Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Confessions of a Bean Counter

Today, while leaving a voicemail for a business contact, I ended with, "Ok, talk to you later." Then I hung up and smacked myself on the forehead. What I had meant to say was, "I look forward to hearing back from you at your earliest convenience," but what of course came out was, "Talk to you later, byee!" While I wasn't smacking my gum or twirling my hair while staring vacuously into space (ok, that part might be true), I might as well have been, because I'm sure that's how I sounded. I suppose it could be worse. I could have said "I love you," considering that is how I end the majority of my phone conversations these days. (James is just as bad. I've heard him call his sister 'babe' and tell his roommate he loves him. I have to wonder who else he professes his love to when I'm not there to hear it.) It's days like this when I thank god I'm only here for another couple weeks (15 days and counting!!) because I am clearly not cut out for this shit.

But then...a few minutes ago our temp handed me a stack of letters that all needed checks to accompany them. I pulled out a stack of checks and put them in the printer and...lo and behold, I had pulled out exactly the right number of checks! (Upon further investigation I determined this number to be 22). I carelessly grabbed exactly 22 checks, I mean, what are the odds of that? And I don't want to brag, but this sort of thing? happens all the time. So then I thought, Man, I rock at this job! And now I'm leaving, and my mad guesstimating skills will go to waste. Unless...well let's just hope that BU sponsors a lot of those "guess the number of jelly beans in the jar" contests. And that there's a lot of money involved. Because if that's what being a PhD student is about (and so far I have no reason to believe it's not), then I think I just may rock at it.

Friday, July 21, 2006

In which I display rampant hobophobia

Lying in bed last night, half asleep and half awake, I heard my bedroom door open and close, and someone slip in quietly. I was afraid to open my eyes, because I knew I would see a hobo in my room, come to steal my air conditioning. By that I don't mean he was going to actually remove my window unit and take it away, I mean he was there for my cool air, and he was going to lie on the floor next to my bed and perhaps do strange, creepy things, as if coming into my room in the middle of the night and lying on my floor wasn't strange and creepy enough. Luckily James was there beside me, and I knew as soon as he saw the hobo he would yell and make intimidating gestures and make the hobo go away. If only he would wake up he would surely notice the large hobo looming next to my bed. If only he would....wake up!! Unfortunately my terror by this time had grown so great that I couldn't even scream, which was what I really, really wanted to do. Instead, all I was capable of was this "Mmmmmm! Mmmmm!" shriek with my lips pressed tightly together. "Mmmmm! Mmmmm!" I shrieked. "Babe, wake up," James said. "Mmmmmm!!!" "Babe, I think you're having a bad dream, wake up." "Mmmmm!" I shrieked, which clearly meant, 'I am awake, which is why I'm shrieking in terror with my lips closed and if you would just turn your head a little to the left you would see what I'm Mmmming about.' I did finally manage to open my lips enough to whisper, "There's someone in the room!" "There's no one in the room." "Are you sure?" "Yes." "Did you look?" "I looked." "Can you look again?" "There's no one there." "There's no hobo in the room?" "No babe, there's no hobo." That was a relief, but I did check for myself, just to make sure. And yes I'd had four gin and tonics before bed, what of it?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A Letter to my Freshman Year College Roommate

The story of our becoming roommates is convoluted, and like so many things in life, might have ended up quite differently. The summer before my freshman year of college, my mom must have sent my deposit check in late. Room assignments were made upon receipt of the deposit check, and by the time my check was finally mailed, the freshman girl's dorm was already filled to capacity with children of responsible, bill-paying parents. But I didn't know this yet. I received a letter from the school with the names of my two assigned roommates. I immediately sent out two e-mails, to the effect of, "Hi! Wow, I didn't expect to have two roommates, but I'm sure we'll all get along great! So what do you like to do? What music do you like? Are you excited? I'm so excited!!" In response I received two very similar e-mails, only varying in degrees of iciness. These e-mails said, "There has been some confusion. We're going to be seniors in the fall, and we've lived together for the last three years. Because of overcrowding, the school is turning some doubles into triples, and we're really not happy about this. They'll be paying us a small stipend, so let's all just enjoy the extra money while it lasts, and hopefully they'll find you another place and you'll be out of our hair soon." Then I cried. I cried and I sobbed and I threatened not to go. How could I go and live with people who already hated me? How could I have my idealistic college experience now? My father was furious. He threatened to call the school and tell them what's what. I don't know if he did or he didn't, but in any case I soon received a new roommate assignment. You were a sophomore, but at least you didn't already hate me by default. Your roommate had decided at the last minute not to return to school, and so we came to share a small room for the next nine months.

