Francine’s Guest Blog 9

Wedding Warps, but then…Cake

 

From Patrick’s funeral, I rushed to the wedding.

Normally, I would have felt quite out of place at a gathering where I know only a handful of people, but for some reason, I did not. Grace and I had been roommates at university and though we kept in touch, we did not really mingle with the same crowds. Grace’s dress was beautiful, very lacy, and strapless. The dining hall, which did not have formal seating, was elegant, and the guests were mostly well-dressed. I found a seat next to a couple I knew vaguely.

Halfway through the meal, I looked up to see a familiar figure, which I quickly realized was no hallucination: Mr. Wrong, with the tramp in tow. He saw me before I could bury my face in my food and we both stared at each other in embarrassment. He hastened to introduce me to Tracy as “the girl I told you about”. It turned out that Tracy was connected to the groom in some roundabout way. Wrong had never met Grace, so he had no way of knowing I’d be there, so I forgave him for that. In fact, I forgave him for everything (in my mind) on the very spot, mostly because of Tracy. She was drunk again, and was dressed in a rather decent peach colored dress, which looked nice with her skin. Unfortunately, she was wearing flip-flops, which totally cancelled whatever elegance the dress had managed to convey.

I don’t understand how flip-flops became an acceptable accessory for formal attire. I don’t care how many sequins they put on them, they do not belong in a wedding, unless you’re 6 months pregnant. And the other thing is that if your feet look like two tired trout, you need to show as little of them as possible. And not waste money on expensive manicures either. I’m just saying.

The servers had placed huge pieces of cake on every table, and I was planning on taking some home, but not openly. So I went into the restroom to rearrange my purse. I came back to the table to find that the couple had left, and two guys, one of them really loud, had taken their place. I caught the end of the conversation, which I assumed was about the valet.

“…the idiot had parked my Benz next to a beat-up blue Toyota,” said the loud one. “Of course, I made him move it…”

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The cake was still there, so I sat down, but turned and looked at him. If there is one phrase that describes my car to a T, it is “beat-up blue Toyota.”

“I thought you said there weren’t any attractive women in here,” he said to his friend, when he saw me; then to me, “Are you married?”

Not thinking fast enough, as usual, I said, “No,” and thought about the most sarcastic way to phrase a response to the affront on my vehicle. I wasn’t quick enough.

“Got any kids?” he continued, leering.

“As a matter of fact, yes,” I said, and showed him the pictures of the Somalian and the Syrian. “Different fathers,” I explained, smiling. And suddenly they both had to go talk with the groom’s father. The cake was delicious. Moist and compact, with a light strawberry filling.

My phone rang, and I went outside to answer it. It was Sam the detective!

“I may have a lead,” he said, “but you’ll have to meet me for dinner to discuss it.” My eyes were popping out of my head when my mouth sputtered my acceptance. I vowed not to pursue the bread bandits. Without them, I would not have met Sam. It was fate that led me to remember that I had books to sell that day, and it was fate again that pushed me to go to the police, when I didn’t even want to.

I had had enough of the wedding, and as I floated to my beautiful “beat-up blue Toyota” I reflected on how far I had come since my last encounter with Mr. Wrong. The insignificant dent that he made in my life is all but forgotten. I can move forward with this business of life. I can’t say that any one thing helped, but that everything did.

According to my mother, time is the undisputed healer of all emotional pain. One of the ways to help Time, I’ve discovered, is to fill your days with meaningful things, to be grateful for the things you have; to be generous. And to forgive.  Apart from those early days of the break up, my days have been full of activity and incidents, some good, some bad. Without them I think I would have spent a lot more time feeling sorry for myself. And getting fatter. Lots of people have worse lives than I do. As it is, I feel better about myself; I can sleep through the night; I’ve got a romantic prospect, and…

I cannot end this blog without showing you the dress I’m wearing to dinner with Sam. Robbie says it’s “the bees’ knees.” That means it looks super awesome.

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Francine’s Guest Post 8

This One’s for You, Pat

 

It was the day of Patrick’s funeral. I had to find something to wear. I am not one of those people who will just wear anything to funerals and weddings. I find that  disrespectful. I finally found in the back of my closet a black dress, a little short, and some would say a little flirtatious, but quite elegant. Robbie would love it. Then I found a perfect hat to go with it.

