i dont know how to act i’ve tried it all

feeling some irrational on edgeness right now. she’s stated ‘i want you to read this book’ and i am furious but can’t let on so, else a riot. remember when you threw a fit on me because you were embarassed that i pointed out the green light you weren’t going on, and i threw a fit right back at you and demanded that you start learning or reading some psychology books so that you would understand what projection is and all the various personality traits you should have been attempting to correct 40+ years ago, and also flat out demanded an apology and was gracious enough to say that I would accept it in written form? rememeber that? and i’m still mad about you reading my facebook private message conversations involving my exhusband (or at all!!) and I was GRACIOUS enough not to confront you at all about it. you should be ashamed of yourself for that. I left a passive-aggressive note plastered over the monitor in 200 point font explaining this. I know that you saw it.  You should have been behaving with shame and apology after that, but each day you are increasingly pushy and needy and require confirmation on every statement multiple times regardless of whether the listener has agreed with you or attempted to contribute anything to the conversation. it is in your right to converse with yourself outloud, but you may not also require the involvement of other people, if your premise is that you’re just talking to yourself. you are a solipsist. you behave as if your perspective is the only perspective. if you are hot, everyone else must be as well. and then the irony comes when you insist that I confirm your request for permission to do something (such as turn a fan or light on or off, or go to the bathroom) because my permission is neither required by me (because i don’t need to announce or acknowledge every mundane action) nor required by you. what if I said no? would you react like i had just been insulting or sarcastic or snarky at you? Am I the one who has the attitude? what if I don’t respond at all; assuming you are in fact simply interacting with yourself outloud (again, which is a perfectly okay personality trait to have), will that also be construed as having attitude? I dont know how to respond, i’ve tried everything years ago and im just out of everything, for so so so long. please, please tell me what i can do to make you treat me better? i’m spun in a million directions, there’s never a right answer, even when people agree with you, you argue. when someone agrees to a task or discussion topic, you continue to sell it to them for as long as they’ll stand it. it’s okay to want to keep affirming yourself of something; it’s not okay to require that other people do so with you repeatedly. you need to exercise some self control. i’m absolutely at my wit’s end and practically shaking with anger at every conversational exchange. you need to acknowledge some of this. you need to apologize for reading my emails with joey and you need to stop doing it.

now, as for that book you think you can just tell me to read: are you prepared to read any of the books I would (and have, many times over the years) ask you to read? Are you finally prepared to learn with me, so that I don’t have to learn in spite of you?

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Some of the reasons why I won’t work service industry anymore, despite having few other options

Sometime in 2010 I stopped being willing to work in any retail or foodservice position. Low pay was an obvious issue, but the snapping point came when a drive thru customer leapt out of his truck and raised his fists at me. My (first-day-on-the-job) shift manager told me to apologize to him. This was just the snapping point; not the first and not the worst of the apparent traumas that have driven me to panicked frustration at the idea of working any kind of front-of-the house or secretarial/hostess service job. The following is a limited list of the major incidents that have driven me away; the broader reasons such as low pay, lack of healthcare and being viewed as a loser are to be assumed.

The first major incident isn’t the first to occur chronologically but it tends to be the one with the most impact upon retelling; one of my paychecks was stolen (and successfully cashed!) by a co-worker and though I filed a police report and the company re-issued my check, no one in the store was fired. Whoever it was, I had to continue work with them for a year. At the risk of indulging in self-victim blaming, I wish I had the guts at the time to raise a ruckus about it. Once they re-issued the check, I went on my disgruntled way. Retrospect is also an indulgence, but I could have argued for a bigger check, heh. Maybe harangued the police more. Maybe call my local TV news, or at least threaten to. At the very least, go home and google my rights a bit.

