how i spent my 2003

by nature, a parking space allows one to keep one’s car in a relatively safe and convenient place, a place from which he or she can remove said car at will. if you have parked behind me, thereby blocking me into my parking space, you have rendered me unable to remove my car at will. therefore, since we live in houston and nobody walks, i am unable to go anywhere at all…

this failed experiment made me wish for more people who appreciate the bizarre. it made me wish for nicer people in my apartment. it made me wish fucking asshole would move away. mostly, though, it made me miss the guy who lived across the hall from me before garbage girlfriend moved in. his name was fiesta mike, he worked at a tattoo parlor, he drove an orange dick tracy car, and he had a bumper sticker on his door that said, “vegetables aren’t food. vegetables are what food eats.” …

anyway, i made a small x-files page. it’s mostly a tribute to darin morgan’s writing on the show, though i’ve included a few other good episodes as well. oddly enough i find my x-files page rather embarrassing, as though because i created it i’ve now become everything that is stupid, repetitive, and useless about the internet. i am those sites with PHOTOS of ACTOR. i am SCRIPTS and SCREEN CAPTURES. i am DATABASE of how many times CHARACTER says WORD in EPISODE of SHOW…

there are other childhood things i remember about aunt joan–how old the elevator was in her apartment, how she kept all her things organized in little baskets, how she would sing parts of songs when they came up in conversation. how everything she said always seemed more interesting because she was saying it. how her hands were always soft and dry and papery like an old woman’s, even when i was little and she was in her thirties. how i always felt special when she asked me about school and my friends…

andy came back from his car. his bare feet worried me. i mean, he could cut himself on something and then get a floodwater disease and his feet would have to be amputated, which would mean he couldn’t play the drums anymore. “did you get all your stuff from the car?” i asked…

that, then, is why i can’t seem to finish the jail story. when i think about that night i picture your sleeping face, your bruised knees, you in the other squad car. i think about how i cried in the jail cell wondering if you were okay, thinking you hated me, knowing you’d never talk to me again. hearing your voice on the phone after i was released, i cried again with relief, and when i finally got to see you two days later you grabbed me and hugged me and wouldn’t let go. but now your drawer is empty and your stuff’s in a bag and i don’t want to think about it anymore…

particleboard particles

when i was six or seven years old my parents bought me my first set of bedroom furniture.  i’d never had real furniture before then–just my single bed, a little drawing desk, and a wooden doll cradle my dad made for me.  once i had a friend over who made me laugh so hard i wet my pants, and i couldn’t make it to the bathroom in time so i peed in the doll cradle.  i tried to explain to my angry mother that i’d done it to avoid the carpet, but i don’t think she understood.

but the furniture.  my new bedroom furniture consisted of a dresser with an attached mirror, a chest of drawers, a nightstand, a headboard, and a desk with bookshelves and a chair.  i was really excited to get all this new grown-up furniture, even though it was mostly particleboard with fake wood grain glued to the outside.  but i had a real desk!  with drawers for pencils and paper!  there were places for my books and clothes and necklaces and things, and a nightstand where i’d keep my very own alarm clock.

i had the same furniture three years later when we moved to a new house and i got a new bedroom.  i had the same furniture through junior high, through high school.  i had the same furniture when i was eighteen and hated college so much that i came home every weekend i could, and it was still there when i was twenty and came back home.  i moved it with me to my first apartment, and i moved it to this apartment, too.  well, the headboard was thrown out with the single bed, and the desk, useless to me now since it won’t fit my computer, serves as part of my mother’s doll shrine in my old room at my parents’ house.  but the rest of the furniture is still mine.  i’m a twenty-five-year-old waitress with a criminal record and i’ve had the same bedroom furniture since i was six.

looking at my furniture now, i can see the evidence of nineteen years of use.  i can see the nooks and crannies my mom would make me dust on saturdays and the greenish spot on the dresser where i spilled nail polish.  i know which drawer is a little rickety from the time i slammed it in frustration.  the most obvious evidence, though, is that every drawer is still lined with the care bears-themed wrapping paper my mom pasted in when i was six.  i haven’t ever taken it out for several reasons.  first of all, it seems like more trouble than it’s worth.  why would i bother to rip out all that perfectly good paper, rip out half the fake wood grain along with it, and then have to line the drawers with something else?  nobody ever sees it anyway.  second of all, i think it’s kind of cute.  mostly, though, the care bear paper has been there for so long i never even notice it anymore.

i noticed it, today, though.  today i took all your stuff out of what used to be your drawer in my bedroom dresser.  i took all your stuff out, all your underwear and socks and t-shirts and undershirts, and i put it all into a paper bag by the front door, and then your drawer was completely empty.  that’s when i saw the bottom.

nobody else ever had a drawer before you did.  when i cleared it out last year to make room for your stuff i didn’t know what i would do with my stuff.  now i don’t know what to do with the drawer.

that, then, is why i can’t seem to finish the jail story.  when i think about that night i picture your sleeping face, your bruised knees, you in the other squad car.  i think about how i cried in the jail cell wondering if you were okay, thinking you hated me, knowing you’d never talk to me again.  hearing your voice on the phone after i was released, i cried again with relief, and when i finally got to see you two days later you grabbed me and hugged me and wouldn’t let go.  but now your drawer is empty and your stuff’s in a bag and i don’t want to think about it anymore.


