BLAH BLAH BLAH

Writer. Photographer. Filmmaker.

Input Mode: Sweden & Croatia

Recently, I took a trip to Sweden and Croatia. The intention was to get away from my life distractions to really focus on my personal creative pursuits. However, I should’ve known better than to take a leisure trip with the intention to work.

I quickly found myself displeased with every photo I took and every word that I wrote. But instead of feeling frustrated, I reminded myself that there is no such thing as a creative block. As artists, we have two modes: input and output.

Embracing my input mode, my soul slipped away from the tight grip in which it is usually held. I spent full days outside, basked in history, wandered with homeless dogs who oddly wore sweaters, climbed countless stone stairs, found a King’s tomb who had been buried with his mistress and wife laying on top of him, ate carbs without a care, scaled a cliff during a windstorm (totally by accident), drank delicious wines and laughed with strangers.

I also continued to photograph and write because that’s just what I do. Every single day. Whether I like it or not.

 

Dirty Laundry

476528_987241079287_989595418_oIt’s been quite a while since I’ve written on this ol’ blog of mine. I won’t bore you with the reasons for my absence, but I will bore you with a story.

Remember, the genre is called creative non-fiction. As for the truthful parts, it happened so long ago that I can’t even remember his name…

 

Technically, I broke up with him…in a voicemail the day after Thanksgiving.

Yet, that came as a result of him abruptly moving across the country and only calling me to complain about moving across the country. Granted, his dad was dying of cancer. Allegedly.

I digress.

Three weeks prior to him selling all of his possessions and leaving town for good, he had told me that he was thinking about temporarily moving back to a place that he so despised, to take care of a man who he equally despised. Naturally, that rekindled the flame I had initially felt when we had first met. How noble a man to sacrifice his successful career and loving relationship to nurture his cruel, undeserving father on his death bed? Swoon.

And, oh how I swooned. Easily comprising my precious alone time and personal space to fulfill his never-ending need for my physical presence. My quick to surrender behavior wasn’t due to new love, but rather another smooth tactic he used in wooing me, very early in our relationship. Some women are attracted to ambition and perseverance, but not me. I like the man who tells me, on our second date, that his mother never held him as a baby. That’s when the swooning began.

He was the youngest of five and his homeschooling mother was too burnt out on child-rearing to pay him any attention. His abusive father wasn’t any help, either. Luckily, he was a child prodigy who taught himself how to read, do arithmetic and start a business at the age of 8, raking lawns. By the time he was 10 years old, he had saved enough money to buy a lawnmower and at age 12 he was successful enough to have finally won the approval of his family members, aka his new dependents. While his parents and siblings relied on him for money, domestic duties, and decisions, he started public school. There he found comfort in teachers who were eager to mentor the young genius. It was their faith and support that encouraged him to attend college, where he discovered how bored he was of education. The physics major dropped out when he sold his first feature screenplay to Paramount and moved to Hollywood. His quick rise to success brought him the stable, predictable and quiet life he had always wanted, as a screenwriter in Los Angeles.

What can I say? I’m a sucker for a good story, especially when it involves an underdog (go, Cubs). The funny thing about underdogs though is that they have to fight, not complain or feel sorry themselves, in order to get to the top.

Although he hated being alone and we slept together every night, his future fantasy of us included separate bedrooms. Nonetheless, in spite of his distaste for sharing a bed, he had to be physically connected every other minute we weren’t actually sleeping. Do you know how difficult that makes things when you’re doing laundry? Don’t get me wrong, I’m an affectionate person too but, I was constantly scolded for pulling my hand away too quickly when I needed to use it to pay for something…because his AMEX card had been declined.

The list of problems was endless:

  • He only had an AMEX card
  • He was skeptical of every male in my life, including my brother (gross)
  • He didn’t like to travel
  • He didn’t like when I traveled without him
  • I was never giving him enough attention
  • I gave everyone else too much attention
  • He thought I was secretly in love with his best friend
  • I had to apologize for giving everyone else too much attention (especially if it was his best friend)
  • I had to apologize if I didn’t laugh when he said something funny
  • I had to apologize if I laughed when he said something serious
  • I had to apologize for falling asleep during movies
  • I was always apologizing
  • He never apologized

Why, you may ask, did I stay?

