RERUN: Inspired

(Originally published on March 20, 2003.)

They were in her den, four of them, tipsy on white whine and whisky. The brunette wore a sharp, new skirt and everyone noticed. All were comfortable, laughing, but Paul. The guy Lara invited over. They'd only been dating a couple of weeks, and while there wasn't a chemically-based attraction between them she kept seeing him because he smelled very, very clean and he really became hilarious after a few drinks. Paul liked her pretty okay, too. She had amazing breasts and this rubber face that he found endearing. And she wasn't needy like other girls, which was refreshing.

He liked to watch her with her friends, slipping into old routines, quoting television shows they all adored. She wished he would speak up, and maybe sneak a hand through her hair. He eyed her shoulders as they rose and fell, safely from the bean bag across the room.

Her brother flipped through albums, deciding on an appropriate selection. From the bean bag he watched the blurred faces of Michael Jackson and Carole King and Fleetwood Mac, as her brother sped through the records. Then an album bearing a name they all knew surfaced, and there was a snag in time, and Paul watched Lara's brother watch her as she swallowed, bit her cheek and grabbed her cigarettes. She made for the door, and Paul couldn't place just where he'd heard that name before.

And he suddenly, without reason, Paul grew to like Lara a whole lot more.

RERUN: At My Most Fearless

(Originally published on Thursday, August 22, 2002.)

In sixth grade I was a skinny, sullen sort of kid who's family had just a very little bit of money. I was a nervous child who participated in class, but kept few friends or extracirricular hobbies, besides reading or dancing. I rode the bus to school, which, as any former bus-rider knows, is a separate but equally intimidating social microcosm of its own. The bus picked my sister and I up last on its route and there was never room for us to have a seat.

Rayanne Heath was bigger and broader than me, with a full-grown set of girly parts and half a dozen gold necklaces and just as many gold rings. She traveled with a pack of similar girls--I remember them being called "hoods"--all fully developed and pissed the fuck off about it, apparently.

Rayanne made it a habit to make fun of me or threaten to “beat my chipmunk face into the locker.” She spread a rumor to my classmates that I had lice, which I did not, a lie that did little for my scant friendship prospects nonetheless. She’d glare at me in the lunchroom and accidentally fall into me whenever we lined up for whatever it was we lined up for.

I always made sure to take the route that she and her mean cronies less likely traveled, but I couldn’t avoid her on the bus. She’d sit behind where I stood, laughing at my hand-me-down jeans and trying to pull my sneakers off by stepping down hard and repeatedly on the back of the soles. I always stood still as I could, trying hard not to even move from breathing. And took it.

One evening I was lying in bed considering the day that awaited me. I was unhappy at school and at home and decided that I was going to begin to make changes in my life. I clearly remember deciding to take more initiative with housework in order to gain approval from my family. I remember mapping out varied hair styles for each day of the week in order to be considered more attractive to my peers. And I remember making the choice to not be intimidated by Rayanne Heath.

I climbed aboard the bus the next day scared shitless. I knew she’d laugh to her seatmate about my supposed lice infestation. Or she’d tell the guys how some boy I barely knew told her I was a bad kisser. (Little did she know I wasn’t a kisser at all.) And I knew I had to say something to her about it, I just hadn’t planned on what to say.

I started up the stairs and onto the bus and made a move toward her that was pure gut and impulse. I walked directly down the aisle to her seat, or one seat behind her, wrapped my hand around her moussed-up, crunchy ponytail and yanked it back with surprising force. I may never forget her face--at first a smirk, then a pained, distorted look of genuine fear magnified by the bulging of her eyes as I pulled back and down on her scalp.

“Today, and from now on, I suggest you not bother me,” I said in a low growl, turned on my heels and stood, heart thumping wildly about, in the aisle of the school bus. Then I started to cry quietly, but managed to scurry out the sliding doors before she noticed. Before long, everyone forgot all about the lice.

RERUN: Unsmooth Criminal

(Originally published on Thursday, June 6, 2002.)

