May the 4th be with ya’ll!
I’m not saying that these people are liars, but I am saying that there was probably a lot more to remember about camp than crafts and pond sports. Most of the people I have talked to about summer camp remember it as the first time they smoked pot, exposed themselves to The Clash, or touched a boob. They turned into men and women at summer camp. I guess I could say the same – kind of.
“But how do I know where to put it?”
“You just have to feel around,” called Kat, the camp counselor. My body had chosen to take its first, spritely step into womanhood during breakfast on the second morning of my weel at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Camp. I bolted for Kat because she was the nearest female authority figure, but I don’t know if she would have been my first choice under any other set of circumstances. She was a young bohemian with thick glasses and an arsenal of rings on her fingers. She was a nice person, for sure, but she had maybe seven years on me at the most and I had always assumed that the woman who would teach me to use a tampon would be considerably older.”I think I am getting my period and I don’t know what to do,” I whispered.
“Well, you have a couple of options. Do you want to swim at all this week?”
“Well, now you only have one option. Come on.”
After a long like back to the cabin, she pointed to the bathroom and said, “Go wait there,”
as she went to her trunk and rummaged around. She eventually produced a small box and dumped the contents onto her bed, picking out a tubular package with pink, friendly looking daisies on it and a booklet of directions.
“This,” she said as she approached me, “is something you need to learn to use.”
One painfully awkward crash course in feminine hygiene later, I found myself alone in a bathroom stall with a strange, foreign device in my hands that was supposed to end up inside my body – somehow.
“And people use these?” I called out.
“Women use them, yes.”
“Can I have the directions?”
“Sure,” she said, tossing them over the stall from the main room of the cabin. I thought it was weird how she refused to come inside the bathroom. It made me feel like I was holding a stick of dynamite and it would explode any second. I studied the diagram one more time, trying to make sense of the drawings and the directions that came in every language imaginable.
“You alright?” she called.
“What if it goes in the pee hole?” I called back.
“You can’t do that. It’s impossible.”
“The pee hole is too small. Most people have never even found it.”
There was a pause. Finally, I asked,
“Have you ever found your pee hole?”
There was an even longer pause. An awkward pause.
“No, Jas. I have not.”
I eventually got everything squared away and was allowed to swim, and though my counselor and I never spoke of the exchange again, I sealed my fate as the “that girl” of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Camp.
Camps are supposed to be the place where the socially inept, such as 12 year old me, could go to escape the empty, confusing lives they led at middle school or high school. For me, camp just took those awkward years and mashed them into one week.
Prior to St. Andrew’s, my only experience summer camp was limited to a week I had spent at Camp Pristine Pines, a Girl Scout camp nestled in the foot hills of the Appalachian trail. I slept in a leaky cabin with eleven other girls who were really into horses the The Babysitter’s Club, two concepts that I did not understand whatsoever. They always picked me last in team sports, leaving me with no option but to partner up with Ms. Tammy, the camp leader. Being my own partner was not an option; her staunch belief in the buddy system left her incapable of letting us do even the most basic tasks on our own. A girl in a neighboring cabin had to spend an entire afternoon sitting in Ms. Tammy’s office because she walked to the volleyball court by herself. With her leathery skin, an accent that rivaled the Wonderful Whites of West Virginia, and a temper to match, Ms. Tammy developed into worthy nemesis.
My overall experience culminated in a moment of fury when no one would go with me on a much needed, midnight bathroom run. I moved from bunk to bunk, whispering small pleas to my sleeping cabin mates to wake up and walk with me to the latrines in the middle of camp. Most of them pretended to be asleep, but a few of them muttered, “No,” or “Go find someone else,” before I could even finish my question. Finally, I crept over to Ms. Tammy’s section, separated from the rest of the cabin by a wire screen.
“Ms. Tammy,” I whispered, scratching on the screen. Nothing.
“Ms. Tammy, I have to go to the bathroom!”
With a snort and a groan, she turned on her back and put her hand on her forehead.
“Go back to bed,” she muttered, “It can wait ‘till the morning.”
At that exact moment, I decided that I hated summer camp.
The frustration that had been building up all week came to a head as I planted my feet in the middle of my cabin, pulled down my pajamas, and let loose all over the plywood floor. I mean I really did a number on that cabin. I vengeance peed right in the center, and when I was satisfied, I climbed back into bed and dreamed of my cabin mates’ faces the next morning.
Young Me, in Girl Scout regalia, most likely reminiscing about pissing on the cabin floor. This will also double as the DVD cover for my season of Making a Murderer.
When asked who soiled the cabin, the cabin succumbed to a frenzy of name calling and finger pointing. It was total anarchy and I just laughed.
To this day, whenever I tell that story in real life I always tack on the phrase, “Those bitches had it coming.”