When I entered our room on that first day, your things were there, but you weren't. I tried to form a picture of you from your belongings scattered about; charcoal drawings on the walls, clunky black boots strewn on the floor, jeans with holes in the knees. I was already intimidated; you were obviously cool. What would you think of me? I threw my floral comforter on the bunk above your ripped olive green bedspread, put on a Moloko cd, and hoped for the best. When you came in you said, "Is this Moloko?" and I breathed a small sigh of relief.

We slowly warmed up to each other, and I got used to sharing a room for the first time in my life. We were always ultra-polite to each other, and even at the end we would still say things like, "Do you mind if I put this picture on the wall?" or, "Are you sure the TV's not bothering you?" and the other person would never dream of saying, yes, it is bothering me, even if it was.

You, being a sophomore, already had your own friends, and I, a freshman in a mostly upperclassmen dorm, never really found any friends of my own, except for the three girls I knew from high school who I clung to with increasing desperation, even while my actual like of them decreased by the day.

You and I would end up ordering Papa John's pizza one out of three nights, sometimes, which was good because it saved me the embarassment of eating at the dining hall alone. We'd eat pizza and watch The Simpsons, and I remember that one night when you laughed so hard, you couldn't stop. "Ned, you so craaaaaazy!" And you laughed and laughed, and I laughed too, because how could I not? And every time you'd stop, you'd pause and then start up again, which would get me going again too. It felt so good to laugh like that. We would prank call people, and hang up, hysterical. Sometimes at night, we'd turn off the lights and peek out the window until someone you knew walked by. You'd yell something inappropriate and we'd watch their reaction, then duck down giggling, and then pop up and do it again.

When you told me you were an alcoholic and had started going to AA, I had already pretty much figured it out. I had seen a pamphlet on your desk, and you'd started only returning to the room to sleep, long after I'd gone to bed. It was obvious something was going on. I'll be honest; I didn't believe you were an alcoholic. I knew you didn't keep liquor in the room and you didn't drink alone. I thought you were probably a confused college student who went to parties and drank too much, like most of our small, non-Greek, non-football playing campus. The way I heard it, that's all there was to do. I think AA provided you with something, a higher power, to believe in, and something to belong to. I understood that need, so I said, "Good for you." You went in all the way, going to one or more meetings a day, forming friendships with your group people. They came to your recitals and supported you. They were like family. You started distancing herself from your former friends, and they were understandably confused. I'm sure they probably had the same initial reaction I did--"What? You're not an alcoholic!" You said you were glad I didn't drink, it made things so much easier. I nodded along like I was doing it for you, or even myself, but the truth was, if I had been invited to even one party, I would have done anything, drank anything, eaten or smoked anything, just to fit in.

When you told me you were going to shave your head, I said, "Oh. Cool! I can take before and after shots!" You hesitated a second and then said, too brightly, "Ok!" And I knew that that really meant no, that it was a horrible idea, and you shaving your head wasn't about before and after, it was about something much deeper and much more desperate than I, with my ponytail and my Gap jeans, could ever hope to understand.

I remember listening to Iggy Pop's "Perfect Day." "I love this song," you sighed. "Yeah, me too," I said. "It's so...happy." "Really?" you said. "You look at it that way?" "Well, yeah." I said. "What other way is there to look at it?" "Oh come on," you said. "It's such a perfect day...I'm glad I spent it with you...You just keep me hanging on...?" The way you heard it, the song was bitter and dripping with sarcasm. "I've never thought about it your way," you said. "I guess it is more...optimistic."

You had broken up with your boyfriend a couple months before. Even though you were the one who ended it, you seemed to be having a hard time recovering. Even months later, you would tell me you had seen Austin talking to some girl. One of my old high school acquaintances, Margaret, had been telling me for weeks now about the cute, goateed guy she had been talking to in the computer lab. "He looks like Trey from that show, Daria!" she said. That finally rang a bell. You and I had talked about how everyone said Austin looked eerily like Trey, as much as a human can resemble a cartoon, anyway. "Wait, is his name Austin?" I asked her, incredulous. "Yeah!" she said. I didn't want to say anything, but unfortunately for her, Austin was way out of her league. I thought it was so hilarious Margaret thought she could compete for your ex-boyfriend, I decided to tell you about it. You didn't find it quite as funny. "Who is she? What does she look like?" you asked, suddenly intense. "No, no," I said. "It's nothing to worry about. It's Margaret! That's why it's so funny...She's so awkward, and spastic. You would have to know her I guess. Don't worry, she's no one to be concerned about." In spite of my reassurance and forced attempts at humor, I could see you withdraw into yourself, and I knew I should never have said anything at all.

