Tiny but hard.
THIS ENTRY IS GOING TO BE CRAZY STUPID LONG AND AWESOME SO YOU NEED CHIPS AND A DRINK. HEADS UP.
Okay, so the reason I went to Virginia was pretty suck. I can’t disclose too much on here– I can, but I won’t, heh. When I drove up Wednesday, I figured I’d spend most of the time just talking with and listening to my sister. We started the trip on that note: she called about ten minutes in. “GIRL!” she whispered. “WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO BE HERE!”
“I’m not even on the highway yet,” I lamented.
“I’LL KEEP YOU COMPANY FOR THE NEXT FOUR HOURS.”
Sounds good. “SOUNDS GOOD.”
So we’re chatting about– who knows, I don’t even know what we talked about– although at some point during the conversation she ran into our brother at Starbucks. Like, just ran into him. Randomly. “Hey,” she announced into the phone, “it’s our brother,” and I was like, “I’m losing you in this forest– make plans with him and call me back.”
When she DID call back, I asked how he was doing. (Ben is going through some incredibly high level drama right now, too.) “He’s as good as he can be,” she answered. “He’s buying a gun.” I started laughing. Michelle continued, “That’s the first thing he told me, girl. I got a good deal on a Glock.”
Becca: That dude. God, I love him.
Michelle: Only Ben, right?
Becca: Only Ben.
Michelle: He’s going out tonight with his crew, he said. There’s like… all his guys. Fat Sack Joe, Two-Finger Rick, Dirty Lamar.
Now I’m like in a FIT of laughter. “ALL of his crew have fake weird names!” I agreed. “Even when they’re REAL NAMES, like Mox and Keener.”
“Fat Sack Joe,” I repeated, and Michelle and I are giggling again. Then, for some reason, I’m like, “Severus Snape,” and that’s it. We can’t even talk. It’s just hysteria. “SEVERUS SNAPE, GIRL!” she finally gets out, and then Snape-Voices: “I want tacos. For lunch.”
There is no reason for the tacos and yet. AND YET. It’s the funniest thing I’ve ever heard.
I’m making good time and in an awesome mood until somewhere around Richmond, where it starts storming and traffic comes to a complete halt. Just: red tail lights, and flash flooding. Nobody in Virginia knows how to drive. They stop for no reason. They hit their brakes for no reason. They swerve and don’t stay in their lane and they don’t signal and they never know where they want to be, and every time it sprinkles they lose their minds and all common sense (I saw a dude that ran SIDEWAYS into a cement median: double yew tee eff)– and all of the sudden, I’ve made it ten miles in forty minutes and I remember that I hate this place. And I. am. ANGRY. I feel a fury rising from the DEPTHS OF MY SOUL, and this newfound sailor language rises up it. Anyone who knows me knows I’m pretty PG. PG-13, if I’m in a Mood. Heh. But this was like Samuel L. Jackson took over my body. “OH, YOU GONNA MERGE, MOTHERF—ER?” I’m yelling at the cars. “You need to STEP ON THE GAS TO F—ING MERGE YOU SON OF A– I’M BOUT TO PULL THIS CAR OVER AND– OH, YOU LOOKING AT ME? NO. THAT’S RIGHT. TURN YOUR STUPID ASS HEAD AROUND AND DRIVE YOUR DAMNED CAR.” Jason made the mistake of calling in the midst of this, and I answered the phone, all: “WHO GIVES F—ING VIRGINIA DRIVERS THEIR LICENSE, BECAUSE I’M ABOUT TO STRAIGHT SHANK THEM.” Jason: “… who is this? Where’s my wife?”
When he talked me down, I was like, I need something to get my mind off this searing hatred. So I put on this cheesy romance book on CD. Guess what. I didn’t know this, but cheesy romance novels are filthy. Pure filth. I went from Samuel back to normal shy Becca, looking around at the other cars, wide-eyed and flustered. Why are they saying this? I whispered to myself. I fast-forwarded through one bedroom scene only to land in the middle of another one that was worse. Noooooo, I breathed. Noooo. I don’t like this. Make it stop.
