Heavy Rain - Madison & Ethan

LJ Idol - Friends & Rivals - Week 4

"We All Have The Movie. The One We're Supposed to Hate. Talk About... In Depth. Spoil it and explain WHY you love it despite mostly everyone else."

AKA: writing creative nonfiction is therapeutic, but it hurts my heart

My knees creak as I kneel on the dusty carpet of the living room, peering half-interestedly at the laptop screen as he fumbles with an HDMI cable, connecting it to the bigger television.

"I want you to watch this movie with me." My eyebrow quirk up as I look at the title, and glance from the laptop screen to his grinning face, beaming, a 26 year old cherub with deep-set dimples and an unruly brown crew cut that the littlest of Little Rascals would envy.

"Demolition Man? I've never even heard of it," I protest flatly. We have just seen Jurassic Park, and I wanted to see the sequel. "Why do you want to watch this?" The dimples never vanish, but the smile leaves his eyes. I squeeze his shoulder. The relationship is just four or five months old, everyone is still in the honeymoon phase of making perfect effort one hundred percent of the time. "Lemme go pee."

When the ending credits finish rolling, I'm leaned forward on the sofa, my elbows divoting my knees. I turn my head to look at him and catch him quickly looking away - the telltale sign of someone more focused on watching your reaction to something than watching the film or show or YouTube video itself.

"That was awesome." I say, enthusiasm pressing on my body's seams like a fire hydrant, bound to burst. "We have to watch it again." I lean back into the circle of his arms and feel him press a kiss to my temple.

"Of course."

The next time we watch it, we are prepared. The relationship is eight or nine months old, and we're sat on my sofa again, a twelve count box of Taco Bell tacos open and waiting on the coffee table. (six soft shell with mild sauce for myself, six hard shell with hot sauce for him). To watch this movie while not eating Taco Bell is a crime, we've decided, based on the overwhelming evidence shown in the film.

By the time the scenes even involving Taco Bell show up onscreen, the tacos are long-since gone and we are on opposite ends of the couch, laughing and repeating a couple of lines that we find the most funny. We follow each other around the tiny one-bedroom apartment, kicking in doors instead of opening them and bellowing "Phoenix!" at each other. There is a sense of best friend comraderie there, an omnipresent "I just want to make you laugh." We might be partners, but it feels deeper. He leans in like he is going to kiss me, and instead starts to sing the Green Giant jingle against my lips, buzzing like a hornet. I kick him beneath the table at Cheddar's cafe.

He comes home to find the DVD on the kitchen table at his new apartment a handful of months later, maybe a year and a half into the relationship. We have moved, 2 hours from home into separate apartments - we have keys to each other's place, but I've never felt as distant as I do now. I found it at the local new-and-used-nerd-shit store for $3 and could not pass up its pathetic appearance - the manufacturers didn't even care enough to give it a plastic case, it's just sheathed in cardboard. I get out my markers and make a coupon:
"Good for a free 12-count box of tacos from Taco Bell *
* - also a kiss"
I hide it inside the front cover of the DVD case. When he discovers it, I hear his proud laugh from the bathroom. I emerge and he wraps me up in his arms, pulling me to him. "Can I redeem the kiss now?" "Always."

Next time I don't even ask. I just show up at his doorstep in the rain, hair slicked back, a rapidly-softening box of tacos clutched in my hands. It's been nearly two years, and he answers the door distractedly, his phone in one hand. He takes in my wet-dog appearance, the tacos in my hand, and sighs. "Okay."

We watch the movie - he in his computer chair, me on the sofa, the box of tacos on a TV tray between us. We laugh in all the right places, but it feels hollow. I go to hug him when I'm getting up to leave - usually the time he would tell me to stay, come on, spend the night. But he presses a quick, distracted kiss into the hollow of my neck and says he'll talk to me tomorrow. That night I noticed the hickeys on his neck that he claimed were an allergic reaction. That night I believed him.

For Christmas that year my father gives me a huge Demolition Man poster - the glossy, hard plastic kind that Blockbuster and movie theaters posted outside on the lighted squares to showcase what films were playing. "I found it on eBay!" he proclaims proudly, and I hug him tighter than I previously knew possible to hug someone. I convince my boyfriend to stay home for a weekend to celebrate our second anniversary - a rarity these days, he always leaves on the weekends - and we go to Walmart, buying a huge poster frame. We hang it on the wall behind his kitchen table and when we fight, I look at it to remind myself that my family loves me.

"She's just a friend."
"Well then let me talk to her if she's just a friend. Why are you being so defensive?"
"You always blow shit out of proportion. And then you wonder why I don't wanna spend any time with you? Jesus Christ."

The glass of brandy smashes somewhere between Wesley Snipes' nose and the sullen eyebrows of Sylvester Stallone. "He didn't mean that," I whisper to Sly as I wipe up the mess. "he loves me. I know he does."

There is a point, nearly three years in, that I give up. I know he is cheating, and I just don't care any more - I love him, and I do not believe in leaving my partner because I believe it to be shameful. But one day, we break up because he loves the side chick too much and we split our things - clothes, DVDs, books, kitchen gadgets - under the watchful eye of Sylvester Stallone. I take my things away in the trunk of my car, and he cries so hard I hear his howls from the road as I fiddle with my keys - for a summer night, it is so cold. I am so focused on getting out that I forget the most important thing possible - the poster.

