dog days. 1 : the period between early July and early September when the hot sultry weather of summer usually occurs in the northern hemisphere. 2 : a period of stagnation or inactivity
Growing up, I hated summer. Weird, I know. What can I say? I just really loved school, and summers always seemed to bring with them an extra loneliness, a sadness. I also wanted to be a nun, though. So maybe that tells you everything you need to know about me as a kid. Even more than a nun, however, I wanted to be the Virgin Mary. I had a pink, faux-satin nightgown and matching housecoat set, trimmed all over with white lace, which I would wear (no matter if day or night), laying the housecoat over my head and tying the sleeves under my chin as a makeshift veil. I had a little plastic bottle of holy water that allegedly came all the way from Lourdes (although, for all I knew, it had really travelled no farther than someone’s kitchen tap), and I would sprinkle it ever-so-delicately on my wrists like it was Chanel No. 5, and I was the Queen of Sheba. Once readied, I would glide around the house on the balls of my feet, hands clasped in front of me, making a show of benevolence (and making my parents wonder, I’m sure, how the hell their middle kid ended up so weird). It gets weirder, though: whenever I misbehaved—or even thought about misbehaving—I would relegate myself to a time-out. In our house time-outs took place in the conversation pit, a little open nook set a bit down and off from the living room, and whenever I was feeling particularly guilt-ridden and masochistic, I would march past the rest of my family, all together in the living room, straight down to the conversation pit to sit and think seriously about what I’d done—or what I’d thought about doing.
Now for the big twist ending: I did not, in fact, end up becoming a nun, nor did I end up becoming a virgin mother. In fact, the closest I got to being a virgin anything was remaining one for twenty-two years. I grew up, lost myself, found several men (and a few women) along the way, and well...the rest is history (as was any notion of joining the convent). What I actually ended up becoming was a waiter. The thing about being a waiter (one of many “things” really!) is that no one dreams of becoming one when they grow up. Now, of course, there are lots of jobs like that. After all, for better or worse, we can’t all grow up to be the proverbial ballet dancer or astronaut, and still, we all have to make a living, or so society tells us. However, there’s a particular sort of depressing hopefulness (or is it hopelessness?) about being a waiter, especially in Los Angeles—everyone assumes it’s a meantime job, a little something you’re just doing on the side while you’re “becoming” something else. Waiters in LA are often treated as a sort of generally unhappy, pitiable, replaceable, searching bunch of folks.
And now I may as well just admit it—I’m an actor. Or at least, I was. I have a BFA in Theatre (so you know I’m either very serious or very dumb—or both). As we’ve established, I was a strange, shy kid, but when—at sixteen—I discovered acting, it was like getting that letter to Hogwarts, like looking down one day and seeing tits for the first time, like meeting a superheroine alter ego I would’ve never guessed was inside me all along. I loved theatre. Getting my degree proved difficult, however. By the age of nineteen, I was bingeing and purging so frequently that I had to drop out of the university I’d attended for only a year and move back home. I got a job as a barista at a Barnes & Noble (where I stayed for five years) and dabbled in community college and community theatre. When, several years later, I transferred to the university and theatre program from which I would eventually graduate, I breathed a sigh of relief (you’ll recall: I loved school).
The program was hard work—some of the hardest I’ve ever done—but it’s also one of the things of which I’m most proud. Once I graduated, however, I found myself drifting once again—literally, as at the time, I was crashing on couches, putting off the inevitable, before finally biting the bullet and officially moving to Los Angeles. Most of my classmates had already done it, and it seemed like the thing to do. Without school to moor me, life was one long, interminable summer (and you’ll recall: I hated summer). So maybe it’s not such a twist ending that—fast forward six years almost to the day, and—I’m still spinning my wheels (only figuratively, of course—bumper-to-bumper traffic doesn’t allow wheels to actually spin here). Don’t get me wrong—I’m grateful for a certain amount of success in LA. I’ve done some delightful plays and some indie films; I’ve met some wonderful people (who might’ve proven even more wonderful had I allowed myself to actually get close to them); I’ve stopped crashing on couches and have steadily—if only modestly—increased my income each year; and somehow—perhaps most auspicious of all—I haven’t gotten a single parking ticket in nearly two years.
