I’ve always wanted to see the two of you get back together.

A friend I served with in the Army was in town this weekend, (S.)  We were inseparable before she got sent to Germany.  It was the first time I had a BFF.  I was eighteen when we met.  We were the self-appointed cut-ups in our unit.  (It may have been a factor in my extra time as a private.) For some reason, everything was hilarious to me back then.  (Except the times when I was bawling, which was often.)  It took me an embarrassingly long time to recognize the correlation.

S. used to hang out with me while I did whatever extra duty I acquired (for saying what I was thinking.)  When people would honk and laugh at me while I picked weeds, she would flip them off on my behalf.  We spent most of our free time noticing funny shit about the Army and laughing about it.    I didn’t watch TV when I was in the service.  We made our own entertainment.  We spent a lot of time singing harmonies in the latrine.  The acoustics were outstanding.  We had a woman Executive Officer, which meant we were automatically signed up for every women’s event.

We ran a 10K (in El Paso when it was 104° F.)  We played on the softball team, (I was benchwarmer/babysitter.)  I’ve never played softball in my life.  (But I did note the ball is not soft.  It’s not soft at all.)  I know this because the few times I was forced to go on the field, it was either left or right outfield, I forget.  All I did was pray the ball didn’t come to me.  The one time it did, it hit me in the forehead.  I’d like to say I was lined up under the ball, preparing to catch it, and the sun got in my eyes; but actually, I didn’t see it.  I was too busy thinking of what to offer God in trade for preventing the ball from coming to me.

I had a mild concussion, and I never had to go on the field again.  (Yay.)  S. still claims it’s the funniest thing she ever saw in her life, but she exaggerates sometimes.  She told me what it’s like to be a mom.  First, she thought about it for a while.  She has two kids, both adults now.  (She named her daughter, Heather!!)  Then she laughed and started telling me.  I have no idea how long we talked, but it was several hours.  It felt like watching over her shoulder while she grew into this remarkable woman.

I haven’t slept since she left, so I’m still processing what she shared.  I laughed when she told me it felt good to talk to someone who doesn’t interrupt.  It’s sort of an inside joke.  When we first started hanging out, she told me I listen like I’m memorizing everything she’s saying.  I told her it’s because in a way I was, but I couldn’t elaborate.  I got diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome not long after S., and I met.  It’s funny because I used to get in trouble for constantly interrupting as a kid before I figured out I got more information by just listening.

I decided to watch more of the Stevie Nicks documentary (instead of sleeping.)  I usually watch things in small segments when it’s my first viewing so I can process what I’m observing in between.  I love that Stevie made this album in her home.  It’s a big old house.  It has a dramatic staircase that curves and a massive crystal chandelier in the foyer.  She talks about her writing process, and how she’s been writing virtually her whole life.  I smiled when I saw her with a stack of handwritten notebooks.  I still have mine from ages six through eleven.  It shows the deterioration of my handwriting as I began using a computer.  I’m steadily devolving into just scratching an X for my signature.

I ordered all her live DVDs and music on CDs.  Whenever I come across an artist I would love to experience live, I do this.  It’s to make up for not being able to support them in person, (massive overstimulation.)  It’s hard to grasp the fact I can own a copy of their music for less than $20.  I struggle with this concept when it comes to authors and musicians.  I feel in debt to some fascinating people.  It doesn’t stress me out, though.  It makes me feel very fortunate.

I squeed when I found out Stevie likes Twilight.  She said she could relate to Bella when Edward abandoned her in the woods.  Now I have to do a Twilight marathon, again.  It’s been at least a year since I watched them.  Honestly, I’m baffled by the people who insist they didn’t love the films.  I usually suspect they’re lying, because who doesn’t want to watch beautiful vampires run around doing amazing shit like they have bionics and giant wolves and everyone is gorgeous?  It’s okay, I won’t tell anyone.

Too bad you can’t do that for a living.

