Have I told you about the time

  • Here's What It's Like:

                During the night, my bedroom fills with water. It starts trickling in around seven, with a quiet dripping sound like a faucet with a slow leak. By eight thirty, it’s a steady stream, and the water level is rising quickly. If I’m not in bed by nine, I’ll have to wade through it to get to sleep.

                So far, the water has never risen higher than my bed. I have never drowned. Some nights it gets as high as my mattress, soaking into my dreams so I wake up damp and cold, but that is all.

                Sometimes by morning it has drained back down to a few inches; no big deal to splash through when I wake up. But sometimes it will still be as high as my bedframe when my alarm goes off. I’ll roll over and dip my fingers into it over the edge of my mattress to see how cold it is. It is always cold.

                (I am not the kind of person who just jumps into cold water. At the beach or in a pool, I walk in slowly on my tiptoes, gasping and cursing each new inch of me that the water chills.)

                My things are always floating in the morning, books and old toys drifting here and there on the surface of my flooded room. Other things are submerged, pieces of furniture taking on new shapes in the murky gloom.

                If I stay in bed long enough, the water will go down. I’ll lay there and wait until it’s down to my knees, until my furniture emerges enough that I can avoid tripping on anything as I wade out. Eventually, the water recedes completely, and in the daylight I can use my room again, pick up my soggy books from where the water left them, turn my furniture the right way up. But the sun sets, and the water rises, and its tides are not predictable by any measure of the waxing and waning of the moon. Every night brings a new flood, and every morning is an aftermath. 

  • Scent Sketches

                Remember when I started this blog, I said I worked at a chain bookstore? Well, I don’t work there anymore. Now I work at a store that sells soaps and lotions and perfumes. This is alright, because my favorite art form in the world is the naming and describing of scents and tastes. Masterpieces in this genre include cocktail descriptions in American Chinese restaurants, the packaging and marketing of Old Spice deodorants, and this Tumblr saga about a Yankee Candle scent.

                So I’ve decided to make scent and taste description my new career, and I’ve begun practicing on the products in the store where I work.

                We carry a soap by Mistral that is called Apple Blossom. I think that Apple Blossom should be renamed. There is no blossom in its scent; it is all fruit. It’s the sweet snap of the stem when you twist the apple off the branch. It’s the tender crunch of the skin breaking as you take your first bite. It’s the ripe, tart flesh of the apple itself. The blossom has nothing to do with it.

                Mistral also makes a holiday soap called Winter Pine. It’s piney, and it’s wintery, but it’s not a pine tree covered in snow. It’s the inside of a cabin, with a fire crackling and popping and a hot mug of milky, cinnamon-y tea waiting for you. It’s coziness and comfort and company.

                Speaking of winter, it’s not a scent and it’s not at the store where I work, but the tapas place around the corner makes a cocktail called Winter Thaw that is very aptly named. It tastes like coming inside from being out in the snow for hours and taking off your wet socks and stepping into a warm bathtub. A heat that hurts only because of the contrast, that feels good down to your bones.

                Back at work, Crabtree and Evelyn has a scent called Evelyn Rose that is also perfectly named. It smells like Evelyn’s Roses. Evelyn is ninety one years old, but her hair has never once been gray. She keeps it as blonde as it was when she was twenty. She’s been wearing the same scent since then, too. It was a gift from your grandfather after Evelyn had her first child, your mother, and she hasn’t switched since. She also always wears the same lipstick color, which is called Perfect Peony. The color was too light on you when you tried it on, made it look like you had no lips, but Evelyn is pale enough that it looks good on her, and when she kisses you, the color she leaves behind on your cheek looks like a perfect blush. She gave you a bottle of her scent on your eighteenth birthday, and you never wear it, but you spray it in your room or on your pillow when you miss her.

                And then there’s my favorite scent in the entire store, a potpourri by Herb Lady that is called Gentleman’s Blend. The name tells you absolutely nothing about this scent. It is complex and layered, both sweet and savory at once, but not the kind of sweet or savory that you want to eat. There’s a bit of pine in it, but not like Winter Pine: more like, early fall, and the bearded man you’ve happily called your husband for the past four years just spent the day collecting and chopping pine wood to stock up for the winter, but the sun was hot today and he was sweating, so he splashed himself with the rosewater you’ve been steeping since the spring. And then he went into the kitchen, where you’ve got lavender and other herbs hung up to dry in the rafters, and he baked your Grandma Evelyn’s famous sugar cookies. And it’s a Friday afternoon and you just got home from work and he’s greeting you at the door with a hug and a cookie and memories of springtime and promises of a warmth that will last all winter long.

