. I mean… there’s some stuff to handle, there.

This opened up an hour-long actual voice-on-voice conversation in which I completely stunned myself by being awesome and not in the slightest bit neourotic.

I know. It’s weird.

He’s worried I’m going to think he has too much baggage. What I actually think is that we’re 35 and anyone on the planet who’s single at 35 has baggage. If not, then their lack of baggage becomes baggage, because clearly they have no romantic relationship history of any kind. In which case? Stay away. You’re about to have a Stage 5 Clinger on your hands.

He’s worried that, on paper, he looks like someone a woman should stay away from right now. And you know what? He’s right. (Aside from the fact that he’s incredibly good-looking, which for me usually means intense attraction slash intense distrust, but herein only means the first bit, which is also weird.) I told him that if I had just met him in January, I might steer clear of this great-looking guy who literally just got out of something that was apparently nuclear in the end, and who is currently sleeping in a pirate bed at his parents’ house. But I’ve known him in some way for two years, so that stuff  isn’t freaking me out.

He’s worried about repeating past mistakes. He thinks he rushed into the relationship that just ended-  an 18-month term, and they lived together for a significant portion of that. He thinks that rushing may have helped create the problems that eventually led to their undoing as a couple. He wants us to keep seeing each other, definitely. He just wishes the timing had been better, so he wouldn’t be trying to put something behind him while we were getting started. “I don’t want issues with her to come between us,” he said.

And then he said this. He actually said this, he said — are you ready? He said: “I just want us to take our time and get to know each other and see where it goes naturally. I don’t want to go too far (physically) yet. The older I get, the more I understand that that’s no good unless there’s something real there.”

*Blink*

*Blink*

And I was all, Are you real? You’re not real. No guys say that. Exactly zero guys say that. What most guys say is “I don’t want to rush anything” and what they mean is “except the sex part. That I want to rush. The rest I want to avoid for as long as possible. Is that cool?”

So after I recovered from the shock of him being so decent, and the shock of my not freaking out and thinking what he was saying meant he didn’t want to see me anymore, I told him my thoughts. I’m fine going slow. I’m good with not rushing anything. I understand where he is in his heart and his head, and I don’t expect him to be over his ex, or past the pain of the situation, already. I like hearing from him every day because it lets me know he’s still interested, but I’m not going to freak out if I don’t hear from him for a day (okay, that part was kind of bullshit, but he doesn’t need to know that). If I say I’m glad to see him or hear from him, it’s because I am. Not because I’m trying to send a passive-aggressive message about not having seen or heard from him in X amount of time.

“God, that is so refreshing,” he said in a big exhalation.

Can I know how things will unfold? Certainly not. But I know he’s not a walking disaster. He’s been through a lot recently: the death of a beloved uncle, the end of his relationship in spectacular fashion, the subsequent limbo state of staying at his parents’ house while his stuff still lives at the apartment they shared because he has no time to find a new place and no money because he’s paying the rent on the old place while the ex recovers from a hospitalization. Over Christmas. She landed there at the same time as the uncle’s death. And on January 2nd, he started a stressful new job.

So if anybody can handle all that and still stay sane and steady, they’re a winner, in my book. Especially if, a year ago, for reasons having mostly to do with a true passion for public service and a little bit to do with making his boss look good, he got something done for crime victims that will help keep them safe, and he did it because of me.

The morning after our conversation, I got a text. “I’m so glad we talked last night,” it said. “I feel much more at ease about everything. Thank you.”

Oh, honey. Thank you.

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Common Sense

My friend Bud at Older Eyes posted today the second part of his thoughts on gun rights and gun violence. I started to respond to his post and then realized I was basically writing a blog post in his comments section. Rather than hog that space, I’m posting my response to him here, as a broadened topic. Please read his posts, In the Crossfire and In the Crossfire, Too, so that you understand to what I am responding here. 

I work in a business where statistics are used to prove success and justify rates and fees. (A lot of businesses work that way, of course.) I have often been able to easily explain away a competitor’s statistic about being more successful than my company because I know how they manipulate the data. Of course, I know how we manipulate it, too.

One of the key things about understanding that, though, is understanding that there’s more than one way to be misleading, but there’s also more than one way to be right, and nobody is lying. In my business, in the end, all that matters is which element of the stats matters most to the buyer.

That’s what’s frustrating about statistics that really matter, like those counting up deaths and injury from guns. And that’s why neither side is lying, both sides are right, and both sides are manipulating the argument.

Bud at Older Eyes uses the term “In the Crossfire” in two recent posts to convey his feelings on gun ownership: moderate. In the middle of a fight. You may think I’m not “in the crossfire” on this, given my previous posts. You may have found my post, Newtown, to be more about the heart than the head. But if we step away from the extremes of soulful emotion and cold analysis, we can find one thing that governs most of life pretty successfully: common sense.