Shamefully, it was the shameless, dirty, uninhibited and, at the same time, incredibly kind and gentle sex.

In the back of my head, I knew it was just sex and even when I loved him at my hardest, I had never wanted to marry him. This newfound detachment between my heart and body was quite liberating. I felt powerful, knowing I would be the one to leave him and that my heart wasn’t all in like in the past.

I’m sure it was due to the fact that I never trusted him and I am not the kind of girl who has trust issues, I’m actually the opposite of the girl who has trust issues (obviously).

One day, his 1984 BMW stopped working and months went by without any real sign of a new car on the horizon. He felt torn, he said. Wishing he could just buy a shitty car (which I supported), but feeling “business” pressure to buy something more luxurious (which I also supported). These little conversations out loud ponderings often happened as he comfortably rode in the passenger seat of my car. Which, by the way, was another red flag. My driving style is quite commonly a point of real contention. No one, especially any man, has been that content as my passenger.

Anyway, there we were, sailing through a yellow/maybe red light when I casually asked, “So…what are you thinking? ” Well, my tone wasn’t aloof enough because an explosion of accusations blew up in my face. How dare I question how much money he has? How could I be so insensitive about his childhood poverty trauma? He also managed to throw in the whole in love with his best friend stuff, too. Who for, by the way, I had zero attraction and was only overly nice to him because I wanted him to like me enough to stick up for me when/if my boyfriend ever doubted my commitment. Which, evidently was the case.

I could more than understand when he explained that his modest upbringing made him feel very uncomfortable spending money on himself or us. This was fine. I’m not a materialistic person and don’t look to boyfriends to pay for me in any sense, but this was weird.

Just as he questioned my attraction to him, I couldn’t help but question everything from his past to his present. Sometimes I wouldn’t even realize my skepticism until he would defensively react to a quizzical gaze or a question that prodded too deep. Why didn’t he have to go into his office – ever? Why did he only have an AMEX card? I was forced to pay for things too often and, I’m sorry, but “paying” me back by covering my portion of concert tickets gets really old, really fast. Specifically when it is a concert that I didn’t even want to go to, in the first place.

And why, if his family had treated him so awfully, did he talk to them almost every day? I mean, compared to his upbringing, my parents were gold and I only talked to them, maybe, once a week.

Combining this ever-expanding collection of suspicions along with our incompatibility, I was right on the verge of calling it quits.

Alas, things got more complicated when he decided to tell me that he had Asperger’s.

What was I supposed to do? How was I supposed to respond? “No, you don’t” or ,”I think we need to break up?”

That next week was brutal. I was so consumed, tracing every memory with a fine tooth comb hoping to find hard evidence to concretely prove to him that he was a liar, that I could barely look at him, let alone sleep with him. But, I did.

Towards the end of that week, he told me that he needed to tell me something.

I just kept thinking, please break up with me, please break up with me.

His dad had 6 months to live.

Was he lying? Was this real? Was it bad that I felt like everything was all about him? When was the last time he took care of me?

Call me old fashioned, but I can’t abandon a person’s heart once they’ve told me, “No one, including my parents, has ever loved me,” or  “I have Asperger’s,” or “My dad is dying of cancer.”

When we said goodbye at the Burbank airport in August, he made me promise that I would come visit for Thanksgiving. Considering he had a flare for theatrics, he asked to communicate mainly through hand written letters and only Facetime twice a week.

A normal person might have wondered if he was going to jail. Or they may have felt relieved. Or, most likely, a normal person wouldn’t even be in that situation. Unfortunately, I’m not normal and I felt abandoned, even heartbroken, by someone who I never actually loved or trusted.

