Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Don't Be a Menace to Norwood While Drinking Apple Schnapps in Your 'Hood

It’s officially the suckiest heights of winter in Cincinnati. We have somewhere between 9 and infinity inches of snow on the ground. It’s not unbearably cold, but it’s a little windy and staying around the 20s. I’m sick of wearing heavy rubber boots every day that only middle aged women have complemented. I’m getting tired of running from one door to the next. Not that I’ve ever been a terribly outdoorsy person, but I’d give just about anything to have one day to sit by the fountain and watch people and their dogs walk by. Or have a drink in the park and feel the sun on my skin. I’d take just sitting on the stoop of the coffee shop downstairs. I miss our Saturday afternoon walks around the neighborhood. I had a dream just last night that I had a bike but couldn’t ride it. Days can get a little boring now. Even though I’m at work 40 hours a week, there’s always a few hours out of the week where I’m at home and wish there was something else to do. When there’s nothing on tv, I’ve reached every corner I care to see on Facebook, I’m not in the mood for dishes or hanging laundry, and whatever the last meal I had was is still digesting and I’m not hungry. Though I can pass a surprising amount of time staring all googley-eyed at my boyfriend and telling him in multiple ways how much I love him and marveling and his hands or eyes or whatever body part, I suspect that gets annoying sometimes.

The work I do often requires very little thought. It lends itself very well to listening to podcasts and various radio shows because I can pay more attention to what my headphones are saying than I need to pay to my work most of the time. Radio shows also do a pretty decent job of drowning out the chatter from the cubicles around me. I’ve got pregnancy and kids talk flying over one side of the cubicle wall (for god’s sake, please don’t name your baby Aiden) and angry typing and a grating Midwestern accent coming from behind me. For the last few months I’ve been listening to old episodes of This American Life. I’ve listened to years and years worth of stories. Most of the time they give me some spark of inspiration. Some new idea I hadn’t had before. Some insight into the human condition or something. In the first part of most episodes there’s usually a quick 5 or so minute introductory story. Fluff, sometimes. I’ve had tons of ideas for my own little fluff stories, but I don’t really have the equipment or (mostly) the ambition to narrate and edit my own collection of short radio stories. Also, I would assume that if they didn’t air one of my stories at some point, I would take it as a personal rejection from Ira Glass himself and probably never be the same.

This short story is the first in what I hope to be a series of stories inspired by those I’ve heard on TAL. Stories I can write while the snow piles up on the sidewalks or perhaps when the radio shows run dry. This on is a true account, but perhaps there is fiction in my future.

I was 19 or 20 and working in a hotel pizzeria with other kids around my age and my future ex-sister-in-law who was also my roommate at the time. We decided that night to come back to our place and drink some beers and play cards or Scategories or give out blow jobs or something. It was me, my future ex-sister-in-law, and 2 of our high school senior co-workers (both male). They were simultaneously dating the 16 year old who worked with us and ended up never speaking to each other again by the end of that summer, although they had been best friends from childhood. That 16 year old is now in her twenties with 2 children and several abortions under her belt. Her boyfriend is in jail and more than 10 years her senior. Neither of the babies belonged to those boys, although one of the abortions did. Dodged a bullet there I suppose.

My future ex husband was living in this apartment at the same time, but details are hazy as to why he wasn’t there that night. I think he may have been at a Phish concert on the other side of the country or some other place I wouldn’t be caught dead in. The night was uneventful. We drank some beers, had some laughs, and stayed up very late. In college fashion (which none of us happened to have much experience with) we stacked each beer we drank into a rather unimpressive beer can tower on the dining room table in the middle of our large apartment. I took my dog to bed while my roomie took one of those other dogs to bed. She had to work very early that morning at her other job and agreed to drive the two boys home while I was asleep.

I hadn’t been asleep long when around 11am I was startled out of bed. I could see flashing lights coming through my blinds and I looked out of the window. There was a piercing noise I didn’t know the origin of nor care to seek out. Across the street, a couple of houses down, a fire truck was sitting in the road with its lights on. I wasn’t particularly alarmed. It was a pretty common occurrence to see fire trucks and ambulances on our street. Probably once a month one of each came to a neighbor’s house down the street where we assumed an elderly person lived. Once I came home to find our drunken hillbilly neighbor had fallen down the stairs of our foyer and exploded the finial of the handrail with his head. Apparently he had been rushing out of the apartment to get more beer before beer sales stopped at 1:30. The kids wandering around the front porch in their pajamas didn’t seem too shocked and the paramedics let us squeeze by to our door.

In a hungover stupor, a few minutes later, I could make out loud male voices yelling in the common hallway of our building. Then I heard the familiar click of my front door and heavy feet. My dog perked up. I was confused. I heard someone asking if anyone was home, and now realized that there was a very loud beeping coming from my dining room. My bedroom door opened a couple of inches and I heard a man call to me, that he needed me to come out. I was mortified, pretty sure that he had seen me sprawled out and pantless on my bed. I found some pants on my floor and scooped up my dog. In my apartment were no less than 5 firefighters in full gear. Stomping around my dining room. If you haven’t seen me before, let me tell you I’m very small and look younger than my age. There I stood, bleary eyed at 11am completely alone (and 19), and trying not to notice the beer tower, empty cups, and liquor bottles on the dining room table. My neighbor from across the hall, a sweet middle aged woman who did some sort of new age healing touch out of her apartment, peeked her head in. She explained that she’d been knocking on the door for an hour and had called our home phone and no one answered and she was worried. My carbon monoxide detector had been going. That stupid thing that my mom made me plug in, beeping for the last couple of hours while I was, quite literally, passed out. The firefighters stomped around a little longer and did not find anything (other than the obvious) amiss and suggested that I change my battery.

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