I finally got to Shell’s house after like four and a half hours. She’s waiting. We eat, I think, and then go get Millie. Millie is still the cutest baby in the world after mine.
We pick up Chris, I think, and meet my mom at Ikea. I just remember being there suddenly with Millie and Chris and Michelle and Mom. Walk around. I pick up some stuffed animals for the kids. Shelly and Chris look at bathroom cabinets.
Okay, so right here, I should mention what became the big project of the trip: Michelle and Chris have a basement bathroom that needed to be fixed. They thought they might need to sell the house or rent it– now, probably not, but it was on the table even a day ago– and they couldn’t sell it in its current condition. “What’s wrong with it?” I asked.
Michelle made a face. “You’ll see.”
As I’m mulling that, we walk past a girl in the kitchen section. “Her hair is so cute,” I mentioned to Mom and Shell. “Those bangs. I think I ought to cut mine like hers.”
Mom: She’s too skinny.
Becca: She is?
Michelle: Didn’t you see her? She was really bony.
Mom: Like, unhealthy.
Becca: I didn’t see anything much. I saw she had those baggy running shorts on, but they make everyone’s legs look thin.
Mom: It was too much, Becca. You’re meatier than her.
I have no idea what my face is doing. I’m just kind of surprised. Michelle jumps in with: “Becca is NOT MEATY, Mom. She weighs four pounds.”
Mom: I didn’t say she was fat! I said you have more meat on your bones!
Michelle: You can’t tell any woman they have meat on their bones, Mom.
Mom: But Becca looks strong! She has muscles, I mean.
Michelle: Then say muscles.
Becca: It’s okay, I’m not offended.
Mom just sighs, like HERE WE GO, but I’m really not offended. “For the record, though,” I add, “they really ARE slimming shorts. I have a pair like that, and they cut at the most flattering part of your thigh. Every time I wear mine, someone mentions how thin my legs are.”
Mom: Well, I need a pair of those, then.
Michelle: Then you can be like, Now people are talking about me in a GOOD WAY!
While I’m laughing, Shell faux-whispers: “Oh my God, she looks terrible, way too skinny.” That’s it. It’s like the taco comment: done.
My mom sighs again, but lets go of a small smile. She’s used to us. Heh. WE’RE HER MEATY BABIES, WHAT CAN I SAY.
Can’t find a cabinet at Ikea, so go back home for dinner. I order pizzas, and my Dad and Mom come over to eat with us. My dad and I spend half the meal freaking out over our New Orleans trip (“Dad, guess what? NEW ORLEANS BUDDY!” High five!), and Michelle spends it fake annoyed (“REAL NICE, guys. RUB IT IN.”).
Becca: How’s Ben holding up?
Dad: Well, he’s getting a new gun.
We all laugh.
Becca: I heard.
Dad: I said, Ben, really. I’m retired military, and I’ve had firearms all my life. I never had cause to use them. I don’t know why you would. And he said, Dad. You’d be surprised.
Michelle: I wouldn’t.
Becca: This is a dude that tried to fight a bear with a car. Nothing he does would surprise me.
We laugh more and eat more, and then Dad leaves, and Mom, Shell, Chris and I head to Lowe’s. Look for a cabinet. No go. There’s a lot of disagreements over cabinet particulars and pricing. Try Home Depot. About an hour later, we leave with a new cabinet– in the torrential rain; the weather SUCKED– and some tile-laying supplies should we need them.
I made Michelle promise to take me to her gym so I could work out. I used to hate, hate, hate people that said this, but now I’m one of those people: if I don’t work out for awhile, I feel sick. She and Chris have this amazing community gym, and it closed at 11. We got there at 10. Only people in the building.
I was stoked.
