Monday, October 27, 2008

Aunty Christ is neither pretty nor is she a girl

You wake up in the morning, and the knot in your stomach is still there. The clock reads 4:14 A.M., and the first cogent thought of the day is just this: Fear. Your company will fire you. You will run out of money. You will get thrown out of your home. You will not be able to find another job. You will not be able to find another house to rent. You will not be able to pay your bills.

It is impossible to get back to sleep. But it’s dark, and if you get up now you’ll be tired as well as worried. You flip onto your stomach and push your hand through your hair twice, to move it away from your face. Everything is all right for now. There are a few people in your department who are sure to be fired before you. Maybe you can find another job.

At 5:08 you wake again, and this time the fear in your stomach is insistent. This has been the start of every day for the past six months. Or more. Maybe forever.

When you started working from home, you told yourself that things would improve. You would have more time to yourself. No more packing a lunch. No more driving. More time to walk the dogs. Maybe you could take a class in conversational Italian—who knows? And no more afternoons spent listening to your deskmate’s dire warnings about the company’s future. The company wants to send its employees home as a money-saving measure. First you got the email asking employees to please turn off any lights they weren’t using in the office, and then managers actually started turning off overhead lights as people were still working. Now that the office is down to a manageable size, it will move to a cheaper site, packing its files for storage in a cheaper state and its remaining staff into even smaller, even draftier cubicles. But working for a dying industry from home has its own pitfalls.

While it’s true that the first week you were still showering in the morning and managing to put yourself every day into some semblance of an outfit that could be worn on the street, the second and third weeks of working from home were marked by lunchtime showers, every other day sometimes. By now, you shower in the evenings, and change from pajamas into clean pajamas, from slippers to socks. You can’t even think why conversational Italian sounded interesting. Now you think, maybe you can start taking walks in the evening. Maybe cleaning the house would be interesting. The time saved by not packing lunch, not driving, never materializes. Where does it go? It slips unnoticed through the crack of your office door, into the pockets of your fleece pants, into the deepening crease between your eyes.

Two weeks ago, your work load was unmanageable, and your boss told your department that if everyone continued to fall behind the company would take the work away and give it to another office that could manage getting files out in time. Today, there are eight available files, then ten, then six, then none. You email your former deskmate: “What are you doing?” He’s alone. The boys left about an hour an a half ago, just after your boss did. Your boss went to his friend’s house to help him fix his water heater. “At least the economy is strong,” your friend writes. “All the companies are begging for examiners. We can probably just walk in anywhere and they’d let us work there.” Your boss’ friend’s pilot light was out. He was out of the office for two hours fixing it.

The elder statesman of the office, a man from California, who moved to your city for his job, is hung over again, your friend emails. He’s in his 60s, probably close to retirement age. You imagine he’s sick of watching his 401(k) shrink day after day. He’s sick of taking jobs with no security. He’s sick of four decades of expertise being unappreciated and overlooked in favor of cheaper, dumber labor. You are too. He cushions his fear with alcohol, apparently. You do too.

A few nights ago, over a couple of beers, you watched a show called “Office Tigers,” a documentary about a company in India that provides office support for American businesses. In a scene where some of the workers are being groomed for management positions, they are asked what makes them better than the American workers they replace. In America, one says, everyone has insurance from the government so they don’t need to work. Another says that American workers listen to headphones and eat popcorn at their desks, and this apparently makes them bad workers. You enjoy popcorn, occasionally.

You’re a hard worker. But you find it difficult to work these days. If you work overtime, when you get fired you’ll regret losing your nights and weekends, your health and your sanity, to your job. If you don’t work overtime, when you get fired you’ll wonder if you could have saved your job by working more overtime.

You have thought of your savings at least 20 times today. You have made a list of things you can sell. You check Craigslist, but the only jobs you’re qualified for were listed by the staffing agency that’s already rejected your resume twice. You need a beer.

When you take a break from the computer and stand on the deck, enjoying a smoke, the streets in your neighborhood are quiet. Two months ago, you would have assumed that everyone was busy working. Now, the quiet seems ominous, as though all of society has come to a halt. The buzz of industry is replaced by actual insects, as far as you can tell. Flies have made a landing strip of your deck. People stay home.

You will think of all this later, tomorrow morning as you lie awake in the dark. Your stomach will hurt. Everything is hurting.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Aunty Christ’s lady secret is ruining her life

Four words: Lady Secret Fashion Clothing. It is awesome! Tremble at the mighty power of Lady Secret Fashion Clothing!

I don’t actually have much to say about Lady Secret Fashion Clothing, except that it is a store that I pass frequently, and that its name is far more amusing than it is accurate. My thought is, the lady who shops at Lady Secret Fashion Clothing has few secrets. The secret is out, for example, about your terrible predilection for peach-colored asymmetrical gowns. To be honest, I think I saw a bit of your lady secret peeking out from the hem of your very small gold lamé shorts. I did not want to mention it, but I did.

Hello! I guess something should be said about Aunty Christ’s long absence. And now something has. Let’s move on, shall we?

For me, 2008 has been The Year of My Own Body’s Demise. Most recently, my back has decided to go out on me. My sacrum, in particular. Oh, I know! The sacrum: It is disgusting! Had I known such a horrifying creature was living inside me, I would have insisted it be removed long ago. If I wanted my body to play host to a horny, holey, sea-creaturey looking thingamabob, I suppose I would just have sex with Tommy Lee Jones.