The remainder of the week dragged on for what seemed like months. The weather was rainy; the girls were more interested in talking about horses than anything I considered even remotely relevant; and although I learned that someone under 90 pounds could use their thumbs to gouge out an attacker’s eyeballs in the Girl’s Defense Course, it wasn’t enough to make me want to go back to Camp Pristine Pines the next summer.
My parents, after hearing wonderful feedback about St. Andrew’s from my sister and some of the other kids from church, convinced me to give summer camp another go by sending me to the performing arts session. By “performance arts,” they meant breaking us off into small groups every day and creating skits from the more colorful tales in the bible. At the end of the week, each group picked their best skit and used it in a showcase for Parent Pick-up Day. For the grand finale, every group from camp ran on stage and danced the Macarena to REM’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It.”
I went back for three more sessions because of one of my cabin mates. Her name was Helen and she was a mildly athletic, cool tempered girl who exclusively wore faded band t-shirts and showed me the Beastie Boys for the first time. Aside from my counselor, she was the only one who knew about my leap of womanhood and, to her, this made me a mature and worthy accomplice. Helen had this energy that sucked in everyone around her, making them grateful to be in her presence. I had never been so warmly received by someone so cool. When she told me she was switching from performing arts camp to general camp, I followed her. When she went on morning jogs with the counselors, I went with her even though I hated jogging and I was always wheezing by the time we were done. When the boys began to give her a hard time, I got in their face and told them to leave her alone. It seemed like a worthy trade until one year when she snuck off to make out with one of them in the bushes.
I kept to myself for the rest of the week. She’d poke me with her fork at lunch or dinner and say things like,
“Dude, what’s wrong?” or, “Hey, something bothering you?”
“I’m good,” I replied, “Just not feeling it.”
A day or two later, someone would tell her that she had “broken my heart” and she and the other girls would stop waving me to their table at meals and cease asking me to play on their teams for camp games. I stopped going to camp at Saint Andrews after that summer. I was too embarrassed and pissed off. I felt like I had put in so much effort and I expected her to give back in equal amounts. As much as I don’t want to say that I thought she owed me, chances are I probably thought that she owed me. Most of my education on healthy relationships with other women would happen well after my camp years.
Aside from the lying, the passive aggressive peeing, and the obsessive tendencies toward camp friendships, I think that the weird little cherry atop my cake of camp strangeness was the opportunity it afforded to completely reinvent myself. I went to camp with a new nickname every year. I even tried to reinvent myself as “Mizzy,” a hip kid with an out of this world sensibility, but that fell flat on its face when I met Ben, a kid who also the comic book where I found the name “Mizzy.”
In the comic, Mizzy wore a backwards cap and schooled all the guys in basketball. I could wear a backwards cap, but I could barely dribble, much less shoot. Ben pointed all of this out to me, but didn’t blow the whistle on my true identity. The real agony was making it through the next five days knowing that he knew I was faking everything.
Otherwise, camp was simply a cocktail of awkwardness that I have learned to appreciate in the years since. My favorite memories are ones that make me look back and silently scream, “Really? No, really?” – like the time I pretended that I had seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail so I could run around and say “Kni!” with Helen and the rest of her friends on camp skit night. When asked if I could quote anything from the rest of the film, I replied,
“Oh, sure!” and promptly changed the subject.
That said, I did rent the movie immediately when I returned home. So maybe I did learn some good stuff at camp.
At the very least, I learned where the pee hole was.
Because I’m in it and I definitely chuck this lady’s phone into a pond.
Fun fact: when auditioning for this spot, I actually chucked my partner’s phone at the wall! I’ve never been so thankful for Otterboxes in my life!
Somewhere there exists a photograph of me squatting under a table at some party from a a film festival in 2012. The majority of my body is huddled as far back into the corner as I can get it while my head careens forward with a happy/sad grin and I think I’m giving Producer Linda Burns a thumbs up sign.
I remember being under there for half an hour. She remembers me being under there for two hours. I’m inclined to take her word for it since that was the night I drank so much Redbull that I cried. It’s the kind of memory that makes me cover my eyes with one hand and simply mutter, “… Christ.”
I really wish I could locate that picture, but all I can offer you is this gif of someone who ugly cries way better than I do:
The next time I went to that same festival, the Tri-Wizard Tournament of festivals, was as a photographer and occasional technician for a virtual reality set-up. Virtual Reality was it! Virtual Reality was that new thing that all the brands want. Consumers lined up in droves to try on a pair of goggles that let them look around an animated, video game like environment with the same kind of visual flexibility that they got in real life. VR was new back then and it blew people’s minds. When you looked up, you saw the sky. When you looked to the left, you see anything beside you. When you look the right, you also saw what was beside you. It was just like being in real life – as long as you could suspend your disbelief to believe that real life was similar to the original Toy Story.
I kid (kind of). VR was and is still actually really fun.