Shell and I run on the treadmills for awhile, then giggle and chase each other all over the gym like we’re five. I’m inadvertently saying all kinds of gross things, like ARE THOSE BALLS! I LOVE BIG BALLS! I WANT TO PUT THEM ON MY BODY! Michelle is like, “Becca, STOP.”
Becca: I’m just being honest. I love exercise balls.
Michelle: Girl, it’s getting nasty in here.
Then I remind her what Jason said the other day, which was directed at my arm muscle as I flexed. “It’s so hard,” he marveled, “but so tiny.” I answered: “Men don’t want to hear that, J, and neither do I.”
Michelle: SO HARD, BECCA. BUT SO TINY.
Becca: Speaking of–
I walked over to some five-pound dumbbells. “Little weights,” I intoned, “for a little lady.” When I picked them up, Michelle was doing her Taco Severus Laugh all over again.
We did some partner exercises and more weight lifting. Audrey called us or we called Audrey. I went over and bounced on the exercise balls, talking loudly while they chatted THESE BALLS ARE SO FUN HOW IS AUDREY DO I LOOK STRONG MICHELLE LOOK AT MY MUSCLES I’M FLEXING
“Girl,” Michelle hissed, “be quiet.”
I can’t help it. I LOVE THE GYM. LOOK AT THIS CRAZED EXCITEMENT.
This is how Michelle felt.
But this is her pumping iron, REGARDLESS.
Home, shower, sleep. Wake up early. Take Millie to daycare. Michelle and I get started on demolishing this bathroom. Which– yeah. “Welcome to my shame,” Michelle intoned as she opened the door to show me what we were tackling.
Apparently a pipe burst some time back. I knew there was mold involved, so we bought face masks and gloves the night before. We couldn’t decide if the cabinet was solid enough to lift out, so we went to my parent’s house to get a sledgehammer. JUST IN CASE. You know.
Ben’s at my parent’s house. We walk into him changing Devin on the kitchen floor. “Hey,” he greets. “I didn’t know you guys were coming over.” To Baby D: “Show them your tats, D.”
Devin shows us some temporary tattoos on his arms and legs. “Daddy,” he tells us. Ben, with all his neck and arm and chest tattoos, grins.
Ben: Becca, did I tell you I’m buying a gun?
Becca: I heard. A good deal, right?
Ben: Yeah, believe it.
When he stands up, we notice some fresh cuts, and Ben launches into a story about how he got into a fight with eight guys the night before– “Outside Brittany’s,” he says, and Michelle gasps: “THAT PLACE IS LIKE A JAIL.” Why would you go there? she continues, baffled. Why would ANYONE GO THERE? People who hate their lives show up just to stab other people, she tells me. I have never seen or heard of Brittany’s. Later, when I ask various friends and family members, they all side-eye me. The fourth ring of hell, you mean?
We talk about going out for drinks later with Auds. Does he want to join? Maybe, he says. We tell him we’re thinking of Bungalow Ale House. “I can’t go there,” he said. “I’m banned.” Before we ask: “For fighting.”
Oh, Ben. Heh.
He IS awesome, though, and gets us the sledgehammer from the shed, and shows us how to use it. He even asks if we’ve used a sledgehammer before he gives us the lesson. Which is nice. Because it’s obvious we haven’t. “You sure you can lift this?” he teases me. “It’s like forty pounds.”
“Have you seen my muscles?” I answer. “They’re tiny but hard.”
I show him my arm. Ben frowns, and then reaches over. I watch in surprise as he lifts up my shirt to stare at my almost two-pack. “What,” he says, sounding impressed. “You’re in crucial shape, Becca!”