In an ultimate twist of irony, I think Margaret did end up getting together with Austin at some later point, if only briefly. Nice, awkward Margaret, with the too-blinky eyes and her habit of talking quickly, with too much saliva, who I had been friends with only peripherally in high school, had made her way "in," while I was doomed to forever be, not even outside, but a particular brand of invisible understood only by those who have experienced it. At the beginning of the school year, when I was still making some attempt at an effort, Margaret told me she was going to a party that night. "Oh," I said, "do you think I could go too?" "Ohhh," she said. "Well, um, I'm kind of tagging along myself, so I don't really think I could have someone tag along with me...ya know." "Oh," I said. "Ok." And I never asked again.

By winter break, I knew I could never stand another year there. I applied desperately for a transfer to what had been my second choice school originally. I had gotten in there a year earlier, but it was a private school, so I went with the cheaper of the two. On paper it wasn't much of a change; I would be going from a small, rural, public liberal arts college in Maryland to a small, rural, private liberal arts college in Maryland. Even the student population was the same; about 1500 students. But I needed a fresh start somewhere else, anywhere else, and at the new school I knew I had no acquaintances from high school to rely on, although that was perhaps more terrifying than it was inspiring. I knew I wanted to get the hell away from that campus and its intellectual elitist, cliquey students, and its (what seemed like) perpetually gray skies. I felt like if I stayed there, I would die.

Though it seemed like May would never come, it had to, and after the studying and exams were finally over, I stood out in the parking lot with you after packing my car. You were wearing a tank top and a bandana over your spiky hair that was starting to grow back. We hugged, and it was the first time we had ever touched like that. I wished I wasn't leaving you, and I wished I didn't have the heavy feeling of knowing you're looking at someone for the last time. You said you might transfer too, next year, although you admitted it was getting a little late for you. You understood why I was doing it, you said. "This place..." you said. You wanted to get out of it too, go somewhere where the art program was better. You said you'd miss me and I said I'd miss you too, and I knew it would be true. We parted, and as I got in my car I watched you hug one of your friends goodbye, just for the summer, and it was like you never wanted to let go. I understood our relationship then for the first time. We weren't friends, exactly. We were thrown together by random forces, and we helped each other through those dark months as best we could, even though we were both weighted down, both dragging our own broken wings.

Even though we only lived 25 minutes from each other, we never did see each other again, though I always looked for you in malls and public places when I was in your hometown. I sent you a letter, and then a card with Homer Simpson on it, hoping you would laugh, even if I couldn't hear it.

I still wonder about you, sometimes. I wonder if you did transfer to another school, if you graduated. I wonder it you still go to meetings, I wonder if you still make art, if your jaw still clicks when you eat. I wonder if you ever wonder about me. I wonder if you know how much I admired you, and how deeply you impacted my life; my tastes, my personality, the music I listen to. I hope you know these things, on some level, although I guess most likely you don't, because I never told you. I'm telling you now, and I hope somehow you hear me. I just wanted to thank you.


Monday, June 26, 2006

The Ignominy of Being Small

I was reading Finslippy's entry on her baby-sitter hitting her son. Eesh. It got me thinking about bad baby-sitters and brought back memories from a million years ago.

Mrs. King. I must have been 5 or 6, which means my sister was 2 or 3. Mrs. King was a truly awful person, and the worst kind of baby-sitter. She was mean. And while she didn't hit me, she made my six year-old existence a living hell.

I was the kind of kid who went out of my way to seek adult approval, and who avoided confrontation at all costs. My first grade teacher suggested I use a tissue for my nose instead of my finger, and I cried. Not because she yelled; she was as quiet and sweet as possible. But I did something that displeased her, something wrong, and oh, the shame! A strong word from an adult would reduce me to a jelly-kneed, gurgly-bellied, teary-eyed mess. There were some kids who were sent to the principal's office on a regular basis, and I remember being amazed that they could do that and not shrivel up and die from the sheer terror and humiliation of it. That they could go, sit there, and then come back to class so nonchalantly, going about their business while their heart continued to pump blood and their organs continued to function and how did they do that?? Because I was sure I would die.

