Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Eat your vegetables!

Eating a bag of brussels sprouts for breakfast two days in a row does strange things to the tummy. (!)
I like mine steamed to just this side of mush, salted. Another nurse at work likes hers sauteed with bacon and garlic and onions. Sounds good to me without the bacon part.
Is there anyone here who doesn't know what 'asparagus pee' is? I actually knew a person who ate asparagus and hadn't ever noticed the pee.
Our father (my sister and I are living together now) gave us a potted tomato plant and there is one gorgeous green baby getting bigger every day! My first-ever garden in Long Branch NJ had very fertile soil. I threw a half eaten squash on the dirt, and got yellow squash the following summerfrom a three foot wide vine trailing bush. I threw the previous autumn's Indian corn out the following July, and we had corn stalks in August. Apparently someone dropped some tomato beside the front steps once- what a nice surprise to have a productive tomato plant appear!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

da da da dum

I need something superbly awesome to do next Saturday, my planned but bailed-on wedding day. If I wore my wedding gown on the train up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art would I be mistaken for an installation? If you cross paths on the 1st with a petite brunette in misplaced trailing white chiffon, send me a wave!

I am into smelling people. I was about to adjust that statement but, no, it's true. If you are hugging me, I am going to sniff your clothes.
The sniffing to which I was about to allude is the getting caught in the cloud of strangers- the flavor carried by the wind away from the bodies of passers-by.
Granted there are occasional wallops of stank that force me to hold my breath until my lungs try to burst.
But most of the time it is soap and shampoo, laundry detergent and dryer sheets, delicate eau-de-toilettes and pheromone-antagonizing colognes. Each personalized by the individual bearer's body chemistry.
Yum! says my nose.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

a hobby

The sky was crawling up over me sending the cool wind ahead of it to soothe my neck and lift my tendrils from my behind my ears and across my ticklish cheeks, into my eyelashes to catch and hang.

I hurried, appreciating how quickly my bare feet and calves propelled me up the seaweed spattered concrete. Fishermen began to take up their lines, call to one another. "Hey Bill- It's gettin' close; you goin' in?" Bright flashes came from behind and atmosphere-shivering grumblings. The daylight was lessening. Another bolt.

I hovered at the stairs, one foot in the sand, caught in an onslaught of wet surfers and their boards. They know better than I when it's time to vacate; I oughtn't go, I thought. And lingered still. Near the metal Keep Off the Dunes sign, beside the metal flagpole. And reluctantly turned up the stairs to join the wet-suit-clad in the gazebo.

Stepping precariously across a white, sex-waxed fiberglass five-footer I settled my bum on the floor boards feeling the cold water seep into my pants, the tracked-in, blown-in sand granules settle against my weight. Oohs and Aahs, Cool!, Did you see that one? came from all sides and soon I was leaning under the eave myself to watch the somehow still glassy surface rollick and roll, a trawler enter the inlet tipping sideways, a personal speed boat hammer for harbor as lightning struck down between the jetties. My arm shot out to catch roof drizzled rain in my palm.

Silent, I absorbed talk of wind in high pressure areas being drawn into low-pressure areas, stories of surfer-worthy waves created by Hurricane Cindy riding slowly up the coast in the late 90's, 200 miles off-shore. Did you know as soon- as very soon- as a storm subsides on the West coast, surfers head for the water before the wind dies and leaves the water despondent?

Daylight was growing again stronger and the rain fizzled to sporadic drops. We hadn't seen a bolt in several minutes. I stepped over the tail fin rudders of a red board and headed for the concrete again, pausing to splash the sand from my feet with a puddle. Walking westward on the side of the fence closer to the ocean I watched starkly white seabirds diving toward steel grey chop for surface visiting fishes.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Trying it on

I've been unsure exactly what people have meant saying I need to get used to being single. It is Friday night. I don't have any plans. I don't have money tonight to take myself anywhere, or the gas to get far. The friends I called aren't answering the phone. And they live too far away to just stop by, or ask the same of them.
So it's just me. And the cats. And kind of lonely.
What did I do before? If I had money would I go into Red Bank? Is the Downtown Cafe still there? Still having bands? If my car weren't going through oil like I go through a bag of chocolate chip cookies, would I take off?
I made popcorn on the stove, started a movie, played solitaire on my bedroom floor while watching.
I have always loved riding horses and have even owned- would buy a horse again before a house. There are stables around. I tried golf lessons once and liked that. I'd like to skydive, skuba dive, learn to sail. Love to kayak. There are things. Do I try them now?
I want someone to do these things with, but is the point of it to do them solo?

unexpected packaging

In my life I am hardly ever out of anything for long. Just when financial destitution is hitting I get a refund check or find money on the street. Just when the fridge is as empty as the dip bowl after a slumber party, my dad calls offering me frozen vegetables he would otherwise throw away.
Just when I was certain I had forgotten my grandfather's laugh-after all, seventeen years have come since he left- a client comes into the office where I work with a laugh that wraps itself around my heart and squeezes. When I told this man how his laugh reminded me of my grandfather's, he said, "Then I will have to laugh more!" And bless his joyful soul, he did.
I told one of the other nurses the tears balancing in my eyes came in a good way.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

I was a Jersey Girl wandering Maine on an extended road trip. I am back in Jersey now full time but with a little of Maine attached.