But that exponential increase in income has been from bouncing around odd jobs (bikini bartender, barista—three different times—cocktail server, and—most recently—waiter). It has not, in fact, been from acting or writing or anything else that I once imagined. In fact, I quit auditioning about two years ago and began to focus solely on waiting tables. Gradually, almost imperceptibly, I had become so afraid of requesting time off for auditions or—every once a blue moon—gigs I’d miraculously booked, that I simply stopped requesting off at all. Restaurants are highly competitive, and I didn’t want someone to come and take my place, so after a while, I simply refused to move—even though I didn’t at all like where I was.
Every day that I put on my little black apron, I put on with it a heavy coat of shame. And then, I felt ashamed at my shame (why, yes, I am your basic ex-Catholic, thank you very much) because what—did I think I was better than waiting tables? Let me be clear: there is absolutely no inherent shame in waiting tables. It’s honest (and sometimes even enjoyable) work, and I’ve met phenomenally talented and good people who do it. The shame I felt was, of course, pure, unadulterated ego—the feeling that I “should” be doing “more.” I know...what a lame, bullshit construct of society, right? But even so, deep down, all BS aside, what really broke my heart was that I couldn’t shake the feeling that I could be doing more. Nevermind “should.” I could—if I wanted to—and I wanted to, I really really did. I was drowning in a dark, dank well of untapped potential. I’d always dreamt of somehow melding passion with money to make one brilliant, elusive thing called “a career.” I’d never personally known anyone who’d actually done it, but still, I was hopeful.
As I continued to wait tables, however, year after year, as I continued to make it not just my living but my very life, I felt as though my chances were slipping by. I was afraid of everything: requesting off work, quitting my job, losing money, investing in a dream, even defining my dream—it all terrified me, catapulting me smackdab into indecision, which is where I’ve made my home ever since. But now, a true twist ending (or, perhaps...a beginning?): one Saturday in March of this year, I went to work, like I always did, and was scheduled to work the next day, Sunday, like I always did, but I never ended up making it to that shift—the restaurant didn’t open Sunday, and it hasn’t opened since. See, pandemics apparently don’t care that you’ve been at a job for almost five years, ever since they opened their doors, or that you worked hard to be the first promoted from host to server. Nor do they care that, over the course of those five years, you sacrificed almost everything in the name of getting more shifts, then better shifts, then the best shifts, fighting tooth and nail for your place there. I suspect pandemics probably don’t even care that the whole time you were doing all that, you actually thought you were doing the right thing; after all, you were being responsible. In short, pandemics don’t offer immunity even to those of us who’ve insisted on playing it safe all our lives, shoring up against every real and imagined disaster.
And here we are, five months later, right in the thick of summer—still my least favorite season, although I’m not sure why. For me, there’s no longer a school year to tearfully end or another on the way to eagerly anticipate, but still, whenever June rolls around, so too, like clockwork, does that old, familiar melancholy, that loneliness, that feeling that everyone is at a party, and my unwritten invitation wasn’t even lost in the mail. This year, however, summer feels almost nonexistent (for obvious reasons), and yet, lockdown—to me—has felt like endless summer. The solitude, the isolation, the boredom, the anxiety are no longer specific to a certain season, are no longer specific even to me. Worse still, we don’t have our good old standbys—like the school year or jobs—with which to distract ourselves. There is so much loss. More than perhaps we can even imagine. There is sickness and dreams on hold or given up altogether and heartbreak and fear and loneliness and death and uncertainty. There is a feeling of time standing still but also hurtling forward into the unknown. There are all these things, and also: there is forced radical change—for myself, certainly, but also for our nation and our world—perhaps for the better, perhaps not; in every case, it remains to be seen.
All I know for certain: had none of this happened, I would still be working as a waiter at a restaurant that didn’t want or value me, ever forcing myself into the conversation pit of my own making, my life in a perpetual state of time out. Honestly, I don’t know if I ever would’ve worked up the ovaries to leave there of my own volition. But in the end I didn’t have to. Is that a blessing or a curse, a little nudge in the right direction or one of the worst things to ever happen to me? All I can say is I’ve written more in the past three months than I have in three decades. I’ve somehow—surprisingly, wholly unexpectedly—fallen in love with lifting weights. I’m getting bigger, with visible muscle in the same places where I once desired to see only skin and bone. I’m also more sober than I’ve been in more time than I care to admit. I am—literally and figuratively—stronger than ever. It’s not my intention to sugarcoat what’s happened here, what’s still happening, to leap hungrily to the good and bypass the bad—my own or anyone else’s. But, as with all things in life, the truths are many—and often conflicting. I am a would-be nun who ended up an ashamed—and then, a proud—slut. I am a would-be actor who ended up a hard-working—and then, an out-of-work—waiter. I am a would-be writer who ended up...well, who knows? There’s really no telling. Life can change overnight, as easily as Saturday transforms into Sunday, and oftentimes, we think we’ve ended up—when really, we’ve only just gotten started. And while summer may feel interminable to me, the truth is, for better or worse, it’s nearly over—as all things hard and interminable always are.