The thing about VR, though, and a lot of the tech industry, is that it’s run by this weird mutation of “Bro.” The tech industry is riddled with men who bump fists and yell out things like, “Ye-HEAH!” and “CRUSH IT!” and engage in an alarming trend of sexually demeaning and harassing their female counterparts.
This brings us to Mr. Programmer. Mr. Programmer and his team collaborated with us to help make some festival magic.
First, a disclaimer: I do kind of feel bad for Mr. Programmer. I also don’t feel bad for Mr. programmer because I actually did have an eventful evening and I obviously like to tell people about it, so it wasn’t without its merits. Moving on.
Mr. Programmer looked, sounded, and acted exactly like all the hyper masculine bro-kids I went to high school with – except 30 years later.
He was a professional during the day, but come the evening open bar it was a free for all. He pounded beers and cocktails. He grabbed us drinks, too. Whereas my team and I had roughly two drinks a piece over the course of five hours, Mr. Programmer had … 10? A lot? Who knows. He had enough to start talking about creating a “virtual reality blow job machine.”
We approached the end of our shift and Mr. Programmer approached us with an invitation to accompany him to “the after party.” For those of you not in the know, “the after party” is rarely an official party. It’s this thing that people, especially people who rage all night, dream up in the heat of their drug fueled state then just go do.
“We’re going to go to the E-Tickets After party. I’m VIP,” he said.
Wait. Hold on. That’s not right.
“Werr grng ter ger ter ther err-terrkerrts errrfter prtsDASFQ3FCS333 I AM VRRRRRRRRRRRRRRP,” he said.
Drunk bro’s love to be VIP. Being VIP to a bro is basically like giving a child a Barbie Dream House. A drunk bro will gleefully skip all the way to a paper sign that someone scrawled the letters “V I P” on with a magic marker and, once he makes it to the other side, yell out, “YEAH, DOG, V. I. P!” as the rest of the actual party rages on into the night. He feels like a king, but the reality is this: VIP is basically a play pen for all the drunk, grown up baby-people you don’t want around everyone else.
(Note: everything I just said applies to whatever the female equivalent of a bro is, too.)
My team and I wanted to go home, but Mr. Programmer was so sloppy drunk that he didn’t know the difference between dirt and bucket. My team took a vote and agreed that none of us wanted him to walk out into traffic and die, so we opted to take him to the party. During the ride to the hotel, Mr. Programmer started talking about virtual blow jobs and how we were all going to get our dicks rocked. Then he said since I didn’t have a dick, I would have to get my vagina rocked. Then he started talking about my vagina and I started wondering,
“What’s the worst that could happen if we just let him out and let him wander about town?”
We found parking near the hotel by saying we were with the hotel and because at one thirty in the morning, all of the security guards had reached Level Fuck It.
At this point, the other two members of my team decided they were going to eat a snack. They split a rice krispy treat and I asked if I could have a piece because I was hungry. I thought it was a regular snack. It’s not unusual for gas stations and convenience stores to sell gourmet snack food wrapped in paper or fancy Ziplock bags, so it did not occur to me that the boys were splitting a Weed Rice Krispy.
I don’t really rage anymore. The last time I got stupid drunk, I told an old college friend that I was going to pay off her student loans with the money I earned from my first big acting job. Then I watched part of the Chip N’ Dales show she graciously gave me comps to and blacked out a quarter of the way through. My co-worker who came with me had to confiscate my phone and call my significant other to take me home. It was bad. I still drink occasionally, but I don’t “rage,” and I rarely smoke weed.
All that was to prepare you for the fact that I immediately spit this weed-krispy into my co-workers hand, half chewed and wet with my spit. Mr. Programmer’s weed receptors kicked into high gear and he walked over, picked it up out of my co-workers hand, and ate it. He ate my chewed up, sopping wet weed treat.
“What else you got?” he asked. Wait. That’s not right.
“WRHT ERLSE yer gert.jhjhj ?” he asked.
We ended up giving Mr. Programmer a kava lozenge.
We walked up to the E-Tickets party and Mr. Programmer immediately leaned in with his VIP nonsense. As I had predicted, the door man didn’t know who he was and gave no shits either way. Mr. Programmer insisted that he knew the hosts of the party, but he couldn’t contact them because his phone was dead.
Mr. Programmer stood there for over thirty minutes arguing with the hostesses, the door men, and the Austin police department about how he should be let into the party. Finally, one of the hostesses got tired of hearing his voice and left to go find the event organizer. As it turned out, Mr. Programmer knew the event organizer and the first wave of defense had to let us in.
“I’m so sorry,” I whispered to them as they ushered us past the fence.
Once inside, Mr. Programmer grabbed another beer and somehow walked outside and spotted that proverbial paper VIP sign I mentioned earlier.
“Watch, I’m gonna get into VIP,” he said. Wait. That’s not right.