I ran into someone I used to coach in soccer today.  It brought back good memories of that time in my life.  I was sixteen when I coached boys aged 8-9.  I did it because my Mom said she didn’t think it was something I could do.  I remember how offended I was at the time, but it’s since occurred to me she did it on purpose.  (She used the Jedi Mom Trick on me more times than I’d like to admit.)  Soccer and Cross Country are the sports I don’t suck at.  I was assigned the position of the goalie when I was six and played it ever after.  The most challenging part at first was paying attention.

The first time someone scored on me, it was because I was chasing a butterfly behind the goal.  I wasn’t even in bounds.  My coach was great because I only remember him laughing at my mistake.  His daughter was my age, so I had him for several years.  He taught me how to play and how to practice.  He told me sports are all about math and the key to doing well is practicing.  (He totally got me.)  I went from team entertainment to a team member, and it did good things for my confidence.  When I first met my team of 8 and 9-year-old boys, I asked them which ones played the year before.  Everyone did.  I remember smiling, half because they were so adorable, and the rest because I realized it was going to be a cinch coaching them.

I coached the same boys for two seasons, then went into the Army.  We won first place both seasons.  They choose the teams by neighborhoods, so I held all our practices at a local park a block from home.  I always started out with stretching, then we’d run laps.  I got cones and balls from the city park system, and we’d practice dribbling and passing.  They were all different sizes, some far taller than others.  But they all had the same sense of humor, which used to crack me up.  Anything gross was golden.  My interactions with my older brothers were different.  It was my first time experiencing the incredible sweetness of little boys.

It surprised and delighted me to discover it.  Children are highly conscious of fairness at that age, as well.  I would ask them who should start?  They would select the boys who did well in practice and neglect those who skipped because it was only fair.  Everyone got to play in every game because that too was only fair.  They all got along so well and were bursting with energy.  I had no idea I would adore them so much when I agreed to coach them.  I’m so glad I did.  I don’t think I ever would have found out this beautiful secret about ages 8 and 9, otherwise.

What happens to them after that age, I don’t know.  I think a lot of damage is being done by telling children how to feel, act, play, etc.  It seems to me a lot of men on this planet had something beautiful beaten out of them when they were still forming.  Not all, thank goodness.  But it makes me sad.  I was happy to see one of my boys all grown up with children of his own.  He gave me a hug, which I’m thinking means he made it through childhood intact.  Whew!

With the little kicks and the thumbs?

Today was good.  I realize in reflection that I should have spent some time earlier doing a grounding technique my therapist taught me.  I’m starting to recognize when I slip into autopilot.  I start thinking like an old search engine.  I’ll start by thinking of something I saw or heard earlier, like Carter Pewterschmidt losing his driving privileges on Family Guy.  Something about that bit of the show set off an internal red flag.  I watched him drive carelessly with Stewie centered in the back in a car seat.  That’s what it was.  Wow, typing it out helped me figure it out straight away.

Now I know what triggered me into going on autopilot.  I just want to be able to recognize it in real time, so I can consciously face whatever triggers me, rather than losing several hours to repetitive motion, and cryptic thoughts strung together by random pattern classification.  I hate wasting time by accident.  I’m seeing now how different my life is when I’m not on autopilot most of the time.  It’s like sitting in a theater, watching the same movie for years, when one day someone invites you on stage to play the role of one of the lead characters.  I’ve stumbled on stage and I’m familiar with the scene, but I’m still feeling nervous.

If that makes sense to anyone but me, I’ll be pleased.  I am to metaphors what tone deaf is to singing.  (They say admitting you have a problem is the first step…)  I have a melody that has played in my mind since I was in primary school.  I used to sing it over and over while on patrol duty.  I don’t forget music, and there’s usually music playing in my mind.  Every so often, that melody plays, and I remember standing on the corner a block away from my school with the fluorescent pink patrol belt wrapped proudly around me.  I remember the smell of car exhaust.  I remember my fear that the cars wouldn’t stop for me.  They always stopped.

That melody is important to me.  I created it before I knew very much music.  It was before I had any semblance of self consciousness.  I sang constantly as a child.  I did it quietly while rocking, and it was like breathing to me.  When I began school, I learned that it was generally considered an odd thing to do.  I didn’t stopped doing it.  I just learned how to do it when I wasn’t around other people.  I created this melody before I knew I was odd.  I liked that odd me.  She didn’t survive intact, obviously, but I have a few good memories from when she existed.  I wish all of us who were considered odd children had a vault somewhere safe where we could store our original self, and visit later in life.  I guess it’s a good thing we have memories stored in our minds.  It’s not as reliable, but it’s far better than nothing.