Over a year later I text him, ask if I could please have my poster back. He tells me no, he doesn't think it's fair to ask for something that I clearly gave to him so much later. I tell him the truth: my father's health is failing him, and this poster was a gift to me that I happened to hang in his apartment. That regardless of his feelings toward or about me, that poster would mean so much to me when my father is gone. I receive nothing but radio silence from my ex-best friend.

"Hey, look, they did a video about everything wrong with Demolition Man," I say to my new partner, feet curled up beneath me on the sofa, flipping through YouTube on the Roku.

When the 16 minute video is finished, I glance in my boyfriend's direction. He is smiling with his eyes, and I smile back.

"That's a weird movie." he says, shaking his head and fiddling with his phone. I stare at the screen for a few more beats before flipping to another video, something else mindless and funny to watch.

"Yeah," I say softly, "but I love it anyway."
  • Current Mood: annoyed annoyed
Garfield - stare

LJ Idol - Friends & Rivals - Week 2: Follow Me

"The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep." - Robert Frost

The fingers of trees scraped the top of his car, and an involuntary shiver flung itself up and down his spine - crescendo, decrescendo. From the backseat of his worn-out '94 Saturn, Tennyson began to growl faintly. Matthias cursed under his breath and slowly slid the car to a stop from its slow crawl, gravel softly crunching.

"How did we get so far into these woods?" he asked himself, picking up his phone from the center console and poking a few buttons, navigating menus in the effortless way only a millennial could. "I thought the cabin was near the outskirts." Tennyson let out another growl and stood up, poking his head between Matthias and his phone and letting a glob of drool dribble onto the screen.

"Come on, Tenny!" Matthias unlocked the doors and stood up, opening the backseat doors and letting the dog lumber out. "Go pee." he pointed into the woods and the St. Bernard huffed to himself, shuffling into the brush at the side of the gravel path. Matthias flipped through a few more phone screens and held it up, almost reverently, trying to get a signal. But it was no use: these woods were far from the beaten path, and though Matthias had a feeling he was nowhere near Cory's cabin, he couldn't get a damn signal to call him. He should have known printed directions or a paper map would have helped. All he knew was that it was somewhere in these woods, a cabin and an outhouse, with a New Orleans Saints flag hanging outside. Fuck.

"I guess we have to go back the way we came and see if we took the wrong side road," he muttered to himself, wrenching open the car door again. "Tennyson, come on!"

No response.


A faint "whuff" came from deeper into the brush, and a consistent thwack-thwack-thwack that sounded like the dog's massive tail whaling on a small sapling or tree. "Come, Tennyson, we have to go!"


Matthias sighed, stuck his phone in his pocket, re-tied his boot laces, pocketed his car keys, and slowly began to creep through the woods. Tennyson's tail kept thwacking against the trees and he followed the sound like a sonar, stumbling one way or the other. He pulled his phone out after a while, when it grew dark and there was no longer a discernible trail. Shining the light down illuminated the pine nettles and leaves that coated the ground, and he continued forward, pressing deeper and deeper into the woods.

The noise grew closer still, and Matthias came up over a small ridge to see the faintest, shadowy outline of his dog standing on the other side of a pond, wagging his tail, letting the silhouette of a man pet his head as he happily thudded his tail against a small pine sapling. Double fuck.

"Sir, I apologize! I hope he didn't corner you - sometimes he has trouble with personal space, he's still pretty young. Come on, you big galoot." Matthias beckoned to the dog with a hand outstretched, but it was like Tennyson didn't even hear him. The man kept caressing the dog's head, and though it was incredibly dark there was enough of a backlight for Matthias to notice the man silently lift his head, looking at him while still caressing the dog. He was wearing a larger-style fedora, it seemed - the kind the old morticians wore in Deadwood when he watched it, curled up on the sofa, Tennyson at his feet panting heavily.

"Sir. Can I please have my dog back?" Matthias set his jaw, took another step forward. He was maybe ten to twelve yards away from the man and if Tennyson wouldn't come to him, then he'd have to come to Tennyson. He couldn't see it, but he felt the man lock eyes with him. Thwack-thwack-thwack. Pet, pet, pet.

"Tennyson?" Nothing. Was he even there at all? Was he astral projecting, or dead? Matthias took another step forward and the man dropped his gaze to the dog, bending to whisper something in his ear. Tennyson's tail - a waving flag - immediately dropped to half-mast, and the man turned and began to walk away, his duster coat flapping behind him. This was the part where Tennyson should have come running, turned tail and run home. But the dog trotted after the man, like Matthias had never existed and these woods were his home now.

Infuriated, Matthias began to look for a route around the small pond but didn't seem to see any way out but through. He stepped into the mud on the banks and pressed forward, murmuring curse words under his breath. "Just wait until I Snapchat this," he muttered, angry and bitter. "You're never gonna hear the end of this, Tennyson."

When he reached the other side, he noticed what appeared to be a small, one-room cabin with a lamp or candle on the porch, flickering faintly. He heard the crunching of leaves as the shadowy man and Tennyson moved towards it, and Matthias took the opportunity to break into a run.

The man heard Matthias crashing through the underbrush and simply stopped at the front door to the cabin, folded his arms. Tennyson plopped right down at his feet, panting happily. As Matthias approached, he unfolded his arms and placed one hand gently on the dog's massive head. It was barely bright enough to see with this light source out here - what turned out to be a standard oil lamp. As his eyes adjusted to the light, Matthias saw it - a tattered New Orleans Saints flag, mounted to a post by the door.