                So far I haven’t had any luck coming up with new names for the scents that I think deserve better ones, but maybe if I sleep on it, they’ll come to me. 

  • Ultimate Freudian Slip

    Have I ever told you about the best thing I ever accidentally said?

    It was late one night while I was a freshman in college. I turned to my friends and said, “Guys, I’m so tired, I’d better go to bed, otherwise I’ll start making Freudian sleeps.” 

  • What I've Been Doing Instead Of Writing

    I spent the last four years in college. The first two were spent furiously writing essay after essay for various liberal arts and literature classes. The second two were spent furiously writing story after story for fiction writing classes. So this year, I’ve been taking a bit of a break.

    Well, it could sort of be called a break. But it’s also the first time in my life that I haven’t had the structure of classes and homework. That’s a seriously hard adjustment to make, especially when you don’t have a next phase plan to jump right into. The novelty of having my so much free time that’s actually my own is kind of overwhelming, to be honest. When I get out of work, I can do whatever the frick I want. If I want to sit down on a rainy Monday afternoon and watch all six hours of the old Pride and Prejudice movie with Firth and Ehle, well, what’s stopping me? I’m an adult! Dishes and taxes are much less time consuming than homework, AND much easier to put off.

    But what happens to my creative impulses now that I can let them out basically however I want, instead of having them directed by prompts and assignments? Now that I have the option of really playing instead of working? I’ve been working at writing for years now. Opening a word document brings all that feeling of obligation and pressure right back. I hate pressure. So I close my laptop and turn to other mediums to relieve my creative urge. Mediums that I don’t have any training or experience in. Mediums where I am just playing instead of working.

    Collaging is so fun. Look at this shit. I just took these dudes bodies and glued different heads on them. Then I decided that they were art collectors, so I posed them with some of their paintings... in a desert... it all made perfect sense while I was making it. 

    Did you know you could crochet 3D things? Did you know you could do it with your fingers instead of a hook? I didn't! I didn't know anything about crocheting! But I figured it out, and then I made this snake. I also decided I was going to try abstract sculpture...

    ...so I made this thing. What is it? Is it a diseased organ? A dead goose? Who knows! I made it with my hands and some ribbon shit my mom had lying around her studio! Now it's lying around my room instead. 

    My mom also works with plastic. I thought, That's a neat idea, working with trash! I'll make myself a crown! Made out of plastic! It's a metaphor! Unfortunately it came out a lot smaller than I'd intended, so it doesn't really have the majestic trashy look I was going for. More of a cute trashy look. 

    My latest project has been attempting to make jewelry pieces out of all the euros I have left over from the trip I took to Spain six years ago. I can't get rid of them, because nostalgia, but they're just sitting around. That won't do. Clearly I need to wrap them in wire and wear them. 

    Who knows what I will make next. Maybe I'll make a pair of shoes out of wire. Maybe I'll crochet a sun hat. Maybe I'll take up figure drawing and do portraits of people on the street for cash. Or maybe I'll just watch Pride and Prejudice again. Anything that doesn't require me to click on that terrifying "My Documents" icon on my computer. 

  • A Short Anecdote About The Longest Car Ride Of My Life

    One time when I was a college freshman, I went to this humanities conference thing with my friend. It was at another school that was like an hour away from ours, so we had to carpool there with people who had cars. On the way back from the thing, for logistical seating reasons, I ended up in a different car from my friend, with some people I didn't know at all. It was a beaten-up old hunk of metal befitting its driver, who was a thick-rimmed glasses and faded plaid shirt type of dude. When he started the car, I started hearing this high-pitched whining sound, and I assumed it was the engine. But as we drove along, the whining sound seemed to keep getting louder and louder. It was a many-layered sound, like a chorus of small demons following you from a distance and foretelling your doom. It sounded like it was growing and growing to some crescendo that never actually came. I started imagining that when the crescendo happened, the car would spontaneously flip over, or veer off the road and crash into a tree, and we would all die. After enduring these thoughts for what felt like years but was probably only half an hour or so, I finally had to say something. 

