Monday, February 28, 2011

Suicide Watch

Last Saturday night, I was sitting at home alone in the condo.

My husband was out getting hammered with a bunch of his geologist friends. I didn't go because honestly, they all just end up talking about igneous rocks, landslides, and different types of sandstone- and yes, it's as boring as it sounds. Especially when they tie on one too many and end up arguing about whether geothermal fluids at super-critical pressures and temperatures can be exploited as sources of power. I've seen fights break out over this.

So he's out on the town, and I'm sitting at home drinking Jack Daniels and organizing my make-up drawer (pale pinks on the left, sunrise corals on the right) when I hear a knock at the door. I'm wearing a pair a pajamas with tiny lime green stars all over them, but I grab my glass of Jack and get up to answer it anyway.

I open the door and two people are standing there. One, a girl, probably twenty years old was staring at me through glazed eyes, and with her was a guy with spiked blond hair and a lip ring.
"Um..." I took a sip of my drink. "Can I help you?"
The girl blinked rapidly. "Our friend, like, lives next door, and we're looking for him- he's not answering and we keep knocking."
I frowned. I vaguely remembered a neighbor moving in next door a couple weeks prior, but personally had not met him. "Okay...." I said, confused.
The guy stared at me and started scratching his arms. "We keep calling his cell phone but he won't pick up," he explained.
Again, I was confused. "Well, maybe he's out," I said, wondering why they were telling me all this. "I don't know him," I said, slowly, to the two kids who were clearly not playing with a full deck of cards.
"Well, we think-" the kid paused to scratch himself again. "We think he might of killed himself," he whispered.
"Oh." I paused. "Oh, my- that's- that's terrible," I said, formally, because really how do you respond to that? "Um....you really think he's dead in there?"
"Maybe," said the spiked-hair kid, nonchalantly, as he continued to scratch himself in an obviously opium-induced haze.
"Ok..." I said, and took a really strong swallow of my drink. "So, um- should we call the police?"
"No, no," the girl said quickly. "He's already had a ton of problems with the law- I don't want him to get in trouble."
I stared at her. "Er- if he's dead, I don't think that's really an issue," I couldn't help but point out.
"Do you have a key to his place?" She asked impatiently.
"No- and honestly, if he really did kill himself, I'm pretty sure I would of heard a gunshot," I answered, helpfully. "The walls of this condo are real thin- and I haven't heard a thing."
The boy smirked at me. "Some suicides are silent," he said, all condescending.
"Oh, right- well, I haven't heard like, water running if he tried to drown himself in the bathtub, or anything," I continued, trying to think of other ways people kill themselves. Wasn't there a Saved By The Bell episode about this or something? Maybe Beverly Hills, 90210? Surly Dylan McKay dealt with suicide at one point.
The girl was growing impatient with me. "So do you know where we could get a key or not?" She said, growing more irritated.
"Again, no, I don't have a key or know where to get a key for you to check to see if there's a rotting corpse next door," I snapped, as these kids were starting to annoy me. I was also getting suspicious with the truthfulness of their story. Is this what thieves do? Get the key from the neighbor claiming a dead body is next door, and then rob the house? I'm no Nancy Drew, but this situation was quickly becoming sketchy at best.
"We might have to break the door down," the guy said, lighting up a cigarette. Clearly he was real concerned about his supposedly-dead friend, as he slumped against the railing of the condo building.
I slammed the rest of my drink. Obviously I was going to have to talk these two nut jobs down off their Cops fantasy. "You're not going to break down the door," I said. "Now let's start at the beginning- why do you think your friend killed himself?"
"He's real unstable," the girl said.
"We're all unstable," I answered. "I'm 34 years old and wrote a love letter to Justin Beiber yesterday. If that's not fucked up, than I don't know what it."
"Gross- he's young enough to be your son," the boy said, grimacing through the cigarette smoke.
"Exactly," I agreed. "My point is, my friends don't think I killed myself every time I don't answer a text- they just think I'm passed out drunk somewhere. So you're going to need to either call the police or take your asses home."
"But we need to leave a note on his door, at least" the girl whined.

The three of us ended up writing this on a large post it: JER- ARE YOU ALIVE? CALL US- TISH & RICKY and sticking it to his front door. They finally went home and I ended up falling asleep in front of the television, exhausted from playing high school counselor.

The next morning I woke to the sound of keys rattling in my maybe-dead neighbor's door, and I quickly got up and raced outside. There stood my neighbor, alive and in the flesh.
"You're alive," I said, blinking.
My neighbor stared at me in confusion. "Um...yeah...?"
I crossed my arms. "Tish and Ricky thought you killed yourself," I said, tattling on them. "You might want to give them a call."
He looked really confused. "Why would they think I killed myself?" He asked me.
"Word on the street is that you're unstable," I replied.
"Who isn't?" He mused, turning the key on the lock and walking into his condo.

