|I'll take the big box, please.|
Starting in November when education people get their monthly paychecks early so they can blow them on restoratives like alcohol and at the mall on Black Friday, it's a domino effect until you land ass first in January, living on Ramen Noodles, stale oyster crackers, left over candy canes and those creamer thingies you steal from Waffle House. Meanwhile you're heating your house with the grill and some seven year old Martha Stewart for KMart hardwood charcoal you found in the bottom of a Rubbermaid container in the shed. Good thing you were out there moving shit around to put away the holiday decorations, after all.
Okay, I exaggerate. It's not that bad. If you're lucky, you've managed to pay most of the bills so you still have electricity and the porn subscriptions are paid up. God knows you've seen all the free stuff enough times. You've got your priorities.
So yes, I whined about how I hate Januaries. And right before I drifted like a feather onto the fainting chaise, I dramatized the issue by noting that if I ever commit suicide, you can bet it will happen in January.
MathMan was unpreturbed. "Please don't."
I lifted my hand from my forehead, still clutching my tear-stained hankie. "Of course not. I'm just being silly."
I've had better moments. Hell, I've had better meltdowns. The suicide clause doesn't fly much anymore. MathMan's lack of response should tell you something. He's not a fan of the drama queen and has learned that his best reaction is to not react at all. Besides, I am officially no longer worth more dead than alive. These people actually need my meager contributions so I'm not going anywhere by my own hand.
So now I've come clean. Oh, I think overall I still get a B+ for how I dealt with things, but today leaves me wondering what on earth I did in my past life because this is surely some kind of karma working. And worse is the fact that it's not just me who is feeling its effects.
The Department of Labor remains unhelpful. I called first thing yesterday morning and received the same response. "You have to come in to the office. We can't address these things over the phone due to privacy...." The person on the phone sounded like she wanted to help, but her hands were tied. We played cat and mouse through hypothetical conversation for a couple of moments, but it became clear we were getting nowhere. She couldn't give me what I wanted.
I made a last ditch effort. "I don't suppose whining about not having a car to get there today will get me anywhere?"
"Sorry no. We get lots worse than whining. We can take it." So they're unhelpful, unmoved by my plight and snarky.
"I figured as much. I'll see you on Monday then. I'll be the woman with the haunted look who is chewing her hair."
"That's not much to go on considering. Better wear a carnation so I can pick you out. We open at 7:30. Try not to worry too much."
I snorted a line of confectioners sugar before getting back to work. Around 1pm, I realized I'd better vacuum and get the basement ready for the Justin Bieber fans set to descend upon the house. I was removing the now broken belt from the vacuum when my phone buzzed.
It was the school nurse. Sophie was in her office with a headache and a fever of 101.
I put on a bra, tugged on some jeans, grabbed my iPod and set out for the school. As I tried to figure out which rapper was coming through my Shuffle earbuds, I congratulated myself for squeezing in a two mile walk. I'd written off my work out for the day. Then I congratulated myself for finding some silver lining.
When I got to the school, I thanked the front office secretary for letting Sophie's friends know that the party was postponed. Some of them were going to take the bus home with Sophie. Thankfully, alternative rides home were easy to secure.
Poor Sophie. Her cheeks were flushed with fever. Her first slumber party wasn't going to happen. And she had to walk a mile home with her mother who wasn't wearing a stitch of makeup. Not even lipstick. Some birthday.
Once Sophie was settled onto the sofa with something to drink and some Ibuprofin, I sent a text to MathMan to let him know that the party would be postponed until the following Friday.
"Something to look forward to," he responded. Funny as ever.
Later he called me. "If you hear anything about our school being on lock down, don't panic." He opened with that. Now, I don't know about you, but when someone tells me to not panic, I find my adrenaline responding no matter how many deep breaths I intend to take.
"Yes. Someone had a gun at the school. I'm not there, I'm on the bus with the basketball team on the way to our game. Nate is still at school. "
Deep breath. "Nate's at the school where someone has a gun?"
"Yes, but I've heard from him. He's fine. They had the police S.W.A.T. team searching the halls with rifles, but they gave the all clear. I didn't want you to hear it on the news and freak out."
Me? Freak out? I'm Madame Zen. I'm the perfectly raked circles in the gravel, the gentle sound of water flowing over smooth rocks, a breeze lightly scented with sandlewood. I don't freak out.
"Thank you. You're sure Nate is fine?"
Here's where that perspective thing comes right through the door and stands with its hands on its hips, tapping its toe. Hello, Perspective. I'm glad you're back because I was about to spend the remainder of the afternoon coping by getting high sniffing the Mr. Sketchy scented markers.
"Mom, can we finish decorating my birthday cake?" Sophie stood at the door still flushed.
"Of course." The distraction would be good for me.
I wrote her name and the number twelve and she dotted the top of the cake with purple frosting flowers, a smiley face and a Peace sign from the Wilton tube I'd purchased as a back up plan in case my homemade frosting didn't turn out well. Good thing I did, too. I realized too late that I was out of food coloring.
She handed the tube of frosting back to me and stood back to admire her handiwork.
"Soph, it's lovely," I said. I felt so bad for her. Stupid fever.
"Thanks. I hate it that I feel so sad right now."
"It's okay. This is a bummer of a situation. We'll have your party next Friday. When you're feeling better, we'll make new invitations so you can give them out on Monday."
"I was sick on one of my birthdays. It was a drag so I understand why you're sad. Want to hang out in my room with me?"
She followed me upstairs and lay on the bed flipping through the TV channels while I sat at my desk and tried to remember what I was doing before MathMan called. I should know not to ask, but I let myself wonder if anything else could go sideways.
Ask and ye shall receive.
I checked the bank account to see if Chloe's text book payment went through. Two more things were boing boinging across the financial moonscape. I forgot about the two automatic payments that come out on the 8th. How splendid that the vendors came for the money early instead of on Monday. $99 in NSF fees. So far.
I felt that pounding in my ears, the blood rushing around trying to make something go, to fix something, to fight or fly. My fingers fumbled around searching for something while I stared blindly at the red numbers in parentheses on the computer screen. Finally, I found it and wrapped my fingers around its cylindrical body.
Sophie sat up on the bed looking puzzled. "Mom? What are you doing with that marker?"