Part of the reason the NRA pushes for zero restriction on the right to bear arms is that the founding fathers established that right in part to guard against the tyranny of government. We hear references to Hitler and other cruel government leaders who disarmed the masses before systematically executing them. While I have faith in my country and don’t believe its leaders would ever do such a thing, I understand why the right to defend against it matters so much to so many people. 

As I have previously mentioned, I also understand that some people hunt for food, others hunt for sport, some feel that guns are necessary to protect themselves in their homes and others feel that no right guaranteed by the founding fathers should be taken away, and once we start limiting one, we’ll be on the road to limiting more… or taking them away completely.

Bud makes the point that we’re hearing extreme arguments on either side of the topic, and I agree with him completely. I don’t think that NRA executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre is really doing anyone any favors in his speeches since Newtown (or ever, actually). There are a lot of gun owners and gun rights advocates who do not believe he represents them well. I understand his points, but I think he could make them with much more sensitivity and much less bombastic rhetoric.

As could those who oppose guns with equal vehemence.

These, frankly, are not the people to whom we need to listen. They are simply the people to whom we are given the most access. As has so often been the case in this country, we are exposed only to the extremes and left to feel alone in the middle. The middle is not exciting. The middle is not good television.

There is the argument that mental health is the real issue. The trouble with that is that it’s not. It is an issue, surely, and it deserves attention. But (at the risk of engaging in statistical analysis) the mentally ill are much more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators thereof. Not everyone who has committed a violent crime with a gun – be it a mass shooting or a smaller scale murder – is mentally ill. There is a specific definition for mental illness, and though most of us believe one has to be “off” in some way in order to commit murder, especially on a grand scale, that doesn’t mean those people would medically qualify as mentally ill.

And there is the argument that guns are not the only issue, but seem to be the only issue on the table for a vote. That’s true. While it is not accurate or fair to say no one is proposing improvements to mental health care, access and screening before a gun purchase, it is true that guns are by far the more – dare I say targeted? – aspect of the discussion. Gun rights advocates  insist that it brings into specific relief the “left-wing agenda” to take people’s guns away. That’s really not the reason. It requires only slightly deeper thought to understand the reason: we can’t legislate mental illness. We can’t legislate what people find entertaining. We can’t legislate how families do or do not function, the moral fabric of society, the lack of pride or opportunity. We have seen these problems unfold for decades and we have not been able to stop them. Knowing the numbers has not helped.

What we can do is moderate them. Work to improve access to mental health care, break down the stigma associated with mental illness. Continue to rate and enforce ratings on movies and video games. Give people an understanding of why a healthy family life is important, give communities the tools to flourish, give individuals a vision of what they could be or do or achieve if they have the right skills, opportunities and faith in themselves.

If we look at some of the fairly rational, balanced proposals on gun policy before us, we can see them as moderation, rather than aberration. They cannot accomplish any of the things I’ve mentioned above. But they can help bring down the number of gun-related injuries and deaths in this country.

Common sense would dictate that the existence of armor-piercing or exploding bullets is fundamentally unnecessary and does great disservice to those who advocate for gun rights. Common sense would dictate that the people’s right to bear arms is not infringed by disallowing certain types; after all, completely unrestricted rights to bear arms could lead to the purchase of flame-throwers and rocket-propelled grenades, but we don’t allow that. Common sense would dictate that doing absolutely nothing would be a total failure of the government to listen to the people, and a total failure of the people to do anything but shake their heads.

Common sense would also dictate that banning assault weapons and cop-killer bullets, and requiring universal background checks, and seriously cracking down on illegal guns, won’t end all crimes and killings with guns.

But, if I may be frank, we’re not really trying to end them all. We’re trying to make them harder to accomplish, and these measures are a start. And we need to start, instead of tsking our tongues and shrugging our shoulders. We can argue down emotion. We can qualify and manipulate statistics. We can make things difficult that don’t need to be difficult, as we do with the political side of this issue.

But it is hard to refute common sense.

 

Third Aid

Two weeks ago, I tried to hack off my own left pointer finger at the base with a cheap steak knife while attempting to cut a loaf of admittedly stale Italian bread. One week ago, the stitches came out.

It was a kind of odd experience: one of those generically urgent care places and a doctor who was strange enough to be wearing a pair of red jeans (or possibly fleece pants with jeans-like pockets… looking at you, Pithypants…) and a purple sweater… with no white coat and no other evidence she was actually an MD.

She was brusque but not rude – not gentle, either – as she snipped the stitches from my finger, telling me as she went that sometimes it hurts because she has to pull the stitches up from the skin to cut them. I winced and grunted a little at a tug and snip.

“Yeah, well, that’s why I told you sometimes it hurts,” she said.

Seven snips later I looked down to find the gaping wound from a week before magically…

…still gaping?

…Wait, what?