At the funeral were a few of our department colleagues, with whom I did not mix much, since they think they are superior, being full time instructors. After the very short service, we gathered in a reception room. There was an abundance of wine at the bar, around which hovered Pam Cadell, the department know-it-all and alcoholic. She was wearing a slightly louder version of her everyday jumper-type outfit, which Robbie called “the pinaform” (a word he had coined from pinafore and uniform.) Her dreams of becoming a lawyer having been squashed by middle age and lack of brains, she contented herself with torturing her colleagues with political announcements and unsolicited legal advice. She had already put away several drinks and when she saw me, she said,

“Fancy dress! Isn’t that a bit expensive on a part timer’s salary?”

My friend Doreen, whose free and expressive use of profanity I’ve always admired, would have responded with a hearty “Now that’s none of your f***ing business, is it?”

All I could manage as my voice rose higher was, “Ha-ha thank you my mother made this dress yours looks very practical with the red flowers to hide the wine stains in case you spill it and with those big pockets you could carry out grapes crackers sausage cheese just kidding ha-ha.”

“Francine, my dear, you look divine,” Robbie said when he saw me. Robbie looked strangely relaxed, and when I commented, he admitted that he was relieved that the ordeal was over. It had been very sad and stressful for him, caring for Patrick while he helplessly watched him suffer. Robbie’s and Patrick’s gay friends were mostly elegant, except for one, whose loud handbag caught the attention of both Robbie and me at the same time.

“Cow skin? Really?” Robbie gasped. “With a leather jacket? Should I say something?”

“You know you won’t,” I said. And we comforted ourselves by shuddering and saying “Ugh!” a few times.

People kept coming, and the little reception room was getting quite crowded. The line at the bar was a twisted mess; drinks were being spilled on the nice gay suits; napkins were on the floor, some wet; but I noticed that the disorder did not bother me a bit.

I met Patrick’s young sister, Jane, and had a very nice conversation with her. She rejoined a group of their relatives, and I could see that I had caught the eye of an old man among them. He was a tall, thin, really old man with a thick shock of white hair. And he kept raising his glass to me every few seconds.

People were leaving and I wanted to say goodbye to Robbie before I left, so I went into the room with the coffin where I thought I’d seen him go. But there was no one there but Patrick, with his colorful silk ribbed tie in the Windsor knot, a beautiful contrast against the pale pink shirt. Suddenly I heard,

“I’ve been admiring your lovely chapeau…”

It was the white-haired man. I’ve always liked men complimenting my attire, even when it’s not sincere. I think it shows attention to detail and dedication to craft. And the use of the word “chapeau”, common with the gentry of the early part of the twentieth century was refreshingly cute.

“Merçi,” I replied.

“I could buy you several hats like that,” he said, “if you’d marry me.”

I looked at him, amused. I could tell that he must have been pretty hot in his youth. His body was still straight, relatively tight; he had nice teeth (not the original, certainly), exquisite clothing, and very likely, plenty of money. Half a century too late.

“I’m just guessing,” I said, “but I think we’d have only a few years together before I’d be left a grieving widow, and I don’t think I could stand that.”

“But what wonderful years they’d be,” he said, smiling, and looking deep into my eyes.

Just then, a woman about the same age as my admirer appeared at the door.

“Are you coming, Al? Jesus Christ!” She said, and downed the rest of the contents of her glass.

Suddenly Al’s shoulders dropped and the twinkle left his eye. He did bow to me, though, whispering “Adieu!” Then, mumbling “Yes, dear,” he went to join Mrs. Al outside.

On my way out, I overheard Pam Cadell say, in her most drunken, sanctimonious, over-indulgent voice, “He didn’t deserve to die.” And I thought, now, that’s just stupid. Nobody “deserves to die,” or “doesn’t deserve to die.” Death comes to everyone. And when is not a matter of merit. Otherwise, you would not still be here, Miss Pam Cadell. It certainly was sad, and it was nice that so many people had shown up to comfort Robbie and Patrick’s family. But from all the talk from those who’ve had NDE’s, the other side is pretty awesome, because they never seem to want to come back from it, what with the bright warm light full of love and everything. We, the living, are the ones who are left to suffer. So, we just have to deal with it and hope that time really does heal us quickly.

(I am going to tell you about the wedding in the next blog post as I don’t like to make things too long.)

Francine’s Guest Post 3

I Chase the Elusive Morpheus

The insomnia having gotten out of control, I made an appointment to see a doctor. The new insurance had a list of about fifty thousand doctors, so after narrowing them down to those who were accepting new patients, I closed my eyes and picked one. And let’s call him Dr. Young.