Well, Poppy’s a little sloppy.

Today went well.  I got a lot done this morning at work, then came home for lunch and then therapy.  My nephew helped set up an obstacle course, and then took turns with one of my co-workers, trying to beat their personal best times.  And to think I was worried he’d be bored.  One thing I’ve noticed so far this week is how everyone has been on their best behavior at work.  Last week, one of the guys was made to work from home for a while, until his behavior issues don’t infringe on anyone else in the office.  He’s also starting therapy to help him transition to independence, and work on social skills.  It wasn’t openly discussed because the decision was made by his Dad.  Unlike an office full of neurotypical people, there was no whispering or gossip.

Instead, one of them basically announced that he planned to refrain from talking about women at work, because he thought it was at the root of what has been causing problems, and he doesn’t want to work from home, because he lives with his parents.  We all laughed, because we wouldn’t either.  In a year or so, we’ll all be living independently in Denver.  I’ll be going first, since it was my brilliant idea to move there in the first place.  This has come up a few times when we’ve talked about it.  Some of them want to try using weed to help with social interactions.  I’ve been the guinea pig so far.  It’s worked well for me with a particular hybrid strain.  I got the impression that they want me to try a wider variety to see if it has the same efficacy for me.  The problem with that is the fact that we’re all walking chemical reactions that vary from person to person.

I don’t want to experiment too much, because I may wind up ingesting a strain that doesn’t agree with my particular chemical makeup, and knowing me, that would impact my overall experience.  I’m not fond of alcoholic beverages, but there have been times when I’ve partaken of rum and Coke, and vodka and juice.  The results were meh.  I got sleepy and dehydrated.  It didn’t make my anxiety go away, and I just wanted to lay down.  I didn’t get whatever feeling people seek when drinking.  I felt sluggish, and that can be a trigger for me.  No positive effects whatsoever.  So I won’t bother again.  With the exception of cake, nothing I eat or drink makes me feel particularly happy.  I’m always up for cake, though.  Always.

One amusing thing I noticed about weed, is that it led me to think far more than necessary about insignificant things.  Like cake, for example.  The last time I visited Denver, I distinctly remember thinking about cake, and how I figure I like it so much because I haven’t gotten my fair share of it for an American of my age.  I can’t even type this with a straight face.  I reasoned that out since my Mom wouldn’t let us eat processed foods, refined sugar, and artificial flavors or colors, (especially Red #5).  We had healthy substitutions.  Like honey instead of sugar.  Carob instead of chocolate.  Raisins instead of candy.  If someone brought cake or cookies to school, I’d get an apple.  I know, right?  It sucked!  And kids being kids, they would smile at me while eating it, savoring every bite, and then ask how was my apple.

My Mom’s reasoning was that Steve and I were (misdiagnosed as), Hyperkinetic.  She put us on this special diet to counteract our naughty predilections.  Heather was just an innocent bystander who got royally screwed out of her share of cake.  In reality, Steve had Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and of course I’m Autistic.  But I can totally understand why initially it was mistakenly applied.  We were naughty kids.  We didn’t do anything awful, because nothing awful occurred to us.  We lived in a small, safe community.  People’s attitudes were different when I was a kid, too.  If a neighbor saw you being naughty, they would correct you on the spot.  You could go home and tell your Mom all about it, and then watch her thank them for it, so telling was pointless.  We tended to steer clear of the yards where known spankers lived, because when we told our Mom that Mr. Gardner, (we thought that was his name because he was always gardening), spanked us for picking flowers in his yard, she said that if we didn’t like being spanked, then we shouldn’t misbehave.