“Oh,” said the alleged doctor when she noticed what I noticed: that almost all of the cut was still pretty open (though at least the tendon was no longer visible). “Well, sometimes it’s better to leave the stitches in,” she said, waving her hand a little dismissively in the air, “but of course, you can’t know that until you take them out. And then we can’t restitch it, because the chances of infection are too high.”

So… let me get this straight. We have the ability to transplant a face… but not to properly close a simple knife laceration?

Okayyyy…

She put four steri-strips on it to try to hold the edges of the cut together. Then she slapped a big patch band-aid on it and called it a day. I went home, took the patch band-aid off because it was sticking to the cut, and then rebandaged it as I had it before, with rolled gauze and surgical tape.

I had asked the “doctor” how long I should leave the steri-strips on before the wound would close. “Oh, 48 hours or so should be fine.” Like hell. I knew there was no way that wound would be closed in 48 hours. So I left them on for nearly a week. Yesterday, I soaked them off to see how things were going.

Yup. Still open. Slightly less open than the week before.

So then I had to go buy some steri-strips and more rolled gauze, and re-bandage my hand at red lights on my way to work. To my knowledge, wound care is not a valid reason to ticket someone for distracted driving, and this was the only time I could do it. But did you know that it’s hard to put steri-strips on gaping finger wounds by yourself? I should have waited til I got to work, so I could find someone who wouldn’t be squeamish, to hold the cut closed while I applied the strips.

Maybe next time that’s what I’ll do, because at this point, I’m pretty sure it’s going to take a month for this baby to close up. Actually, I’m half certain the edges will heal over, leaving the squishy insides open forever and ever. Like I’m a zombie. ZombieFinger. That has to be my code name for a while. I was kind of looking forward to going by ScarFinger, but I’ll have to wait a while for that one.

Honest To Job

I am a terrible liar.

That’s the truth.

My (lack of) lying skills were called into service Thursday morning when I had to put off an interview for a job I don’t want but will take if the job I do want doesn’t come through.

It’s strategery.

I interviewed for the job I do want, the one at the university, on Wednesday morning. Interview by committee: four women (!) sitting in the small conference room with me. It went very well, and that includes the questions I refused to BS about (because, as previously mentioned, I’m a bad liar). I can sell myself, but if you ask me directly if I have any experience with something specific, with which I have no real experience, well… I’m going to tell you that I don’t really have any. Because what’s the point of lying about it? My face will turn red and my chest will get splotchy and if they hire me they’ll notice that I can’t do whatever it I said I could do. Lose-lose.

I actually think that being honest about those things in an interview is a strength. I have found, on the very few occasions when I’ve had to admit a lack of skill, that it’s appreciated. People even smile. Or say, “Oh, well that’s not really a problem.” As long as I’m not applying to be a nurse while having exactly no nursing experience whatsoever, everything’s pretty kosher.

I did take First Aid when I was a Girl Scout. And I’m very good in emergencies. So.

Anyway. Here’s the thing. I want this job even though it doesn’t pay enough and they totally know it doesn’t pay enough. (To that end, I suggested that they might let me freelance on the side, in a manner that keeps up connections with “stakeholders” – also known as People We Would Be Dealing With – but that avoids conflicts of interest. And they had no problem with that.) But as is so often the case with state jobs, the position must be publicly posted as an opening for no less than two weeks before the hiring manager can do anything.

When she said to me, “I just found out there are rules I have to follow,” I read that to mean, “We want to hire you and we might as well do it now, but we can’t because government.”

Fine. I get it.

Here’s the trick. This is where the lying comes in. The other job, the one I don’t want but will take if the university job doesn’t come through… that guy? Is gonna offer me the job like 24 hours after he interviews me for the third time. It’s common in my business for that to happen. I’ve already worked for him once, we’ve already talked on the phone twice; all that remains is for me to see the facility and meet the general manager.

And for the GM to like me, but whatever.

Which meant that I could by no means attend the previously scheduled interview on Friday. Because, even though it would be a Friday, I would have til like Tuesday at the outside before he’d be all, “Hey! Wanna work here?”

And I’d have to be all, “Um… can I think about it for approximately 8 days?”

And in the immortal words of Sweet Brown… “Ain’ nobody got time for that!”

So I punted. I thought and thought, and came up with the story that we’re already short-staffed at work, and now someone has a Thing and will be out for… oh, wow, let me see… I’m looking at a calendar… yyyyeah, like, two or three weeks.

Gosh… I hate to put it off that long, but…

It’s a damned good thing this was happening in a phone call, because I’m fairly certain that my chest instantly got splotchy, which happens when I A) have an anxiety attack; 2) drink some vintages of red wine; and third) lie. Plus, if a person can sound crestfallen, then that’s how David sounded. And possibly a little suspicious. He knows about the university job possibility. And the university job possibility knows about David. The only difference is, I told the university job people that I want to work for them… but that I have to hold David off until they can give me an answer.

You see now why I could never cheat in a relationship.