My first experience with scholastic disciplinary action took place in the first grade. A group of us sat on the reading carpet while the teacher worked with another group elsewhere in the classroom. A childish flirtation was developing between me and John C on that reading carpet. I don't remember how it started, but a word was spoken, then a retort, then more words. Things were good, light-hearted, and I playfully pushed him. Oh, you. A teasing smile. "Hey!" he yelled. "Rachel hit me!" "What? I did not...." "Rachel, did you hit him?" "No! Well I mean sort of but I didn't mean-" "Rachel, please go and sit out in the hall." Oh lord. The Hall. With the child-sized chair placed outside of every door for just this purpose. The Hall was the final stop on the way to the Principal's Office. Oh, the humiliation. My face flushed beet red, I gasped for air and tried to hold back the tears. Don't let them see you cry. And I sat. In the Hall. While teachers on breaks from their classes and the odd wandering parent or student walked by and looked at me as if to say, Rachel? You, in the Hall? I never would have believed...

My point in all this being that I was not the kind of kid who sought out trouble, and my worst offenses up to that point were play-pushing a kid and telling the occasional outrageous lie that always failed outright and miserably, the net result of this being that now I am unable to say with a straight face anything that is even remotely untrue. There goes my career in law or politics...

I was a good kid. Quiet, well-behaved. Adults generally liked me and I generally liked them. And then came Mrs. King. I'm not sure where my mother found her. Maybe she had a flyer on the bulletin board of Selby's grocery store. But she had a son my sister's age, and off we went every day to Mrs. King's townhouse. Maybe she had red hair, like her freckled, bratty boy. Maybe not. I don't really remember what she looked like. Maybe she smoked. I do know that she yelled at me. Right away, and for no particular reason. She told me to CLEAN UP THAT MESS in her son's room. As if I would play with her son's icky toys. I had probably been there less than ten minutes anyway and hadn't had time to make a mess of any sort. "But I didn't make the mess, I didn't even-" I tried to explain. DON'T YOU TALK BACK TO ME NOW CLEAN IT UP!!!! So, I had to clean up her son's toys. All the time. I don't remember what else she said or did, but I do know that whatever it was it instilled a holy fear in me. My clearest, most vivid memory of my time there was playing in her tiny postage stamp backyard. By playing I mean going down the slide over and over and over again, for what felt like ages. It probably started out as a suggestion. Why don't you play on the slide? But I took it as a command and slid on that slide like it was my job. Step step slide circle around step step slide circle around, for probably about three hours, because I was afraid anything else I did would incur her wrath. Now, this wasn't just any slide, not a metal playground slide or anything fun. This was a tiny, plastic Fisher-Price slide made for babies. It was about 2 feet high and it was for BABIES! But yet I circled, wearing tracks in the grass, going out of my tiny little mind, afraid to waver, convinced that as soon as I stopped moving she would snap. And she was happy. She was as happy and relaxed as I had seen her and obviously thrilled we were out of her hair. As I circled, the urge to go to the bathroom grew greater and greater, but I was afraid to say anything. Finally I could take it no longer. I built up all my courage and said, "Um, is it ok if I go to the bathroom?" OF COURSE IT'S OK IF YOU GO TO THE BATHROOM YOU DON'T HAVE TO ASK, she said. And oh! The luxury of doing something else, anything else but going in circles and down the slide! I remember when my father appeared to pick me up that day, it was like angels and sunbeams pouring down out of heaven, I was that relieved to be going.

I remember asking my parents about it in later years, Why did you take us to that awful awful woman?? They said, in their defense, that they didn't take us there for long. I'm not sure what the actual timeline was. It could have been a couple weeks, it could have been months, but man, it felt like forever.

I guess my point in this is that there are bad baby-sitters out there. People who have no business taking care of other people's children. Entrusting your child with a stranger must be very scary. Sympathies to

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Dry Clean Only

We were walking to a bar one night last summer, and Becca said she liked my shirt; a black, knit Banana Republic (outlet) number. "Thanks," I said, "but you know, it's driving me crazy because after I washed it the seams went totally askew, and I can't get them to go back. See?" I showed her how the seams started out fine under my arms, but by the bottom the right one was somewhere near my belly button while the left hovered around the small of my back. "Oh," she said. "You know, I think you've told me that before." "Really?" I said. "God, how embarassing." What a pointless story to make someone listen to twice. Sheesh, I thought, now I look like some kind of type A, seam-obsessed, one-shirt-wearing dork. In my defense, I think I had recently been particularly frustrated after wrestling with the thing wet and trying to get it to go back to some semblance of a normal shape on the drying rack. It couldn't be done; the, whatsit - warp? weave? woofer? of the fabric was permanently distorted. Its very DNA had mutated. I had a mutant shirt! But wait, the beads. The oh so pretty beadwork around the arms...the seams didn't show that much. I continued to wear it.