My thoughts exactly.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Scared Thin

Has anybody seen that new show on A&E called Beyond Scared Straight?

It's based on the program, Scared Straight, that takes troubled kids who have had problems with the law and are headed to a life of crime through the prison system, where real-life convicts share with them the horrors of jail. The kids, after hearing these stories and witnessing inmates banging on doors and making sexual gestures, realize they don't want to end up in prison and start doing their homework. The program is meant to 'scare' them down the path of righteousness.

When I was watching the show I thought, OMG, I totally know how these kids feel. It was like looking in a mirror.

No, my sister and I weren't bad kids. We just had a mom who considers fat the most evil single substance on earth. My childhood was like an ongoing episode of Beyond Scared Thin.

My mom, about 5'4" and 90-pounds soaking wet, is a health nut. I'm talking wheat germ in your flax cereal, organic beets for dinner, nuts for a snack. Her medicine cabinet is stocked with ginger root, sunflower seeds, fish oils, and ginkgo biloba. Her favorite pastime involves hooking herself up to an IV filled with carrot juice and meditating. I grew up nibbling on beans, wheat grass, and bark (well, we got bark for dessert, but only if we finished all our wheat grass).

My sister and I, in turn, were always fit and healthy. I don't think I had a tablespoon of salt, sugar, or fat really- ever. And my mom was going to make sure we kept it that way.

"Don't you bring that garbage into my house," Mom stated one night, as my sister and I, both in our teens, brought home some leftover cake from a friend's birthday party.
"It's made of sugar-free chocolate, though," I said helpfully, like that would change things. "I think it was made from, um- organic flour," I lied.
"It's Satan," she stated. "Throw it in the trash."

My cousin came over one morning with a box of donuts, a box of donuts- and I am not kidding you- she lost her shit.
"Well, wow- I didn't realize we were all going to ingest complete poison in our bodies this morning," she started, sarcastically. "Well, that's a great way to start off the day- with a triple bypass. GOOD THING I don't give a flying fuck about the health of myself, my husband, or my two beautiful daughters!" Mom clutched us tragically as we stared into the box of donuts in confusion. We had never seen a donut before and were fascinated. It looked like bread with some type of gooey substance on top, and, that smell- was that sugar? I had heard about sugar from some of the kids in my class, but I thought it was something that didn't really exist- like a unicorn, or a smurf.
"Um...." my cousin paused thoughtfully. "You want me to throw them out?"
"Only if you want to live to see another day," my mom said, calmly. The kind of calm that gives you chills up your spine.

The real beat-down came one day when mom caught my sister with a soda one of the neighbors had given her, and decided that my sister and I were 'out of control'.
"You're both about to graduate, and head off to college- and at college there's- buffets." My mom said this last word like some people say 'venereal disease'. "Get in the car," Mom said, gathering up her keys.

She drove us to McDonald's.
"OK." She parked the car, turned around, and glared at my sister and I, both trembling in the backseat. "We are going into a fast food restaurant. I want you to take a GOOD LOOK at the people in there. If you keep putting in your mouth, stuff like SODA-" she stopped and gave a death-stare to my sister. "-then you're going to end up like them. Get out of the car."
We quickly unbuckled our seat belts and raced into McDonald's, a place I had only previously seen on television commercials, and, admittedly- it housed more obese white people than a Republican National Convention.
Mom huddled the two of us to her, up front by the soda machine. "Look at that man over there," she said, pointing across a couple tables. "Is that how you want your future to look like? A double chin and type 2 diabetes? Does that look like fun to you?!? Does it?!?"
We stared at the floor. "Nooo....."
My mom pointed again at a large woman. "Over there! That woman- do you think she WANTS to be in pants with an elastic waist?! Do you want to struggle climbing a few stairs without passing out?!"
We both shook our heads no.
"And do you smell that? The smell of lard frying? And then that lard, sitting in your stomach, creating cellulite on the tops of your thighs? And all of it, eating away at your heart, killing you at young age? IS THAT THE KIND OF LIFE YOU WANT?!"
My sister started to cry and I resisted the urge to purge the carrot sticks I had eaten for lunch.
Like the prison inmates in Scared Straight, mom grabbed one of those large soda cups and started banging and dragging it against the side of the soda machine, and chanting 'Ronald McDonald is goin' get you!' until management kicked the three of us out. It was a day I would never forget.

Was it severe? Yes. And yet, like the 14-year-old gangbanger who finally stops stealing cars and starts doing their homework, my sister and I were traumatized into submission. To this day I faithfully eat my salads and whole grains and avoid the 'garbage'.

I just can't get the image of those elastic pants out of my head.