To make matters worse, he didn’t write me one letter and barely Facetimed. His phone calls were infrequent and I couldn’t help but want more. In the times that he did call, I would stop anything I was doing to find a quiet spot alone to talk to him. He hated when I was with other people, especially when those other people tried to say hi to him and wish him well.

The conversations revolved around him being a hero to his family. He spoke about how exhausted he was from taking care of his irresponsible sister and her out of control kids, his brother who had just been arrested and their needy mother (his adjectives, not mine). All of whom, he was also financially supporting.

Mindfully masking my doubt and contempt, I would ask, “How’s your dad?”

He would groan in response, “He’s fine, just creating more problems like usual.”

Then, he would say something dirty, instigating phone sex.

Being the devoted, distant girlfriend I was, I would comply.

I felt emptier after talking to him. The worst of it all was that he never once asked, “How was your day?”

One night, a few weeks before I broke up with him, I went home with someone who I had known for years. He was smart, funny, attractive, and most meaningful of all, he actually enjoyed talking with me. Something my absent “boyfriend” saw as an obligation, even when he was present. After we started kissing, I awkwardly stopped and fled from his apartment in the middle of the night, knowing this was a betrayal of some sort that I couldn’t commit, even to my nonexistent, lying boyfriend, who didn’t like talking with me.

It’s embarrassing to admit that I cried when I ended things in that voicemail. They weren’t sad tears for him, they were angry tears for me. I’m not an angry person, so I was also just angry that I was angry, in the first place.

I’ll never know why he actually moved. Did he want to break up with me, but didn’t know how to actually do it? Did his dad really have cancer? Could he not afford to buy a car? Was his family actually very loving and insisted that he move home due to his Aspergers and finances?

And, then I think, “Did he even move?”

Things Strangers Say: Eddie

“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” – HL

This is Eddie.

Processed with VSCOcam with 5 preset

He picked me up from LAX the other day and in the Lyft to my house, we talked.

In 2000, Eddie took in his nephew who had fallen into the foster care system. He enrolled the troubled teen into a boot camp with the LAPD for youth and when he began to see the positive results, he began volunteering there too.

“It’s the real life human being who makes the connections and ultimately makes the change.” That’s the kind of stuff Eddie says.

Due to funding, the program went away but with support from the LAPD and a judge, Eddie opened his own program which quickly eveolved into a security company with over 50 employees who specialized in conflict resolution. Rooted in building relationships, Eddie’s company tremendously decreased crime and improved behavioral issues in multiple LAUSD schools and a section 8 housing complex. Eddie and his crew were held in high regard by their clients, colleagues, students and residents.

Then a charter school moved in and populated the schools where Eddie had been for nearly 10 years. For the next year and a half, Eddie was the victim of workplace bullying and straight out sabotage. One of the charter school’s administrators poached 20 of Eddie’s employees and bad-mouthed Eddie current and potential clients. This led to the demise of Eddie’s success.

In that year and a half, Eddie also accumulated evidence that could prove misconduct but said he will not take legal action. What’s he going to gain other than more money lost, bitter tension, and damaging shame? As hard as Eddie could fight, the for-profit “school” will fight harder to protect their business.

“I’m mature enough to move on, but bullying is bullying and there needs to be more accountability so people are held responsible for their actions.”

Eddie is resilient and it’s his strong belief in his cause that gives him fuel to restart his company at square one.

When I asked him if he was nervous about this happening again, he responded, “There’s problems everywhere. A lot of schools have issues but they hire the wrong people. I’m trained in conflict resolution and have results that show its success with youth.”

Weekend at Gammy’s

Processed with VSCOcam with m3 preset

My sweet, but tenacious Gammy.

Forgive the obvious title reference to the late ’80’s comedy where Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman try to pass their dead boss Bernie off as alive. Such a good movie. Did you know that movie was 18 years in the making?

Unlike Bernie, Gammy is alive and well.