(based on one summer humid night back in Moreno Valley where I had to sleep with no power whatsoever)
Close your eyes...
LIE...everything is fine...if you just Lie still and breathe deeply,
Stop seething beneath your seedy defeating overheating!
Pleading with the universe will not revive the air conditioner--
But oh sweet Jesus, the humidity--
Such anguish of my unanswered wish,
Follow my trail of tears and sweat!
Beget my regrets I often forget as admission for my early requested untimely death!
I ache for swift relief, to let my assets reset back to that cold shower--
For exactly one hour, I savored the cold water soaked from the lavour,
Surely heavens forbid I cower in over-lather my lengthy skin shielding my bladder, but--
Alas the end, as Linkin Park ballads, doesn’t really matter,
The nightly temperature, one-hundred and five, my soul.. ruptures--
As the city’s infrastructure experiences disrupture of electricity,
I no longer shock at such thoughts of stability,
Truly quitting this unprovoked battle,
And Upon my mantle, the clock stiff still, ill-mannered as to say:
“Straddle-up! Tis’ night’s straggled tempo shall be dreadful”,
As I lay in bed, Lying ‘everything is fine’,
Attempting to ignore such loud roaring silence,
Insects romantically prance this nightly dance upon the outdoor plants,
My hearing enhanced,
The neighbors vulgar chants distance-ly track along the cul-de-sac,
My trapped laughs blasts through the hushed air as I relapse back into my current circumstance,
I relent this night, my window indiscriminately bestows blaring blowing sirens--
Wailing alongside many questionably-close-by violence,
Perhaps it is due to this drought,
Though I doubt such jail cells provide the icy-temps many, as have I, sought after,
My bed takes no longer to get hotter, to not bother with my frozen body,
Minutes mutate shuddered seconds into years,
Fears bear my rage,
Slowly my folie overtakes my surrounding property,
Sickly-sticky-stuck upon these sheets,
I contemplate possibly fleeing from this inherent heat--
I cry at the thought of lost sleep upon an impending defeat,
Why of all nights does circumstance pile on my obvious plight I no longer wish to fight?
Tonight requires rest,
Tomorrow-- well, surviving it will be the ultimate test,
Tossing, turning, a threshold shall be stubbornly discovered,
And at long last, I now best a side of my warm humid-lowered nest,
Although I confess how the mattress is now such a mess--
I can now peacefully slumber,
Life confers my request, lest my obsession allows to recommence,
I reflect upon the many past summer nights--
History often repeats,
A self-reflected smile upon my face furthers shut down my internal file server,
My warm skin slightly touches an outside breezy cooling,
Oh such a faint melody I cling to--
So enchanting, so soothing,
Now as I can now dream, I LIVE,
I lie to not lie,
Everything truly is fine,
As I now surrenderly close my eyes….
The idea of having a summer love is something I’ve imagined for a long time. Where you meet someone and grow closer to them during the summer all while having the time of your life with this person who makes you smile more than you ever have before. Going for a bike ride around a lake in the warm summer heat. Splashing through puddles from the rain and racing down hills at a dangerous but hilarious speed. Taking a trip to the beach and burying him in the sand. Having late night talks while driving around the city, where the lights shine bright reflecting your soul’s happiness in the moment. Every time you see his face you can’t help but smile. He always gives you the best hugs that just make you melt. He makes you laugh so hard that you’re certain you’ve developed abs specifically from his ability to make you laugh. You hope and pray that he will be the first to say something or hold your hand or even go in for that first kiss.
As time goes on, you think maybe he’s too shy to say anything, and he’s not really sure of how you feel. So you make the decision to say something to him, and it takes all the strength and courage you can muster. So when you finally are able to tell him in some crazy dramatic way, you leave it in his court on whether or not to chase after you...and he does. He runs after you and grabs your arm to spin you around to face him before he pulls you so close to him that you’re not sure where you end and he begins. Then he kisses you with a passion that you never thought you would experience and it makes your head spin and your heart feel like it’s going to explode. You pull away and smile shyly, saying you weren’t expecting that to happen and he smiles and says that he’s been waiting all week to do that. Then you have to leave and go home, but you do so with the biggest smile on your face and your stomach filled with butterflies.