“bflafslfddlnkgsdlfknalfknsksfnbbbrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrp,” he said.
My co-workers and I watched for ten minutes while Mr. Programmer argued with the guards and, finally, made his way into the VIP box where his eyes remained fixated on the band, but his brain retreated into a dark place where he sat atop his Barbie Dream House and played pretend Virtual Blow Job games with his imaginary women friends.
The band played their last song and my team and I decided we would give him a lift back to his hotel. While he insisted that he knew how to get there, the reality was he had no clue whatsoever and we drove15 miles out of the way on Highway 35 before I decided to call his business partner and ask for help.
In the end, we unloaded Mr. Programmer in the lobby of his business partner’s hotel around two-thirty in the morning. We never saw him again. We did, however, see his business partner the next morning – and after giving him the rundown of the evenings festivities, he simply told us:
“When I found him, he had thrown up in his computer bag.”
You know what? I’m glad that we were able to make sure that he didn’t die and see to it that he got to a safe place in one piece. I get that events like film festivals bring out the debauchery sides of people. Like I said, I once went nuts at a film festival. I bombarded people I barely knew with personal questions. I wandered around and asked total strangers if they had phone chargers. I drank so much Redbull & Vodka that I hid under a table and wept for no reason.
That said: I kind of wanted to point out the fact that someone had already beaten him to the virtual reality blow job machine. I probably would have gotten to see real tears.
Forward: I want to start off by saying that it wasn’t actually Nick Jonas. Just a kid who looked eerily similar to Nick Jonas. I don’t know Nick Jonas nor do I condone the idea that he’s a shit head. Didn’t he do some kind of anti-texting while driving campaign? Right, so he is above all of us earthlings. Moving on.
“Alright, guys. We’re going to play a game. It’s called Never Have I Ever.“
During my penultimate year of college, my friend Bobby invited some of the other theatre majors and me to a party at his place. His parties had a reputation for rowdiness, often ending with a broken piece of furniture or several people stacked a bathtub in various states of undress. His parties also had a reputation for attracting people outside the theater program, therefore offering up an opportunity to socialize with individuals beyond our kind.
I decided to go because I had a reputation for rarely getting invited to parties and also because I felt I needed to truly know what The Perks of Being A Wallflower’s Charlie meant by “feeling infinite” before the part of my brain that allowed me to feel “possibility” shriveled up and died. It also helped that Bobby lived in the same apartment complex as me lest I started to feel a little too infinite.
My friend Bette joined me and together we ventured to his apartment on the second floor.
Per the usual in the college party scene, only a handful of people could drink legally. It was easy enough to spot the underage drinkers by way they exaggerated their spotty knowledge of cheap liquor and the various of ways to make it stay in one’s body.
“Oh, god; McCormick’s is terrible! ” one might say, “But if you run out of orange juice to chase it with, try eating some Honey Nut Cheerios really fast!”
As much as I would love to let you think that some other sad child made that claim, I can’t. It was me. I was once young and stupid enough to actually try chasing shots of Captain Morgan’s with whole grain cereal. All I got was a nasty mouthful of grainy, fiber fortified rum and a moderate case of alcohol poisoning. Those days were behind me, but the experience was so deeply etched into my memory that I still experienced a visceral reaction whenever I met a nineteen year old with nothing to lose and a burning desire to party. Despite all of this, I still enjoyed being reminded that I once cared so little, and so that night I found myself in the middle of a riveting round of Never Have I Ever. If you’ve never played it: it’s a pissing contest of who’s the absolute worst.
“Never have I ever… been caught with someone at church,” one girl piped up. Six or seven people took a swig of their drinks, signifying that they, unlike her, had been caught in an unholy act on holy grounds.
“What? Come on, that’s pretty much the best place to get caught! What a little bitch!” laughed one guy. I glanced over at the offender: a Nick Jonas look-a-like with a can of Keystone Light in each hand. He appropriately smelled like Kirkland vodka and Axe body spray.
“You,” he pointed one of his beers to the next player, “You go.”
“Okay. Um. Never have I ever… been with someone way older!” the next girl said.
“Fuck that, you gotta be more specific,” said Nick Jonas. “How old are we talking?”
“Um, old enough to be my dad?”
I looked at my glass and debated my options. I could piss or I could hold it in… and I decided to piss.
“Oh damn!” Nick Jonas pointed at me. “This girl’s a freak!”
I rolled my eyes.
“Hey, what are you up to later?” he asked.
“It’s your turn,” I replied, curtly.
“Fine, fine,” he said, his tone saturated in subtext, “I see how it is.”
“Good. Then go.”
Nick Jonas slid back into the couch and snapped his fingers at his own brilliance.
“Never have I ever kissed a dude!”
He high fived the guy beside him as if not kissing another dude was some kind of accomplishment.
“Surprise, surprise,” Bette whispered, “He screws in church and hates the gays.”