Today I turned myself in at the Metro Police Department, South Precinct for booking and to receive a court date for last weekend's DWI. I arrived at the facility and found the arrows pointing toward the citation processing center and made my way inside. Once there, I was placed in a holding cell for over two hours, and documented what I could on a scrap piece of paper in my purse. Here is what I wrote down:

* * *

I'm sitting in the female holding cell on a cold slab that serves as a bench, or perhaps a bed. There is a singular, silver toilet in the room. I got here by walking down a sidewalk encased in large rings of barbed wire. I can see five or so inamte workers all dressed in orange, which is definitely not this summer's new pink, using what looks to be hoes on the hilltop. My mind drifts to Shawshank Redemption.

The cheerful man in a pastel blue polo shirt and snug khakis, young, maybe 22, says it will take about an hour and a half if all goes well.

Actually, I'm a little nervous about writing in here with all the guards and non-guards moving freely about. What if my pen constitutes a weapon? I'll say I didn't know. I'll plead ignorance.
Okay, we're overreacting.

Someone, a man, just peeped his head into my cell and "Psssst!"ed at me. Moments ago a middle aged black woman was issued into my cell. She didn't speak, but sat beside me rocking slowly back and forth--the movement adopted by orphaned children in developing nations who are starved for attention and human contact. It brings one comfort. Her name is Ms. Buford and she wears a circular patch on her upper left arm. A curious, round Band-aid type thing.

A new girl arrives with long, long hair that might have never been cut. It is wavy and brown and it swipes my arm as she swings it around, exasperrated. Her wait will be more than two hours and her infant sun is in the car with her mother in the dishwasher heat. She's allowed to walk outside because there is no phone.

* * *

They call out names one at a time, summoning each individual for a photo shoot and fingerprinting. As each name is called, a face appears--craning to see into the female cell. Some of them smile flirtatously our way.

Apparently, someone's fingerprints showed up in the "database", which means, for whatever reason, we are now four behind. Another woman has joined our group.

* * *

There is a tv on the wall, just above the door, that's picture is channel-less snow. Below a sign reads "This T.V. doesn't pick up any channels. Don't touch T.V. Ever!" I wonder if the sign is why it the broken television blares static at us. I catch the three of us staring up at the screen in silence, save for the long-haired girl's quips about how the toilet here is a lot like the one in juvenile.

* * *

I've got this piece of printer paper folded into 1/8ths so it is barely bigger than the palm of my hand. The guard just saw me writing and doesn't seem to mind. Somewhat a relief.

* * *

I can hear a man telling tales of 10-year sentences and how he just got out. He jokes about making a shirt that says "Arrest me. I'm stupid." He begins bragging about how he earns hundreds a day. I suppose he is stupid.

* * *

My name was called and I was moved to, along with my lady friends, yet another cold slab bench for more waiting. Ronald, who's being fingerprinted before me, skinny with greasy hair and velcro sneakers, is ranting because his fingerprints don't match up with previous files. "I've been printed a thousand times!," he yells. My own turn came and a large, teddy bear man with a badge and a crewcut took my hand in his gloved hand and smooshed my thumb across a screen that looked like a grocery scanner. Then he did the rest of my digits. He commented on my small fingers, which did look miniscule in his big paw.

* * *

Two Latino men are standing abreast in holding cell #9, across from #12 where I've been placed. My cellmate expresses her envy at my corner seat, as the guys from cell #9 and #10 can see right in at her. All the males are staring into our holding cell-- for minutes. Their stares are empty but uncomfortable.

* * *

That is all I wrote while within the jail, but things sped along quickly after I scribbled my final words. My trip today didn't require bonding myself out, but it did chip away at my dignity. However, I feel a little bit Hunter S. Thompson today, and that can't be all bad.

RERUN: Driving While (Barely) Intoxicated

(Originally published on May 29, 2002.)

Bachelorette parties are raucous and rowdy, though they don't garner the tales of lore associated with their counterpart, the bachelor party. True, none of us girls are doing lines of cocaine off a stipper's tit, except in LA or in the rarest of cases, but brides-to-be too want their last hedonistic hoorah and invite thier closest girlfriends to participate in the debauchery. And you thought it was white gloves and tea cakes.

The night began at the Bound'ry, Nashville's trendiest restaurant right now, where the waiters are rude and the wine servings are nearly eight ounces. The menu is pricey, so as women often do, we kept dinner light and had tastings of this and that rather than entrees for all. After three generous glasses of wine with dinner I was feeling rather warm all over, with a looser tongue and morals and such. Upon leaving the Bound'ry however, I realized my ride Melanie had surpassed me in the shit-ay department and I figured I should sober up pretty quick, since the prospect of Melanie driving home was crumbling.