Or maybe your instance ends a little more like mine. Everything happens the way I’ve just described and you tell him how you feel in some dramatic way, leaving it in his court on whether or not to chase you... and he doesn’t. He gets in his car and drives away as you walk into the airport, not knowing how he really feels. You call your friend to tell her you did it and she is so happy for you and tells you it’s in his court now. When you get on the plane you see he posted something on instagram about how genuine and kind of a human you are. Expressing how thankful he is for you and your friendship. Then he texts you when you land, thanking you for being honest with your feelings, but that he just sees you as his best friend. You say it’s okay and that you just needed to say something, but you know full well that you only told him because you were almost certain he felt the same way. He invited you to his family’s house across the country after all.
It hurts even more when you look back at the conversations you had while you were together. The way he said “I just knew when I met you that you were going to be very special and in my life for a long time.” Those words made you swoon and that’s what drove you to say how you felt.
But then he continues to talk to you, though, opening up to you about his life and feelings, which is hard but he cares for you and wants to be more vulnerable with you. Knowing he cares about you and still thinks of you as this special person in his life makes you feel better, right? When you call him and he says “We were just talking about you!” You laugh and wonder why on earth he could be talking about you every time you call him. He says it’s because he misses you and his family does too. But he just misses you as his friend. There’s nothing else there for him. You won’t ever be anything more to him. But you’re his best friend! That’s enough, right?
To me, a home away from home is a place where you feel just as comfortable as you do in your own home. In these places, I find the muscle memory of getting around or what I love has never left, even if it’s been many years since I’ve visited. The places that are my home away from home have changed over the years of my life.
When I think about growing up, home away from home instantly conjures up images of my Nanny’s house, and my Grandma and Grandpa’s house. The moments that I spent in these two places are moments that define my childhood. How could I ever forget the feeling of comfort that I felt at either of these places? There was always a feeling of peace after arriving and hugging my Nanny or Grandma. It was a safe and happy place to be.
I grew up on the east coast, and it will always feel like home to me. Whenever I go back to visit family, there is an immediate comforting and familiar feeling the minute that I get off the plane. It doesn’t matter if I land in Philly, Newark, or Baltimore - it always feels like I am being welcomed home. I couldn’t stand the winters growing up, but now when I go back east for the holidays, the cold air feels inviting and refreshing. The lush, green, rolling hills in the spring and summer months are the most comforting scenery that I could imagine. The leaves changing in the autumn are the most welcome and beautiful sight.
There’s another place that feels like a home away from home for me, and that place is London. Even though it’s been a few years since I lived there, whenever I’m back, it immediately feels like home again. The distinct scent of the underground and the air moving past me as the trains arrive and depart on the underground makes it feel like being there is still the most normal thing in the world. Walking past Regent’s Park and Baker Street Station reminds me of my many mornings going to school and spending time at the pubs with friends after we had finished our classes. There are many other spots all over the city that remind me of wonderful moments and memories with both my family and friends. When I see my dad’s family again, it always feels like no time has passed at all. Everything in the city still feels familiar and comfortable like when I lived there.
I always try to be appreciative of where I live in the present, but I have so many days where I feel the longing to be on the east coast or in London, or I suddenly miss the memories of seeing my grandparents as a child. Whenever this happens, I try to do things that make me feel in tune with those places and moments in time. I have a cup of tea and listen to some of my favorite English bands. I’ll watch a show or movie that takes place somewhere in the Northeast or in the UK. I’ll look back through photos of my favorite spots in these places that feel like my other home, or look back through family gatherings during holidays over the years. I also remind myself that I’ll never stop going back to my home away from homes, and they will always be there to welcome me back.
I firmly believe that a good walk can change your life – it’s happened to me before.
On a solo vacation to London, I was feeling completely frustrated by the fact that I hated my current producer job and hated myself more. So, I went to this beautifully massive park called Hampstead Heath and walked, and walked – for a solid four or five hours.
For a long while, I let my mind run wild with its tornado of anxious, existential thoughts: What am I doing? Why am I here? Why didn’t I wear shoes that fare better in mud? The usual. But once I hit hour three and half, I had somewhat of an epiphany. Everything started to straighten out – It’s like my brain got too tired of thinking at ten thousand miles per hour, and in its surrender, decided to settle on some decisions.