The next most pungent story is related to the previous as it involves the same person whom I had suspected (but had no evidence) of also being the one who took my check. This occurred about 1 year later, at which point I had become the nighttime closing manager and he was my (usually only) closing crew member. I was stuffed in the closet we called an office (the door jamb was about as deep as the closet itself – why was there a hinged door on it, you couldn’t even close it with your body inside!) counting and closing the tills. He and I were the only people in the building (it’s another issue of contention that so very often restaurant closing crews are painfully understaffed – I basically was the other closing cleaner/counter who also got the responsibility of managerial duties). I’m a woman under five feet tall, he was (estimating from memory, thus subjective) between 5’7 and 6 feet tall. Easily twice as broad as me. I had no car; he was often my ride home. Every once in a while, before I would put the till drawers in the safe, he would have me break a $50 or something big; it was convenient for me because it’s easier to deposit one $50 bill than fifty $1 bills. Over time and better education (thanks for the no-training, Giant Corporation!) I came to realize that this was already suspect behavior, and probably were bills being broken by the very till they were swiped from. So he comes up to my doorway and stuffs his hand in his pocket, asking to exchange it. As he pulls his hand out of the pockets of his very loose pleated polyester uniform pants, my cellphone slides out with it and clanks to the floor. I blink in shocked silence as he squats down to pick it back up, stuff it in his pocket and say “Oops sorry”. I don’t react – act like I didn’t see anything. Were I a male of comparable size to him, or had I been conditioned to be more assertive, I would have confronted him like a manager (authority figure) should. But I was not the authority figure there, not to anyone but a few meeker (or more respectful) co-workers who were in any case not there at that moment. He should have been afraid to get in trouble, but I know he wasn’t. He knew the bosses wouldn’t care. I knew they wouldn’t care. He already had a higher wage than I and I was certainly aware of the interpersonal politics of the crew and management at that time. I couldn’t risk angering him; at the worst I could be in physical danger, at the least I’d have to walk home. I should have had the authority to fire him on the spot, but I knew I deserved to report it at least, so I picked up the store phone and called the General Manager. Groggy from being woken from sleep, he instructed me to call the Assistant Manager (that’s what in business-wanker-lingo is called “delegating”!) While I was pacing in the dark dining room with the phone, my crewman was sheepishly cleaning the corrugated stainless steel of the food line. Maybe he was trying to overhear me; I was trying not to be overheard but also pumped by anger and possibly loud enough, who knows. Maybe I’m injecting more paranoia into the memory than was there. I woke the Assistant Manager Lady with my call and explained the situation to her as well. That I hadn’t confronted him yet but would very much like some help in doing so, and frankly scared of being alone with him. She said okay give him the phone and she’d talk to him. I told him merely “[name] wants to talk to you” and handed it over. A few minutes of talking in Spanish (which I regrettably have never learned) and he handed the phone back. She told me that he had found it in his car, didn’t know it was mine, but must have been dropped when he had given me a ride home. She said I was lucky he was giving it back because he didn’t have to (really?). She said not to mention it to other coworkers. She said nothing about talking to her superiors (and neither did I, which was my ignorance and meekness in play). Immediately after hanging up the phone, he brought the cellphone to me, handed it to me and said “Sorry, I didn’t know it was yours.” I took it and stupidly never said a word about it to anyone at work. But I sure was angry and depressed about it.

Some few weeks later I finally walked out after a brand-new shift manager (designed to give me a break from hours as I had been the only dedicated closer since I started the job) proclaimed that she was going to spend the entire shift inside the walk-in fridge rearranging the position of the entire stock in storage and I was to be the drive thru person and the closing dishwasher. This was the position that I already had been doing and frankly it was someone else’s turn. I told her quite calmly and with no whiny head-bobbing, that her position was that of floor manager and that she is to be within sight of the production area at all times. She is to put a headset on and supervise the drive thru, while I assist during rush hours, then shift position to dishwasher for closing. She clucked her teeth and told me she’s the manager tonight and I’ll do what she says. I slowly took off my headset, placed it on the production line and said “If you won’t do your job tonight, you will be doing my job for the rest of the night.” ** Of course she simply affirmed that I should leave, and so I did, feeling immensely relieved.

These are just the major incidents that I have the energy to write out in one sitting; all the broken mufflers and squeaking brakes blaring into your ear from  a squawking headset (once a prankster decided to give his order through an electric megaphone! Once he got to the window I kept his credit card until he apologized, hah) and all the “plain cheeseburger plus ketchup and mustard” and all the “DON’T PUT TOMATOES IN IT I’LL DIE but make sure there’s ketchup packets” and all the dirty diapers left on dining tables for me to clean, they add the fuck up. 