His secretary seemed quite anxious to take my appointment, and that kind of aroused my suspicion. Not that I wasn’t grateful for a same day appointment, but which doctor has every slot open from 9AM to 4PM? Why hadn’t I been more careful in choosing?

As soon as he walked into the room, I knew my fears were justified. Dr. Young looked like he had just graduated from high school. He could not have been more than nineteen. And it was obvious that he had never shaved in his life. What can this child do for me? I asked myself.

I was able to make a short video to prove to you that I’m not making this up.

“So, you’re having trouble sleeping,” he said.

“Yes, I sleep about 6 hours per night, if I’m lucky,” I replied.

“That’s actually not that bad,” he said.

“I used to sleep eight hours before,” I said.

Then he started to recite the ways to “create an ideal sleeping environment”, which is very popular now on the internet. He must have seen the annoyed look on my face because he stopped halfway through the list.

“Do you have some medicine to make me sleep?” I said dryly.

“I do, but I don’t think you need any medicine just yet…If this continues…”

“It has continued,” I almost shouted. “It has continued for three weeks! I just need something, anything, just to get me through the next few days. I have 60 essays to grade! I have to get some rest!” The desperation in my voice was palpable.

“E-e-exercise also helps,” he stammered.

This little twerp thinks I’m a drug addict, I thought.

“Your health is very good otherwise,” he continued. “Come back and see me in a week.”

Not bloody likely, I thought.

And with that we parted company.

 

Here is a list of the items I collected before I left:

– 6 tongue depressors (Yes, I wax my own legs. I buy the wax in bulk, and I get the applicators from doctors’ offices.)

– 2 syringes (you never know when you’ll need them.)

– 2 rolls of bandages (the soft, expensive kind.)

– a stack of make-up applicators (I don’t know the medical term, but they look like a Q-Tip, but longer.)

Now uploading the video, I notice that little rectangular blue thing on the wall behind him, which I think may be a camera. I zoomed in, but couldn’t be sure. Why would there be a camera in a doctor’s office, right? I came up with these answers:

  1. They’re doing some social experiment at the hospital, to try to figure out what kind of people steal medical supplies.
  2. The camera is to watch him, to see if he’s playing video games while he’s supposed to be working.

I’m more inclined to think it’s B.

It would be real embarrassing if it were a camera, though, right? For me.

 

Francine’s Guest Post 2

Pizza, Thighs, and Exercise

Well, no one objected to the cheese, so it remained in the box with the clothes. Grendel did give me a sour look when I passed by her cave yesterday. I don’t know if the exterminator truck parked outside had anything to do with it. Rats are known to like cheese. Anyway, I’ve got bigger problems.

I seem to be running out of clothes that fit. I’ve been trying to convince myself that they’ve been shrinking.  Well, that may work for the knitted items, but not for polyester or silk.

How can a slice of pizza – okay, two slices – make your thighs rub together overnight? I’m never eating pizza again.

At lunchtime, today I decided to go to the gym after work. Exercise not only helps you lose weight, says the Internet, it increases energy, improves your mood, and helps you sleep. I need all of those things.

On my way to the gym I stopped at a restaurant to get some healthy food for afterwards. I did not want to be so hungry that I would stuff myself with anything I could find in the fridge. While waiting for my food at the counter, I heard a commotion behind me in the restaurant.

“I got a seat for us, Tracy! Where’s your man?” I turned around to see that the drunken loudspeaker was Mr. Wrong’s cousin, Tim, the recipient of those nightly phone calls. I remembered hearing that he lived in a rooming house with a bunch of male and female roommates. The girl he was talking to was one of two busty, scantily dressed women, also drunk. I concluded that they were part of the group home.

“He’s parking the car,” slurred Tracy, as she lurched into the seat, gulping from the beer bottle she was holding.

I grabbed my food and slipped outside. Not twenty feet from where I was standing, I recognized Mr. Wrong’s car maneuvering into a parking space. Well, suddenly, a few things became clear. The cousin had been a decoy. No wonder he insisted that I check his caller ID every time he called Tim. Then Tim would give the phone to Tracy the Tramp and I’d be none the wiser. Slick. Well, he’s neither gay nor incestuous….and he’s still a slug.  I hurried down the street to my car, thinking how stupid they all must have thought I was.

Better her than me, I finally said to myself. Now she’ll have to deal with the freeloader. Or maybe they’re all freeloaders, living off each other in that rooming house, hiding from creditors, on that precarious raft of deceit and depravity.