So for now, the university is stuck in neutral and David is in a holding pattern, hovering around me expectantly like a trained dog waiting for the okay to finally eat the treat that’s balanced on its nose.

I think I just compared myself to a dog treat.

Interview question: “If you were an animal, what animal would you be?”

My answer: “Well, I’m really more of an animal treat.”

Because any other answer would be a lie.

Help… Wanted

Oh, how I love a good Valentine yarn.

My post, “Wanted,” apparently generated some excitement among thousands hundreds dozens tens several of you. I confess, I had a great time writing it. Now here’s the version I wrote before I sexed it all up.

*****

I was sitting there at work, minding my own business, typing furiously with nine fingers and coming down from a brief work-related rage… and my desk phone rang. It was my old boss, David. We worked together for about six weeks back in 2001, just before I left Ohio to work in my current city of residence. I hadn’t talked to him since, and I had heard he’d gotten out of our business entirely. I remember when I left, he tried to talk me out of it. He told me it was a lateral move. He was, by the way, completely wrong.

David was cold-calling me out of nowhere to tell me that he’s heading up a unit in Central Pennsylvania and he needs a #2 man. Or woman. Someone who can be very hands-on and work with the staff of 70 people to shape and develop them professionally while churning out consistent, competitive and compelling product every day.

I happen to know he’s been looking for a while. I didn’t realize he was the #1 guy when I had seen the #2 position posted in a job search email I regularly get. That was months ago. I had briefly entertained the notion of applying. Now here it was, Valentine’s Day, and poor David was desperate for a partner.

He said a lot of very nice things about me and my work, that he had liked me, thought I was solid, wanted to keep me around. He had already sent me a LinkedIn request. And then he called. So apparently he’s really digging the idea of me being his #2.

And of course, as he’s talking to me and understanding that I can’t really say much in response, since I’m at work, I’m thinking one thing: could I really stomach this?

I’ve been trying to get out of our business for three years. But I’ve actually thought recently that, in order to get more marketable management experience on my resume’, I might summon the strength to do a year or two in a position like this. It would leapfrog me up in my professional stature by a couple of ranks (and really stick it to the douche nuggets who have smacked me down for the last few years). Problem was, I wasn’t willing to move. Turns out, the PA job is the same commute in the opposite direction. And no one there hates me yet.

Huh.

But there’s still this nearby university job on the table. My interview is the 20th. It would keep my commute short and already gets me out of the business I’ve been in for nearly 16 years and moves me on to the new career I want. I wouldn’t have to deal with the craptastic 24/7 drama that is running a program like David wants me to. Though we all know I like being bossy.

No, I have no idea what this PA job would pay. That might be a huge mitigating factor. But I’ve said it before… I learned when I took my current job that it’s not a good idea to take a job that makes you money if it means giving up what makes you happy.

The flip side, of course, being the fact that I’d be in charge. Hehe. And aside from the obvious bonuses inherent therein, there’s one that I think I could really use: the return of my Stella-like groove. Though I would very likely be completely overwhelmed by everything I would need to do and learn, I would also have a chance to overcome all the insecurities my current job and bosses have hammered into my soul for the last 4.5 years. Get out of the business owning it. With serious management cred. I am happier when I feel like I’m actually accomplishing something.

And then there’s Rick. Rick works for the university where I’m up for a job. He’s surprisingly excited about the possibility of my coming to work there as well. And I like the idea of a regular 9-5 Monday through Friday job because it frees up my social life, which the position in PA would challenge. But of course, I can’t make a decision in any way based on the hope for something that is only one month old. Plus, it was Valentine’s Day at 5pm and I hadn’t even heard from Rick. Which I was 80% sure was because he was schmoozing lawmakers (he did tell me days ago that the second half of this week would be crazy)… 10% sure was because he’s gotten freaked out… 5% sure was because he was waiting for me to make the first V-Day move, 3% sure was because he’d lost his phone and 2% sure was Other.

Cut to me looking forward to a martini and hoovering an entire restaurant-portioned platter of chicken Alfredo into my face.

And I started this day so stable…

I did hear from Rick, of course. About ten minutes after I’d finished my huge and carbolicious meal. He was working from home, still not feeling well and commanded to stay away from the office. But he asked me to be his Valentine.

What is this, this working for people who don’t want you to come to the office when you’re feeling a little under the weather? Does not compute.

Another argument in favor of the university job.

Wanted

For more than 11 years, we hadn’t talked at all. I could barely remember his face, how he walked in his suit. Now, on Valentine’s Day, here he was… murmuring words in my ear I never thought I’d hear.

“I need you.”

Oh my.

“I remember you…” his voice came low over the phone. “How much I liked you. You were strong. Solid. I wanted to keep you around.”

He had a proposal.

He wants me bad.

It’s tempting. The power I could wield. But it might all be a deception. He would keep me chained. Held tight in the grip of a ruthless and cunning affair. And I’m working toward a new relationship, one with promise. A relationship with better perks than I ever could have imagined in my wildest dreams.