So that snapping point I mentioned at the beginning of this rant, this happened a year or so after all that, at a different fastfood restaurant. Despite my previous managerial experience, I had insisted I only be a crew member rather than a shift leader, because I knew the pay would not be proportional to the responsibility (I’m talking a 3 cent raise for the promotion, no joke). I’d been inexplicably shifted to daytime hours and was serving as a sort of floating help, dishwasher, dining table cleaner, gopher etc on this particular day. A bag of food had been accidentally dropped in the transfer of hands from window to car, and I had been sent out to clean it. With my broom and articulate dustpan i stood at the end of the driveway waiting for the next car to exit. It a large-ish pickup truck. He stops near the curb so that the window is directly in front of me and sticks his arm out, pointing at the fallen and forlorn bag of food. He says “Hey you think you could you know, lemme have that?” Bored at the time waste and probably obviously so, I recited the standard ” I’m sorry sir I can’t serve food that has touched the ground or -” He cuts me off with a scowl and says “Hey you should lighten up!” I roll my eyes and say “fuckin idiot” and move towards the back of his truck and the bag, intent on doing my duty and going back inside. He jumps out of his truck waving a fist around, clutching what seemed like a necklace or some sort of gold chain and badge. He shouted “come here bitch!” and “I’m a firefighter you need to respect me!” Fist and gold/brass metal object (I assume, his firefighter badge) reeled back, looking ready to punch. Not in a vertical position as a display of what was in his hand, but hooked and cocked and aimed at me, advancing. I backed up in a fast shuffle, shouting for help and someone call the police, I’m being assaulted! The shift manager (whom I had only met that day) asked what was going on, I said “He asked me to give him food off the ground and I called him a fuckin idiot. That’s fuckin stupid and he’s a fuckin idiot.” She told me to apologize, I looked at him and said “Nah, I wasn’t wrong, he’s a fuckin idiot.” Walked back inside, leaving them both there to fuss at each other now, and started doing dishes. Shaking and angry of course, but silent. Some time later (no idea how long, probably only a few minutes) she came to the back and told me I should take the rest of the night off to calm down. I agreed. I never came back, except to turn in my uniform on payday. Was interesting to note that I had been written off the schedule the very next day and had no discussion whatsoever with my General Manager about the incident.

I haven’t been able to go back to that kind of work since then. The idea of being right in between being exploited by my employers and threatened with violence by the people I serve literally triggers a panic response. I can’t even stomach the idea of being a secretary or a desk clerk; anything that has me in the front-of-the-house position of having to greet and placate every person who walks in the door grips me with fear. I’m currently in school to become a Medical Assistant and even some aspects panic me because I will refuse to work as the person who runs the hospitality/service aspect of patient intake. While certainly a necessary position, it can I believe be reasonably compared to being a hostess or waitress at a restaurant. Being the first place your customers AND employers come to complain and find blame, having to interact with dozens to hundreds of strangers a day; I simply cannot do it anymore. I’m going to push really hard to get a laboratory job, so here’s to hoping this degree doesn’t just make me a glorified medical secretary.

**I’m not saying I never have attitude, but this was all delivered matter-of-fact-ly, almost bored; I was absolutely willing to leave and not upset at myself for demanding that the shift be positioned correctly.

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An Essay on Becoming a Medical Lab Assistant

This essay was written for my Medical Records and Communication class. This was written hastily and submitted late. While it is a boring subject I’ve decided to post it here as an example of my (poor) academic writing skills, and possibly as a resource for other students. Please enjoy.

On Becoming a Medical Lab Assistant

Among the many specialties in the world of medicine there exists a certain role which focuses on clinical laboratory work performing tests and diagnostics for hospitals, physicians and private research companies. Opportunities for Medical Laboratory Assistants have seen “faster than average” growth in recent years due in some part to advances in medical diagnostic technology and a burgeoning population in greater need of medical care (AMT, 2013). The following is a brief description of some of the many tasks a Medical Laboratory Assistant may perform, including the qualifications and skills that are essential prerequisites to both being hired and maintaining a career as a Medical Laboratory Assistant.

The idea of working in a laboratory environment might invoke images of silent hours spent hunched over a petri dish squinting into the ocular end of a microscope, or on the more romanticized end of the spectrum one might envision a wily haired scientist with goggles askew waving in triumph in his scorched white lab coat. In reality, laboratory work is fast-paced, strictly organized and performs a crucial function which the medical community, and indeed all of society, relies upon as a set of crucial diagnostic and preventative healthcare tools. Medical Laboratory Assistants perform such tasks as examining blood samples to test for diseases. The MLA (sometimes referred to as CLA; Clinical Laboratory Assistant) uses their knowledge of microbiology to determine the presence of parasites, viruses or bacteria and help diagnose diseases. The MLA may also perform urinalysis or other body-fluid sample tests to determine the toxicology of an individual. Knowledge of chemical interactions will be necessary as well, as tissue samples from biopsies may be kept in dangerous chemical solutions. Other more menial tasks include basic clerical work, greeting patients and communicating with healthcare providers (Locsin, A. 2013).

The American Society of Clinical Pathologists describes several eligibility options for certification, each with a varying amount of required chemistry and biology studies and all requiring at least an associate degree from an accredited school (ASCP, 2013). Certified Medical Laboratory Assistant (CMLA) certification can also be obtained from the American Medical Technologist Organization after completion of courses or certain work experience requirements, and other eligibility factors such as drug and health screenings (AMT, 2013). While these may seem like harsh requirements, most entry-level positions do not require completion of a degree and indeed are an important component in the education and certification needed to advance one’s career toward a higher level such as Medical Laboratory Technician (Thompson, S. 2012).