Feeling a weird sense of peace, I sat down on a bench and started to type out a simple one year plan on my phone (I could never plan for longer, due to a deep-set fear and respect for fate). I paused, looked at the muddy grass in the empty field around me, and reminded myself that all I’ve ever wanted to do was write. So: I was going to quit my job to “write.” I would stay in LA, and for a whole year, I would give it my best shot, even if that meant completely depleting my savings account. I was finally going to go for it. And it was going to be okay.
Despite this epiphany, I’ve found it difficult to bring the “art” of walking home to Los Angeles. Though there are walkable neighborhoods, when you consider the most “walkable cities,” it just doesn’t make the list. How can I walk in a city that makes me wander under a freeway just to get to Trader Joes? I daydream about moving someplace else, a place where maybe I wouldn’t be able to afford a backyard, but at least I could go to a bar without having to order a Lyft.
But the past few months have been different. The world is different – we’re collectively fighting off a virus! I’ve lost my job, my social life, and my sanity. My weekly schedule is wide open – like wiiiiiiiiide open. And I can only vacuum my apartment so many times.
So, just about every day, I’ve been walking. Walking to absolutely nowhere (after all, there isn’t anywhere to go). Sometimes I follow a specific route. Sometimes I weave aimlessly through my neighborhood, hoping that the time would pass by faster. On a good day, I cruise through audiobooks of the romance/beach read genre, and on harder days, I listen to the Dixie Chicks and pray that my neighbors can’t see the welling tears through my sunglasses.
Walking isn’t very romantic when you’re not on vacation. It’s starting to feel more like a chore – similar to virtual yoga, it’s just another way to ensure that I won’t have to purchase a new size of jeans whenever we have to wear jeans again. I’ve memorized the homes in my neighborhood, and I hate them all.
But then I take a few days off, and I’m reminded of how much I rely on it. I start to crave it again. I need the escape – a scheduled time to breathe air that hasn’t been circulating inside my apartment. A time to let my mind run: Who am I? When will I start to feel normal again? Will there ever be a normal again? Why didn’t I put on sunscreen before exiting the house?
Slowly, but surely, the spaghetti-like blob that is my brain starts to unravel. And I become more aware that I am a living, breathing person rather than just a bunch of feelings inside a head. I don’t type out a plan, because it’s hard to plan for anything these days. But I do thank the walking gods for letting me feel at ease, even if only for an hour or so. I am here, forcing myself to keep moving. And it is going to be okay.
“Oh my gosh, Chloé, you have to write that!” my friend energetically yelled through my earbuds during one of our many quarantine phone conversations. I’m not sure if it was the excited yelling, which I’m not used to experiencing in my solo quarantining, that compelled me but I immediately made the short jaunt in my studio apartment to my junk drawer. I quickly grabbed the first pen I saw, which happened to be the beautiful forest green stylus styled pen from The Pelican Hill Resort where I spent a weekend at before the world halted. I stopped listening to whatever it was that my dear friend was saying on the other end of the phone so I could properly put pen to the newspaper I found next. It was oddly satisfying to be bossed around and urgently told to write a headline of my own, of my life, my Chloé story.
As I hunched over, the words I wrote, in cursive, were “I finally kissed the beard and I liked it,” disclaimer: he did not wear cherry chapstick although his lips were the color of beautiful, brilliant raspberries and I will admit that a tiny bit of me as a woman was slightly envious of the color as I’m sure he did nothing to achieve this while I have spent countless amounts of cash to achieve just that effortless berry lip “vibe”.
I digress....or do I? You want to know what it’s like eh? Or else you wouldn’t have made it this far. HA! I had never dreamed about this moment. Unlike most girls of this era, I don’t ogle the hipster bearded men nor had I ever dreamed of kissing one. I prefer my men clean cut and clean shaven. I don’t know; it’s just my thing. Okay?
I, of course, brought up my reservations and irrational thoughts to some close girlfriends who were so wonderful in reassuring me and not judging me. One of them even said that I wouldn’t be able to go back to clean cut boys after I had my first taste of the beard.
“But what if I can’t find his lips?” I screamed into my pillow.
“After examining the multiple photos you’ve sent, I can see his lips in every picture so there’s nothing to worry about you’ll know where they are.”
I know, I know. Irrational.
“But what if the beard scratches and hurts my face?”
To which my girl squad replied, “he has a long enough beard so it’s not going to scratch you. His beard looks very soft and well groomed.”
I know, I know. Irrational.
