Fifteen Years

I only have one cat now. I used to have two but a few months ago, the older cat died. He was fifteen but I am still very sad. I am keenly aware that I am experiencing this mourning as one half. I still think of my two cats as one entity, two halves of a pair. So in a way, it’s almost like the cat who died is still here.  I have lost half, but not all.  When the other cat dies, I think I will be a lot sadder, and that’s a little frightening because I’m pretty sad.

Right now, my cat is rolling around on the floor looking like a beached whale. He has almost enough personality for two. I’m glad he didn’t go first because the other cat was the needy one. I think my living cat might prefer being an only cat, in all honesty. I often wish he could tell me.

Fifteen years is a long time. Fifteen years ago I was 21 and living in Massachusetts in a 3 bedroom apartment with 4 other people. It’s hard to conceive that that person was me, and I am still me. It seems like another planet, a chapter in a book. I have old journals from then, sealed up in a box that I am afraid to open. For some reason I do not want to revisit any of that past. I cringe with embarrassment just thinking about it. Feeling sad at age 36 is uncomfortable, but not impossible. At 21 I did not feel sad, I felt a sworling vortex of despair. Or so my vague memories tell me. I could read what I wrote and find out, and I will someday, but not yet.

I wonder if other people forget all the incredibly stupid, selfish, ill-conceived, dangerous things they did in their youth and that’s why people my age seem to have become incredibly judgmental and self-righteous. Sometimes I really do wonder if having children destroys the part of your brain that remembers what it is like to be young. I know those very same self-righteous judging people did the stupid, selfish, ill-conceived dangerous things, whether they remember or not. I remember.

I have this theory that every single person, self included, has at least one belief that is just 100% wrong and they have no idea about it. Think about it. When someone is wrong, they don’t know it so why would you? And whatever it is, it’s something big.

Fifteen years ago tonight. We were probably sitting around the table in our kitchen, which served as our living room since the living room was used as a bedroom. We were probably drinking, smoking pot, and playing Rummy. Or maybe tonight was the night we went to that party and he got drunk and/or lost his shit.  Maybe, fifteen years ago tonight, was the night that my best friend, whose life felt so intertwined with my own as to be indivisible, confessed he had knocked her to the ground before. And when he got home from the party where he had caused the scene, he used his knives and swords to slash up our furniture before pinning her to the wall by her throat. Lesson 1: never trust a man with a knife collection.

All this and more is all recorded in my box of journals that I kept religiously from age 15 to 25. What an age to choose to record. Maybe in another fifteen years, I will be ready to visit my past again, but then, maybe in fifteen years, I won’t want to look at today.


The Craziest Thing that Ever Happened at the 7-11

I worked at the 7-11 in the town where I grew up the year after I dropped out of college, in 1998.  That same year my mom was in jail.  I was 19 and my brother was 17.  He had dropped out of high school.  We lived together alone in my mother’s house with various friends and couch-surfers.

Eleven to seven at the seven eleven.  Graveyard shift.

It was a small town and no business was ever really busy.  We had a fair share of customers until about 10 pm, then another small rush at 2 am when the bars let out, then nothing until the first morning customers came in for their coffee, paper and donuts.  So for the most part it was a really chill job and incredibly undemanding.  I smoked cigarettes back then and you were allowed to smoke in the store.  You used to be allowed to smoke everywhere.  I smoked cigarettes behind the counter, read magazines, and generally tried to entertain myself.  One of my best friends, Tegan, worked there with me and we had a ton of fun.  Sometimes I consider night shift at the 7-11 to be the most fun job I ever had.

Slurpees are pretty good, but they’re better with alcohol.  We used to mix whiskey in with the coke slurpee and vodka in with the orange.

Our friends would stop in and hang out after the bars closed sometimes and we’d play scratch off lottery tickets and giggle over porno magazines.  Like I said, it was a small town and there wasn’t much to do.

Insider tip: Do not eat that pump chili they have for the nachos.  Just don’t.