The AMT also projects a 14% increase in employment for MLAs between 2006 and 2016 as diagnostic technologies continue to arise and demand for these procedures increases as populations increase. Salaries vary regionally, with Phoenix currently hiring at 47% lower than the national average (via Salary Search at indeed.com) which is roughly $33,000 yearly (AMT, 2013). This may not seem glamorous or fair but these are specialized skills that are in demand in every state, nation or continent with most entry-level positions poised for advancement.

 References:

  AMT American Medical Technologists Certification: Medical lab assistant. (2013). http://www.americanmedtech.org/Certification/MedicalLabAssistant.aspx

ASCP American Society of Clinical Pathologists Board of Certification US Certification. (2013). http://www.ascp.org/certification#MLT

Locsin, A. Medical laboratory assistant job description. (2013). Houston Chronicle. (2013). http://work.chron.com/medical-laboratory-assistant-job-description-18192.html

Thompson, S. The qualifications for a medical laboratory office assistant. (2012). Houston Chronicle. http://work.chron.com/qualifications-medical-laboratory-office-assistant-18226.html

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Why Lara Croft is My Feminist Hero… and How I Understand that She’s Not

So, what’s the first thing you think of when someone mentions Tomb Raider or Lara Croft? I bet it’s “boobs!” I don’t blame you; she has a fabulous rack. It probably didn’t help perceptions when her first incarnation sported a chest model that looked like Toblerone, but I think the real reason Lara was so sexualized was in the way it was marketed. I’m not going to go off about this in particular because I feel it’s fairly obvious and out of my realm of expertise, but as a teenage girl growing up in the ’90s I knew the commercials and gamer-mag ads weren’t intended for me. I still loved gaming and like most Americans, I soaked up the media. I remember successfully shoplifting a Playstation demo disc from a magazine at Safeway. I remember yelling at a Best Buy clerk (poor guy, I was such a crusty custy) because they stopped manufacturing original Playstation non-analog controllers.

I was a girl and I was a gamer and I was 16 when I bought my first Playstation in 1997. Like most lower middle class suburban white kids in America at the time, I got a part time fast food job over the summer (who could’ve guessed I’d still be working them 15 years later? Why, everyone! Notice I said “lower middle class” not “upper” – trust me there’s a massive world of difference). Having overused my privilege to borrow my boyfriend’s consoles (sweet-talk for “kept them at my house all the time”) I found it necessary (that is, was told “You gotta job now, get yer own!”) to make my first big purchase in life ever – $180 for a brand-new Playstation. He drove me to Best Buy and I him-hawwed and sat in the aisle trying to talk myself into it. I’d never had so much money, let alone spent that much all in one chunk. But I did it and after a nervous and giggly transaction I took my big shiny factory-sealed box off the conveyor belt and beamed like a two year old given a cupcake wrapped in a bow served on a chocolate platter while being showered in glitter and confetti and being paraded around town with a tinny loudspeaker playing “Hail to the Chief”. Best purchase of my life. The boyfriend gave me a few of his discs, Wipeout XL being my favorite of them. I started hounding my parents to rent games at Blockbuster. I managed to glean a disc or two off neighborhood friends, and ended up being given a copy of Tomb Raider 2 with the explanation “This game is fuckin hard”. The rest, as the cliche goes, is history.

Now, why is Lara special? Why is she a feminist issue? It’s been pretty much determined she’s not good for feminism and doesn’t do anything worth mentioning – at least, this is the impression I’ve gotten over the last year or so of reading blogs/tweets/youtube videos/game-mag articles in both the feminist community and the video game community because for all the take-downs of feminist tropes in video games I read about, Lara Croft is always omitted; neither mentioned as a symbol of sexism nor as an icon of girl power. I realize my experience is subjective and I have not viewed all of the content in the world, so please forgive me if my perspective is limited. I am by no means an expert on feminism (this is the first I’ve written about the subject) but I am a woman and gamer who grew up in the context of Tomb Raider in pop culture, so take it or leave it I reckon xP  *