We carpooled to Bourbon St. on Printers Alley where cocktails were cold (one for me), the blues was hot and the boobies were everywhere.

We laughed and danced and acted like a bunch of lamers in retrospect, but while the rest of my group descended deeper into drunkeness, I actually began sobering up. I was tired by the time we made it outside and was glad to be on the road home to Murfreesboro.

Melanie and I trudged back to her vehicle, an SUV, and packed it in for the 35-minute drive home. We hit 21st Avenue going 43 miles per hour, I would later learn, in a 30-mile-per-hour speed zone. I discovered this just after after an officer of the law ran out onto the road on foot and asked us to stop the car.

Immediately I became nervous because I could smell the cabernet on my own breath. He asked for my driver's license and after rooting around in my wallet I pulled it out, along with 2 dozen business cards, stamp books and loose phone numbers. Then he asked me to back up in the middle of a busy Nashville highway near an interstate exit and pull into the parking lot. Since Mel's automatic SUV is completely different from my standard shift, economy car, it isn't surprising that I put the car in park rather than reverse. After I successfully pulled into a parked position I was asked immediately to step out of the car.

Just as I stepped onto the pavement, hard droplets of rain poked me repeatedly on the head and forehead but I didn't recognize the ominous foreshadowing that so clearly presented itself. Nope, I was confident I would be back on the road in no time.

I was asked to follow a pen with my eyes, without moving my head, which I did skillfully for what must have been minutes. Then Officer Cox (I am not making this up) instructed me to walk a painted line, one foot before the other, turning after nine steps then repeating that process in the direction I came. Wearing thin, strappy heels I asked to remove my shoes and was granted permission to do so. This left me standing in ever-growing puddles in pants too long for my bare feet. I made do, and walked the plank like a good, sober girl.

And for my last trick I raised my left leg, straight out, and counted to 20, adding the "one-thousand" part after each number. Sometime during this battery of motor skills testing, Melanie leans out the passenger window to yell "You are doing good, girl!" I believe she is under the assumption I need some cheerleading, but as you can imagine, it had a negative effect on the events.

It was then that Cox informed me I've done well on my field sobriety test but that he has reason to believe I am intoxicated and forces me (really) into the back of the police car.

This is the point during which I kind of seperated from myself in order to deal with what I was facing. The only thing I could think of at the time was a jail cell full of mullet-having motorcycle women with tears tatooed beneath their eyes and hate in their hearts for goody-two-shoes girls like myself. The words the officer spat at me became wavy and despite my driving pulse, I tried to employ some mediatation techniques to create calm. It sort of worked.

I agreed to take the breathalyzer because my other option was spending the night in jail, and well, there was no way in hell I was going to volunteer to go there. And besides, I'd had my last drink over two hours ago--I was confident I'd drive away from there after passing with flying colors. Thing is, they don't grade on a curve.

Coxface tells me I'll have to wait 20 minutes before blowing, because a recent drink of alcohol could skew the results higher than is accurate. Twenty minutes felt like 20 years and I asked the officer how much time I had left. "Thirteen minutes," he told me, grinning, and I softly began to cry.

"Why are you crying?," he asked, doing his very best smart-ass. "Stop it." "Dry it up," he demanded and I knew I'd get no slack from this motherfucker. At night he dreams of becoming a drill sargeant.

I nearly puked on myself from the heat in the cop car and the weight of my situation. Finally, thankfully, I could take the BAC.

I blew into the tube for ten full seconds, only to learn it would take 3 more minutes for the results. I bit my bottom lip and cried as quietly as I could into my lap and waited for my verdict.


I had the right to remain silent, I heard that part, but the rest washed over my ears in a warbly tone. I was issued a DWI, which carries a 500 dollar fine, as well as a ticket for an unchanged address on my driver's license and a citation for Melanie's not having proof of insurance.

After asking Mel to take the BAC to determine whether she could drive the both of us home, and scored a very impressive 2.0, we finally secured a ride home from my sister. And although sweet Melanie will be helping me with the burden of my fine, I feel beaten and downtrodden since my run-in with the lawman. I'll have this dirty smear on my record for the next five years, and a second DUI/DWI will land me in jail for 45-days.

Please, people, keep your children away.

RERUN: And When I Land...