"Where is Cory?" he shouted at the man, who folded his arms again in response. Matthias tried to make eye contact, but he couldn't sustain it - there seemed to be no pupils there, no iris - just white. All white. "What did you do with my friend?"

Matthias lurched forward, wrapping an arm around Tennyson. "We need to go call the police, Tenny. We have to go, now." The dog peered up at Matthias, tail not moving, like he was a total stranger to him but it was still pleasant to get the attention anyway.

The shadowy man turned to Matthias, adjusted the seat of his hat and leaned forward to Matthias's ear, a gesture far too intimate for the circumstances, a fifth grade girl telling a secret to her very best friend.

"Follow me." he whispered, and it was a snake's death rattle, the clicking of hollow bones, the whooshing noise of wind whipping through a cavern, the stillness during the first snow of the season. It was life and death and pain all rolled up into two little words, and he felt that same shiver again - crescendo, decrescendo - and suddenly ...

The shadowy man stood up, patted Tennyson's head again. He opened the door to the cabin and gestured inside, wordlessly. Matthias did as he was told.
  • Current Mood: cold cold
[pokemon - eevee - cartoon

LJ Idol: Friends & Rivals - Week 1 - Trust Everyone, but Cut the Cards

Twenty One

My grandfather taught me to count with a worn deck of playing cards. Smoothed over with time and endless flips end-over-end, the cards ran like rain out of a gutter across the lacquered table top, often skidding onto the floor. He would hold me on his lap with a weathered hand cinched around my tiny waist, the other hand flipping through the cards like it had a mind of its own.

"One," he'd say pointedly, flipping a card off the top of the deck and placing it face-up on the table.

"Two," I'd say, taking a card from his hand and placing it gingerly beside the first. On and on this would go, all the way to fifty two. We'd skim the deck and talk about colors (red and black), numbers (2 through 10), and the hierarchy of a king's court (I always said the queen should be the highest card of all). He taught me how to drive a tractor and a stick-shift, how to bargain at a rummage sale for the best price, and how to format a resume. But what I will always remember about my grandfather took place on his knee as a toddler, smelling the sweet-spicy swell of pipe tobacco, Old Spice and sweat as it crept out from his shirt.

My older brother, Jack, was less enthused with these games, preferring to sit in the living room and look at picture books, or play with Lego blocks. "That's a baby game, Margo," he'd say vehemently if I ever asked him to play a counting game with us, or Blackjack as I got older and learned to do basic addition. "Go play your baby game and let me stay here, I'm busy."

I'm busy.

His favorite phrase, excuse, two-word combination in the world. Help me with chores? Cut this tag out of my dress? Help make cookies for the school bake sale? "I'm busy, Margo."

So it shouldn't have stung so much when I called to let him know the bad news upon our grandfather's death and his greeting was "What do you want Margo? I'm busy." I swallowed the golf ball-sized lump in my throat, double swallowed, and my reply came out like a smoker with bronchitis, sickly and harsh:

"He's dead, Jack."

Dead air hung there in the space between us - I stood in stocking feet in the apartment I shared with two of my girlfriends, a Junior in college, two weeks before exams - and took the phone from my ear, making sure the call hadn't disconnected. But it hadn't.


"Okay, Margo."

"We need to go up there this weekend, help go through his things. With grandma gone, nobody else ..." I trailed off, mental images of straddling his lap on the riding lawnmower running through my mind like a sepia-toned movie reel.

"Okay, Margo. I have to go back to work." He was twenty three, very busy with his first job making $12 an hour right out of the gate, and had no time for small talk and pleasantries. I drove to my grandfather's home that night, fortified by a tall cup of black coffee and random bouts of tears to keep me alert.

I was knelt in front of the fireplace digging through boxes when Jack's shadow crept into the room before he did - tall, lean and full of nervous energy. I didn't bother to turn and speak to him, but instead motioned to the boxes and sideboard full of drawers across the room.

"Is there anything you want to keep? Otherwise toss it." I tried to keep the emotion from my voice, but I was almost positive it had betrayed me as I heard it quiver - I had run out of tears to cry by now.

I heard Jack cross the room to the sideboard and tug open a drawer, fluff a garbage bag open, and begin cramming old bills, weathered bank statements, little pieces of junk drawer detritus, inside. While soldiering through a stack of photos and deciding which to keep and scan and which to discard, I heard him straighten up quickly, and caught sight of him cramming something into his pocket out of the corner of my eye. I stood, knees creaking, and picked my way across the floor to where my brother stood, face a bit ashen.

"What did you find?" I asked, peering down at the sideboard, dragging my arm across the face and leaving a shooting star's path across my oily brow. "All I saw in there at a glance was just junk."

"Nothing important." Jack said hotly, turning back to the sideboard.

"What, Jack?" I pressed harder and he faced me again. I saw his jaw set, click into place.

"This. Are you happy now?" he said, and extracted a deck of world-weary playing cards from his pocket, holding them out to me in cupped palms. I felt the color drain from my face, and knew I must look absolutely ill.

"Those ..." I trailed off and my eyes worked their way to my brother's face. He locked gazes with me, his steely blue eyes narrowed, daring me to protest. "We used to play with those. Those should be mine."