Most of the time it was fun or boring.  A few times it was scary when a customer would be threatening or try to rob you at gun point.  But that didn’t happen very often.

There was a great cast of characters working there.  Honestly, I could write a screenplay based on the lives of these women that would make a television show every bit as compelling as Orange is the New Black, which I adore.

For tonight’s episode, we have me, your lovely author, 19 year old college drop out female too smart to be working at 7-11.

Shelly had to be 6’3″, 250 lb.  She was a great big woman with big black hair, an enormous gap-toothed smile, a loud voice, and a quick temper.  Probably around 35 years old.  You didn’t fuck with Shelly.  She would have made a fantastic bouncer.

Barb was smaller than Shelly but by no means a delicate flower.  She was closer to my size, 5’8 with a large frame.  Barb had poofy fake blond hair and a face that was always visibly tired.  Her husband was an unpleasant bald-headed buck-toothed fellow who I suspect abused her.  They had three boys who looked just like him who were complete terrors.  Barb was nice but also prone to gossip and drama.  She pushed people’s buttons and wasn’t afraid to say what she thought, regardless of the situation.

It was an unusual night because the three of us were in the store at the same time.  It was early evening, around 6pm.  There was extra staff at that time because the shipment came in once a week and it took a lot of work to put it away.  So once a week, three people would be working in the store instead of the usual one or two.

One of the staple goods of any 7-11 is, of course, fresh brewed coffee.  Fresh is really a sort of relative term of course, and sometimes the coffee was less than fresh.  Especially in the evening when very few people drank it and we got lazy about making it.

So here’s how it went down:

A customer comes in and goes to get coffee.  She’s a skinny little lady, maybe 5’3 110 lb, with stringy hair.  Barb says to her “Hey I’m sorry hun, but we haven’t made new coffee in a bit.  That pot probably isn’t very good.  Here let me make a fresh pot for you.” But the customer waves her away and assures her it’s fine.  Barb tries again to tell her it’s going to be really bad but the customer doesn’t care about that.  Okay, whatever, maybe she likes strong coffee.  So the lady pays for her coffee and leaves.

5 minutes later the phone rings and I answer.  It’s the coffee lady.  She is irate because her coffee is really bad.  I apologize to her but she keeps yelling and getting more and more agitated.  I tell her we can give her her money back or another new cup of coffee if she wants.  She hangs up. I tell Barb and Shelly what happened and we start to suspect something is going to happen.  Barb gets angry because she already warned the lady.  “Buncha bull shit!” she says.  Barb and I go behind the counter and Shelly continues putting away the merchandise from the delivery.

A bit later, a truck pulls up.  A man is driving and the coffee lady is the passenger.  She gets out of the car with her cup of coffee and is visibly amped up as she heads for the store entrance.

Barb, in a predictable moment of hot-headedness, goes out from behind the counter and walks toward the coffee lady defiantly.  Then several things happen very quickly.

The coffee lady throws her hot coffee at Barb, lunges at her, and bites her as hard as she can right on her naked upper boob!  Then she grabs Barb’s hair and holds her head and starts kneeing her in the face.  Barb is clawing and kicking and freaking out.

I push the panic button that will bring the police.

Shelly comes rushing over from where she was and tries to restrain the lady.  Then I go over and try to help her and no matter how hard we try we cannot get this lady to let go of Barb’s hair.  Keep in mind, we are three large strong women and she is one tiny frail-looking older woman.  She had to be on crack or meth or something, there’s no other explanation for her superhuman strength.

Shelly and I do manage to restrain her enough to stop her from kicking Barb in the face, but she’s still hanging onto Barb’s hair when the police arrive shortly thereafter.

The cops arrest the woman and Barb goes to the hospital.  Later she has to be tested repeatedly for HIV because of the bodily fluid exchange that happened during the fight.

When the cops question the man who had driven the crackhead coffee lady to the store that evening, he turns out to be the lady’s husband.

“I just drove here, ” he said.  “She’s gonna do what she’s gonna do and there ain’t nothin I can do about it.”


And that’s the craziest thing that ever happened at the 7-11.