By the time I got to the gym, thoughts of Mr. Wrong had completely left my head. I was very excited about this new gym-venture. I had been there before, and I had undergone their little presentation, because who wouldn’t, for a free three-day trial? This time I was determined to give it my all. So I allowed Bob, and his fellow trainer, whose name was – guess what? – also, Bob, to show me around and explain the machinery. Well, it didn’t take me long to start yawning, and I was getting pretty annoyed. I mean, after all, I did come there to exercise, not to listen to some boring information about how machines work.

“I came here to tighten up my behind,” I said to the Bobs. “Can you just lead me to the machine that’ll do that?”

Grudgingly, they did, and I was on the machine for a good twenty minutes, working myself into what felt like a sweat. Oh, I’ll increase the resistance, I thought, and pulled what I thought was the resistance-increaser. Well, it obviously was not the resistance-increaser, as everything felt really loose after that. But at that very moment I thought I saw Mr. Wrong walk into the gym, so I whipped my head around, lost my balance, heard a loud clang, and ended up in a most embarrassing and precarious position.  Fortunately, the Gym-Bobs were there in seconds. The two of them disentangled me, to the great amusement of all who were pretending to concentrate on their weightlifting,

The picture below was taken from the video surveillance camera and given to me by the gym boss, who was delighted that I agreed not to sue them.

I’m pretty sure I broke their machine.

The guy I thought was Mr. Wrong turned out not to be – much better looking.

It’ll be a while before I go back there, of course. Unless I can find some different gym clothes.  And a wig.

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Francine’s Guest Post 1

The First Day of the Rest of My Life

or

Should the Cheese Stand Alone

The idea of a blog came to me after the break up. Mr. Wrong and I had not been seeing eye to eye for quite some time. But after I threw him out, things did not get much better.  Don’t get me wrong; the freedom I felt after I closed the door on his lying, despicable face was indescribable. It’s just that I can’t seem to settle into a comfortable place no matter what I do. I keep judging myself, I have constant internal monologues, and I have trouble sleeping. My mind is a hopeless tangle of what-ifs and I-should-haves. As a temporary solution, I decided to follow the advice I often give my students and use writing for the clichéd catharsis and self-discovery that it produces. So, my dear readers, you will be receiving weekly reports (more frequent, if I can manage) of my journey out of what I am beginning to suspect may be a depression.

So that you may have a glimpse of what goes on in my life, and in order to ensure that everything I write reflect reality, I have installed a video camera in strategic places in my home. Hopefully by the end of this blog, the cloud will have lifted, and I will become myself again.

In the video above, you can see an example of what I do when I come home from work. I lie in bed, drink tea, read, (yes, I sometimes read without looking at the pages), take long baths, and generally sulk.

I don’t think I’ll be able to write much about Mr. Wrong right now, except to say that I should have seen the signs. Here are two of the most salient:

  • What grown man over thirty does not have a bank account or a credit card?
  • Who calls their cousin at ten o’clock every night “just to touch base”?

Anyway, I packed the rest of his belongings in a box, and took them down to the office of my apartment complex for him to pick up because I told him that I’d rather not have any contact with him as I didn’t want to be responsible if I SNAP at the sight of miserable face.  The idea of removing from my home every single item he owns appealed to me immensely, and I relished packing them in the box: some clothes (including his favorite sweater), some books, his Spiderman thermos, and of course, his precious cheese. Yes, Mr. Wrong is a connoisseur of cheese. The riper the better.

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So here is the dilemma: I hate soft cheese, almost as much as I hate Mr. Wrong, but I also hate waste.  I decided not to throw the cheese out. It is a brand new, very expensive Camembert. The thing is, I had only one box, and so it was packed quite tightly, very close to the favorite sweater, as I remember. It was only later that I found out that he wouldn’t be able to pick up his items for two days. And I had already taped up the box and left it with Grendel, the Keeper of the Gate, whose idea of a response to “Good morning” is “Unrghh!”

I have done the research. I know the cheese will survive at room temperature for a couple days, but what about the clothes? Will they survive? Should I have double-wrapped the cheese in plastic? But wouldn’t that make it sweat?

On the other hand, am I putting too much effort into accommodating the needs of this vermin with whom I wasted two of my precious child-bearing years and who contributed only to my awareness of evil and my ability to withstand adversity?

Readers, I place the fate of the cheese in your hands. If in the next two days I get one request, just one, to walk down to the office and separate the cheese, I’ll do it.

I definitely did not foresee this dilemma.

As I write this I see that I may be a little obsessive.

See? Already this blog is working. Fantastic.