"This is all I want, Margo. Now leave me alone so I can go through the rest of his trash." I felt my fists clench up as he shoved the deck of cards into his back pocket, turning to continue to go through the sideboard.

"This is not trash, it's his life. And those should be mine." I made a grab for the cards which were now poking out of his back pocket, taunting me. Jack pinwheeled around.

"Play you for it."

Without a word I plopped down on the ground cross-legged, and Jack followed suit. We cleared a space in the trash bags and scattered papers, sweeping away the dust. I sneezed twice in a row and Jack wrinkled his nose.

"Blackjack," I said. "That was our game once I was old enough to do math, he is on my side here. If I win this hand, you give me those damn cards." Jack shrugged and extracted the cards from his pocket, shuffling through them.

"Cut them?" he asked me, and I accepted the deck from his hands. It was warm, and the cards felt butter-soft under my fingertips. They bent to my will, shuffling and cutting, until I was satisfied and handed them back to my brother, who flipped two over in rapid succession. 7 of hearts, 9 of spades.

"Sixteen," Jack said, turning the deck over and over in his hand and laying down two more cards for the house: 3 of diamonds, 6 of spades. "And nine for the house." His eyes found their way to mine again, and his brow quirked up. "Hit?"

I did mental math, running through possiblities like a drill sargent. This should work. This had to work.

"Hit me."

Jack put down the next card and flipped it over, expressionless. 8 of hearts. 24. Bust.

My chest gave a heave and Jack scooped the cards up off the floor, neatly stacking them and squaring the deck, placing it gingerly back into the box and tucking the flap back down. He turned the box over and over in his hands, pensive. I felt bile rise in my throat, and stood, wobbling toward the door.

Jack's arm shot out past me, bracing himself against the door jam.

"House rules," he slipped the deck of cards into one of my hands and turned to go back into the living room. My ears were swollen with my own heartbeat's frantic thudding, but I knew I heard the next words clear as a bell: "and it's not such a baby game after all, Margo."

  • Current Mood: ditzy ditzy
[pokemon - eevee - cartoon

LJ Idol: Friends & Rivals - Week 0 - Introduction

This morning I managed to spill the seeds of 2 pomegranates we had painstakingly picked apart and put in the freezer two nights before all over the kitchen floor.

"I think I want to be a doctor," I told my grandmother at four years old, poking around in a fabric child's doctor bag I'd been given as a gift. "Oh, that would be great. Will you take care of me when I'm sick?" she asked me, grinning. I looked up at her, puzzled. "Well, yeah," I said, "if you pay me." Sorry, Gran.

I inherited my mother's sigh - an exasperated one-two-punch of a sigh that is not just a "ugh," but more of a "u-u-ughhhhhh," two sharp intakes of breath before the final shuddering sigh.

In third grade, I stole an orange bullfrog-shaped eraser from the book fair and was so racked with guilt that an hour later I "went to the bathroom," ran down the hall to the media center, fished it from my pocket and deposited it back in the bin before anyone else could see my secret shame.

You'll probably get a bunch of birthday presents from me because I buy them early, get too excited to hold onto them, and will inevitably give them to you early, forcing me to go buy you another one.

When I was nine years old, my father asked me while cooking our spaghetti dinner (one of two things he could cook - this and beef stroganoff so tough it hurt my teeth) how I would feel about having a sibling - my first and only. I gave it the briefest of thoughts before shrugging and saying, "Do I have to share my room?" When he told me no, I gave my approval for a sibling.  I was the first one she opened her eyes for, the one who taught her to crawl and who read her Goodnight Moon so many times I still have it memorized. (In the great green room there was a telephone, and a red balloon ...)

I buy a lot of lip balm and lotion, and routinely forget to apply either. I am obsessed with wax melts and candles and nail polish. If in our dystopian future every unread book you own was worth $1,000 I would be able to live comfortably for several years. I am allergic to almost every deodorant I have ever applied except only two scents of one particular brand. If you leave me alone with a 5 pound bag of Sour Patch Kids, I'll eat them until my tongue starts to bleed.

I remember sitting in my grandfather's backseat around age ten or eleven, when he cupped my chin in his hand and informed me that I was getting a double chin. "Those are for fat people," I remember thinking, bewildered. I have been fighting the ghosts of stress eating for years, and have lost 54 lbs since June of this year. I have a long way to go, but I think my grandfather would be proud to know my once-triple chin is now almost just one, regular chin. Several weeks ago I shrieked to my boyfriend, "I have a collar bone now!" - these discoveries are things you might take for granted. Enjoy the swell of your hip bones, sometimes they disappear.

Somehow I managed to never see some basic films growing up: the 1989 Batman, any Matrix movie. No Star Wars, no Lord of the Rings, no James Bond or any super hero movie. I am currently listening to The Shining on tape while commuting to and from work and my absolute innocence at the world of the book has bewildered a few people - but all I know is REDRUM and that gif of Jack Nicholson popping through the wall with an axe because it's been mutated so many times with so many different faces plastered over it.

I was obsessed with the Titanic in the 90s before it was cool to be obsessed with the Titanic. I like professional wrestling more than most over-educated women do - it's one of the only things my father and I have created a shared bond about, but sometimes I am listening to the classic rock station in my car, "American Pie" comes on, and suddenly I'm eight years old again, sitting in the front seat of his cherry red two-door car and listening to my father exaggeratedly belt the chorus as he keeps time with the rhythm on my thigh: "This'll be the day that I die." I never once asked him what a levy was, even though I wanted to know quite badly, because I was too enamored with the moment to care.