The naughtiest thing we did was smoke a cigarette.  That was a huge big deal at that time, and we thought we were such badasses.  Oh yeah, I also accidentally stole some kite string from the drugstore once.  I went there to buy a kite and string, and picked up the string first, then laboriously agonized for a long time over which kite I wanted.  By the time I chose one, I was so used to clutching the string that I forgot to put it on the counter with my kite when I paid.  When I got about halfway home, I realized I stole it, and had a meltdown.  The worst part, was that I heard police sirens in the distance a second after I realized I robbed the store.  I was certain it was the police coming to take me to jail.  When I got home, my Mom went with me to pay for the string, and apologize.  I couldn’t settle down enough to apologize verbally, so I wrote a note of apology to the store owner.  That was an historically shitty day in my childhood.

After I went into the Army, my Mom’s special diet was history.  My entire first paycheck during basic training went to candy and hygiene items.  I got one of those huge bags of Twizzlers, some Spree, Sweet Tarts, Pixie Stix, and I forgot the name of that candy where you get a white dipping stick attached to pouches of colored sugar.  I thought that was brilliant.  All of them had refined sugar, artificial flavors/colors, and Red #5.  It turned out that Red #5 causes migraines, and eating that much sugar in a single day causes stomach cramps and rainbow vomit.  My buddy warned me a few times to give away the rest of the bag of candy.  As if.  So yeah… Being sick sucks, but being sick in basic training is a whole new level of suck.  I remember that as the worst migraine of my life, but I don’t know if I can trust my ability to assess such a thing while hopped up on that much sugar.  I still had to do KP, which felt so unfair to me at the time.  I was still a civilian mentally, and figured if I didn’t feel well, I should lay down and pamper myself until it passed.  I was mistaken.

There are a lot of deliberate levels of training going on in basic.  The skills you learn, the sleep deprivation, the bland diet, the mandatory relationship with your buddy, and the intimidation by your drill sergeants, to name some.  And that doesn’t even cover the brainwashing.  That brainwashing aspect was explained to me, and I agree it’s necessary, (at least for most).  They do it because it’s not natural for a human being to kill other human beings.  In WW1, it was a serious problem.  I’m sure some would be skeptical of it still being necessary, but I think it is.  It’s how they get us to shoot without thinking about it, or processing our actions emotionally in the heat of the moment.

It’s not a complicated process.  Chanting disturbing sayings in unison with your platoon repeatedly while jamming your bayonet into a dummy.  I remember one where the Drill Sergeant would shout, “What makes the grass grow?”  And we’d all shout back in unison, “The blood!  The blood!  The blood makes the grass grow!”  Disgusting, huh?  It bothered me at the time, and ever since.  It’s why I suspect it didn’t work on me.  I couldn’t find my war face, and I didn’t join in the hysteria.  Instead, I stood there bawling while all the other women in my platoon ripped the shit out of their dummies with their fixed bayonets.  Fortunately, it was too sweaty and frenzied for anyone to notice I wasn’t playing along properly.  It was scary to watch.  My brain doesn’t really know how to process watching a bunch of 18(ish)-year-old women behaving that way.

I don’t know why I’m thinking about all this now.  I sure seem to have strayed far from cake.  I suppose I’m still recovering from the past few days, and am still a bit melancholy.  I’m a pattern finder, so things that remind me of other things are in the same mental bin.  My bins are just organized by pattern instead of logic, so it seems like I’m off topic, but I’m not to me.  I’m also a little bit wigged out from listening to my nephew play a scary video game.  I’m such a doofus.  I can watch a horror movie if it’s muted.  But if the sound is on, movies like Ghostbusters scare me.  I remember seeing that at the theater with Steve, after he promised me it wouldn’t be scary.  Then right away, that horrible green ghost librarian pops out.  I turned to him and loudly accused, “You said this wasn’t going to be scary!”  Then the people around us who heard me started laughing.  I tried to play it off like I thought it was funny too, but I was so not amused.  And on that note, I’m going to locate my headset so my nephew can keep playing while I read.