This compliment OWNED MY LIFE. It was something I never thought I wanted to hear until I heard it. Especially coming from my brother, who is a natural athlete. It was really– like, you think as a woman you want to hear you’re beautiful, hot, sexy, whatever, like– OTHER body appreciations– not from your brother, obviously, heh, but still– but there was something about being in CRUCIAL SHAPE and the way he said it that meant, yeah, I was strong and able, and I could handle this sledgehammer. And it meant so much more to me that my brother, the athlete, thought of me in some way as a physical equal than a hundred guys thinking I looked cute in a bikini.
Get the sledgehammer, go home. Suit up.
Yeah, that’s a Slim Jim shirt. It’s Shell’s. And she wrote EAT ME on it.
Shelly and I are both enthusiastic about this project, despite never doing anything remotely close to it before. We’ve watched HGTV. We also watched a short how-to video online. So, we’re pretty sure we got this.
Turns out: it was not delusions of grandeur. We actually had it.
Pried the counter off.
The old cabinet had a back piece, and it only had holes drilled for the pipes. We decided to cut around the pipes, take the cabinet out, then break the remaining piece by hand.
HOW BADASS ARE WE!
It turned out the mold was only on the paper of the drywall, nowhere else. So we peeled it all off, bagged it, and sanded the remaining portion.
Our next issue was the mirror. When Chris measured the cabinet, he didn’t realize the vanity top had no back lip. The new vanity top did. We needed to move the mirror. It was glued to the wall. In the center.
Michelle and I consulted the Internet about what to do. I’ll save you a lot of listening and me a lot of typing by saying we went to Home Depot to try to do what the Internet told us, and it didn’t work. Melissa had stopped by with her super cute baby daughter, Ellie–
– and came home with us while we made a new plan.
New plan: sledgehammer.
I begged to be the one to do it. Michelle said okay. She taped the mirror up, to keep the glass shards from flying everywhere.
Chris, Shelly, Melissa, and baby Ellie stayed in the basement and listened while I took a whack at it. Literally.
Nothing. “Are you sure you’re doing it hard enough?” Shelly called.
“DEFINITELY,” I called back. “Unless you want me to actually break the wall.”
Me: “Okay. I’ll try again.”
Finally, Shelly peeked her head in to watch, and agreed I was doing a good job hitting it. “Stop the sledgehammer,” she said. “Just try using a flathead and a hammer, like, to chisel it.”
“Okay,” I said.
BANG BANG BANG.
Me: “Not cracking. Not even chipping.”
Michelle comes into the bathroom and goes, “Maybe we can just try chiseling the glue off again,” and I say I want to do it, because I like projects. She obliges. I get the flathead wedged behind the mirror, and give it a few taps, and around the fourth, the mirror shifts and falls forward. I catch it. I’m so proud.
“I got it!” I announce, and we all cheer.
The rest of the day is more sanding and scrubbing and painting.
You have never met two women more proud of themselves. We were all, Did you SEE how we handled that business? and she’s like, That business? HANDLED, and I was like, If you want your business handled, WE’LL DO IT. Michelle: “God, Becca. You sound gross again.”
Also. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this. Right around this time, after the painting but before the new cabinet was in, Michelle asked me to let the dog out. I said okay. I called Ruby down, and let her out. Three minutes later, Melissa said, “Where’s Ruby?”
“What do you mean?” Shell asked.
Melissa: “How long does she go out for?”
Michelle: “SHE’S OUTSIDE?!?”
Shelly looks at me, and I’m freaked out too. “You told me to let her out!” I gasp, and she said, “Let her out, after you put a leash on her! You need to leash her or she’ll run away!” I’m all, “OH MY GOD, I DIDN’T KNOW! I’M SO SORRY!” (We let Lola out all the time in the backyard. She just goes, and comes back. Ruby is super sedate and well-behaved, so I assumed the deal was the same.)
Michelle starts swearing a blue streak and runs outside in the pouring rain, screaming RUBY! up and down the backyards, and I run out in the rain, too, going the other way. I feel HORRIBLE. I’m running through these backyards and streets, imagining Ruby bloodied in a road somewhere. This is awful in every imaginable way. Losing a pet right now is the LAST THING IN THE WORLD Michelle needs.