Gammy is my 83-year old grandma, who lives in one of those bougie retirement communities where college dorm drama and country club dinners are thrown into a blender at high speed. The result is an overpriced, flavorless puree of dead ends.

#thefuturessobrightIgottawearshades

That isn’t fair, it’s not always depressing. One night, over 3 bottles of wine, a fellow resident named Mary vented her frustration with her daughter who had told her that she wasn’t allowed to drink anymore.

“My daughter thinks she controls me because she took away my car. What she doesn’t know, is that I’ve learned how to ride the bus to Trader Joe’s and buy my wine. I’ve lost 10 lbs with all the walking I’ve had to do to get to the bus stop.”

IMG_0510

Tom and Gammy browse the menu over pre-dinner cocktails in his apartment.

Mary is the best.

So is Tom. My grandma’s newest boyfriend.

Gammy, though she would never admit it, is a serial monogamous and so is Tom.

This 92-year old, a Princeton man and poet, has sailed all over the world, been married 3 times, and has 4 children. Since he can’t walk very well anymore, let alone sail, he founded a Yacht Club for remote control sailboats. Every Sunday, the flags would go up at the pond and a dozen or so people came to watch the 8 mini-sail regatta. And even though, Tom asked permission and had an off-site Harbor Master oversee the launching and lifting of the little boats out of the water, the retirement community shut it down.

“It just doesn’t make sense – you won the race. You won your human race for survival and it’s not like you get a trophy or special awards for anything. Instead, everything gets taken away from you.”

That was me speaking, not Tom. He’s too humble to say that he won anything. But, he did agree with what I said.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Gammy and Tom get their mail after their nightly escapades.

Every month, I visit for a weekend and catch up on the latest gossip and hear about the current fight against “the man”, aka the administration. Among the complaints are gripes regarding the cheap processed food, lack of information, condescending communication, and, worst of all fake flowers.

There used to be strict dining attire rules until Gammy led a movement of rebellion. “There are silk flowers and soggy vegetables, I will wear whatever I want to dinner.” In an attempt to win my grandma’s affection, Tom began bringing an electric candle and a miniature, fresh house plant which he brings to dinner every night. It’s a little embarrassing going to dinner with the two of them who like to make a display of the removal and replacing of centerpieces.

To their credit, it has become a trend. However, I’m sure it won’t be long until “the man” puts a stop to that as well.

Things Strangers Say: Gym (B)Rats

Returning to the parking garage, two 40-something women walked up to the valet’s desk and handed the man their ticket stubs.

“Fifteen dollah each,” he said with a Vietnamese accent.

“But it’s free parking for the first three hours,” the woman with electric blue Fendi sunglasses snapped, with fry in her voice.

“Need validation,” he said.

“I come here all the time and this is never a problem. Where’s Carlos?”

“Carlos not here today.”

“You gave us these tickets an hour ago,” the other woman, in a hot pink trucker hat, spouted off. Gesturing to her lulu gear, she continued, “Clearly, we were at the gym. The only gym here and you know they validate.”

“Rules are validation only,” the man said without looking at them and kept busy with a stack of papers.

Fendi was pissed.

“But that means we have to go all the way back, up two escalators and into the gym just to get a stupid, little stamp.”

Hot Pink Trucker honed in on logistics, “It’s not even an electronic system – so it doesn’t need to be scanned. You’re just making this difficult for no reason.”

Almost smiling, Fendi spoke slowly, accentuating her fry, “Right. So, do you understand how your validation process is pointless?”

A full minute passed as the grown women stared in silence at the valet, who hadn’t abandoned his paperwork diversion ploy.

Hot Pink Trucker wasn’t having it, “Excuse me, we’re asking you a question. Are you unable to provide an answer?”

“He probably doesn’t understand, he can barely speak English.”

“Do you have a manager we can speak to?”

“Yes. Me,” the man looked Hot Pint Trucker dead in the eyes.

“Let’s just report him to the gym. We pay too much money to be treated like this,” surrendering her fight, Fendi initiated the walk away.