Something a little more comfortable for me to slip into.

Still, the position he wants to get me into would put such ideas in people’s heads… it would spice things up, make me a little more desirable. After years of being everyone’s second choice, I could finally be the one. This position would lead to other, hotter positions.

But then there’s the other proposition. The one that rescues me right now from the bonds of a passionate, but tempestuous and mostly one-sided love that, if I’m honest, I probably should have saved myself from long ago.

But oh, this new thing… this new thing would let me crack the whip. Dominate.

And I do like being bossy.

Of course, I would be overcome. Made breathless by all that this thing would do to me, all that it would take from me. But I could save myself that way. Redeem my suffering soul. Own it before I walk away.

I won’t prostitute myself for either proposition. I have no idea what would be offered in exchange for my talents. This proposal today could yield more than the other. But I know that the john who pays more doesn’t always treat you better. I learned that the hard way.

And then there’s the new flame burning. Rick. Of course, I can’t make a life decision based on a match that’s only just been struck…

At 6:30pm on Valentine’s Day, I had two men and a woman vying for my attention, my affection, my services. Two of them would pay me. One of them might love me. Whatever I decide could change me forever. And cost me too much.

What is a girl to do?

V-Day: The Plight Of the Newly-Dating

How do I like thee a lot, with potential for love in the future?

I made it clear to Rick that I have no expectations for Valentine’s Day. We’ve only been dating a month; he shouldn’t be obligated to do something, and there shouldn’t be any uncomfortable will she expect something? internal debate. I’m not one of those women who demands shows of affection in that short a time. I rarely demand much of anything in the way of gifts; I appreciate acknowledgment but don’t require much more than that unless it’s Christmas or my birthday.

In which case, pony up, pal. It doesn’t have to be pricey, but don’t just get me a thoughtless gift card or bottle of wine. I’m going to put a lot of thought into what I get you. Make some effort.

Of course, when you’ve only been dating someone a month, there’s a conundrum. You’re only going to get him something if he gets you something. And you can’t know if he’s getting you something until the day arrives, and the gift with it. So you figure you’ll hedge your bets, pick up a little thing or two, totally non-suggestive, and totally returnable or usable for yourself if he doesn’t get you something.

And let’s be honest: we’ve all had that significant other who we’d been with for quite a bit longer than a month, who made dinner plans with us on February 14th only to stand us up with no explanation until the next day, at which time he attempted to blame the weather. Forecast.

Or was that just me?

This was my plan for Rick: I was going to make homemade hot cocoa mix – an homage to our first date, on which we went in search of a hot beverage after dinner and found ourselves downing that God-awful Swiss Miss crap mixed with water. As fate would have it, I got an email last week with a recipe for the “ultimate” dry hot cocoa mix. Winning.

And as another little thing, I was going to give him a frame for his Super Bowl ticket, so he can keep it preserved.

But then I tried to cut my finger off 20 minutes before he arrived for his first visit to my house, during which time we were supposed to have dinner. And he spent the next six hours in an emergency room with me. And had to keep me from vomiting and/or passing out. And he didn’t get to eat dinner. And he held my purse.

I feel like that sort of upped the stakes a little.

So now, the big day is a mere 5.5 hours away from this writing and I have no idea what else I can do, if anything. Plus he’s not feeling well, and I’m working late, so I won’t see him on V-Day.

Well that should get you out of it, right? you think. Maybe not. You see, he could send something to my office. But I can’t/won’t send anything to his, because what do you send to a guy’s office when you’ve been dating him a month, that isn’t kind of creepy? You can’t send anything if you have to order it the day of, on the grounds that you’ve just gotten what he sent you. And also? I’m going to that building for a job interview in six days. So I should probably avoid showing everyone that I’m dating the newly-hired, highly-placed staff member who recommended me for the job (before the dating).

I had one idea. Rick loves James Bond movies, and Skyfall was released on DVD yesterday. I thought maybe I could add that to my other two gifts and let it be enough. But he already bought it.

So bake him something, right? Cookies.

Nope. He’s not into sweets.

Maybe I’m overthinking this. Maybe my ideas are plenty by themselves. Maybe he won’t send me anything at work and we’ll both be fine with a texted “happy valentines day” message, with or without proper punctuation or capitalization.

Who am I kidding? I’m a writer. I’m never okay with a lack of proper punctuation or capitalization.

A poem, maybe?
Blood is red,
my finger is blue,
we’ve been dating a month,
Happy Valentine’s Day to you!

Needs work.

Sigh. Never thought I’d hope a handsome, charming man would not send me flowers on Valentine’s Day.

The Fifth Date Is Traditionally A Visit To the ER… Right?

So I tried to cut my finger off.  Now I’m trying to learn how to type with 9 digits. I was trying to cut a loaf of very crusty bread open lengthwise and I cut the bottom of my index finger on my left hand open instead. Sort of into the knuckle. I didn’t really feel it, but when I saw a tendon, I figured Date Night was going to go differently than anticipated.