I'm Patricia, I'm 26 years old, and I can't wait to share this next mini-season of therealljidol with you.
  • Current Mood: contemplative contemplative
HiH - Gryffindor name

LJ Idol: Season Of (dis?)Intent

I don't remember why I fell off the LJ Idol train last time: I think it had something to do with my nasty breakup and processing it and just plain being unable to keep up. But I love participating in these things, and look forward to playing again.

  • Current Mood: hopeful hopeful
comics - h&ah - fattie

LJ Idol - Season 9 - Week 19 - Kindling

My name is Patricia, I am 25 years old, and I am obese.

There are many things wrong with the above sentence, though in all practicality they fall into the second two-thirds of it. (While my first name is not the most perfect, I've grown into it). Obese at 25? Obese at all? These are both truths, and - sad to say - it's taken me a long time to come to terms with this.

I've eaten my feelings most of my life from puberty on, but while my classmates shed the baby weight they packed on in their pre-adolescent years, mine never did go away. My mother gave birth to my sister when I was almost ten years old, and I went from spending most days at my grandparents' house running around and eating whole, clean foods to staying at home with "the baby," taking care of her and eating whatever prepackaged crap was in the pantry.

Then of course you go to school, notice how much bigger than all the other kids you are, feel poorly, and go home where there is a big box of macaroni and cheese with your name on it. Food becomes a source of comfort, and a surrogate parent. Carbohydrates and sodium make you feel warm and sleepy, safe. It's easy to keep shoveling food in your mouth when it's a constant, and a reward: good report card, birthday - society celebrates it all with a meal out, a cake or with treats and sweets.

Going away to college, most students pack on the Freshman 15. However, my nutrition habits from high school were not what everyone else's were, and so I put on the Freshman 15 and kept adding the pounds on. The allure of a college cafeteria with a buffet full of pizza and burgers was simply too much for someone with no self control and depression, and it started to show. I'm not sure how much weight I put on in college, but I know it was at least 50-80 pounds between 2007 and 2011.  Then my fiance and I broke up and I packed on some more weight, living alone. See, no matter how many good nutritional options you're shown as a twenty-something, what's imprinted on you from your youth is going to be what sticks out when you're in the grocery store and not thinking, blindly shopping.

Bad day at work? Bag of chips. A typical drive-through order? 2 double cheeseburgers, an apple pie, a medium fry and some Diet Coke. (my father has diabetes, so the one thing I've got going for me is an ingrained dislike of regular soda). And that was a late night snack, not even a meal. I'd become disgusted quickly as if awakening from a trance and realizing what I had just eaten, like a spooked horse, and rebel against the emotions welling in me by stuffing them down with more food. Let's go get a Taco Bell box as an appetizer, eat an entire medium pizza for dinner.

And then, after graduate school, little things began to pop up in my day-to-day life as I began a career at 23.

Can't quite fit into the booth at the restaurant?


Have a child ask you about the baby in your tummy?

Dry wood chips.

Notice that you can't see your feet any more, even if you kind of lean back?

Dryer lint.

Being nothing but ashamed and chastened that you can only wear this bedazzled, sequin-encrusted cardigan from Wal-Mart because it's all that will fit over your breasts?

Flint and steel.

And then people in my life started to move, to change: friends online and off began to diet, to calorie count - Weight Watchers, pilates, Zumba, P90X. It's vogue now to work out and post about it on your Instagram account. And then one day last week, my father emailed me an offer, clearly wanting so badly for me to not wind up in the same shape as himself and my mother: $5 per pound lost by Christmas.

A heaping gallon of lighter fluid.

At the end of the day, you can walk down the road, parallel to the store window displays and avoid looking at your reflection, too caught up in other things. At some point, though, there is going to be a crosswalk where you can either stop and look down at yourself, or you can keep walking into traffic and wonder why the cars continue to ram you.

I have chosen to finally stop walking into traffic.


I know this is not an easy undertaking, and in fact I've stopped and started diets so many times it's unreal. However what I've noticed, what I've read and seen and felt and somehow managed to innately grasp, is that this is not a diet - it's a lifestyle change. It's less about kale smoothies and yoga and more about being aware of what my body wants and needs, knowing that it is hungry or thirsty and probably not in the mood for another damn cheeseburger. It's about finding things to do that aren't stuffing your face in order to find peace, and I think that's the hardest thing for me. Alone at night in bed, all you want sometimes is comfort and if you can't get that from another person ... well, you can get it from your friends Ben & Jerry.

But here's the thing: cottage cheese and blueberries are delicious. An entire sweet potato? Negligible calories compared to a salty, fried mound of french fries. Bananas and yogurt? Way more filling than two sausage biscuits (my usual breakfast order). My body craves salads, craves big bottles of water and a rainbow of fruits. I packed it so full of things that, for so long, were comforting that I had forgotten a cardinal rule: food can be addictive, too. But I can change - we all can change.

My name is Patricia, I am 25 years old, I am obese, and I am on fire.

(I have a MyFitnessPal account and a Tumblr I am chronicling my weight loss with if anyone would like to be friends! Thank you for reading, this is probably the hardest LJ Idol entry I've ever had to write.)
  • Current Mood: embarrassed embarrassed
writing - short story

LJ Idol - Season 9 - Week 18 - Disinformation

His name was Russell, all of the televisions said. Well, maybe it had been, once.