So why is Lara a hero to me? A Feminist Hero at that – she does what she wants, with grace, and without question. She goes where she wants, and no cultural atmosphere can scare her into not participating. Subordinate to no-one; intimidating Yakuza bosses, breaking into secret military bases, infiltrating and then surviving a sinking Russian submarine, usurping her mentor and entombing a god – nobody gets the chance to talk down to her twice. She’s rich; for all the railing I do against the rich, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love to be one too! Passports, permissions? Pah, parachutes properly procured! The kind of classic action hero tropes we all know and love – a blazing motorcycle chase where she launches off a cliff at full speed and lands on top of a moving train; in a jeep chucking through the Saharan dunes being pursued by mercenaries; in an opera balcony looking stunning in a long high-slit evening gown, goon attempts to coerce an artifact from her, she roundhouse kicks him, backflips onto the railing, flips onto the stage, where the spotlight lands on her, she bows and blows kisses to the audience, roses are thrown, she runs off to continue her escape; she’s every badass that’s ever been in pop culture. She’s James Bond, John McClane and Jackie Chan and she’s a woman. She has a dry cool wit that I think gets completely lost amidst the “Haha I’d like to raid her tomb, knowutimean” imagery in the brand’s advertising.  The very first words I heard her speak was the cutscene at the end of The Great Wall level in Tomb Raider 2.

Level 1: Great Wall Ending

Lara approaches the elaborately decorated wooden door, only to be ambushed by an armed thug. She manages to dodge his gunfire and throw him off, sending his weapon clattering to one side.

“Pardon me, if that was just your way of trying the doors for me,” Lara quips, training her pistols on the man.

Gotta love that dry-cool wit. And TR2 has by far the worst storyline in the entire series. There’s only maybe a dozen lines of written dialogue in it, hah. Where I feel the writing and acting really shines is in Legend – that final scene chokes me up every time.

She’s the spelunker and scholar I always dreamed of being, really. I know this is the nerdiest thing to say, but when I was a little kid in grade school, I wanted to be an archaeologist. Hell, I still do. My oldest passion is paleontology and archaeology – I had books about dinosaurs (and not creationist ones, yay!) and King Tut’s Tomb and ancient Meso-American civilizations and Greek mythology and Lara embodied all the things I had dreamed of since I first learned to read. While I realize archeology is nothing like climbing on blocks and pulling switches and picking up keys in perfectly cubic alcoves, getting to explore the secrets in chambers deep underneath the Sphinx while being a woman and archaeologist and a total badass was so fucking cool. How rare is it to have such an identity as obscure as this be expressed in a cultural icon that is as enduring as Tomb Raider has been? I mean seriously, what an intersection! Archaeology and sexy women, I can’t be the only fangirl of such a thing.

Finally – yes, she’s beautiful. There’s nothing wrong with admiring beauty and I would love Lara no less were she not of the classic Barbie style. I don’t feel inclined to argue much about whether she should look as she does because I can’t thoroughly describe my tastes in attractiveness nor classify “what I like” because my tastes aren’t limited to gender or specific body types. I do consider her beauty as yet another aspect of her to adore, and won’t hesitate in admitting I’ll objectify the hell out of her in pictures (note the pictures I’ve created of her both on this blog -she’s an airplane!- and at my deviantart). I suspect the more I learn the less I will publicly publish the more sexually explicit ones, but that is an argument for another time, heh.

Now as for why I know all of that was really pointless – my perspective is not universal. It doesn’t matter that I can squeeze a good chunk of personal meaning out of something as seemingly vapid as Tomb Raider. People would still make sexist remarks about her because that’s all the meaning they could ever get out of it. They haven’t had my experiences and by the same token I haven’t had theirs. I’m well aware of how Lara Croft is portrayed in advertising, in review media and inside the gaming community, for I have been a part of that community all its life. I’m not here to change that (yet? heh) but I am privileged to be able to give my perspective.

*unrelated but someday I will argue for the validity of emoticons as punctuation >_>

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Like Having a 6 Year-Old that I Can’t Talk Back To -.-‘

I haven’t ranted about my mom much here yet, which is odd considering she’s the source of the majority of my anger. Suffice it to say it’s been a lifetime of emotional manipulation, projection, minimization, superiority, convoluted logic, double-standards and outright lies. When backed into a corner she’ll even admit she’s a bully. I’d call Dr. Phil or that jackass Steve Wilkos if I thought she wouldn’t cough a lung onto the stage, because she’d be hilarious on national TV. I regret never having recorded her on audio or video. Regulars to my livestream have heard her in the background enough, heh.