I texted Rick to find out how close he was to my place, but I didn’t mention why I wanted to know. So when he arrived, after about 20 minutes of my applying direct pressure and holding my hand over my head, he barely had enough time to look around my living room before he noticed I was bleeding. 

“How bad is it?” he asked.

“…Pretty bad.”

“Yeah?”

I nodded, trying to look cute with my exposed connective tissue.

“Do you need to go to the ER?”

“Yeah…”

“Let me see.”

“Um… do you get squeamish?”

“Yeah, but let me see.”

He took my hand and noticed I was shaking as I removed the paper towel. His eyes went wide and then he looked my finger off like a well-trained quarterback. “Okay, yeah. Let’s go.” 

God love him, he put my coat on me, tied my scarf around my neck, checked to make sure everything in the kitchen was turned off and everything was locked up, and commented on how good the dinner I had cooked smelled, before he put me in the car and reached over to fasten my seatbelt for me. Then he drove as fast as city streets would allow to the ER, 1.5 miles away.

Where we sat for six hours.

The ER was shit show. And I knew it would be, because A) it’s one of the city’s best-known ERs; and 2) it was a Saturday night. So I was pissed that I had to go. I mean, a whole fresh pot of homemade Bolognese. Just sitting there on my stove. Plans for the movie afterward. Sliced away in one swift, firm stroke of a serrated knife.

Also all chances of making out.

Bollocks.

When we arrived at the ER, a little before 8, we were told that the wait would be around two hours. Two hours later, we still had 2.5 hours to go. My finger didn’t even hurt and it was wrapped up in gauze from the triage nurse. I guessed it could heal itself by the time I saw a doctor. We made friends with some woman sitting next to us. She’s diabetic and was suffering through a bout of pancreatitis. If memory serves, she’d gotten there two hours before us. To our right suffered a large young man whose eyes barely opened for the whole time we were there. He’d arrived at the same time as me, clenching his gut.

That was the semi-normal part of the night. Then it got to be midnight.

Oh, how we had hoped to be out of there by midnight. That’s when things get cray-cray. As a room full of the indigent, ill and gaping-wounded (hello?! I practically filleted my finger! Anybody?) sat languishing, the cops brought some guy in off the street, stark naked. Sent him right back, though not before an ER patient’s entourage watched him through the window and laughed. I can’t remember if it was before or after that when a guy came in looking to be in a bad way and complained of chest pains and difficulty breathing. He got taken back for an EKG, then apparently shipped back out to triage when it was determined he’d shot up heroin. He was eating fried chicken within the hour.

Not kidding. Watched him.

My kingdom for some stitches and some Bolognese.

All about the room, people were falling asleep wearing masks over their noses and mouths, which didn’t leave me feeling terribly confident. But for the most part, things were operating at a low din until one particular woman came in. She was triaged and sent back out in a wheelchair (most of them were in wheelchairs) with a big ER bucket on her lap. She then proceeded to moan, cry and retch loudly and repeatedly for an hour. It was so disturbing that if the room hadn’t been full of people who barely had the strength to speak, there would have been an uprising. I was burying my head in Rick’s shoulder while he silently seethed and our pancreatitis friend whispered, “She’s dope-sick. Gotta be.” But then we overheard her moaning something about how she’d just gotten out of this hospital and had a tube in her stomach. She was soon escorted to a bay.

At 12:45am, they called my name. I may have cheered. The nurse came in and unwrapped my hand, took a look and confirmed it would need stitches. Rick asked about that super glue stuff they use these days, but alas… since it was near the knuckle, we had to go old-school.

I raised my hand to get a glimpse and straightened out my finger slightly. Oh, look… that’s how a tendon works. Up close and personal-like.

How unexpectedly graphic.

All seemed okay as I awkwardly twisted to obey the nurse’s instruction and soak my hand in a tray of betadine, which stings like hell, by the way. But then there was definitely a precipitous drop in blood pressure. The nurse had left, assuring us that I’d be the first of three new patients seen, and I found myself woozy and nauseous. Not having eaten in 10 hours wasn’t helping. It came on slowly, just a little wave. Then some heat. Rick asked if I was alright and I told him yes, because I thought I was. That didn’t last long. The nausea quadrupled and I seriously debated the best approach to moving the tray of betadine and my flayed finger out of the way so I could use the larger bucket they were in.

Oh, please, sweet Jesus. Do not make me hurl in front of this man. On our fifth. Freaking. Date.

Rick jumped up and started wetting paper towels to use as cold compresses while I closed my eyes and breathed measuredly. He kept up steady encouraging chatter and draped the towels over my forehead and the v-neck of my sweater. The nurse came back in and saw my state, immediately cracking two instant ice packs and mopping off some of the sweat that had trickled on my head and the back of my neck. 

