“I PUT YOUR FROG ON THE BIRD’S DESK!”
Jess stood in the doorway, calling out to me on the front lawn. I was practicing The One Handed Vortex on her hula hoop.
Little Dude took pictures that day. Jess had borrowed my favorite tee
“Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe.”
She was my ex- student turned summer intern. Social media guru.
“I put your blog on WordPress!”
There was no “blog.” I had written an “about” page on my company’s website. Whatever.
She took the hoop. Performed an expert Twin Revolving Door. Little Dude came out and snapped the pictures. She chased him, both of them laughing.
Beautiful Jess. Champion Babysitter of the Universe. Little Dude adored her. Everyone does.
She was nursing a killer broken heart this summer. While TA’ing, interning, busting her ass at school, she still found time to write her boyfriend Brian’s papers. Do his take-home tests.
While he screwed some girl from community college.
Some days, her eyes were swollen from crying.
“Hey, Samara, after we finish LinkedIn, wanna go get Fro Yo?”
I had a better idea.
“No. Let’s go to Moore’s and key Brian’s car. That asshole.”
She started laughing.
“Are you serious?”
“Nobody fucks with my girl and gets away with it.”
“Oh my God, it’ll kill him! He just got a new paint job!”
I didn’t actually blog on WordPress. I made snarky comments. Me and writing – we don’t mix.
When I write, bad things happen. I get addicted to heroin. Stuff like that.
I started getting emails from bloggers.
How the hell did they get my email address? I’d made some provocative comments. Some of the emails were creepy.
Would you mind masturbating and mailing me your panties?”
Franklin Horshucer, Serial Killer
I could hear his heavy breathing. He sounded like Darth Vader with a sinus infection.
This is what happens when you behave like Slut Bags McFuck Stick on WordPress. I ignored them.
Wait. What’s this?
May I email you privately? Only if you don’t mind, M’am. If you do, I promise never to bother you again. But I am a Nice Guy and I do not breathe like Darth Vadar.”
Sweet Midwestern Boy
I liked him. He was a good writer. And he was very sweet; the antithesis to my terrible year. Like balm to my battered soul. And he called me “M’am.”
Is it weird that turned me on?
Midwest Boy had urged me to hit “Publish” for 2 weeks, in his comment section.
I was terrified.
But on WordPress, I wasn’t a Had Been Ex-Junkie Never Was.
I took a deep breath.
Midwest Boy read it. Commented. “I loved this.”
My heart lifted. After years of bad creative mojo, I had another chance.
His email I answered.
We emailed constantly for several days. I had a new friend.
He said I was a kindred spirit.
And I met someone who also made his child his top priority.
Someone who considered me a WRITER.
My entire life changed.
The Ex’s constant haranguing, his ongoing battle for alimony. Whatever.
My bankruptcy. The financial damage to my company by a former employee. Who cared?
My best friend of 27 years, my college roommate, diagnosed with cancer? We could beat this.
My son’s draining special needs; his 23-year-old horror of a teacher who demoralized him daily. I could handle it.
After a 2-DECADE HIATUS.
Barring the birth of my son, it was the happiest I’d been in 10 years.
My feet never touched the ground.
I came plummeting down. Hard. Because what goes up. must come down, right?
Abruptly, silence. No more emails.
I panicked. What had I done wrong?
In 3 days I was headed to Boston to take care of my college BFF post mastectomy. She was vacillating between depression and anger.
Most nights, I stayed up all night with her on the phone, watching the sky turn to milky dawn.
Friday became Saturday. Saturday I was teaching.
The sun shone brightly into my Saturday classroom, reflecting off the glittery purple case of my buzzing IPhone.
My cousin’s number came up.
My ice-cold reaction was as involuntary as a sneeze. “Oh my God, my cousin.”
My students chirped, “Answer it! He’s just calling to say hi!”
They’re so impossibly young.
When you have an 80 year old uncle, and your cousin calls you on Saturday at 7am, California time, it’s NOT for a casual chit chat.
After class, I played the message. My uncle had fallen, was in a coma on life support. He was no longer a person. He was biomedical engineering.
My cousin asked, did I want to fly to Florida and say my goodbyes before they let him go?
I couldn’t. I was Boston bound. I would not even be able to attend my uncle’s funeral in New York.
My uncle. My father’s brother. The only connection I ever had to my father.
I was unabashedly his favorite niece. He never tired of bragging that I had made it out of a housing project into an Ivy League school. I downplay this in my life.
But I surreptitiously basked in his attention.
My mother, who never went past the 8th grade, worked 70 hours a week feeding six children. She dwelled in survival mode, where the nuances of higher education are lost.
For 40 years, my uncle fed me anecdotes of his beloved older brother.
I never grieved my father’s death. Never knew him. Never spoke of him.
So why was I suddenly shattered by the loss of him?
It was my uncle I had just lost.
But now – for truly and forever, my father.
There would be no more stories of him, ever. All that remained of him was buried under 6 feet of cold earth at Mt. Lebanon cemetery.
At a funeral I wasn’t even able to attend.
While in Boston caring for my college BFF, I emailed Midwest Boy.
Apologized for anything. Everything. I was desperate to have my writing friend back.
A day went by. Two. Three days later, he sent me a brief, dismissive email
I never heard from again.
Exhausted. Confused. Broken. Scared. Grief stricken.
My life was fragmenting; the different shards juxtaposing irrationally.
I checked in on MB’s blog.
His blog was bleach on an open wound. He’d found new flavors of the week. He called another blogger his “favorite new person.”
That’s exactly what he’d called me. I realized this was his pattern.
Pick a new favorite, and discard the old. But why me?
had found me out. I was a HACK. I was no writer. I couldn’t even sustain his interest for more than a week.
He never spoke to me after he realized I was a fraud.
It was 1994 all over again. FAILURE.
I relived the horrible mess I’d made of my life.
I stopped sleeping. Couldn’t eat. Talked to myself. Judged myself brutally.
His realization of my deception and talentlessness opened an incessant screening of home movies in my brain:
Samara’s Childhood: An Abyss of Feeling Unworthy and Unnoticed.
“Mommy, I won the spelling bee. Mommy, please. I’m begging you. Notice me. I’m working so hard so you’ll love me. I got the lead. I’m Valdictorian. Please, mom, just look at me. Just once. I got a full scholarship. Please tell me you’re proud of me.”
My father my uncle my writing my life midwestern boy my mother my career my sick BFF my opportunities
everything became intertwined.
Midwest Boy, during that precious week when I thought I’d been given another chance, called one of my blog posts “brilliant.”
My head hurt. I remembered a review I’d gotten long ago…no.. it was a.. it was.. an interview?
“audacious… provocative…frequently brilliant.”
That was…the The New York Press? No, the Village Voice.
No. I never bothered showing up for that interview.
Even worse. I had.
I spent it nodding; fucked up on potent Hellraiser brand smack. Shit was fire.
After 72 hours straight of no sleep I had an epiphany.
This whole thing happened:
To punish me for past mistakes.
To remind me that I was a failure.
Before this, I wasn’t writing. But I lived life as contentedly as possible.
Now I was a ghost.