it should be noted that my criminal case has hereby been transferred to a Probation Officer for the Mentally Ill™.  when my old probation officer called me in from the waiting room, she sounded impatient and insensitive.  it was a nice change from her usual impatient, insensitive and venomous–more of an “Alison Headley!” and less of an “ALISON HEADLEY!!!”  my old probation officer is one of the most genuinely unfriendly people i’ve ever known.  she’s never introduced herself or said hello or goodbye to me.  if she saw me crossing the street, i bet she’d run over me with her car.  in my estimation, at least 85% of the things she’s said to me have started with, “do you understand that it is a condition of your probation that you” or “MISS HEADLEY you are required to” or “your next appointment will be scheduled at my convenience.”

this time she was different.  when i came in she said, “have a seat,” and if i’d had a seat already, i would have fallen out of my chair from shock.  she said other things, too, like “the bad news is that you’ll have to report again this month” and “don’t worry about your UA today” and “you can pay here or at your next appointment if you like.”  she ended our meeting with an utterly shocking “good luck, miss headley.”  apparently the feeble-minded warrant the pity.

at the new place the routine is the same.  i fill out the paperwork, sign in at the desk, and wait my turn to see the Probation Officer for the Mentally Ill™.  while i wait i read my art history book and try to look at the other probationers without making eye contact with any of them.  lots of people are here in groups of two: parents and babies, couples, pairs of friends.  a few people come in alone and sit down next to other probationers they know, talking and laughing like the best of acquaintances.  i’m the only probationer i know.

a fat man on crutches hobbles in, a dirty white sock covering the brace on his right ankle.  he comes over and leans against the table right next to me, adjusting his metal crutches and muttering to himself.  i can’t hear what he’s saying, but i can certainly smell him, and it’s awful.  i can smell him so badly it’s staining my nostrils, making me sick.  i try breathing through my mouth, but then i’m tasting his smell, sucking it down into my stomach, absorbing it into my bloodstream.  when i turn away from him in disgust, i can still taste the smell.

the smell’s name is called, and he stands up and clacks his way across the room on the crutches.  “HERE i come to save the DAAAAY!” he sings as he crutches to the door.  everyone in the waiting room giggles.  i vomit inside my head.

was he doing mighty mouse or andy kaufman? i wonder as i return to my book.  i can’t concentrate on art history anymore, so i turn to the blank page in the back of the book (the only paper i have) and start making a list of everyone there.

woman in skirt slit to upper thigh
man who can’t read his own SPN number
longhaired boy in hendrix shirt
southern bubblegum eyeliner girl
small child with ugly doll
gold-toothed tattoo-chested woman
extremely fat guy with blue and orange shoes
high-waisted pantswomen
polo shirt
work coveralls
orlando magic t-shirt
inexplicable thug in t-shirt advertising burberry plaid

my name is called and i go in and talk to a few people, each of whom calls up some other people on the phone, each of whom calls up some more other people, because they don’t know who i am or what i’m doing there.  my files, they say, were not transferred.  i am sent to talk to a man who, they also say, may or may not be my probation officer.  “how you doin’ today, miss headley?” he asks as i come in, without a trace of bold typeface or caps lock anywhere in his voice.  i’m too shocked to answer him, too taken aback to explain that i’m used to dealing with the Probation Officer for the Mentally Sound, Who Don’t Care if They Get Yelled At™.

(miss headley you are required to) “so whaddaya do, miss headley?  you in school?”

yes, at u of h.

(do you understand that it is a condition of your probation that you) “oh yeah?  what’s your major?”

creative writing.  i graduate next month.

“really?  that’s great!  what, you gonna be a novelist?”

something like that.

(your next appointment will be scheduled at my convenience) “so let’s get you back in here next week.  what time’s good for you?”

the Best Probation Officer in the Universe™ writes my appointment in his calendar, and then sends me to another room to sit down and wait for my UA.  a few other people are waiting, too, slumped over in plastic chairs.  i’m the only girl.

one guy keeps a running conversation with the room in general.  “they best hurry up in there.  i gots to drain the weasel, knowhutimsayin?  three mountain dews mumble mumble knowhutimsayin?”  the guy across from him laughs.  “it rough in here, y’all.  they took my car but i don’t give a fuuuck.  i just jumps on the bike, you know, you know, i get where i’m goin.  knowhutimsayin?  man, i gots to drain the weasel.”

he turns and looks at me.  “you not gone hafta wait much mumble mumble you a woman knowhutimsayin?  no offense.”  i suppose the mumble mumble is what was offensive.

next wednesday
my actual new probation officer has a calendar on the wall behind him.  the month of november features joan miró.  “is that a miró calendar or just an art one?” i ask.

he turns around to look at it.  “no, it’s not just miró.  it’s surrealism.”

“i like surrealism,” i say.

“me, too. i really like what they have at the menil.”

“oh, i know.  all the magritte and dechirico.”

“yes, magritte.  he’s my favorite artist.”

“mine, too.”