    "What's that noise?" I asked. "Is it the engine?" 

    "No," said the girl sitting in the back seat with me, "That's music!" She gestured to the car's ancient stereo. The driver eyed me through the rear view mirror, daring me to say something else. 

    "Oh," I stammered. "Uh, cool." 

    The noise music continued for the entire car ride. The whole hour of it. I don't know if the song was really that long, or if the driver put it on repeat to punish me for my ignorant comment (do cassette players in cars even have a repeat function?). Either way, the crescendo and our doom never came, but it was the longest car ride of my life. 

  • Creative Lying

    Roll with me: Fiction is making stuff up, and Creative Nonfiction is lying. Lying is different from making stuff up-- it's reshaping the truth to better suit your needs. When I'm writing creative nonfiction, the need I'm lying towards is the cohesion and impact of the story. I'm asking myself, "How can I get closer to the emotional impact this story has for me by changing how and what I tell?" 

    Whenever I tell people about my grandfather's boat, I lie by omission, mostly. I simplify things. The long version of the story is that my grandfather wanted to buy a sailboat, but my grandmother didn't want him to buy a boat at all. Eventually he wound up buying a speedboat-- smaller, easier to care for-- and he named the speedboat The Compromise.

    When I used to tell people this story in full, it never had the punch I wanted it to have. I would be like, "Geddit, because buying a speedboat was supposed to be a compromise, so that's what they named it?" But people didn't really laugh. So I restructured the whole thing and left some things out. 

    My grandfather has a boat named The Compromise. He wanted to get a boat, but my grandmother didn't, so they compromised and bought a boat. 

    Cue laughter. 

    Most of the time, people don't care to hear all the little details. If they did, they'd be reading a novel, not listening to me talk at a party. So when I'm talking at a party, I keep to the short version. But there's more to it than that. 

    The lie gets something across that the long version doesn't. The boat's name becomes more ironic, because without having all the logistics explained, the 'compromise' that led to its purchase starts sounding less like a compromise and more like a victory on my grandfather's part. And that's how I feel it was. Even though he gave up on the sailboat, he still won the fight over the boat, making the name "The Compromise" funny because it’s not really accurate. This makes more sense in the context of my grandparents’ entire relationship, which seems to be based on constant competition between them. Every conversation is a high-stakes trivia game that only one of them can win. I could describe what it’s like to play cards with them, and then you’d understand what I mean.

    If you wanted to hear about what it’s like playing cards with my grandparents, you’d have asked, or looked for my autobiography. If I started describing it to you while we were in the car going somewhere, though, you’d become frustrated with the traffic and how we seem to be hitting every single red light and each tangent I go on leads to more tangents and we could have been there already if only I’d just shut up for a second. And all I’d wanted really was to get a laugh out of you with The Compromise that wasn’t really a compromise.



    I read this yesterday. You should read it tomorrow. Here are some snapchats that explain why. Snapchats just seem like the right format to go for when recommending a comic or graphic novel. 

    Rat Queens has: 




  • The Origins of My Bar Alias

    Sometimes when you're out at a bar or whatever and a random male stranger starts aggressively chatting you up, you don't feel like giving your real name. It's not like they're going to be able to hack into your bank account or find out where you live just because you told them your first name, but when a guy gives off that creeper vibe, even telling them your name can feel gross and dangerous. Or other times, even if the dude isn't creepy, it's nice to give an alias instead of your real name, so that you can feel like you're putting on a persona-- in my case, the persona of a mysterious, cool girl who isn't afraid to talk to strangers in bars. 

    The name I use is Anna. It's a good one because it's a piece of my real name, so I'll respond to it if I hear it, and also because it's more common than Brianna, so hopefully it doesn't sound super fake. It is also useful because it is tied directly to my first memories of being afraid to give a guy my name, so it will always come to mind in the right situations. 

    I was having a sleepover at my friend Kitty's house the summer before we started high school. It was around two in the morning and we were hanging out in her front yard in our pajamas, because that just seemed like a cool thing to do. It was a warm night: I think I was wearing my Hello Kitty sleep shorts that are too small for me now. We heard voices way down the street and decided it would be funny if we howled at them, like wolves. So we did. Two young teenagers howling at the moon on a warm summer night in the middle of Kitty's posh, country-club neighborhood-- the perfect opening scene to a horror movie. When we howled, the voices we had heard stopped, and then howled back.