Jersey has my roots embedded deep so returning always feels like coming home. But this time I came back to find someone had redecorated Monmouth and Ocean County. Which adds to the strangeness. It's like wearing a blindfold and being spun for pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. I knew I was still in the yard when the blindfold came off but had difficulty getting my bearings.

I haven't been a single girl for seven years. After being committed to a relationship for so long I am still relearning what being single means. It is different at 32 than it was at 25.

What I always miss most is snuggling and someone to talk to at the end of the day.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

And we could have had sex- but the snuggling was so important.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

I Want Your...

Alright. I can amuse myself for days, months, years even. Even through a Maine winter. But three months single and I've had it. I want to go on a date. Actually, I want to have a Newport and a glass of wine on the porch at 2AM, swim naked in the ocean under the night sky, and get me some sex.
Yes, sex. What's a girl to do to get a clean one night stand with a hottie with sexy shoulders? I am wondering if hitting a bar in my short dress and heels might help. That might rule out the clean part. Plus alcohol breath is nasty and drunk men are foolish.
Is there a stigma associated with these needs? Who out there thinks less of me now? Who has felt the same way?

Monday, June 05, 2006


My particular experience was unique: no two assaults are the same. I am not alone in having been assaulted. I know there are men and women all around me every day who have been affected personally and secondarily by sexual assault.
Two weeks after my rape, when I picked up my last paycheck, a waitress whom I had mutually befriended told me she had been raped five years previously. Five years! At the time, I was counting off every day one by one- one more day's distance, one more day survived. I was so impressed at her five year mark that it became my goal. If she could survive five years and seem so normal, I could too. Now I've doubled that and it no longer marks my calender.
It's been a long journey.
I went to counseling the summer after my December rape. I cried through my first visit and often during subsequent visits. Some days I just didn't want to deal with it, didn't want to live it or go through the anger and fear. Sometimes I just cried and cried for the person inside he had killed, the me I would never be again. Sometimes I burst into tears in the middle of a store. What right did he have! I could scream and scream and beat him in my mind, bite chunks out of him and how I wanted to- I wrote often in a journal, and kept a pad of paper with me at all times never knowing when the need to write it out might strike. Still I had scraps of paper stuffed in books, notes made of brown shopping bags, receipts taped together end to end.
I dreamt of him sometimes and woke up panicked. Other days I would spend all morning puzzling over my inexplicable anxiety to remember by noon him haunting my dreams the night before.
It was embarrassing and frightening telling my parents. They still don't know the details. My dad was furious and wanted to go to Pennsylvania with a gun. My mom is certain I brought it on myself by living there and she didn't feel it was appropriate to tell the rest of our family.
These days I think of telling them but wonder if my own relief is worth what pain or discomfort I might cause.
I don't know what it is like for anyone else. For me it's been hard. It isn't over but every time I face it down I heal a little. For me hearing the stories of others, reading the stories of others, was reassuring. Just to know there were others who had been there and healed, others who would understand.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

All by myself (don't wanna be...)

So, when I was first single again, for the first time in seven years, I felt invigorated, invincible, inspired- now I feel single and dumpy. What happened?
I should be enjoying this time and making the most of it, not hoping it doesn't last forever. I can do almost anything I want right now- my goal posts are wide open and unmanned.

Howard "Bud" "Buddy" Joseph Tarleton

On another topic altogether, yesterday- June 3, 2006- was the 17 year anniversary of my maternal grandfather's death. I was almost 15 when he died.
He was a salesman for Kimberly Clark after he got out of the army. He was a WWII veteran, but never, ever talked about the war.
He was my grandmother's second husband- she was a WWII widow the first time around. She and my grandfather met right here at the Jersey shore while she was vacationing here one summer and they moved here permanently in the late 60's, just several years before I was born and after 3 of their 4 children were married. I grew up less than five miles from my grandparents and saw them several times a week plus Sunday dinners and sleepovers on the sofa bed with the steel bar that broke our backs all night. My grandmother laughed about that bed for the rest of her life.
My grandfather was a fisherman and a golfer, too. He retired from KC in the late 70's and in the 80's he took a job at Spring Meadow golf course in Spring Lake.
He often fished at the Manasquan Inlet and had coffee almost every morning at the Freedman's Bakery in Manasquan. Almost everyone would say so about her grandfather, but he really was an extremely kind person. His was the kind of name you could mention if you wanted to find friends. Just by being Buddy's granddaughter I had an instant welcome.
My grandmother is buried with him now. Several days after her funeral I went to the site and laid down on top of the grave under the tree. Thirteen years elapsed between their deaths. It was comforting to be with the two of them together again.