While going back up the two escalators and into the gym, an older man brought his stamped ticket to the valet. In exchange, the valet beamed a warm smile and a hearty thank you before the customer walked to his car.

The women returned, hushed. Hot Pink Trucker threw her stamped piece of paper in the general direction of the valet. He struggled to bend to the ground where the ticket landed.

Glaring from above, Fendi placed her ticket on the desk and said, “You’re rude and ungrateful for the position you’ve been allowed.”

Upon their final exit and unaware of the situation, the older man drove up, got out of his car, and handed the valet a fifty-dollar bill.

He thanked the valet for his smile and said, “It comforts me to know there are good people living in this world. Happy holidays, sir.”

Dr. D: A Naturopath Fairy Godmother

Dr. D looks at my happy blood cells.

Dr. D looks at my happy blood cells.

My blood looked sad. At least that’s what Dr. D said.

It was my first appointment with the naturopath. For so long, I had felt like a hypocrite, preaching the natural way of life yet heavily reliant on Western medicine to “fix” any health problems.

Dr. D, reminded me of one of Cinderella’s fairy godmothers and even though I felt so comfortable with her, I was still riddled with anxiety. Before my blood came into play, she said “Honey, you need to breathe.”

Such a simple concept but something I had easily forgotten while on hiatus from yoga. I closed my eyes and did what she said. Her breathing got louder the closer she came to me. Typically, I struggle with loud breathers but since Dr. D was like a grandma, I found a calming comfort in her shallow lung capacity. My muscles relaxed even more as I listened to her hands rub some kind of ointment between them which she soon massaged into my neck and shoulders.

When I opened my eyes, she handed me a small plastic cup with purple fizz.

It was delicious and just as I thought I couldn’t be soothed any more, I melted another inch into the chair.

“Now, how’s that?” Dr. D asked like a proud grandma who just served up some freshly baked apple pie.

After studying my fingernails she kneaded my hands and said, “We need to throw your thyroid and adrenal glands life jackets -your estrogen isn’t getting properly dispersed.”

My hands never looked so small as they were engulfed by the doughy ones.

She was checking my pulse and crinkling her eyebrows. “Hm. You burn, on average, 1800 calories a day – without doing anything!”

“Wow, that’s awesome because I have not been working out at all.” Between my knee and sciatic nerve problems, I hadn’t been able to do anything other than walk on flat ground.

Her face got serious, “I don’t want you worry about that stuff right now. We need to get your muscles and organs clean and working properly before you push them any harder.” I liked the way she thought.

“You’re a natural athlete, your body never lets go of that.” I couldn’t wait to compose a mass text to everyone in my life, quoting her on that.

She sat back down behind her desk where she had her microscope camera connected to her monitor. I didn’t have any time to tell her I was scared of needles before she pricked me and dripped 6 beads onto a glass plate. Her screen turned on and there they were, my sad-looking blood cells.

The blobs scared me, reminding me of those micro-bugs that live in motel beds.The bitty goons were creeping in slow-mo all over her screen. Some were even thorny, which meant I was dehydrated. That wasn’t much of a surprise considering I drank a bottle of Tempranillo the night before.

“Oh, sweetheart you must be exhausted.”

I nodded, grateful for the sympathy.

“See how some of these cells have linked together and made chains – that means they are all deprived of nutrients and they’re trying to share the goods.” I felt like a bad mom – not providing my babies with what they needed.

“You’re very strong – and smart but you’ve just felt foggy for a long time. You probably don’t remember what it’s like not living in a fog.” Even though I was curious to know how she knew that by looking at my blood cells, I was too consumed with my guilt of being so awful to body. What she was saying was true. I’ve been apathetic, slow moving, foggy in my thinking, and unable to really focus. I nodded as tears puddled at the bottom of my eyes.

Dr. D was a little surprised by my drama. “Oh, sweetheart.” She took off her glasses and looked me in the eye. “You are one talented person, very smart. The world won’t know what to do with you once we flush all this stuff away.” She really knew how to hook me.