Rebecca tucked one leg underneath her on the sofa and adjusted her weight, gnawing on her bottom lip as the news came back from commercial. Anxiously, she twisted her wedding band around her finger and let her gaze flit around her living room: warm cinnamon scents drifting from the wax burner across the room, soft lights of the Christmas tree glittered behind the sofa. Her husband rustled through the adjoining kitchen, trying to find a snack to eat before they went to bed.

"Tim, it's starting again," she said, her voice so hoarse she had to clear her throat and say it again. "The news, Tim, it'll be back soon."

His name had been Russell, still was Russell, and he was Up To No Good.

"I'm coming, hold on. Where are the pickles?" Rebecca wrinkled her nose, knowing he was referring to bread and butter pickles, the scourge of the earth. A commercial of a dancing mattress left the screen, and the news was back. She felt fear begin to snake its way in through her gaping mouth, twisting its tendrils around her heart. "Tim!" she screeched. "Come on!"

Russell Langston was A Bad Man, and he was coming.

"Honey," Tim said softly, exasperation evident in his voice. "He's not coming here. They're going to catch him soon, tomorrow's Christmas. Look, let me make you a drink." He sat his sandwich down on the TV tray in front of Rebecca and turned to look at her. "What do you want, vodka cranberry? I can make you a martini?" Rebecca shook her head and turned the volume on the television up, utterly engrossed.

Russell Langston came into your house, came down your chimney, through your window, your front door, and slew your children as they slept, slipping out into the night with nary a trace.

"Authorities report no sighting of the Bethesda Santa so far today, and as we move into the night, we urge you to remain cautiously optimistic. Please close your chimney flues, ensure that all doors and windows are locked tight, and have a merry Christmas, folks." The newscast faded out and Tim settled into his recliner beside the sofa, bridging the gap between their seats with his hand and giving Rebecca's fingers a squeeze.

"He's not coming, baby, I promise. Do you want to get the presents for Bethany out? I'll go get my tool kit. Come on." He took a bite of his sandwich and winced a little, the tone of his words was too bright under the circumstances. Nevertheless, he took a swig of his beer and wandered off down the hallway, triple-checking the doors (locked) and going on to be sure that their daughter was still asleep, snug in her bed (she was).

"We've got that ride-on pony," Rebecca said faintly, standing up and stretching out her back. She had been glued to the television since getting home from work at 6 pm, and really didn't want to move at all. She would not feel safe until dawn came and Bethany jumped on their bed at 5:30 in the morning, a redheaded firecracker in the dark bedroom. A ray of light. Rebecca smiled to herself, and went to get the gifts out of the closet.

Russell Langston didn't have time for small potatoes - he had to go out with a bang, he sensed he did not have much time left.

Forty five minutes later, Rebecca felt more relaxed, having been coaxed into a drink by her watchful husband. She downed her third vodka cranberry and roared with laughter at a lewd joke Tim had made, throwing her head back as she unscrewed a plastic piece from the back of a princess castle to insert the batteries. She wiped tears from her eyes and was breathing so hard that she didn't hear the scuffling on the roof.

But Tim did.

Russell Langston was A Bad Man, and he was here.

Tim stumbled to stand up on numb feed, brushing the doll hair from his knees. "I'm gonna go check on Bethy one more time." he said quickly. "I've gotta pee, too." Rebecca nodded absently, beginning to artfully arrange the princess castle and its contents underneath the tree to achieve the most dramatic Christmas morning effect. Tim eased open his daughter's bedroom door and felt his breath catch: she was sitting bolt-upright in bed, clutching a doll from that Frozen movie - Layla or something - to her chest, eyes dewy with sleep.

"What's that?" she said softly, eyes searching the roof overhead. She squinted at the clock beside her bed and looked back at her father. "It's eleven-firty, it's not time to get up yet!" Tim nodded and crossed to his daughter's side, holding her tightly to his chest and reaching into his pocket with his free hand, extracting his phone. He dialed 911 - at least, what he hoped was 911, it was hard to know for certain on these newfangled smart phones, and waited. He heard a faint "911, what's your emergency?" and felt his chest constrict.

"What's on the roof, daddy?" Bethany asked again, persistent. I don't know, I don't want to know, Tim wanted to say. He held the phone to his free ear and murmured pointedly, "I think it's Santa Claus on our roof."

Russell Langston looked nothing like Santa Claus.

"On our way, sir," the dispatcher said. "I'll stay on the line until they arrive." Tim nodded - didn't know why he was nodding at a phone - and set the telephone down beside the bed, holding his little girl to him with two hands now.

"It's just Santa Claus," he repeated, trying in vain to laugh or smile. "That's all! He's waiting to come down our chimney, but he can't until you're asleep, silly." Bethany liked that, giggling and holding her doll tighter as her father let her go. "So you'd better go to sleep!" his threat was empty, but nevertheless, Bethany laid back down, grinning from ear to ear.

"I love you, daddy," she murmured into her pillow.

"I love you too," Tim said softly, smoothing her hair away from her face and standing, scooping up the cell phone. The clambering on the roof had faded moments ago, and that meant either there was nothing there, it was too late, or Russell Langston was biding his time.