The next time I saw Becca - "Hey, there's that shirt again! The one with the seams, right?" "Umm, oh yeah, haha. Same shirt, yup." After the third or fourth time we had this same conversation, I started to think. Every time I see Becca I'm wearing this shirt...and every time I see Becca we're going out. This is my "going out shirt." This is the best article of clothing I own...and it's a piece of shit!!!

I started to wonder if there was some sort of lesson about myself to be gleaned from this. But what? That I'm cheap? Boring? That I don't get out very often? Aha, I know what it is. This tale is one more in the annals of Times When Rachel Is Right and James is Wrong, Chapter XLVI.iii, entitled "I have nothing to wear!!!!" At which he scoffs. Scoffs! Look at all those clothes, he'll say. How can you say you have nothing to wear? You're ridiculous. I know. I know! I'll say. Clothes I have, yes, but nonetheless... I have nothing to wear!!!! Well, after this tale of black-shirted woe, I think even the most hardened of hearts would have to agree that when a girl's best and only option is to reach for the same, disfigured shirt not merely on one or two occasions, but every single time, then truly, that girl has nothing to wear.

The black shirt has been in hibernation this last winter, but was brought back to mind with a conversation about what we would wear to an upcoming harbor cruise that weekend. "Maybe I'll wear my black shirt, heh. Heh, heh...." Hrm.

Well look out world, 'cause there's a new black shirt in town, and it's called Victoria's Secret short-sleeved cropped wrap sweater!


It's good to know there are concerned citizens...

One day, many months ago, I stopped by my boyfriend's house after work.

"Oooh, so clean," I said. "And it smells lovely."

"Yeah," J said, "I think Chip is showing it at 5:30."

"Oh, ok," I said. "I'm just going to get my stuff."

As I stood poised in the doorframe to walk downstairs, J grabbed me from behind in an attempt to pull me passionately to him. He frequently lavishes me with these enthusiastic and clumsy maneuveurs, which more often than not result in lumps and bruises. Predictably, as he oh-so-lovingly yanked my arm, my elbow flailed out and smacked against the doorframe. Perhaps I cried just a smidgen more more dramatically than was completely necessary, but friggin ow! "Owwwwww!!!" I wailed, and stalked indignantly downstairs to pout. At the bottom of the stairs I almost ran into a very concerned looking man. The plumber! Ack!

"Are you ok?" he asked.

"Oh, yeah," I mumbled, embarassed, looking away. Turned around to glare at boyfriend; I didn't know anyone was here! I shut myself in J's room to nurse my wounds, but the man's face stayed with me. He was just so... concerned. Why was he so concerned? I ran through the previous few moments' events in my head. Loud thud. Woman crying. Ow. Woman running down stairs. Boyfriend running after. Oh my god....he thinks J hit me! Cripes, how awkward.

I went in the living room and sat next to J on the couch, making pointedly casual conversation. See? It's all good here...nothing out of the ordinary...The plumber finished and said goodbye, perhaps eyeing us a bit suspiciously. J and I went into his bedroom to talk about what we both already knew.

"He thinks I'm a wife beater!" J exclaimed. "Or, a girlfriend beater...Why did you have to scream like that?"

"I didn't know anyone was here! I can't believe you didn't tell me he was here! And why do you always have to hurt me anyway? You always hurt me, you clutz!"

"Well if you wouldn't flail so much! If you would just relax and go with it you wouldn't get hurt!"

"Oh yeah? Let's see how much you like getting thrown around," I said coyly, pushing him backward onto the bed and straddling him. "How do you like that...?"

"I think he keeps walking past the window," J said.

"You're crazy!" I said, "now kiss me."

"I think I hear him outside. He's probably talking to Chip right now, telling him I beat my wife. Er, girlfriend."

"That could be anyone outside, babe. But you're right, we should get up. We don't want to, uh, surprise anyone on the 5:30 tour. Do you want to go to the grocery store with me?"