Absolutely disgusting. Why any of us put up with this sort of thing is a mystery.

So, the chiropractor advises, among other things, frequent walks. I have been walking a little bit. Hobbling, shuffling, the thug dawgs at my side. We stopped yesterday afternoon in the park to play Stick, which is an exciting new game of the thugs’ invention. The way to play Stick is, I pick up a stick and shriek, “Stick! You want fetch stick? Go fetch stick!”, working the boys into a lather of anticipation. Then, I toss the stick, and the thugs merrily commence humping each other. Oh, it’s good fun, for adults and children alike. Yesterday, in fact, this game was being watched by a guy on a bench, with a woman lying next to him, her head in his lap. He nudged his girlfriend, so that she could look at tha thugs humping. What fun! Except also: Kind of sick. What two consenting thug dawgs do in the privacy of a public park is none of your business, mister. Go look at porn on the internet or something. Absolutely perverted, some people.

Leading up to this latest trauma, a few months ago I received in the mail an envelope from Planned Parenthood, containing therein an alarming letter with results from my latest pap. Men, you may wish to avert your eyes for the next few moments, because the story I am about to relate is disgusting. But I do it for science.

The letter said that my results were abnormal, and that I should make an appointment as soon as possible for a colposcopy. Which, if you are not familiar with the term, as I wasn’t, can be loosely defined as a form of torture imposed upon women as punishment for … whatever. What I’ve done in my life to deserve such treatment, I can only guess. I feel I’ve lived a good life. I try not to inflict harm on others. Perhaps I drive too erratically for the liking of some, or perhaps I’ve broken a few too many hearts along the way. Oh, I know. I don’t look like a heartbreaker, but I will tell you: I waved at a tiny dog in a sweater driving past my car last night, and the tiny dog waved back, and I was like, I can’t. I’m sorry, but I’m in a relationship. The tiny dog cried and stuff. It was very sad for both of us.

In addition to the crushing news that I am somehow abnormal (i.e., stuffed full of cancer), the letter offered a bit of comfort. The colposcopy is a bit uncomfortable, it said, leaving my imagination to believe that the colposcopy is not such things as “incredibly painful,” “earth-shatteringly painful,” “painful beyond all belief,” and “absolutely unbearable.” God, what a relief to me.

Not Aunty Christ, but a close facsimile. Aunty Christ is a bit less transparent, and her paper gown was much shorter.

The basic premise of the colposcopy is this: They would wash my Lady Secret Fashion Area with vinegar, take photos—which will almost certainly end up on the internet, I am thinking—and then biopsy various, suspicious-looking areas. Oh—biopsy! That sounds … not very fun, I guess, but better than hearing that tissue will be snipped from your cervix in a brutish manner. The vinegar is applied at various points throughout the procedure, to make sure that the stinging is more or less constant.

All of this, perhaps, adds up to a little more than discomfort, but wait! Aunty Christ is only beginning. Because some of the abnormal cells were glandular, the lady administering the procedure needed to get all up in my uterus so that she could forcefully rip off bits of tissue there too. And then, perhaps, pour salt. I don’t know.

So, I am lying on that table, feet in stirrups, wearing that piece of paper they give you, already kind of in pain from everything this lady has done to me. And the lady takes a device and gives it a good shove into the cervix. I fly halfway up the table, screaming. I scream, “No,” hoping that, at Planned Parenthood, if nowhere else in America, “no” will be seen to mean “no.” The lady considered, and “No” was not felt to have any particular meaning in this scenario, and so she gave the device another good shove.

It’s kind of hard to describe exactly how painful a particular pain is. There’s a numerical system, I suppose, and using that, this pain would be exactly 10 on a scale of 10. Not more than 10. That I reserve for things like being burned alive or hung by my feet and sawed in half.

I must advise my uterus that I will stop at nothing to end its painful tyranny of my body. Nothing! I have methods, you know. And hands. And saws. I will win!

Having a device shoved into your uterus is pretty bad, all the same. I suddenly realized that my uterus—another disgusting thing I’ve allowed to live inside me all this time out of, let’s face it, pity—is a boiling cauldron of hate and pain, and that it has been awakened, and now we are sworn enemies. I jumped up the table again, my bare ass perched on the headrest. I, like Jesus, wept.

The procedure was deemed a failure after the device inflicted a third punch, and the ensuing leap backwards, even further up the table, and the crying. And, after that, more vinegar, more snipping, more crying. A second woman came in for the uterus poking and told me to relax my uterus. Which one can no more do than flex her spleen, I’m sure. But I have been trying, since that dreadful day, to calm my uterus by assuring it that we will never seek uterus-poking-related medical help again.

Apparently, however, my uterus is not only hateful, but unforgiving and vengeful as well. According to my chiropractor, the uterus is in league with the misaligned vertebrae in my back, making me suspect that this thing isn’t over between us. It’s not enough to leak glandular cells all over the place. No! My uterus must insist that I live in severe back distress as well. Also according to my chiropractor, one leg is longer than the other, which is singularly repulsive. Here I’ve been walking around all this time in the company of perfectly normal people, thinking that I’m one of them, and I’m a malformed freak. With an angry uterus, hell-bent on destroying me.

The good news is that the colposcopy results came back inconclusive. So, do I have cancer? Well, it’s not certain that I do have cancer, and that’s a good enough answer for me.

I’m sorry. This has been a very silly post, after a long absence. Please forgive me for both.