    After a few minutes of communication via howling, two silhouettes appeared on the road in front of Kitty's house and approached us. They came right up her front yard and stood in front of us, looking down at where we were sitting on her stoop. We couldn't see their faces in the dark, but they were clearly male, and clearly older than us. I started freaking out right away.

    "Hey there," they said. "What are your names?"

    Kitty told them her name, like a normal person. But I stalled. I didn't want to tell them my real name. But I was a fourteen-year-old dork who had never taken any risks or told any lies in her entire dorky life and it was the middle of the night and I was wearing Hello Kitty sleep shorts in front of strangers and I didn't have a fake name ready and I panicked.

    "How about you?" the guys prompted me, and I blurted,

    "I don't have a name."

    "Really." I couldn't see their eyebrows in the dark, but I could hear the judgment in their voices. "You don't have a name. Really."

    "YEp," I squeaked, then started babbling. "It's pretty awkward, you know, nobody knows what to call me, they just refer to me as "that girl" all the time, ha ha ha, sucks to be me..."

    Then Kitty stepped in and saved my ass. Bless her heart. 

    "Anna, come on, just tell them," she said. 

    That's true friendship right there, and quick thinking too. She respected my fear of giving my real name out to strange dudes who howled back in the middle of the night, but she also recognized that I was a fucking dweeb and would talk myself right into the ground if I was allowed to continue. Thank goodness for Kitty. 

    "Yeah, okay, you're right. I'm Anna." And my bar alias was born. 

    The creepy howling dudes stuck around a while longer, chatting with Kitty while I kept my damn mouth shut and hovered my finger over the emergency call button on my cell phone. I think we ended up showing them Kitty's treehouse, declining their invitation to come to a party with them, and then fleeing back into Kitty's house and deadbolting all the doors and peering out of the windows until we were sure they were gone. And to this day, if a dude ever sparks the same discomfort I felt that night, I say, "My name's Anna," and I feel a little safer. 

  • The Time I Got Hit On By A Twelve-Year-Old At The Zoo

    So I had a friend who was taking a class called “The Evolution of Sex” where they basically learned how different animals fuck, and they were going on a field trip to the zoo. I went with her, because the zoo in Chicago is free. She had to go meet up with the rest of her class, so I wandered around on my own, which was nice because it was 9:30 in the morning and the zoo was mostly empty, no crowds of families blocking your view and getting in your way all over the place. Plus the animals were more active than they ever are in the afternoons. Like, none of them were napping! It was a miracle. The leopard was pacing a worn figure-eight path around her enclosure and the servals were growling at each other and the lions were rolling around on their backs and stretching. I stayed around the big cats mostly because they’ve been my favorites ever since I was little. By the time I left that area there were ladies leading groups of preschoolers around on big leashes, and they were almost as cute as the animals, so I watched them for a while, and then I went over to the next closest enclosure, which turned out to be these weird pigs that were a dark redish-brown and had long tufty ears. And then, lo and behold, one of the weird pigs jumps up and mounts the other pig. And I’m like, “Is this really happening?” and look around for my friend or anyone else from her Evolution of Sex class because seriously, they should be here watching the animal sex, not me. But the only people around were this group of middle school students who must’ve been on a field trip too. Their chaperone seemed to be turning them loose, and they were all headed my way. And I was like, “Oh shit, here I am watching pigs mating and a bunch of middle schoolers are about to join me, what is my life?” But I didn’t want to pass up this opportunity to see weird pig sex so I thought, “Fuck it, this is a public zoo, I can stay if I want to, these kids probably won’t even stand near me.” But of course I was wrong about that, because I was in the spot that had the best view of the fucking pigs, and of course the middle schoolers want to watch whatever kind of pornography they can lay eyes on, even if it’s weird pigs, so pretty soon I was in the middle of this big cluster of middle school boys and we were all watching the one pig mounting the other pig, and the boys were yelling shit like “Do it from the BACK!” and “HIT THAT!” and “SLAP HER ASS!” and “GET IT!” and generally egging the fucking pigs on. And then this poor girl came to see what all the boys were looking at, and she tapped my arm and pointed at the pigs and asked, “What are they doing?” And at first I thought she was fucking with me, but then I looked at her face and I got the feeling that she wasn’t, so I decided to be real with her and just say, “They’re having sex.” And she looked back at the pigs and looked flabbergasted for a moment, but then she started giggling like mad. And I was thinking, where the HELL is the chaperone?? And then everything escalated because the pigs turned a little, and now we could all see the dick of the pig on top, and it was long and curly like a cartoon pig’s tail, and it was SQUIRMING AROUND like a worm or something, and I was like “That’s it, I’m out of here.” So I turned to walk away—and all those little bastards followed me! They all shrieked and turned away too and one kid steps up next to me as I’m walking away and says, “That was pretty gross.” And I smiled kinda uncomfortably and was like, “Yep.” But the kid kept walking next to me, and he asked, “Are you in high school?” and I recognized the appraising look on his face and was like, “Oh fuck no, this is not happening.” But it was. I was like, “No, I’m in college,” and the kid and all his friends trailing behind us were like “Oooooooooooooh,” and then the kid was like “You look pretty smart” and looked me up and down again. And I was like “Hahahahahhahahaha thanks” and looking for somewhere to get the fuck out of this situation. And then he says, “You could be my study buddy!” in a voice that didn’t sound like he was thinking about studying at all and more thinking about the pigs we just watched having sex, and DUDE! I don’t know how to react when people my own age flirt with me, what the fuck do I say to a stranger so young it would be LITERALLY ILLEGAL to have relations with him?!? So I panicked and was like “HAHAHAHA HAHAHA HA HAHA I’m sure u don’t need a study buddy lol,” and I tried to walk faster and finally, fucking FINALLY, their chaperone showed up and yelled “TYRELL!” The kid whipped around so fast that it probably would have been less dramatic if he had done a backflip, and then he and his entourage ran back the way we came. Just in time, too, because I was about to walk right through a gateway marked “EMPLOYEES ONLY,” because I was paying zero attention to where I was going while the kids were still following me. I probably would have gotten kicked out of the park or something. But luckily I stopped short in time and just pretended to be admiring the snowy owl nearby while I frantically texted my friend to find out where she was so I could go join her and tell her about the whole mess. And that’s the story of how I got hit on by a twelve-year-old at the zoo.
  • Hello