The sea was angry that day, my friends

Today was slow.  I had bad nightmares last night, and still remembered them when I awoke.  I hate when that happens.  The dreams involved family members who have passed away.  Only they were still alive in my nightmares and were rejecting me as a sibling/daughter.  I analyzed it, and have decided it means I feel betrayed by my family members who have died.  It’s proof that I’m still experiencing grief in my subconscious.  The only death that I experienced externally was that of my brother Steve.  When my Mom, sister, and Dad died, I didn’t react in a way I can identify.  Certainly not in the way I responded to losing Steve.  I fell apart completely when he died.  My entire life came to an abrupt halt, and I cried or was on the verge of tears for a whole year.

I remember wanting to hunt down the surgeon at the Mayo Clinic and kick his ass for letting my brother die.  When my Mom died, I felt numb for a long time.  When Heather died, I felt angry.  When my Dad died, I felt alone.  But I didn’t express those feelings.  They all died over a period of five years.  I still have other siblings, but my relationship with most of them is good but distant.  Most of them were grown up by the time I came along.  I was very close to Steve and Heather when growing up, and after becoming adults.  When I left for basic training, Heather was the only one still living at home.  She moved out on the day she graduated.  She was fed up with racism and didn’t want to spend another day putting up with it.  Her experience was different than mine in that regard, even though we were only a year apart.

Most of the racism we experienced was subtle.  This meant it went right over my head for the most part.  When we were the only ones not invited to a birthday party, or when we exchanged gifts at school, and Heather got a wrapped, empty box, it didn’t occur to me that it was because we were black.  In high school, a few black families moved to town, and Heather dumped all her white friends and hung out with the new black kids exclusively.  I remember feeling like she was mean and racist to do such a thing, but she vehemently disagreed.  She entered her first abusive relationship while in high school.  Her boyfriend was the first and last person I ever fought with the intention of killing.  He punched her, and she had hearing loss and TMJ as a result.  I saw red when she told me.  It was the angriest I had ever been in my life.  I took a baseball bat and went to his house.  I walked right in without knocking and proceeded to beat him with it.  I told him if he ever hit my sister again, I would kill him, and meant it.  It scared me how angry and violent I became.

When I was in the Army, stationed in Germany, Heather called me and told me her boyfriend beat her with his belt.  It took every ounce of discipline I possessed to refrain from getting on a plane, going there, and killing him for it.  It made me feel like I was going insane because I couldn’t protect my little sister.  As I was pacing and raging, it hit me.  Heather knew I couldn’t come there and protect her when she told me.  She told me because she needed to know I loved her enough to want to murder the fucker who beat her.  When I realized this, I was able to calm down.  I begged her not to let that fucker into her home ever again.  When she realized I was weeping, I think it registered with her that she was hurting me too by allowing psychopaths in her life who did nothing but rob and beat her.  It all felt very twisted, and beyond my ability to fully grasp at the time.  In hindsight, I don’t really understand it any better.  But I do remember the murderous rage I felt when someone hurt her.  I don’t ever want to feel that way again.

I began calling her more regularly and checking in on her.  When she would tell me about some cute guy, I would ask her if he had a job.  When she said no, I’d advise her not to bother with them.  It was a turning point in our relationship.  I was finally the big sister, and she valued my advice.  When she had a job that she didn’t like, she asked me if she should quit.  I asked her if they spelled her name wrong on her paycheck.  She said no, then we both laughed.  I told her that a job is a means of earning money, and nothing more.  Just do what you need to do to the best of your ability, and don’t expect it to be fulfilling.  I told her if she wanted a career instead of a job, she’d have to get more schooling.  So she started going to university part-time, and eventually got a degree and a position she loved.  She kept a journal that was given to me after she died.  In it, she talked about how she looked up to me.  I treasure it now.  Whenever I feel like I’m failing at life, I read it.

I miss the times when she’d visit, and we’d laugh until our faces hurt.  I miss being able to pick up the phone, dial her number, and say something like, “remember the dent?” Then hang up, knowing she would be on the floor laughing from just those 3 words.  I miss her picking out my clothes and making me look a lot cooler than I actually am.  I even miss her teasing me by telling me that I’m the whitest black person she knows.  I would give her a lecture on how culture and skin color don’t correlate, and why her statement was ridiculous, and she’d listen for a while and then burst out laughing.  I’d eventually laugh with her, and realize I was just as silly by taking it seriously.  I miss my Heather.