Russell Langston never bode his time. He crouched on the roof of the single-story house, precariously watching the street below and the skyline for signs of movement. These people had a child, he could tell - the lawn was absolutely littered with the detritus of having a child and a yard to put it in. He felt his lips curling in protest. Children were filthy - it was best to be rid of them altogether.

Tim walked back into the living room, trying to remain calm. Rebecca peered up at him through a curtain of hair, grinning, and Tim felt his news catch in his throat - he couldn't tell her about the noises now, especially that he wasn't hearing them. It was better for the police to come, scare off the mutant squirrel or whatever was on their roof. Fuck, maybe it was a reindeer after all. He knelt in the packaging and began to undo twist ties on a package of make-believe food.

A police car crept down the road toward Tim and Rebecca's home, and Russell Langston froze in place, flattening himself against the roof.

"What was that?" Rebecca heard the solid thump on top of their house and looked up again, not for the first time today, to see where the chimney was. Tim shrugged noncommittally, reaching up to eat a bite of his long-forgotten sandwich from the TV tray.

"Probably some snow," he said. "You know it falls off those trees in those big ol' chunks."

Rebecca accepted that, nodded, and went back to putting the princess's dress clothes on so she could look beautiful for the ball.

The police car stopped outside, its lights off. It waited. Russell Langston cursed under his breath, made his way flat-bellied across the roof to the other side, began his descent into the backyard. He'd have to lay low tonight. The officer got out of the car and began to move to circle the house.

"I'm gonna go to bed," Rebecca stood and stretched, cracking her knuckles. "You should too, Santa Claus." she winked at her husband and reached for his hand. He accepted it and let her tug him to a standing position. Rebecca went off to the bathroom to wash her face, and Tim brushed back the curtains in the living room, a big ball of packaging and tape wrapped up under his arm. The police car drifted past in the night, and Tim sighed with relief he didn't know he'd had welled up inside of him.

Russell Langston moved along.

  • Current Mood: discontent discontent

LJ Idol - Season 9 - Week 17 - "Scare Quotes"

"Alone" is a word that, by itself, is not necessarily scary. I have seen people gutted at the thought of spending a week without their partner, absolutely aimless, while others sigh with relief and think of bubble baths and bottles of wine in front of their televisions. To a great many, "alone" is just as terrifying as "shark attack" and "tornado watch," and I suppose that this - in and of itself - is its own kind of scare quote.

There is something prevalent in our society that pushes against being alone. Alone is sad, it says. Alone is pathetic, alone is you and your knitting and 50 cats. (which isn't really alone, is it? but I digress). Nobody should want to be alone, the hivemind thinks - alone is desperation and reeks of depression, takeout containers and pizza boxes. We see "alone," and we think "unattached." We think, "singular. free. unadorned, unburdened." This could be true, and this could also be as far from the truth as you can muster. Either way, "alone" has responsibility: superheroes stand alone in the face of terror and evil, one doctor can make the difference for countless lives. Alone has such power - and maybe that's what is so jarring.

In an undergraduate rhetoric class, we were introduced to the concepts of "god terms" and "devil terms." These are words and phrases that - no matter how much we struggle against them - will always be associated either overwhelmingly positively or negatively in our society. Even the term "rhetoric," for instance, is a devil term - we hear it and automatically assume that politician is sleezy: "he's spewing this rhetoric ..." Is "rhetoric" a damning word? Not at all, it's simply an art of finding the means of persuasion in any situation - something everyone should be at least slightly practiced in doing.

"Alone" and its cousin "lonely" are devil terms - rarely does someone say "I live alone" without someone saying something pitying. "Doesn't it ever get lonely?" or even jokes about where your cat might be, if you're going to ever get another one. We can't seem to accept as a society that some people are alone and deftly, adoringly proud of it. For some reason it bothers us that we can't pigeonhole everyone into a shiny box, partner everyone off and send them on their way. The reality is that relationships falter every day, that there will never be a society where everyone has a "someone," but that is okay. And as much as we might not like to think about it or admit it, we're all alone for those last few steps anyway.

I challenge us as a society to reclaim "alone." Let "alone" depict a vista, a place where it's just you and nature and at that moment there is not another soul in the world. Let "alone" be the freeing light of 4:59 pm on a Friday after a busy work day, when you're in your car driving home and ecstatic about the free time ahead for the weekend. Let's make "alone" the apex, the vista - let "alone" represent freedom of expression, of choice - we might not all choose to be alone, but we can all choose what to do when alone. Let's make "alone" a time of peace and quiet, of reflection and freedom.

After all, only you can prevent forest fires.
  • Current Mood: anxious anxious
writing - short story

LJ Idol - Season 9 - Week 16 - A Terrible Beauty Has Been Born

I can't remember a time when there wasn't a worm.

The colorful picture books they showed us in preschool depicted a friendly, cherubic worm - huge in stature and size - orbiting vivid planets and grinning from what we guessed were his ears.

"This is the space worm!" the teacher, our mother, our father, would say. "His name is Fafnir, and he's a very helpful worm!"

We grew worms in the dirt outside, watched them grow and develop and wriggle out their little lives. We vivisected them, drew them, made stuffed ones from our fathers' tube socks.

"See how he lives up in space?" here they would gesture to the ceiling, to the sky, to the telescope. "He is like a biiiiiiiig bus that will move us from planet to planet! But he is not big enough yet, he is still growing. Science made him so that he will grow up big and strong! And then one day there will be all kinds of space worms!"