“Hey,” Nick Jonas said, raising his glass, “You guys better be whispering about how much you want me.”
“Oh,” I said as I stood up for a refill, “Don’t flatter yourself.”
“Don’t flatter yourself. You know you’d do me.”
I laughed a little and said,
“Sorry, but your ship sailed the minute I became too old for naptime and Camp Rock.”
Bette and I continued to observe the Never Have I Ever circle from the kitchen. With the two of us temporarily out of the picture, Nick Jonas had moved on to terrorizing the poor girl who had never had copulated in a place of worship. She was about to cry.
“Hey, Nick Jonas,” I said, sitting back down, “Lighten up. You’re killing the mood.”
“Come on. Like you could even get enough of this,” He said, grazing his hands across his torso.
“You’re giving yourself way too much credit,” Bette scoffed.
“You’re one to talk, missy,” Nick Jonas fired back, taking a drink. This was the tip of the turning point.
You know movie trailers often employ the record scratching trope to let their audience know that conflict exists? Example:
Kevin Spacey is up for the BIGGEST PROMOTION OF HIS LIFE! There’s just one small problem. –
He’s been turned into a cat by a witchy Christopher Walken!
Well, that happened at the party.
“One to talk?” Bette asked, emphasizing her T’s, “What exactly do you mean by that?”
Bette was confident, full figured, gorgeous, and way above Nick Jonas . Nick Jonas, for lack of more appropriate words, was an ultra basic shit head – and this wasn’t the first time he had made disparaging comments toward any woman who didn’t look like the starved girls in the Eastern European sex-ransom videos he most likely jerked off to. Seeing that he had struck a nerve, he continued,
“I’d pay money to see Miss Freak over here take her shirt off, but I wouldn’t pay shit to see you -”
“Hey. Asshole,” I cut in, “Will you just shut up? No one wants your lunch money.”
A few seconds passed. He looked as though someone had just punched the wind out of him.
“No,” he finally stammered, “No, I will not!”
“Fine then.” I stood up. “Bette, you wanna go?”
“Yeah. I need a cigarette, anyway.”
“What a waste of a person,” Bette said, taking a drag.
“Forget him. He looks like Nick Jonas and drinks Keystone Light.”
Bette was silent.
“Hey,” I said, “You ok?”
“Yeah. I’m just over it.”
The door swung open, startling us. Out staggered Nick Jonas, screaming,
“Yeah, well fuck you guys! Your party sucks, you cocksucker!”
We barely dodged out of the way as he fell toward us.
“Dude! Chill out!” I yelled.
“No, you chill out! You crazy … freak… bitch!”
He slammed his fist on the door and used the force to push off and get some momentum going in the opposite direction, turning around only to throw his last can of Keystone Light at us.
“You and your fat bitch friend can suck it!”
Just like that, he staggered down the hallway, his barely enunciated tirade of obscenities reverberating from the walls as he stumbled and clawed his way to his own apartment three doors down. We could still hear him, screaming and throwing things against the wall even after he finally made it inside.
We left shortly thereafter.
The next day, I lost an hour long battle against the urge to go buy a microwavable pizza.
On my way to the car, I noticed the sneakers Nick Jonas was wearing at the party sitting right outside his door. I paused to look at them. They were all alone; void of any protection from their owner.
I bit my lip as my brain fired out the possibilities.
I shouldn’t, I thought. I took a few more steps toward the car. The shoes, pristine and white, seemed to be calling after me, the sweet aroma of retribution pulling me back to their resting place. It was as if a siren were calling out,
“Jas, please, please take us. We belong to a heartless creep who resembles Nick Jonas. Please, please use us to achieve your vengeance!”
I turned around and the siren song abruptly stopped. There were only the shoes.
I really shouldn’t, I thought.
I made it all the way to the front seat of my car. I thought of the nasty things that Nick Jonas had said. I remembered dodging the beer cans as he slammed his way back to his apartment. I remembered the hateful comments he made to my friend. Each scenario overlapped the next like a supercut in my brain, faster and faster until I felt my arm turn the key to the left and I heard the sound of the engine shutting off. I opened the door, ran up the stairs, snatched the shoes, and went to get my pizza.
Upon entering the safety of my bedroom, I tossed them on the ground and let my two ferrets, Elroi and Nola, out to play. Ferrets love anything that smells or allows them to crawl inside, so it made sense when they claimed both shoes and drug them next to the litter pan.
I noticed the litter was due for a change.
I got an idea.
I put on some gloves, took a paper towel, and wiped the freshest, slimiest ferret poop from the top of the litter pan. Then, I stuffed it into the tiptoe of one of the shoes. Seeing that the majority of urine had accumulated at the corner of the pan, I poured it into the shoe as well. I turned both shoes into a payload of the worst things that come out the wrong end of a ferret.