(Originally published on Thursday, May 9, 2002.)

I grew up in Ashland City, Tennessee, a smudge on a map that sits just 30 miles outside Nashville. Despite its close proximity to the Music City, most people assume Ashland City is near Memphis or in the Appalachia. Those who do know where it is probably never visited, or if they did so came to fish or they were lost. The population was just under 1,300 then, in the early 90s, one hundred or so less than those enrolled at the central county high school.

Aside from football games, field parties and barnyard smoke-outs, the town was absolutely devoid of culture or entertainment--like so many of its sister cities.

Kids in Ashland City kept busy like other kids elsewhere kept busy, except we had a rock quarry. Actually, it wasn't ours at all, it was privately owned. And while everyone was in constant fear of being found out, it was obvious the land owners merely turned a blind eye to the throngs of kids carrying sweaty cans of Bud in dusty sandals and little else.

The quarry was enormous, filled with sparkling, clear blue water that was deeper than most cared to guess. No one had ever touched the bottom, though how many ventured to discover how deep it all went is questionable. The place was picturesque--a rare beauty, and the best way to experience it was from below in the vast, cold water. There was even a wooden raft, shoddy, but tied to a post alongside the only point where the water could be entered without jumping. However, reaching the docking place was an exercise in bravery since anyone looking not to jump had to scale down a sloping cliff.

Most, wisely, chose to jump into the quarry from above--how far above was the subsequent decision. The lowest rock from which to jump was 30 feet--no meager leap for a wimpy girl-type. I successfully completed this jump numerous times with nearly no real issue. There was also a 60-foot high rock which most everyone dared fall from. After watching every, single one of my Latin Club girlfriends fling themselves without caution into the pool below, I gathered up all my confidence. As my turn approached my pulse quickened and my mouth grew sandy dry. As each body before me disappeared below the jutting mass of stone, my pupils must have also increased their diameter.

My turn came and I was paralyzed. Two guys swam in place in the waters under me, so far away I could barely see it, shouting up instructions.

"Point your toes and don't hold out your arms--you'll bruise them!"

"Try to enter the water like a spike, if you flatten out you'll be fucked!"

"Take a huge, running leap so you avoid these sharp ass rocks!"

While they were trying to educate and instruct, this was not what I wanted to hear with my toes hanging over the side of a 60-foot drop. I tried to move. I struggled to merely step backward but couldn't. I wanted to jump, but I failed.

The boys grew tired of treading water and soon the others were resigned to the fact I wasn't going. Irritated friends told me how to climb down and helped me off the rock platform. Shaking uncontrollably and defeated I stumbled, slid and scraped my way down the side of that cliff with 20 of my closest friends watching from the banks. My face was flush red from the sun and the tears and the humiliation, a shade rivaled only by that of the crimson rivulets that ran down my arms and shins from the torturous climb down.

Surely today, ten years later, in the cool spring heat, before it grows sticky and sweltering, there are kids hurling themselves from the walls of the quarry into her watery bottom. Perhaps a few of them brave the Black Rock, a legendary 90-foot plateau only the daring or the drunk ever attempt. I, though, never, ever went back.


(Originally published on January 26, 2003.)

I once ran over my sister with a car. Yes, I did. Given, it wasn't a large or particularly heavy car, but a big ol' real car was driven atop her. By me.

On accident. Naturally. I had been given a tan, not faceless biege, but Tan Mercury Lynx, which, if you'll throw back a good decade is a notch down from a Ford Escort. Same car maker, even shittier economy car. And that shit was old,too. Had over one hundred thousand miles on it when I got it, I think, and one had to master a laborious and intricate series of foot movements in order to get the damn thing in gear. I can now drive anything, my father rationalized, and he's right, I guess, if anything is junker, hatchback compact cars. Junker, hatchback cars are my bitches, 'tis true.

My 15-year-old sister who later became far too cool (what with her sneaking out to smoke cigarettes all the time with a confused homosexual and an adult woman with two kids and a house full of truly repugnant-smelling pets) to ride up in the Lynx of Love. Yet her ass didn't want to be seen near a school bus, so she begged rides from me. I think maybe there was a clause wherein I was forced to drive my sister home. Regardless, we both hated every minute, she hiding in the backseat, embarrassed and ashamed of the Little Tan Van.