Friday, June 02, 2006

A voice-for mature audiences only

In December of 1995 I was living naively in a rooming house in Columbia, PA. I was 21 and waitressing, eating free bread at work and canned soup from a hot pot for supper- actually, that was my food for the day. No sheets on my bed. A beach towel for a blanket. But I was gonna make it on my own. I was.
One night I sat on my bed at 11PM feeling oddly anxious and apprehensive but managed to fall asleep. Two and 1/2 hours later came yelling in the hall and pounding on my door. My first thought was to grab my keys and take off to my friend, Todd's, in Millersville, twenty minutes away. But the man in the hallway was after me. When he grabbed me and said, "Take off your clothes," I thought, I am going to be raped.
I broke away three times, finally making it out to my car (and losing my room key along the way). I sat in the driver's seat, my perpetrator somehow (I don't remember how he got there) in the passenger's seat, and the sounds of my sobbing astounded me; like a terrified animal. There were words- lots of threats on my life, and the landlord there by now, standing outside my door, laughing (yes, clearly laughing) at me.
What can I say? Yes, I went back inside. Where else could I go? My keys were missing in the dark parking lot. There was no where to run he couldn't catch me. And he would shoot me if I tried. Or so I was coming to believe. I don't think he even had a gun. But how could I risk being shot in the back at now 2AM in a silent, dark, impoverished neighborhood?
I next remember being back in the room, and eventually naked. Stopped shaking or I'll kill you! over and over.
It lasted near to three hours. Rape, sodomy- both ends, punches to the back of my head, one prolonged strangle hold. And he bit my cheeks. But left them intact. Why? He had plans to prostitute me. Can't ruin the packaging, I guess.
What did I think? My mind strayed away and let just my body stay. I thought of suicide. My main concern became keeping myself useful to him.
And I maintained this plan as he kidnapped me to Philadelphia. To prostitute me. Which thankfully never happened because I'd left the condoms at the rooming house. Oh, he didn't wear one. But he certainly didn't want to get anything from any customers I might have.
Staying useful. Playing sweet and dumb. Playing dumb got him talking to me like a friend.
Once we got to Philly he paraded me around a while, showed my tits to strangers- then took me to his aunt's somewhere deep in Philly, from where I never would have found my way out. He raped me once more and let me go to sleep.
I woke up several hours later to see an older woman smiling at me kindly while she braided a young girl's hair for school. She'll be dead in a year, she said as she looked at me. And I started to cry, and to pray harder than I ever have. To silently mouth Help Me. Help me.
Here is where I go foggy. I don't remember her leaving the room. I do remember HIM coming to my side and taking me to the kitchen to say his aunt had told him to let me go, I wasn't ready, and out of respect for his aunt, he would.
How wierd was it to be taken upstairs and snuggled into a bed made on the floor by my rapist, covered up, taken to breakfast later, even questioned about dating. I just kept playing my cards, being nice, promising never to tell, knowing that was my key home.
He told me he raped me because he saw a rich little white girl, and he really didn't like that. I think he was high when it happened and over the hours he realized I was a person.
I didn't take him to court- I only filed a report. I regret it now.
But when I got home the following afternoon I forgot how I'd always said I'd go straight to the hospital or police if I ever got raped. I forgot. I laid in bed dazed, and then I took a long, long, very hot shower. And the next day I went to work.
I stayed with a friend the rest of the week until the night she worked late and I decided I couldn't take it any more and drove home to my uncle's in NJ.
When I quit my job over the phone, saying I'd been raped, the manager didn't believe me.
For two years I was terrified of shifty looking black men (I am sorry)- I believed he did have mafia connections and had told his hitmen who would find me and kill me. He'd had my license plate number- I believed he could find me that way.
For two years, I didn't have a clue who I was. In one moment the girl I had been- well I don't know what happened to her. I remember her clear as day, but have never seen her again. I wasn't anyone. For two years an undecipherable personality hung on me- a personality I didn't recognize as me but knew must be me.
Every night I looked at the dark back yard, cars occasionally idling in front of the house- every night I was terrified.
It didn't occur to me once that night to bite him or to hit him- to hurt him back. These defenses are unnatural to me.
Now- now if anyone tried there is a rage in my so strong and deep I might kill before he got anywhere. With my teeth, with my fists, with every piece of me that will never, ever be raped or have my living in someone else's hands again. Somewhere in this once all sweet, all trusting person there is a ferocity of hate and revenge. No one is will ever hurt me like that again.