Anyway, it’s been so long and I’ve just become so fed-up, I’m ready to enforce a change, somehow. I’ve spent years trying to implement things I’ve learned, and I’m clearly not the same personality as I was when I was 15. I’ve made a lot of changes, many of them intentional, in an attempt to garner any different behavior from my mother. Turns out she treats me with the same amount of respect when I’m going to college and peacefully living at home with no outside life and 0 dangerous behaviors (aside from fear of emotional outbreaks – ie. I hurt myself when I get upset, punch/break stuff, bash my head in walls n stuff) as she does when I’m raging attitude and pushy opinions and throwing fits about everythi — oops did I just describe her? Yeah… reacting doesn’t change the way the talks to me, -not- reacting doesn’t change it, I don’t know what to do.

I had a fuss with her a few days ago that really is the last straw for me. I insist. I finally insist that I be treated with some respect, and that she may not lash out at me when she’s embarrassed at herself (projection). I said everything, but I’m sure it fell on intentionally deaf ears. It keeps roiling around in my head. So I wrote it out, what I want to say to her. That I already said to her face. It won’t do any good, but I had to write it and I had to post it.

Thank you to anyone who reads this and has permitted me to share this part of me that I never get to really get over.

You can’t say “You need to get counseling” as a tool to dismiss all of my issues and then follow that statement up with “We can’t afford help”. If we can’t afford a counselor, we still need to learn how to change our behavior. If we had a counselor, they would be telling us in what ways we need to change in order to behave better towards each other. This is something we need to do regardless of whether we have professional help. The fact that we do not is not an excuse.
This means that whether we have a therapist or counselor or not, we will be learning how to identify negative and positive behaviors. We will come to understand how these behaviors affect our loved ones and we will learn what empathy is and why it is important. We will learn what projection is and why we must no longer participate in it.
Because whether we learn these things or not, our behavior must change. I will not live in some simultaneous multiverse wherein you hold expectations for me that you do not permit me to reach. No longer will “you need to get counseling” be used as a way to brush off the work you would have to do if we had one. You can’t have it both ways.
In summary: If we had a counselor, s/he would tell you that you have to change your behavior.

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A Tale of Two Flights

newcrossI once rode two consecutive 14 hour trans-atlantic flights from Chicago to Manchester and back, and when I arrived back in Chicago I still had roughly 150 miles to my apartment. I ended up moving all the way back to Phoenix in order to stay with my parents and work towards saving the money to do it again. What fools love lets us be, huh?

I’d been researching and planning for months. I wanted to do everything right, everything legal, and with no secrecy. My family knew what I was doing. They were unhelpful and discouraging, but I can’t hide things like “I’m in love and going to move in with him for a few months.” Way to fit into a sexist stereotype huh? Woman in her mid-twenties dropping everything to go be with her boyfriend, it’s pretty cliche really. I didn’t care, it was the focus of my life.

It had to be the focus, I had to pour my entire life into it – how else do you make a fantasy become reality? It required utter devotion. Two extremely poor lovers from across the globe, very obviously putting the cart before the horse. Or in this case the unicorn, heh.

This visit was supposed to be the first steps in the process of making our lives together legal and official. For all my research, I knew that we must have a face-to-face meeting to qualify for any kind of VISA and even better if we’d gotten to spend some actual time together. Government websites are intentionally difficult to interpret, but I was sure I understood that I would be allowed up to six months visitation before requiring VISA. He had a steady job and home; he was willing and eager to feed and house (and cuddle!) me for the three months we had intended. We wanted to be sure that we wanted to marry and live together. We’d already spent three years in constant contact with every intimacy available except for touch. We knew we were living a fantasy, and wanted to prove it real.

I bought a one-way ticket to Heathrow Airport. He was planning on paying for my ticket home when it was closer to time for me to leave; this was one of our mistakes and one of my first lessons in how being poor limits one’s freedoms.

I lived in Davenport, Iowa at the time; my reasons for being there instead of my parents’ home in Phoenix are part of another story, but suffice it to say, very quickly the point of everything I did was to finally see him. I worked, I researched, I planned, I saved. I had about $500 when I arrived at Heathrow, which I had stupidly converted to GPB while still in Chicago ; so eager I was to forge this new life. Confidence, action; I was full of it. (*rimshot*) I enjoyed a small gin & tonic on the flight and told a beautiful young stewardess my story. She was so happy for me, she cried with me.

I had my sexiest tight corduroy pants on, and a tight little zippered knit shirt, unzipped partially to show just the perfect amount of cleavage. I was smokin’. I was a size seven at the time, for fucks sake, hah. Red hair down to my ass, I pulled it out of the loose ponytail I’d kept it in for the flight and combed and preened – the look in my eyes must have been maniacal. I was only moments away from touching his face. We were landing; I saw trees and pavement and buildings outside my window, and already my eyes were scanning for sight of him. Of course he wouldn’t be on the runway, silly Rena.