My ladies were being super helpful! However, I’ll admit I still wasn’t convinced. In fact, I will go as far to say that I was terrified. I was terrified of kissing the beard. But, inevitably it happened.
It happened on one of those very few rainy and dreary days here in Los Angeles. I had become the pro hugger at this point making a hug last a whole night without a kiss in sight. However, on this not so fine afternoon a not so bad kiss occurred. By now, I had pictured myself forcing my lips to obligingly meet his (consensual night I add) but in all honesty I got caught up in a moment, the moment, and next thing I knew, I WAS THE ONE who was pulling his lips towards mine. I found them on the first go! My girls were correct! And the beard wasn’t scratchy at all! My girls were correct! I have actually had many more uncomfortable kisses due to a bit of stubble on my previous guys. The kiss was wonderful. I felt the endorphins that usually accompany this act but I also felt extra proud of my dumb self for finally kissing the beard! How had I been so anxious about kissing a man with a beard.
Now my story ends. It ends for many reasons. It ends because it still to this day is the only beard I’ve kissed. It ends because now I can kiss no one; thank you quarantine and face mask life. It also ends because this blog post must end.
To quote the clean shaven Jay-Z “onto the next one” (beard).
Once everything closed down, and the fear of COVID-19 spread rampantly around the world, there was only one place I could turn for consistent comfort: home.
I had just finished working in LA when I returned back to Moreno Valley. My dad was still working from his office, my mom started working from home and she welcomed my company. “I’m so happy you’re here, Andy. I would’ve been here by myself, just having Laci, Garfield, and Eddie to talk with, but they’re asleep most of the time. Be honest with me: did you just come back to see us, or for food?” she asked. I slyly responded with my cheshire cat smile, “neither. Laundry.” Picture the expressionless face emoji on her face, as I playfully revived an old hobby of giving her a hard time.
It didn’t take long for me to revisit my old spots to eat throughout the city. My favorite Mexican food place Armando’s remained open with newly reconfigured safety protocols. I found this place during my college years when I was invited out with classmates. It didn’t take long for me to introduce the place to my family, to which very quickly we settled down to order our usual carne asada nachos with guacamole, sour cream, cheese and beans: Yum! This was the ultimate place we personally considered as Victory Food. Imagine having a rough day (i.e. school, work, idiots driving on the road, etc), or imagine you just aced a test you studied all night for, you received that job offer you desperately wanted, you get the gist. Whenever we would get Victory Food, we knew we had just accomplished something valuable, or knew that we just made it through another week and were ready to celebrate the weekend. We do however take into account the prices since the past ten years have accelerated the place as a luxury. As expensive as the place can be, you can definitely count on getting what you pay for, and we wanted to support small businesses during the shutdown by coming back at least once a week; so far it’s been going on one month.
If we wanted to cook Victory Food from home, my dad would cook his homemade pozole and menudo. Warning: the following sentences may not be veggie friendly, reader discretion is advised. Pozole is like a Mexican stew, garnished with red chili pepper, onions, garlic, hominy corn, and meat, either pork or beef depending on the cook. Menudo is a bit more traditional, a Mexican soup filled with red chili pepper, hominy corn and small pieces of cow stomach stirred to sheer perfection; I can just smell the heavenly aroma from our kitchen right now. Me, my mom, and my brother consider these two cuisines whenever my dad decides to make them the Halley’s Comet of food, a unicorn seen in public, an actual decently made Michael Bay film, you know they exist but hardly ever see it. He usually made enough to last two days, which is a lot of food between us four. As we would sit and enjoy, I would make it a habit to inquire to my brother when the last time we indulged upon this paradise. “Damn, I can’t really remember. I think the last time was like Christmastime,” Rob would variedly answer. He was right, as this is considered such a luxury above-luxury. This is the Victory Food you can ponder on everything you have done and accomplished to that point, and figure ‘wow, time really flew by so fast. I wonder what I’ll be doing after this, and what will be finished with by the time I have this food again.’
Moving to LA, I realized that no matter how much I research, no matter which places are recommended for me to eat, no matter how many times I can try and replicate the recipes, nothing can compare to the comfort from back home. I can always count on my family, my city and the food to be waiting whenever necessary. However, lately it hasn’t felt like any victories have occurred; moreso, negative thoughts on the uncertainty of the future have ramped my anxiety. This is why I had to retreat back home; to recover in the familiar. If the future is going to be sometimes hard to stomach through, I might as well fill it with something yummy.