I figured that if he kept his sneakers outside his apartment, then more than likely he was the type of person who mindlessly stuffed their feet into their shoes on their way out the door. He would never see it coming.
I tiptoed down the stairs with shoes in hand. The sound of a car alarm made me jump and hide under the stairwell. When the coast was clear, I focused my attention on Nick Jonas’s doorstep. It was a straight shot. There were no obstacles standing in between us. The time was now. I sprinted to the door, arranged the shoes exactly as I had found them, and sprinted back up the stairs and into my apartment, slamming the door behind me.
I got home from rehearsal the next evening delighted to find shoes were missing. I saw the friend who had originally thrown the party a few days later.
“So Bobby,” I said, casually, “I put ferret shit in that Nick Jonas’s kid’s shoes. You know anything about that?”
Bobby’s eyes widened.
“That was ferret shit?”
“So he found them?”
“Yes, he found them.”
“Do you know if he put his feet in them?”
“Uh, pretty sure he did.”
We both started laughing. Deep, guttural laughs that required us to stick out our arms to regain balance. I may not have felt infinite, but I felt deviously good.
“I won’t say a word,” he promised, catching his breath.
When I told Bette what I had done she hugged me and said,
“This is why we’re friends.”
Then, after a pause, she said,
“Ferret shit, though? Really?”
Shortly after the shoes incident, the leasing office had Nick Jonas evicted for violating the terms of his lease. Basically, he threw a party of his own at which time the police came and caught him and all of his underage friends drinking alcohol and “disrupting the integrity of the lawn.”
To this day, I look back on the ferret shit incident fondly. I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t help it. I had never considered considered myself a person of action. I was usually content to step back and avoid conflict. However, watching this asshole come after me and my friend ignited a little retaliative streak in me. A good streak, a bad streak; there’s no way to really tell. I want to remember what it felt like to say, “Fuck it. There HAVE to be consequences.”
Because sometimes I forget. Even now, I forget and let people get away with such bullshit. I once allowed a male opponent in a writer’s read-off sexually objectify and humiliate me for his entire seven minutes. He did this in front of a crowd of people and I just took it. Where was the ferret shit slanging, spitfire bitch in my soul then?
I need to make sure a piece of her sticks around. There will always be someone who is an insufferable ass.
I always want to be the one who makes them guard their shoes.
Jas, I know you are in there. I heard you go in. I hear you on your phone so I KNOW YOU PLAN TO BE IN THERE FOR A WHILE.
You might as well open the door and let me in.
Oh, yeah. Once that phone comes out, it’s OVER. You may only shit for 13 seconds, but I hear you chuckling at that video of the cat pulling that Norwegian dude on a sled. And after you’re done watching a Norwegian Snow Cat pull a grown ass man through the Nordic wilderness, do you know what YouTube will suggest for you to watch? Another cat video except this time it’s called Cat Island. Cat Island. CAT THE FUCK ISLAND.
And you’re going to watch Cat Island and then ten or thirty-four other cat videos on the toilet in your bathroom. Alone. But you don’t have to be.
You should let me in.
Your actual, real life cat wants to be by your side.
Seriously, Jas, just let me in. I’m scratching your door. I’m scratching your door AND the door frame. Oh, I’m sorry, did you want that rent deposit back?
YO, FUCK YOUR RENT DEPOSIT. LET ME IN.
I really, really, really, really need to be in there with you right now.
How do I know that you don’t get sucked into some time-warp space vacuum whenever you close the bathroom door IF I AM NOT IN THERE WITH YOU?
GRAB MY HAND. MY PAW. FUCK, WHATEVER, I’M STICKING IT UNDER THE DOOR. I WILL NOT LOSE YOU.
Grab it! Poke my hand with your foot. Let me know you are in there.
YOU THINK THIS IS A GAME TO ME?
I HEAR YOU FLUSHING EVEN THOUGH YOU FINISHED FOUR HOURS AGO.
Jas, please, open the door. I really, really, really, really, really, really-really need to be in there with you right–
OH THANK GOD. THANK YOU, JAS. I’M SO HAPPY TO BE IN YOUR PRESENCE RIGHT …
This isn’t as fulfilling as I thought it would be.
Hey I know you’re sitting on the toilet but I’m going to sit on you, that cool?
Actually… I’m hungry.
We should just leave.
You should get up and we should leave the bathroom.
No, Jas, you don’t understand. I really, really, really, really need to get out of here right now.
A woman sitting next to me on the way to Nashville offered me some of her Magical Purse Water for my sinus infection. Oh, wait; some of you probably don’t know the other name for Magical Purse Water. It’s homeopathy.
The woman, who looked like a standard Daphne from Alpharetta, Georgia but introduced herself as Shailiah from Nowhere and Everywhere, heard me sneeze and sniffle and started rummaging around in her enormous bag of tricks. She pulled out a little glass bottle with a hand written label taped on the side. I completely forget what she said was in it because I don’t think she was using real words. She unscrewed the cap and squeezed the dropper and told me to open my mouth.