This is profoundly attractive. Well-done, me. What a way to woo and charm.

Rick sat behind a curtain as the doctor numbed my finger, irrigated the wound and stitched it up. He couldn’t stomach the sight. Neither could I at that point; the nurse had gotten me Hawaiian Punch and graham crackers after my episode and Rick had fed both to me, but I hadn’t quite recovered enough to keep vigil over the sewing job. 

Six hours, seven stitches and a tetanus shot later, Rick took me home, kissed me goodnight in the street and promised a Date Five Do-Over. “I’m sooo glad I didn’t get sick,” I laughed. “You would have definitely been done with me.”

He smiled and pulled me closer. “It would take more than that.”

Funny. I’m lightheaded again.

 

Wanted: Blanket, Binky, Warm Milk

Once again, life has stepped up and slapped me in the face with the reminder that I am a full-blown adult now. 

I wish it would stop doing that. 

It’s mostly for a good reason. Yesterday, I got a text from Rick saying that a position had opened up where he works. It’s one that I had talked about with the woman in charge there, when I had applied for something else. I’ve already interviewed there twice, two and a half years ago, so some of these people know me. And for all they know, I come highly recommended, since the outgoing director recommended me for her own job, and Rick has recommended me as well (totally selflessly motivated, of course). 

“The thing is,” said the woman in charge, “the salary is right around the job you interviewed for in 2010.”

Which was, um… not fabulous.

I quoted it.

“Yyyeah,” was her response.

A beat.

“I mean… I might be able to squeeze it to about $2,500 higher, but that’s as high as I can go.”

Now, this is a job at a state university, so the funding is what it is. The state gives so much money for each position and that’s all there is to it. So there’s not a lot of room to push for more. Back in 2010, I was willing to see if I could make it work, but it would be tough. Now, it’ll be tougher. I have a mortgage, several completely unreasonable medical bills and constant fears that a Korean missile will hit my house and insurance will be all, “Oh, we don’t cover Korean missile damage.”

If she squeezes it to the highest possible number, it’s still more than $10,000 less than I make now. 

Oof.

I can write off $3,000 of that loss because I will no longer be driving 100 miles a day. I currently spend about $3,200 a year on gas. This would cut that back dramatically.

But still. Oof.

But it’s my ticket out of the sensory deprivation chamber known as the basement – the unheated basement – where I currently spend my mental energies and college degree in a business that’s flailing and increasingly run by bean counters who have no regard for little things like experience, judgment and people who have worked their asses off for, in my case, 15 years, only to be sentenced to an interminable life of working craptastic hours, holidays and (until last week) weekends. It’s a life of constant abuses, assumptions from bosses that I will have no problem filling in on the weekends I’ve just reclaimed for myself any time that any one of three different weekend employees want a day off… that they can change my schedule on a whim without telling me, like I work at McDonalds. This job opportunity might be a lot less money, but it’s a normal schedule, holidays off, and it gives me a chance to get my life back. 

I learned, by the way, when I took the job I’m currently in, that it is a mistake to give up the things in your life that make you happy just so you can get paid more. It takes the joy out of your life, and, in my case, then you get smacked really hard, take a 23% pay cut and get stuck working nights and weekends, so you wind up making no more than you did when you left your old job and now you’ve had to give up even more of your life.

But I keep getting stuck on the number. I haven’t gotten paid the salary in question since 2006 or 7. And I made it work then, sure. I took vacations and paid my rent and made my car payments (which I no longer have). I mean, it’s possible. It just seems backward. If I took this job (which, mind you, has not actually been offered), I would be making a full $28,000 less than when I took my current job in 2008, before the smackdown. That’s tough to swallow. 

But they’re just numbers. I already took the biggest hit. 

The other thing this job opportunity would do is give me a start at a new career, which I’ve wanted ever since I got smacked as I described above, and possibly even longer. As the woman in charge pointed out, it positions me for growth, promotions, etc. And really, I could do it for a year or two and then pursue other, more lucrative opportunities if need be. 

These are all the things that two of my coworkers told me when I obsessed to them about it last night. Almost everyone I work with is of the same mind, really. Get out. For God’s sake, get out of here. Send postcards. 

In the midst of all this adultness, I got a reminder that I am in some ways still a horrid teenager. Rick sent me a picture taken in New Orleans, in which his inebriated self is wearing neon green glasses and purple beads, making a face I don’t recognize and throwing arms around two girls. It hit me then that he actually met up with other people down there. I thought it was just him and his brother. Turns out these girls were friends of his. So then I had a fit of completely irrational jealousy and fear while freaking out about adult things.

So… 16 going on 40. Awesome feeling.

My interview is in two weeks. My meeting with my investment broker is in one week, to help figure out whether it’s feasible.