There was a moment in my life when I thought I was going to lose my mom. I’d like to think that I saved her life, but I think I just rescued her before anyone else had the chance. You see, we were at my great aunt’s house in Northern Iowa for the 4th of July weekend to enjoy fireworks and a carnival near the lake. The house was full, so my mom and two sisters slept outside in a tent while I slept on the couch in the living room. One night, I woke up suddenly to the house moving and then someone was screaming. I bolted upright and ran towards the noise. My great aunt and both sisters were in the kitchen and the back door was open. The screaming was coming from outside so I kept running, through the door and down the stairs. I came face to face with a 40-year-old maple tree that had fallen over in the backyard. My mom’s screaming was coming from somewhere in the tree branches.
I was around 12 at the time, but I didn’t let the pitch dark or the small space between the branches slow me down. I made my way through the branches toward the sound of my mom's voice. She was yelling “Help!” Over and over again, so I told her I was coming. She stopped screaming and started to talk to me so I could follow her voice. With it being pitch dark there was no way to tell for sure where she was, but I eventually got close enough to reach out and touch her. She told me she was okay, but she was trapped by something and she couldn’t figure out what it was. I started to feel around her and wiggle any branches that might have been trapping her. Eventually she said I had found it. It must have been something I stepped on because I hadn’t lifted anything, but her leg was suddenly free and she could stand. I helped her to her feet and we made our way to the opposite side of the tree and around to the front of the house. The tree was blocking all paths back to the house except the front door. Once inside, we realized she had a huge gash in her head, but that was her only big injury. She was taken to the hospital by ambulance, had staples in her head and was sent home with a clean bill of health.
I’ve tried many times during my life to think about what my life would be like if that tree had hit my mom anywhere else. If she had been in a different part of the yard when it fell. If the tornado had just swept her away instead of knocking down the tree. It was silent, no one knew it was there. There was no weather warning. It just showed up randomly. My mom could have died that night and she wouldn’t have been there for some of the things that shaped who I am. She’s always there to talk me through anything that’s happened and support me with all my dreams and goals. She’s talked me through breakups, bad friendships, bad jobs. Supported me when good jobs came along, helped with 3 moves, listened to me gush about boys who are cute. Even when I screw up, she tells me, but is there to help me fix it. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for her.
She called me at the beginning of this pandemic and said all she wanted was for me to be home. She wanted all her kids home and I’m the only one who lives out of state. So I packed my car, took my cats and drove home for the unforeseeable future. Not because I’m leaving LA and moving home, but because my mom needed me and I needed my mom. Because, I knew, if my mom got sick and died from this stupid virus, I would kick myself for not coming home when she said she needed me. I’ve spent every day with her, doing projects and getting creative, working outside and playing with my sisters kids. This is time that I won’t ever get again, so I’m enjoying it. I know she’ll never forget these moments, just like I’ll never forget the time I almost lost her. I thank God every day that I get to see her, because those could have been days that never existed.
One of my many beliefs is that some of the worst people in the world are kids in middle school. If you happen to be between the ages of 12 and 15, chances are you happen to be a massive jerkwad. In early 2009, I was 14 years old and the world revolved around me (according to myself).
The date was May 18th, 2009 and I had just gotten home from school in my freshman year of high school. I remember that particular date fondly because that was the day that Punch-Out!! (2009) on the Nintendo Wii came out. Punch-Out had been one of my favorite series for awhile now and they hadn’t released a new entry in the series since 1994 and I was VERY excited for this new iteration.
It was going to arrive in the mail today and I was gonna play the ever loving snot out of it!
“Did my game come?” I excitedly asked as soon as I entered the door.
“No.” mumbled my mother.
I could tell something was off, but I was too darn excited for this game.
“Anything you want to say to me?” my mom asked.
“Nope!” I joyfully said.
Was I in trouble?
She sighed and walked away. A good 30 seconds passed before I realized it.
Today was her birthday and I had forgotten it.
This forgetting-my-mother’s-birthday incident gave me a quick and harsh change of perspective. My mother is one of the hardest workers I know and I feel like I just robbed her of her one day of celebration for my own selfish wants. I was in the wrong in this situation 100%.
I’ve always had a strong relationship with my mother. She’s a big influence on the person I am today. She always went the extra mile for me and my siblings. Every time me or my siblings have a birthday, she would spend the night decorating the dining room to celebrate our birth. There were 4 of us too, so that was 4 times a year she would do this. On top of all that, she would make us breakfast in bed. That’s true love right there! She would leave her bed, make a hefty breakfast, and serve it to us like it was the gosh darn Mariott! Once again, true love.