Brazen. If she were trying to sell me a car I might have fallen for it, but she was trying to make me ingest her homemade purse water of questionable origin, so I said,
“No thanks, I’m already on something and I’d hate to mix them.”
“What are you on, if you don’t mind me asking?”
Her face contort into a horrified expression.
For the record, I actually have tried to treat a violent sinus infection with homeopathic remedies. Some years ago I was in an abusive relationship with a man – if you feel like getting depressed and reading an essay that’s 2 points shy of making it onto Thought Catelog, I’ve written about it here – who expressly forbade me to take medicine when I was sick. He claimed that actual cold medicine altered one’s brain and made them disagreeable. Like Daph- DAMMIT, Shailiah, he believed in homeopathy. Unfortunately for me and everyone within a 10 foot radius of me, I did not have some imaginary sickness. I had a real sinus infection that was turning into something worse with alarming speed.
For those of you not in the know, most homeopathic remedies are the biggest crock of shit in the medicinal world. They are literally placebos. They don’t have anything in them except maybe 1/100,000,000,000 of a substance like rose hips or rat poop.
The best part is the process of diagnosing yourself and figuring out what kind of homeopathic remedy will work for you. First you get this big ass book of feelings that some unqualified person decided matched up to certain substances and certain thoughts. Then you assess your ailments. Let’s say you are having headaches and you feel apathetic. Then you pretend that your arbitrary thoughts are connected to your ailments. Let’s say you often find yourself thinking of trees. You would then take your big book of magical rat poop water and look up “apathetic” and “visions of trees.”
Visions of trees and apathetic feelings? Sounds like a job for 1/100,000,000,000,000mg of *RAT POOP. I don’t know if rat poop is what Mr. Homeopathy prescribes for people who have headaches and think of trees, but I do know that rat poop was listed in the big book of purse-water recipes that my abusive ex-boyfriend used to assess my blatantly obvious sinus infection, so let’s roll with it.
You would then buy a little box rat poop pills and trick yourself into thinking you are getting better even though you aren’t because you should have taken some ibuprofen like a normal person.
Getting back on topic with my horrible experience with homeopathic nonsense: my sinus infection had gotten to the point where I constantly needed water and my lips were peeling up to my nose, which was raw from blowing it so hard so often. I was sneezing blood, yet he insisted we continue to wait and see if the homeopathic pills would kick in. Meanwhile, I started to experience dizzy spells. I was walking around with a fever.
Finally this guy in the music program, named *Miguel, blurted out, “Why the hell haven’t you gone to a doctor?”
I told him everything, but in a way I told him nothing since I made a significant effort to gloss over the insanity of it all by emphasizing my willingness to try out my significant other’s lifestyle. In retrospect, I don’t think he bought it.
“Christ, Jas. You need medicine. Also you shouldn’t be here because you could make the entire department sick. You need to be at home, sleeping.”
He opened his backpack and took out a box of Sudafed.
“You’re lucky I happened to have this. I hope it’s enough. Take one of these right now. And these are the super strong kind, so if they don’t start doing something by tomorrow morning, you have got to go to the health center. This is the kind of shit that turns into pneumonia. Here. Just have the box.”
I reluctantly took one, know thing that I would have to answer for it later – and I did. My ex grilled me for details about my day every single evening. Not just a few key details or major events – he wanted to know everything. If I forgot something, even something small like someone holding a door open for me, then he would accuse me of lying and we would sit there for potentially hours figuring out what else I “wasn’t telling” him. Since accepting medicine from a male classmate was my biggest transgression of the day, I came clean about the Suda-fed immediately. He wasn’t happy. He wanted to know everything about my relationship to Miguel. He wanted to know if I had talked about him to Miguel. He wanted specifics. I was sick and light headed and didn’t want to talk about things that I had never said. I managed to convince him that I wasn’t in love with Miguel and he let me go to sleep.
If my memory serves me correctly, Miguel came up to me at some point the next day and said that my ex had approached him and questioned him about the medicine he game me. It would make sense. He had a habit of following up with males who talked to me.
It took nearly the entire box, but thankfully the medicine that Miguel gave me worked. It frightens me to think of what I might have allowed to happen if he hadn’t have been so adamant that I take it. I have trouble with how ridiculously stupid I was.
So yeah. On top of the sheer fact that it’s homeopathic rat-poop infused HOT DOG WATER, I’ve got some emotionally charged opinions about people who try to impose it onto others.