But we find her, thank God, or rather Michelle finds her. She was two blocks away, and tried to make a break for it when she saw Shelly. Shelly was not having that. Chased her down, dragged her back. We meet at home. Everyone’s soaked. Mood temporarily ruined. (Except Ruby, who thought the whole thing was the grandest adventure ever.)
(Two minutes later, I get an email from Addie’s teacher on my cell phone. Addie had her star moved for not following directions. Twice. I don’t know what the star moving means, but I can tell by the tone: not good. Also: my parenting is being judged.)
Boo, and sigh. Decide to call it a day. Say goodbye to Melissa. Shower. Change. Cuddle my favorite baby.
Auds meets us at Michelle’s, and we all drive to the restaurant Ben is banned from. It’s pouring in thick, loud sheets. We’re soaked all over again.
Eat eat eat eat eat.
Gossip, too, but it’s mostly about the private business. Audrey is next to me, and adorable. At one point she talks about missing people. “I just miss everyone now,” she sighs. “Tony. My sister. My friends. I miss people so much more than I used to.”
“Girl,” I say. All sympathy. “I know. The other day I was just brushing my teeth before bed and thought, I’m really lonely. And I just started crying in the bathroom.”
“I cried in the bathroom, too,” Audrey said super matter-of-factly, and she looks at me with those brown eyes and I love her love her love her.
I squeeze her arm or shoulder or knee like ten times during the night. It’s probably weird, but. Heh. I can’t help it.
Pay. Drive home in the rain. Audrey takes off shortly thereafter, since she has work in the morning. Michelle and Chris have to have a Private Talk, so I go upstairs to call Jason and catch up. He tells me about a night terror Eli had, which wasn’t really a night terror so much as Elias waking up at 3 in the morning and walking through the house screaming WHERE IS EVERYONE? and wandering into Addie’s room, shouting at the foot of her bed: ARE YOU AWAKE, ADDIE? Jason said he stumbled in, bleary-eyed: “What are you doing, Elias?”
Elias: “… I was really scared. And lonely.”
Addie yawned happily. “I’m awake now!” she chirped. “Let’s play!”
Jason was like NO EVERYONE IS BACK IN BED I CAN’T WITH THIS. Think J much preferred my sobbing-into-a-toothbrush approach to loneliness. Heh.
Go downstairs as the Private Talk breaks. Say goodnight to Shell. Back to bed. Sleep. Wake up to storming. Of course. Stare out the window from Michelle’s futon, watching the gray sky move behind water droplets.
She comes in. We talk, briefly. We feed Millie, and leave her with a half-asleep Chris. Go for a several mile walk. It’s a really nice send-off, since I was stuck in the car for four hours afterward.
Say goodbye. Gas up. Put in three CDs worth of “Appaloosa” on audio disc. I learned my lesson with that trash novel– stick to westerns.
Listen to a gravelly narrator expound on fear and law and men and love on the wide plains as I drive home.
And then I’m back in North Carolina, and it welcomes me with blue skies and bright sunshine. 88 degrees and perfect. Then, my town. Then, my street. Jason is waiting for me in the driveway. The house is so clean, and it smells like pumpkin spice candles and air freshener. I wander around, overcome, and J says he washed the sheets and a load of towels so I can have a nice bath and a clean bed. “You’re wonderful,” I marvel. He is. Then: “I love you. I love all of this. I’m– I’m just so happy to be here.”
I can’t remember meaning anything more in years. And I’m in such a great mood that I don’t even care when he laughs at me during my retelling of events, when I get to the part about being SO STRONG and in CRUCIAL SHAPE, and I pause the story to try and open a Diet Pepsi bottle. And can’t. “This doesn’t count,” I inform him as he keeps laughing. “AND I’ll get it, you just wait.”
I do. A few struggling minutes later.