We drew orbits on construction paper with glitter glue, in the playground sand with sticks, in the steamy warmth of our soup bowls with our spoons.

"This is an orbit, and this is what Fafnir uses as his race track. See how things move in this big ol' smooshed circle all on their own?" (we'd trace the elliptical orbit shape dutifully in the air with our index fingers, following along). "That's an orbit, and there are lots and lots of them! He uses this orbit right now, around and around the sun, but someday we might have more worms like Fafnir, and they'll go all around the galaxy!"

I was told that one day, a long time ago, people did not believe in Science, but gods and deities.

"What's that, mom?" I asked one day in my parents' bedroom, sitting at the foot of their bed and eating pretzel sticks while my mother brushed my hair out of my face and struggled to bind it in a ponytail. On the television, there was a man kneeling in front of a big wooden T, and he seemed really upset about it. I felt concerned, and dropped my pretzel back into its bowl. "Why is that man so sad at that letter T?"

My father grunted a laugh and stood up from the bed, shuffling into the bathroom and stretching, his bones creaking their familiar dad-symphony. I felt my mother hiss in a short breath, her hands stilling in my hair ever so briefly before she resumed brushing it.

"Well, one time, many years ago, people didn't think Science was real. They thought that once upon a time, there was an old, old man called God who created everything we have here on Earth, and then he went away. He came back as a baby named Jesus, and Jesus lived for a long time before the people who did not like him very much killed him. A lot of people thought that Jesus was a god-"

"Like Science?" My brow wrinkled, and my mother smoothed it out with the side of her hand.

"Yes, like Science. They worshiped Jesus because they thought that Jesus was a god, and when the people killed him, they stuck him to this big ol' cross - sort of like a T, you're right."

"Like a cork board?" That was a funny picture. I bit my pretzel stick.

"Yes, Reagan, like a cork board. So for a long, long time after he died, people would carry around these big crosses, and they made them into jewelry and clothing and sometimes they all got together in a big building that was dedicated to Jesus and to crosses, and they would sing songs and worship him."

"But mom, that doesn't help him. What helps Science is research and math and exploring!"

"I know, baby, but they didn't know that then. Look how far we've come now!" she pointed at the magazine on the side table, the worm Fafnir being prepared for orbit on the front cover. "Soon we'll be able to go wherever we want to go because of Science and because of great worms like Fafnir. Just you wait."

So we waited.

And one day, suddenly, Fafnir was not such a cute cartoon image any more.

"He could come out of the toilet and eat your ass!" exclaimed Thomas Duvall in tenth grade math class one day. Brittany Welsh squealed in protest and threw her pen at him, and I continued to covertly draw an image of Fafnir on my desk with a pencil (pencils were banned - there were no mistakes in Science, so there was no reason to erase anything), but they were the best instruments to use to draw, and I loved to draw. I was going to go to college to be an engineer, I'd decided years before, so I needed all the practice I could get. But drawing was not Science - it had rounded edges and gentle slopes, it was not sharp and edgy like Science, not at all. So I continued to draw in silence, biding my time until graduation.

"He cannot do that, Mr. Duvall," Dr. Fern chided from the front of the room where he was writing trigonometry equations out. "He is too large now, remember? No matter how unstable Fafnir has gotten, he is far too large to fit in your - or anyone's - toilet." A slew of giggles flew through the room at the word "toilet," and it was quickly silenced by a stern glance from Dr. Fern. "What we need to do, class, is help Science to discover a way to tame Fafnir, not make everyone afraid of him."

"I thought we were going to train him," Brittany Welsh said to her lap, her fingers twined together, teeth clamped down on her lip with anxiety. "I thought he was going to be trained and then he'd do what we wanted."


"Well, Ms. Welsh," said Dr. Fern slowly. "sometimes Science is overeager, but Science is never wrong. Don't you imply that, do you understand?"

Badmouthing Science was a fate worse than death, and Brittany seemed to understand that as she nodded grimly and went back to picking at her cuticles.

One day, they couldn't find Fafnir any more. He wasn't where he was supposed to be, wasn't circling the earth and eating space debris. He had to be somewhere, people cried - we can't just lose a giant space worm. But it looks like he outgrew even Science's plans for him, and once they found him again, they couldn't keep him there. Nothing, not even our orbit, could contain Fafnir.

He could be anywhere now, I realize, sitting at my drafting table and picking pieces of pretzel out of the bag beside me. I squinted out my window into the inky night sky, as if I could see the silhouette of a massive, angry worm cross my path.

We dissuade our children from pursuing space travel now, we caution them against ever wanting to go into orbit or be an astronaut. Because Fafnir the worm is still out there, and he is unhappy. But we can't find him, and we can't stop him. I bow my head as I remember my mother, who was sent to capture Fafnir years ago. She never came home. I still remember that warm summer night sitting on her bed, talking about how wonderful Fafnir was, how he would save us all. Maybe he didn't - maybe he did, in a weird way. There's more of a sense of community now than ever before.

I rub out a spot on my schematics with my pencil eraser, still hiding it in my lap as if it's contraband, a secret treasure. Maybe Fafnir was not right at all - a great, wonderful, terrible worm in space doesn't seem very natural. But it had to be right, because it was created by Science.

And Science is never, ever wrong.

  • Current Mood: discontent discontent