Pseudoepedrine is the active ingredient in Sudafed – or at least it was back then, before young, self-titled entrepreneurs started cooking it into meth and almost ruined it for everyone. You have to go to the pharmacy to get it now, but thank goodness you still can; it is simply the best cold and sinus infection drug you can buy. It dries your sinuses out and cuts your cold or sinus infection in half. Sometimes into a third or a fourth if you catch it early enough. So when some future bag-lady slash Doterra pyramid scheme victim says something stupid like,
“That stuff is terrible for you. It alters your brain. It’s like poison,” then it makes me say,
“Um, you’re a Los Angeles transplant with a fake name that you got from a mail-order guru and you’re carrying purse water in a homemade vile that you offer to strangers.”
I actually didn’t say that last part.
Part of me wishes I had, but all I really did was stop talking, put on my headphones, and ignore her.
However, if I ever I tell this story live I’ll just pretend that I’m a stone cold bitch who leaned the fuck in.
I am home for the holidays for the first time in three years. Something about spending another consecutive holiday season in LA made me feel 10% more likely to do the Birdman off of the top of the apartment building. That may be a stretch, but it’s safe to say that I really wanted to go home this year.
This evening, between screenings of A Christmas Story and It’s A Wonderful Life, my mother emerged from the kitchen with an old, browning piece of paper in hand.
“Look at this,” she said, “It’s an old comic you drew about Christmas.”
I took it from her, afraid to read it. Mom once sent me an old book I had written, illustrated, and self-binded with pink construction paper. It was called, Toby, Lissie, and the Giant Apple. The book began,
“Lissie was an orphan. Both of her parents were killed. She had no clothes, no good food, and she was very cold.”
Most of the stories that I wrote as a child began in a similar fashion. A young girl in dire straits finds she has super human abilities and uses them to escape her family and destroy the mean girls at school. Mom has a whole stash of them and, despite the fact that anyone else would read them and immediately put me on a list of children to watch out for lest they become susceptible to a death cult, treasures them to the point where she looks at them and simply sees beautiful, childlike artwork.
“I take this out every year and hang it on the fridge,” she said with great pride.
Here is the comic in its entirety:
Let’s break this down.
This picture depicts a gift that my aunt gave us that was wrapped in such a way that no one could open it. Not so strange.
This picture is of a Christmas tree that cost sixty-five American dollars. I possessed an acute awareness of money as a child. I attribute this to the fact that there was a good, long period of my childhood where my family wasn’t doing so well financially. Money and the iffy status of my dad’s heating and air conditioning business was talked about openly and frequently. This particular year, the Christmas tree farm raised the price of all trees by nearly 100% and my father had a fit. He couldn’t believe that a tree cost sixty-five dollars. The price of the tree was a hot topic that holiday season and significant enough to make it into a comic full of things that reminded me of Christmas.
Ah, the painting that I was supposed to keep and turn in to my art teacher at school but didn’t because I didn’t have anything to give Aunt Frances for Christmas. I think I told the teacher that I forgot it and painted something else quickly. Aunt Frances got the still life of poinsettias that I had worked on for three art class periods while the school got a hand print with a santa hat drawn onto the thumb.
This is where the comic starts to get weird. The spiky haired girl with a disaffected expression on her face is supposed to be my sister not caring that Mom is screaming at my father about the Dickensville Collection, a line of miniature snowed-in houses of which we had two. Dad set up one and thought that was enough, but mom wanted both of them on display. It was a legitimate point of contention for days.
The dog with the horns, wings, and halo is supposed to be Rocky. Rocky died. The dog to the left was Blondie, who is basically saying,
“Please, wherever you are, take me with you. Please. I just want to die, too.”
Fysty was the cat that I obviously didn’t care about enough to assign a narrative.
Trouble, the black cat in the middle, had also died. Oreo, the black and white cat beside trouble, had also died. Unlike the cats below them who dressed in slutty clothes and couldn’t give a damn about being alive, Trouble and Oreo were stoked to be dead.
This was supposed to be me. I had a dangerous obsession with Little Orphan Annie but I also didn’t like myself, which is probably why I drew myself as Little Orphan Annie with no arms and a club foot. The rain cloud, the bolt of lightening, and a very furrowed brow were supposed to highlight how I was feeling about life.
Now, my mother has a TON of Christmas related odds and ends that she and Dad unpack and use to decorate the house. Why this comic in particular has joined the likes of the holly, the Dickensville pieces, and the onslaught of Star Trek and Star Wars themed Christmas ornaments? I have no idea.
I do know that unlike Little-Jas, who clearly had some things going on at the time of “publication” that I probably should have talked about with a professional, I am quite relieved to be back in Georgia this year. Drinking bourbon with my folks and the cats (who are living) as we watch old Christmas movies was the right move.
This story starts with: “Jas had two parents. When she was an adult, she finally got to go home for Christmas after not getting to see her family for a few years. She packed enough clothes, there was plenty of food, and the house was very warm. There was a weird comic on the fridge, but everyone had a good laugh over it despite the yelling and the dead pets.”
Happy Holidays, everyone!