Next, she let my blood dry and wrote down an ideal daily diet plan along with the supplement routine. The only vegetables you should eat cooked: butternut squash and brussel sprouts. The only fruits you should eat are berries and apples. Also, applesauce to rid the metal in your body. Actually, at 9:30am, eat a combination of quinoa, oats and applesauce. Those are your only grains for the day. No Dairy. Coconut Milk or Almond Milk. ATP, PMG, progesterone, iodine, yadda yadda.

Back on her computer screen, my blood cells were dead. This time, the still images weren’t unlike the terrain of Mars. Dr. D traced the craters and geographic-looking patterns with her finger as she explained to me the history of my body. Jumping by 4’s, she told me exactly what was happening with my body from birth until today. She knew that I’ve struggled with anxiety since the age of 5. She knew that I was in a bad car accident when I was 15. She knew I was in the best shape ever at 25. She knew my fitness hasn’t been consistent since 29. She also knew exactly what sports I played.

I was sold, on Dr. D and was ready to subscribe to anything she put out.

30 days after that first appointment, I went back to see my fairy natural godmother.

“Amelia! Look at you!”

Truthfully, I really don’t think I looked any different but, I definitely felt different. I was happy to report her that my energy levels were soaring and optimistic demeanor was back. My sleep pattern was satisfying and even without afternoon coffee, my daily urge for a nap at 3pm was gone. And, even though she had told me not to worry about it, I was back in a fitness routine and not because of guilty but rather the sheer enjoyment.

Then, we looked at my blood on the big screen. Those little marshmallows were unrecognizable. Fluffy and bustling about, it was crazy how happy they looked. No thorns or linked chains trying to share nutrients with each other. My babies were healthy.

Well, that was all I needed to be a believer. I’m so grateful for Dr. D and reset she gave me.

“Amelia is SO nice.”

Stranger (1 of 1)

No. I’m not. In fact that word “nice” is the exact word I use when I have to describe someone who I don’t like. I mean, if you can’t say anything “nice” than don’t say anything at all, right? And…let’s be real, it’s way too difficult for me to keep my mouth shut.

“What do you think of Eddie?”

“Oh, Eddie is so nice!”

Eddie – the guy who took me on a date to Red Lobster and drank boozy milkshakes all night and told me he was drunk. (And..no, that isn’t Eddie pictured above…)

“What do you think of my new girlfriend?”

“She’s so nice!”

She was nice – but she wasn’t funny, she wasn’t cool, she didn’t say anything intelligent and I didn’t like what she was wearing.

Before you think I’m a cold hearted bitch, when was the last time you were honest about your inner dialogue? My inner self is kind, sweet, generous and full of love for all humans but that doesn’t give me the responsibility of having to “like” everyone or for that matter, pretend to “like” everyone. That’s fake – and homie don’t know how to play that.

I don’t like how we make our kids invite everyone to their birthday parties. Or force individuals to have the obligation of including everyone. That’s highly unrealistic and, in my opinion, unhealthy. We’re encouraging fake relationships devoid of honesty. “Hey kid, ignore how you feel and put a smile on your face.” Sure, exclusivity isn’t cool but, I don’t think it would exist if we could all just be a little more honest in our relationships. Different strokes for different folks, you know?

I used to be a “nice” person. You know how some people bring home stray animals? Well, I used to bring home stray people. Also during those days, I hugged random people every day. I never kept a tally because that would’ve been weird but, I probably hugged at least 20 people per week. Homeless men, an old lady I met waiting in line at Jewel-Osco, the embarrassing drunk girl at a party, saying goodbye to someone I met on the train or the maintenance man in my building. People around me thought I was so nice. But, the truth was, I didn’t actually like any of those strangers, rather I felt sorry for them. Those “nice” gestures were inauthentic because I thought I was better than those people. My motives were completely self-righteous. Never once did I consider that maybe, just maybe, one of those random strangers didn’t want me to hug them. Or, maybe they weren’t sad at all. Or even worse, they were the ones who were pitying me and thought I was the one who needed the hug. Here I thought I was this Queen of Hearts, gracing all the sad, little people with hugs, rainbows and sunshine. #ignoranceisnotbliss

Today, I’m proud to say that I’m not nice anymore. No longer do I hug strangers nor do I pity anyone. And, if I don’t like someone, I have enough love and respect for them to call them “nice” and avoid hanging out with them. Yeah, I’m totally not self-righteous anymore.