Another tradition we have in the Agnew household is every Christmas we would all wake up in the morning, eat breakfast, drink hot beverages, and open gifts. Guess who would spend the entire night before wrapping gifts and the whole morning preparing the breakfast?
When I wanted to move to California and had no idea if I would be successful, my mother supported my crazy dream and helped me through some rough years in my adulthood.
She constantly encourages my work even though she doesn’t totally understand it.
She talks to me when I’m having a bad day.
She loves me when I feel unlovable.
A big part of who I am today can be attributed to my mom. I try to make others feel celebrated and loved. I like cooking big meals for others, especially breakfasts. When friends are being critical of themselves, my advice is to take a step back and focus on who they are rather on who they could be. It’s a basic “treat others how you would want to be treated” mentality that I believe is the best way to approach life.
I honestly could not have asked for a better mother. Even when I recalled the infamous 2009 birthday to her a decade later, she laughed it off. That moment didn’t matter in our relationship. It didn’t impact what she thought of me. I feel incredibly fortunate to have a mom like her. We talk to each other every week even though we are on opposite ends of the country. She still sends me care packages during holidays. She’s willing to watch the stupid content that I put out online. She loves me.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.
I love you lots.
I hate the rain.
It’s cold and wet and soaks through my shoes and socks. It plasters my pants to my legs, ruins the plans for my outfit, and messes up my hair. The rain makes it hard to get to my car, go for a run, smoke a cigarette, or use my phone. The rain makes me depressed. To be fair, I’m already clinically depressed, but the rain makes it worse. It makes me feel trapped and sad and lonely, even when those feelings are completely uncalled for. Waking up to rain on a day when you can’t, or don’t feel like staying inside with hot chocolate and a good book, completely ruins your day. When it’s raining I feel exhausted just looking outside, and the thought of doing anything tires me out even more.
But here’s the thing, I also love the rain.
A rainy, foggy day makes me feel like I’m in the Irish countryside or in some indie movie. When I’m in the car I feel like if I look out the window I can be THAT one girl from THAT one movie teen movie in THAT one scene after she breaks up with her boyfriend or fights with her mom. I love going out in the rain with no umbrella. Feeling it soak into my hair and ruin my makeup and thinking that it doesn’t matter because it’s raining and everything feels temporary and permanent at the same time. I love how it turns the hills green, fixes droughts, and it’s the same rain that fell on the dinosaurs.
Sometimes things are opposites at once.
Sometimes you hate something as much as you love it.
It rained on my eighteenth birthday. Actually, no, rained is an understatement. It was a goddamn torrential downpour. I had a final for my improv class that day (please pretend I didn’t just admit to taking an improv class) and when I stepped out of my car and into a puddle that went above my ankle. I was drenched to the bone within seconds of getting out of my car. Umbrellas were useless, the rain was so heavy and the wind was like a battering ram.
My friends and I were going into San Francisco to a friend’s apartment to party for my birthday. But, half the people I invited bailed out because they were terrified of crossing the Golden Gate Bridge in the rain at night. Completely valid reasoning, but I’m just trying to paint a picture of how bad it was. So bad a bunch of kids from NorCal, where you drive in fog so dense you can’t see two feet in front of you, were scared to drive in this rain. I didn’t care. The rain made me feel like I could do anything, so I decided I would do anything. Fuck it, I had just become an adult and the world was flooding. I felt invincible.
I hauled my friends into a car and we drove into the city. It was an insane ride, a car full of teenagers in the middle of a storm driving through the lower part of the headlands and across the bridge. The music was playing at an intensely high volume and we were talking at an even higher volume while rain destroyed visibility and slicked the roads.
Don’t worry, we made it to our destination in San Francisco without any problems. Maybe I love the rain because of this, because even when it’s irritating, it’s never let me down. The rain has never made me scared. Fear was the last emotion we were feeling running up the stairs of my friend’s 2 story walk-up and collapsing on the floor, soaking wet and drunk on nothing but rain and teenage (now technically adult) hormones.
We were pissed at the rain for making the night so complicated and dramatic, but we loved it for those same reasons. We were teenagers in the middle of a downpour that could ruin a night, but we were the badasses who fought our way through it.
Sometimes there are things that make you feel invincible when you could be scared. Or angry when you could be embracing it.
Sometimes things are two opposites at once.
Sometimes those things are the best things.