We made our way outside about 10 or 15 minutes later, and ran smack into...Landlord Chip and The Plumber. Talking, right outside the window. Of course.

"Oh, hey guys, how's it going? So, are you going to show the apartment now?" J said.

"Oh, it's already done, they really liked it," Chip said. "I was just standing here...I was going to...go back inside to...get something...I can't remember what right now..."

"Oh, ok, right on. Well...we're going to get going. Have a good night, guys," J said.

Inside the car I exploded into laughter. "I was going to go back inside to get something? I can't remember what?! He SO thinks you beat me!"

"I can't believe this..."

"Well, at least you're moving out in a few weeks!"

Why I Will Most Likely Die Young

One crisp spring Saturday a few months back, J decided it was absolutely imperative that he pick up a few things from the spice store. He wasn't sure yet what those things were, but he would recognize them when he saw them, like long-lost friends. ("Sumac, where've ya been? Grains of paradise, missed ya!") And I, being his weekend chauffeur (chauffeuse?) agreed to accompany him. I parallel parked and got out, waiting for the vehicle stopped at the light next to me to pull up, so I could cross the street. It didn't pull up, so I walked around it to cross. The light turned green, the line of cars pulled away, and still this vehicle stood, unmoving. I could feel the driver staring at me, in his unmoving vehicle at the green light, and I wondered if he was checking me out. I turned to look over my shoulder, and he was in fact staring at me, but there were no waggling eyebrows, no licking of lips, no sly wink. Instead, this man, this craggy-faced, gray-haired man, was looking at, no, looking is not the right word, staring fixedly at me as if I had ritually slaughtered and killed his entire family and his dog, and he had come back to seek vengeance. I'm telling you, this man wanted me dead. I continued walking, looking over my shoulder, unable to turn away from this man who hated me so. Then he rolled down his window and leaned his head menacingly out, while the daggers he was shooting out his eyes metamorphosed into swords, then machetes and buzzing chainsaws. I looked frantically for J; he had to be seeing this too! He would save me from the crazy-eyed potential killer! My hero, my sweet hero will save the...but J was single-mindedly and purposefully striding ahead towards his true love; the spice store. I wanted to call out, but I couldn't even squeak. I was on my own with the crazy-eyed crazy, who was still determinedly staring me down. Then, having finally exhausted his store of poison death rays, he slowly, oh-so-slowly, pulled away, without ever taking his eyes off me. I scurried across the street and caught up with J, panting and whisper-screaming, "I almost died! And you didn't even notice, but I almost died back there!" J was skeptical. "I'm telling you - he put a hex on me!"

Later that night I had sufficiently recovered to go out for a late dinner with J and co. I would walk there, J would T there and we would meet at the restaurant. I left the house feeling rather jaunty in my kitten heels and new trench coat. It was dark out, but still a warmish night for March. I had planned to walk to Harvard down Broadway, but awoke from my self-absorbed reverie to find myself on Cambridge St. Oh well, I thought, this is what I get for not paying attention. But it runs mostly parallel to Broadway, and I can get there this way as well. There weren't many people out, so when I heard footsteps behind me, they stood out against the relative silence of the street. I heard them from a little distance back, and the jingling of change in a pocket. They were the footsteps of a man, I knew that. I made sure to keep myself alert, and listened to the steps getting louder and closer. The change jingled louder, and suddenly the cadence sped up, faster and faster. Ok, I thought, any minute he'll pass me, he'll go around...the footsteps were so fast as to be nearly running now, and my heart sped up. At the critical point where I felt him directly behind me, I turned slightly, but he was not going around me. He wasn't going around me at all; he was directly behind me and so close he could touch me. As I strained to turn to see my assailant's face, he reached an arm around to cover my mouth...My last thought was, "I can't believe this is happening." In the whirl of images I took in during what I thought might be my last few moments on Earth, I caught a glimpse of a face; not my assailant's, but someone else. His accomplice. A familiar face, actually, one that I had seen many times before. But where? The evening news? Primetime, Dateline, America's Most Wanted?

"Dave!" Which meant that....I turned around to find J laughing while I tried to fight back tears. I wasn't able to do more than whimper for the first few seconds while I formulated something to say. Which probably wasn't necessary, as I think my face said it all.

"Wow," Dave said, "her face...That was really mean...You probably took years off her life there."

And that is why I will most likely die young.