Dead People

Growing up, I had a string of unhealthy obsessions and one of them was with dead people. Naturally, like most things, I blame my Catholic parents.

As a family, we said our nightly prayers before bed and they were usually followed by a philosophical discussion led by my dad. For some reason, bedtime seemed like his favorite time to talk about all things scary: angels, ghosts, and dead relatives. “You know – lots of people who love you are always with you, Amelia”. What the fuck? They are? Even when I’m naked?

One night, after watching a special on people who had near death experiences, I took the liberty of asking God for a bunch of things.

“Please God, make sure every single homeless person is warm and snuggling with someone, don’t let anyone in the whole world cry, and don’t let anyone I love die. Also, I wouldn’t mind if I have to get glasses and braces, I think they look cool. And please please please God, I know you love me – so, you don’t have to come visit me to prove it.”

My dad freaked out. He started yelling at me, “Don’t you ever tell God to leave you alone!”

As always, my mom calmed him down and I was left alone, with a racing heart, in my dark bedroom, that at the time was believed to be haunted by my great grandma who had died the year before. This theory became a confirmed fact when our housekeeper told my mother that she had seen my great grandmother in the mirror in my room.

With all this death experience and talk of spirits as a concrete reality encompassing me, I evolved into a dark pre-teen. But, not the cool kid kind. The weird kid kind. It was weird because I managed to find the one way you could be superficial with death.

Like when I came to school dressed in a black dress and white pearls and told everyone to call me Jackie Kennedy Onassis. It was wasn’t Halloween. It was a free dress day in February. No one called me Jackie and with the exception of recess when I wanted to play soccer with the boys, I stayed in character the whole time. But, Jackie would’ve wanted it that way.

When I was 13, I told everyone I wanted to die so I could be with John Lennon and the next year, I convinced myself of being the reincarnation of Virginia Woolf, which was the motivation behind me picking up a cigarette butt on the ground and smoking it. Virginia made me do it.

In my defense, I was trying to make the best of my fears. I would talk to dead celebrities all the time. They were my friends. Jackie taught me that there is so much power in silence (something I’ve always known but have had a hard time actually integrating into my life). John taught me that real strength is in kindness. And Virginia, she taught me that it’s ok to talk about how you really feel and that smoking doesn’t kill you- suicide does.

Finally, in high school, I was able to clear my head a bit with some Grateful Dead, herbal medicine and eastern philosophy.

Being crazy during my formative years wasn’t easy – I got teased a lot. Teachers, adults, my best friends, family – basically anyone who knew me. This could have perpetuated things. It could have made me an angry little soul. But, it didn’t. In fact, it made me resilient and taught me things that some people never get the chance to learn. Plus, by the time I got to college; I knew what I wasn’t good at: fitting in with normal people and I knew what I was good at: telling stories and method acting.

And…the rest is history.

I’m proud to say that I am no longer scared of ghosts and I respect the privacy of all dead celebrities by not bothering them with my thoughts.

Things Strangers Say: Girl with Bangs

“You are so beautiful.”

My stupid mouth. It just speaks on it’s own.

She looks embarrassed, “Oh, no. I wore this hat because I haven’t washed my hair in days.”

Great. Now I have to prove it to her.

“If I wore a hat like that, I would look like a teenage Mexican boy.”

I hope she’s not Mexican…

She laughs.

Good.

She tells me, “You’re hair is so long and beautiful. And that color. Is it dyed?”

Clearly, she felt obligated to return the compliment.