When we finally de-boarded, I was in a long curved hallway waiting with the other former passengers in a que that led to a row of podiums with people stamping passports. The young backpack beleaguered fellow in front of me expressed worry that his student papers would cause trouble. I was confident in my research, I knew every aspect of the process and was already searching the door and windows at the far end, hoping to see him waiting for me.

I don’t even remember what exactly was said once I got my turn at the podium. Student-guy ahead of me got stamped and waved through in less than a minute.

She was tall and had a long face and very long black hair – if she were fatter I’d have sworn she was Anne Rice, hah. She didn’t like the fact that I’d brought my Birth Certificate with me. I said that I assumed any and all forms of identification would be a good thing to have rather than not have. She rolled her eyes. Tapped the edge of my manilla folder on the podium to punctuate her obvious decision. She asked me to show the money I brought. When I did she rolled her eyes again and said, “This isn’t enough to stay for a week, let alone three months.”

Needless to say, all air of confidence was now completely dissipated. I searched with my eyes behind her again, hoping to see him and that he would be able to say something.I told her who I was waiting for, explained where he works and that he intends on supporting me and if I could only just see him! She told me to take my bags in hand, obviously to allow the que to pass through as I was now holding it up. She brought me to a very small glass-walled room inside a series of offices. A holding cell. There were signs posted both inside and outside stating that it was definitely not okay to make a run for the gate. I waited, I sat. I saw the lady at a desk on the phone. I got permission to go back down the curved hallway to go bathroom. The women’s room was closed and locked, claiming ‘Out of Order’. I used the men’s. I remember the toilet being of  a shape and depth I’d never seen before. I went back to my smelly holding cell bench. I waited, I sat. She came back and took me to another small room with a big chunky black telephone receiver hanging on a piece of thickly painted wood. She told me she had gotten ahold of him on the phone and that I may speak to him.

I don’t remember that conversation at all. I just couldn’t believe that he was in the same building as me, yet here I was hearing his voice through the wires of a telephone. I cried. I begged, “Tell them you’re here for me!” He was there, he had told him all that, he had begged and cried too. I don’t know what the point of giving me that phonecall was,as the decision had already been made; perhaps she did grant me that one mercy. She was sending me back on the very next return flight.

I asked her, “May I at least see him first?” I knew this was the one thing I needed to make our relationship legal in the eyes of either of our governments’. She knew this too. Perhaps I’m angry and prejudiced, but I got the feeling that she didn’t want a yank slag to get hands on one of her boys.

“You don’t have permission to cross the customs gate, and he can’t cross without a ticket for a flight.” Then she promptly had me gather my things and then escorted me across customs gate. She flashed a badge a few times, explained I was a special case and that she was taking me to be searched. She kept calling me “The Girl” with that high-falootin’ posh “gehhhhllllll”. We walked through what looked like some sort of food court or mall. There were loads of people, bustling and relaxing and oblivious to the frantic desperation roiling inside me. I couldn’t see in enough directions fast enough. With every ounce of “Where’s Waldo” practice I could squeeze into my eyes, I hunted the scene for sight of him. He’s still in the building, there’s still chance I could break free and hug him! I’m not getting arrested for fighting with this biddy old broad but by god I’ll take a night in the poke if I could just touch him!

We were joined by a uniformed officer of some type (police? airport security? customs? friggin Interpol?) who led us into a seemingly abandoned luggage search room. I remember folding tables. The officer stood by the door staring off into wonderland as the woman opened all my bags and went through each item. I don’t know what she was looking for – I assume it was a matter of protocol regarding luggage checks before re-boarding a new flight. Cuz that’s where I was going, straight back onto another plane.

She huffed when she found the two cartons of cigarettes I had packed. I still don’t know why that’s a bad idea to bring with you, if you’re a smoker of course. Again, I think it had to do with me being poor enough to consider bringing a supply – see, already this yank is avoiding taxes!

She rolled her eyes again when she got to the box of condoms. I shrugged. Way to attempt to shame me for doing the responsible thing. It’s like being ashamed of having a box of band-aids; “Well surely you must be planning to get cut if you brought these bandages along.” That kind of attitude; fuck your slut-shaming lady, I’m glad you enjoy the patriarchy. In retrospect, ten bucks says she was a Catholic.

So she went through all my stuff, and I had to repack it. None of the items were taken, removed or denied. Gathered it all up and carried it back through that foodcourt area to the ticket purchasing booths. A silly parade with me following behind her, duffel and luggage and purse straps hanging at all angles from my neck and my wrists in some kind of futuristic parody of a slave being led off the boat for the first time. Following their roles in this scene, the hordes around me chattered on, understandably oblivious to the tiny whirlwind of trapped rage that walked amongst them.