This incident was pre-that, when she was still thrilled not to have to ride the cheese wagon to classes. It was winter and the windows were icy and the girl volunteered to scrape the ice from the windsheild, all excited about it and shit. So she was out there getting her scrape on and I'm blaring Little Earthquakes at top fucking volume because "so you can make me cum, that doesn't make you Jesus," and all the sudden bitch is rapping on the windsheild with the scraper and I think she might even crack it, so I scream back assorted profanities, but the windsheild is still icy so I can't see that she is in intense pain.

Apparently, the Lynx slipped into neutral and parked on Amy's foot. I cringe, still, when I think of how much that must have hurt. Once I turned the CD off to ask her "WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?" I realize what I've done. Paniced, I put the car in reverse and back up, at which time the tires roll forward off Amy's now purpleing foot and back over it. She hops, I believe, inside the house where she whines and cries and acts like I fucking ran over her with a car or something.

Amy got balloons from me, a pair of crutches, a shitload of sympathy from my mother, a day off school and maybe even a few covered chores. I got a lifetime of, "That's nothing, Brittney ran over me once with her piece of shit car."

RERUN: First of the Month

(Originally published on March 1, 2003.)

They are right outside my door, struggling with something heavy and awkward. She is too pretty for him, a slender girl, with slender features that make her look severe or like a bird. She has this shy, goofy, charming disposition, that, though I have not spoken to her, is evident when she checks her box for mail or brings up the groceries. She makes these very animated, Meg Ryan faces even when (she thinks) no one is watching.

Now he's beside his tiny truck, painted rust gold and packed to the brim with an ugly plaid couch and household items covered in white plastic garbage bags. Because of the drizzle.

His tone is impatient, yet soft. He almost whines at her. She makes the cute faces back at him. He wants to know if there is anything else she'll be taking to her mother's, to please, go get it. He shifts his weight. She pushes up the winding staircase to retrieve more of her belongings--I hear her. From the window I see him remove his cap and slide grasped hands through oily, wet hair and unlock the door to his truck. She hurries. He waits.

Once outside he yells, softly, "I said it's unlocked." She tries the handle again to no avail. Beside him in the cabin, truck door still slung wide, she sweetly says, "You know I hate to move, but next time I'll do it by myself." She says it kindly, matter-of-factly, and he doesn't argue.

They kiss deeply and share a cigarette.

She leaves the truck for her own blue station wagon. She climbs in the driver's side. He honks at her. She honks the horn back. He returns her return honk and pumps down the window. He loudly, and with a hint of relief, informs us that she won't be back.

RERUN: A Mistake Captured

(Originally published on September 11, 2002.)

The wind had picked up with the volume of the chatter; lips loose, tongues lax. The aroma of whiskey and wine rode the breeze, then dissapated leaving the musk undertones of tobacco, maybe a pipe. Voices familiar reorganize--rise and recede--punctuated by laughter and pauses.

Cake is served and no one eats, returning to their cocktails and conversations. Cameras emerge and we stand next to whoever's nearest for a quick snapshot of the attendees. Tall ones crouch and women try to find a genuine smile, yet fail, baring nothing but glossy teeth and spit. Cigarettes are stashed behind backs and I breathe in sharply, straightening my shoulders--hold the breath and stand dead still.

A hand from behind and to my left slips beneath my shirt--bare skin on unsuspecting bare skin. I arrived at this party alone.

White light overtakes my field of vision and I freeze, grinning, startled and wonder too calmly who might belong to the hand now resting on my stomach, just above the waistline of my pants.

I didn't entertain the notion I was being accosted, the fluid movement was gentle and easy. I didn't reel around to strike the perv who found my waist to be the best resting spot for his paw. But briefly, the tender carress that signified ownership--or kindredship--was so light and natural that I thought it just might have been intended for me. The next instant I knew, the flash no longer bleaching my sight, that, of course, that touch was meant for someone else.

He, too, knew and promptly jerked back his hand, taking hers in his--never meeting my gaze, though mine was aimed squarely at my shoes. I caught her face in my peripheral vision as he wrapped a strong arm around her rounded shoulder and pressed his mouth to her cheek.

She wrinkled her nose as if to suggest she'd rather he hadn't and turned, oblivious, to retrieve a lipstick from her purse.

He shrunk away and I covered my expression and guilt with a goblet of burgundy wine.