    Happy New Year! In 2015, my goal is to blog more. Since I haven't blogged at all in the last 3 years, step 1 was to create a blog. This is it. You are reading it. It is January 2nd and I've already begun working on my resolutions. You can email me your congradulations via the link at the bottom of this page. 

    I earned my BA in writing last May, and I am already living the dream: that is, living with my parents and working at a chain bookstore. Despite these successes, it is a little daunting to take the next steps in my career as a writer. So to stay sharp and "get my feet wet," I have decided to blog. The theme of my blog will be "Stuff that happened to me/stuff that I did/stuff that I saw one time." Maybe I could shorten that to "Stuff." Yes, okay, that's much snappier: the theme of this blog is "Stuff." 

    The reason I picked the theme of "Stuff" to write about is that I am not very good at telling stories with my mouth. Now that I am an Adult and living away from all five of the friends I made at college, I am forced to face the fact that I cannot communicate things very well with the new people I am meeting. This leaves me feeling unsatisfied and lonely. I feel that I have lots of great stories to tell, but whenever I find myself in a social situation where a good story could fill the awkward silence, I either frick up the story completely somewhere between my brain and my mouth, or I hesitate too long while gathering my thoughts and somebody else jumps into the pause with their own words, forcing me to be the listener. 

    Well, no more! Or, yes more, because I don't have a solution to that problem yet. But, I have an alternative outlet for my storytelling impulse that doesn't require me to make any new friends at all! With this blog, I can hurl my stories into the void of the internet, and feel that I have both practiced writing sentences AND shared my soul with others. 

    So stay tuned for little storylets and instances from my life, to be shared here in a timely and regular fashion that will definitely never be interrupted by fits of procrastination or self-doubt, because, as already shown by my amazing progress on January 2nd, I am TOTALLY going to follow my New Year's goals this year. This is it. 2015, the year I get my life together. 

    But now I've gotta go- my mom says we're having company in a few minutes, and I need to put on some pants. 


    I'd like to thank the copy of Dave Barry is from Mars AND Venus that I picked up at a thrift store the other day for 2 dollars. Without it, who knows how I would have structured this introductory blog post.