“Oh, thanks. No, this is the color.”

I hate the color of my hair. It’s same the color your poop is if you have too much iron in your blood.

This conversation needs to end.

I don’t like her face anymore.

I smile and put my ear buds back in and turn my eyes are back to my screen.

Maybe that’s why my mouth is so uncontrollable.

My voice gets cabin fever.

Oh, god. She’s saying something –

“What’s your name?”

“Amelia”

She tells me her name and I don’t care but I still remember it’s Susan.

I always liked that name.

I wish I could call her Suzie.

She wouldn’t like that though.

I can tell.

She has bangs.

And not the cool kind.

The kind that make someone look uptight.

She asks if I live around there.

“Yes, on Alfred.”

She had just moved to the neighborhood and so did I.

We’re the same age.

She asks, “Want to be friends?”

She thinks she’s being cute because she saw Kate Hudson say that in a movie once.

“Totally.”

I tell her that I don’t have any friends.

That’s a lie.

I have a lot of friends.

Sometimes I feel like I have too many friends.

I start feeling guilty.

I hate that strangers assume I’m a good person because I’m plumper than average.

And polite.

We exchange numbers and I put my ear buds back in for the second time.

I feel bad – judging her and lying to her.

“I’m sorry, I have a deadline and I really need to focus but call me anytime!”

There is no deadline.

I’m writing about her and her bangs.

Things Strangers Say: The Trainer

He leaned towards me.

Was he saying something?

He ‘s too pretty – I was nervous.

I took the buds out of my ears.

“I’m sorry, were you talking to me?”

He said, “Yeah, I wanted to tell you that I think you’re beautiful”

“Oh, thank y-”

He cut me off.

He said, “Let me finish”

“Alright…”

He continued, “You’re doing yourself a disservice by being overweight.”

Hmm…

Ok.

I didn’t feel…upset.

Oddly, I felt kind of good.

“It’s how I protect myself from men like you.”

He laughed.

I knew exactly who this guy was.

He loved who he saw in the mirror but hated all the shit he couldn’t see.

He asked, “What do you do?”

That’s when I got annoyed.

I hate when people ask me that.

If I felt like being honest,

I would say, “I write and produce films and commercials”

But, this guy didn’t deserve my honesty.

And I really wanted to get back to my work.

“I do a lot of things.”

He thought I was trying to be cute and laughed.

I was confused.

“Has this been your fucked up attempt to start a conversation with me?”

With the most serious face, he said, “I’m a trainer.”

“Cool.”

God damn.

Everyone is a fucking ‘trainer’, these days.

He said, “I train professional athletes.”

Oh no.

Did he see my internal eye roll?

I was probably doing that thing with my eyebrows.

Scolding.

I felt bad.

“Are you from here?”

He said, “I grew up in Iowa.”

Mmm hmmm.

Small town boy.

Never fit in.

Moved to the big city.

Needing to prove himself to all those kids who had teased him.

Ugh.

I hated myself.

I’m a bitch.

Assuming all that.

He asked, “Where are you from?”

Another question I hate.

“Lots of places.”

Again, he thought I was being playful.

Maybe I was…

Actually, no…I’m wasn’t.

He’s too pretty.

He should grow a beard.

I really wanted to get back to my work.

He asked, “What do you do for physical activity?”

Shut. The. Fuck. Up.

“I don’t know…”

He asked, “Have you ever thought about interval training?”

Uhh.

Yeah, bro.

I’ve done it.

I know all about your fucking intervals.

Little do you know how much I love to fucking sweat.

But, guess what?

I don’t want to right now.

Right now, I want to drink my dirty martini and zone the fuck out.

I smile, with pity written all over my face.

“I have never thought about interval training.”

After another hour

and another dirty martini

(that he bought)

we made out in the parking lot.

He said, “I’d be willing to work with you on shedding your shield.”

Two days later,

he texted me. “Bootcamp – tomorrow/7am?”

And that is how,

every true love story,

begins.