So, let’s review:
Mortgage
Medical bills
Investment broker
Existential questions vis-a-vis professional pursuits
Korean missile fears

Yup. I’m an adult. At least when you’re a kid people tell you what to do for your own good. Closest I can get to that is the investment guy going, “Contribute 10% to your 401(k).” Which I already do. 

I want my daddy.

I Feel Like Sally Field.

I suck at dating. Several months ago, Rick mentioned that he hates dating. Now Rick and I are dating.

But it’s very, very early in this whole process, and since he just got out of a relationship about six weeks ago, and most of his stuff is actually still in that apartment while he crashes at his parents’ house and sleeps in his nephew’s pirate bed (sometimes with his nephew)…  we’re certainly in no hurry.

But in case any of you were worried that I would stop being endearingly neurotic… fear not.

Friday, we had plans to get together after I finished with work. His job is super-busy right now, and he’s new at it; my job requires me to work nights until 10 or 11, and then I have an hour drive home. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of options for us to see each other, and he was heading to New Orleans the next morning to scream his head off at the Super Bowl and get his ass grabbed on Bourbon Street. Because he’s a huge Ravens fan, and when your team goes to the Super Bowl and you can get there… you do. It’s a b’road trip. Or a bro’ad trip. It’s a road trip with a B in front of it to indicate that you’re with your brother.

But I was convinced he was going to cancel Friday’s date. He had spent his whole weekend before this working from home, and he had a lot of work to do all week long after he left the office. I was so convinced he’d cancel, my friend Sam and I had the following text conversation:

Me: We have reached the part of the evening in which you talk me out of being neurotic. Go.

Sam: If he cancels, you’re ok with it and find another activity to do.

Me: Yeah, that’s incorrect.

Sam: Which part?

Me: All of your words just then.

Sam: You’re not okay with it and you don’t have another activity.

Me: There you go.

Sam: Right, but he doesn’t need to know that.

Me: Right, no. But still with the neurosis.

Sam: Goooo sllloooooooowwwww.

Me: This from the guy who wanted us naked by now.

Sam: Well, that’s what I want for you. Mainly becasuse I’m convinced the global economy is dependent on it. Relax. What has he done to cause this freakout?

Me: Nothing, really. He’s going to NOLA Saturday, his job has him swamped, he cancelled Sunday as a result and I just have this feeling he’s going to cancel.

Sam: And if he does, you say ‘hey, I totally understand, been a crazy week all around and you’re skipping town. Snag something fun for me while you’re down there and we’ll catch up when you’re back.’

Me: Right. I’m not asking what I should say. I’m asking you to make me stop thinking it’s going to happen.

Sam: There’s always porn. 🙂

Me: Yeah, okay, clearly you’re having trouble focusing.

Sam: You’re in a good place here. You’re still in the ‘less is more’ phase.

Me: You know why I do this? To prepare for the rejection.

Sam: Yeah, stop doing that.

At 8:45pm on Friday, 15 minutes before I was to leave work, Rick texted that he was still working. With a frowny face. Well, now he’ll definitely cancel, I thought. Still, I left at 9 and headed up to where we were set to meet up, my head half-full of fears that I would be standing there at the doorway of the restaurant/bar he’d suggested, stood up, trying to look casually involved with something on my smartphone while I eyed every moving figure in the parking lot, and in would walk my ex-boyfriend Mitch, who loves that place and with whom I was already dreading the possibility of a run-in.

At 9:50, I texted Rick to let him know it was taking me longer to get there than I thought, and I might be a few minutes late.

Him: No problem. I’m just wrapping up here myself.

Oh. Oh! Oh… he’s actually getting ready to leave! To come out! To meet me! He’s not cancelling!

I had been so prepared for the stand-up, so sure he would cancel, that I had worked my way around to being okay with it, and now he’s not cancelling. Well, what a pleasant surprise that shouldn’t be a surprise at all since he had given no indication that he would cancel and I was just going by the voices in my head!

Gah, I hate those guys.

Granted, he was later than me. I was there about 15 minutes before he arrived, but that was okay, and he apologized. And then we split a bottle of wine and had, really, another great time together, and did not run into Mitch. We stayed out much later than he had previously said he’d be willing, continuing our coversation in my car after we were politely asked to absent ourselves from the establishment on account of they were closing. (Yes, a conversation. That’s not a euphamism.. although it was a very flirty conversation that involved hands on knees. Do you remember that feeling? The first time someone you like puts a hand on your knee? I’m a girl, so there’s a strange tickling feeling in my skin and then my stomach does a little flutter. Do guys’ stomachs flutter?)

Naturally, I expected radio silence pursuant to debauchery while he was in New Orleans for the Super Bowl. But no! I heard from him during his layover Saturday, and while he was out partying on Bourbon Street with his brother Saturday night (this was when I learned of the ass-grabbing), and on Super Bowl Morning before he headed out, and again at 3:30am after the game when he was back on Bourbon Street with his brother. And then while he was at the airport waiting for his flight, and then when he landed back home.

You guys. I think this guy likes me.