I kept looking around, still searching, still knowing that I was at least on the same fucking continent as him and maybe he hadn’t left yet and we were definitely far enough into the airport that he might have been there too…

We stopped finally at a counter behind which a fair and fat man sat on a stool. I don’t remember the name of the airline. I was still whipping my head back and forth looking for him. The woman slapped the papers in her hand down on the counter and explained to the man that she was with Customs/Immigration and that I was to be sent on the next flight to O’Hare. The man told her that there was not another one for twenty-four hours. She said that today’s flight had not yet left and that I should be put on that one. The man resisted, explaining that it had already boarded and they were no longer able to sell seats on it, but she stopped him cold with a direct order that if I am not put on this flight his airline will be charged by Customs for the room and board I will require for the night (for a split second I welcomed this idea, as it retained the possibility of still getting to see him).

He very quickly found a seat to sell me. He asked me how much money I had. I don’t remember how much it was that was left after conversion, but it was something like £300. It also wasn’t nearly enough to pay for the ticket. I just shrugged and stared at the Customs Lady, cuz hey wtf else could I do, hah. The Ticket Guy surely saw no other option, and just accepted what I did have. So they took all my money. I still had around $5 in USD and change in a pocket. That was it.

I don’t remember being led all the way back through the gates and past the podiums and through that curved hallway. I remember the lady stuffing papers in my hand and saying “If you ever come back, be sure to show these!” I remember thinking “Yeah right, my ‘don’t come here’ papers.” Approaching the portal walkway and passing through the door hatch into the cabin, that part is burned into my vision; with the breathless horror of one who is shoved through a space station airlock, sealed in and ejected into space.

A faceless stewardess led me to a seat which was at the very front of the cabin section, which had no seats in front of it and thus lots of room. Everyone had already boarded, I was the last one. I’m sure they had been holding the plane for me.

Everyone was faceless. I couldn’t see. I was sitting in between a family with some small children. They weren’t american or british; I didn’t try to identify their language.  The children were climbing everywhere, loud and annoying. I stared forward in blank horror. The stewardess might have noticed the poor placement of a woman who looked like she just witnessed the death of a loved one between a big rambunctious family, or perhaps another passenger (or even one of the rambunctious family) mentioned something to her, because I was told I may take another seat in a quieter place. Gratefully I moved to the seat she offered me, which was between an older woman and another person I don’t remember. I continued to stare in mute horror. If ever a face fell, mine was in my lap that day.

I felt the planes’ engines as they gripped the fuselage and pushed it down the tarmac into position. I felt gravity sink my guts as the wheels let go of the pavement and I was off, headed the wrong direction. Away, my back to him without ever having seen his face in front of mine.

When it was permitted, I pulled down the little lap table and passed out on it. I don’t remember the person to my right, but I felt sorry for the older lady to my left, who had to spend the whole time with her nose in the air turned away from my pain. I don’t blame her, who wants to sit next to that? I don’t remember if my sobs were audible; surely she noticed none the less. If she ever sees this – I apologize for the shitty flight you very probably had sitting next to me.

I slept mostly. I don’t remember the flight back, I passed out a lot. I missed being served food at one point (perhaps the stewardess thought I’d rather not be woken?), but it’s not like I could have stood to eat anything anyway.

I really needed the sleep. What the hell was I gonna do when I landed anyway? I had given my cellphone to the woman who drove me to the airport in the first place – I didn’t think I was going to need it anymore. From the airport to my apartment (and thus anybody I knew who could help me) was around 150 miles!

How was I even going to get out of the airport?

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I’m a badass, I aint gotta fuckin spell it, I get upon the microphone and then I fuckin yell it

It’s been a long, long time since I shed tears of happiness. It happened as I was driven down a dark highway from Schiphol Airport, sobbing and squeezing and peering into shiny black eyes. Trying to memorize the angle of his cheek and the folds of his eyelids, the image blurred by tears. Finally. Face, close to mine. Encompassing all my field of view.

This time, it is ten times better. This time, I am proud of me. This time, it’s not a lie.

I got my GED diploma and Transcript in the mail today. The comments at the bottom blew my mind:

Total Battery:

You have demonstrated the 21st century skills of

*Communication

* Information Processing

*Problem Solving

*Higher Order Thinking Skills

in the five test areas (Reading, Writing, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies) to perform as effectively as in the workplace or in higher education as the top 3% of traditional high school graduates.

May I just say…. eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!   Hehehehe xP top 3% is… wow

-edit- Title credits go to mc chris

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