Friday, March 31, 2006

waiting-for-judgment day

"You'll be out by noon," Kayla said, "12:30 at the latest."

By 3:00 my eyes are bleary from reading without glasses (which I left on my desk, where they belong, right?), my earbuds and the contents of my iPod are irritating my head, my hand has cramped into a useless claw from scribbling this post in a notebook, and I have done all the napping one can do in a jury lounge chair. People-watching ceased to be entertaining hours ago; now the District citizens seated around me, dozens of rows in front and in back, are simply getting on my nerves.

To my right, a plump woman in leopard silk pours half a bag of peanut M&Ms into her right fist, where she hides the candies, transfers them one by one to her other hand and slides them deftly into her mouth -- like a student sneaking contraband snackfood every time the teacher turns around. Only nobody's watching, and no one cares.

An elderly man shuffles around and tips backward into the seat in front of me, landing with a quiet groan. He's clean-cut and dressed in a tailored brown herringbone blazer, but he smells terrible. Crossword Guy next to me sniffs the air, looks at me as if to say, 'You smell it too, right?' and mutters out of the corner of his mouth, "I think I can identify the source..." We grin at one another. He's nice-looking, young, shoes too Euro and polished to belong to a straight man. I make a mental note for the next time I'm called to this day-long purgatory: Fire up the gaydar and plant yourself next to a well-dressed homosexual. A bit of queer snark is a fantastic pick-me-up in the mid-afternoon slump, or at any time of day. The old stinker is hunched over a paperback novel, his poor posture a reminder to check my own; I instinctively sit up straight and tall in my chair. Crossword does the same. With a silent sideward glance, we are bonded in that moment by our common vanity, and an old man's B.O.

Another row forward is a thirtysomething man built like a small mountain; from the base of his small, shaved skull he widens steadily at about 45 degrees right down to his seat, over which he spills onto the next chair. The young woman next to him seems not to notice that someone else's ass is occupying half her seat; she's busy examining the sparkler at the center of her engagement ring, a diamond roughly the same size and shape as one of her enormous front teeth. I wonder what talents one might be able to hone with choppers like those. Rip the tags off new clothes? Consume a lobster unaided by tools? Open beer? That would explain the Hope Diamond on her hand; a girl who can pop the top off a brewsky isn't likely to stay single for long.

Since I arrived this morning and probably for some time before, each of the room's six TVs has been tuned to a snowy channel that plays a ghost of "The People's Court" on screen and an unrelenting stream of grating static through the speakers. Eventually -- at 11:55 a.m. -- one of the jury handlers darts in and starts a DVD. Twelve minutes later we're released for lunch, returning just in time to catch the final (now completely out of context) scene of "A Beautiful Mind," followed by the DVD menu (Watch Director's Commentary; Watch Producer's Commentary; Watch Russell Crowe's Mother's Commentary). It's accompanied by a short musical theme that is charming for no more than 120 seconds. After 15 minutes of that accursed sound I turn to Crossword Guy and announce that I'm going to kill myself now. He asks if he can have my iPod. I giggle; a bitch after my own heart.

I imagine jury duty is a lot like being an animal in a shelter: We're penned in, supervised more to ensure our presence than our well-being, never mistreated but far from free. Once in a while someone wearing a bored expression and a jangling keyring wanders in to pluck a few poor souls from the cage and refresh the "entertainment," but just as quickly he is gone, the rest of us left behind without a thought. No one notices that the litter box is full; the water dish is empty; the same infernal strings-and-voices melody is wafting from the TV speakers over and over and over again -- three bars of music strung together in a hideous, mocking loop, repeating for all eternity or until someone sits on the remote control and inadvertently releases us from our pain.

By 3:00 I am still in the lounge waiting, and not once have they called my name. I pace the hallway for a while. Make a couple phone calls. Kick myself for leaving my computer at home. Stupid girl! The courthouse halls are quiet but never empty. Lotta suits here. Everyone seems to be playing a role -- The Law, in uniform or suit; and The Citizens, in all manner of casual dress. It takes me back to my days with S, when I was a category unto myself -- 'Prosecutor's Girlfriend' -- and enjoyed privileged access I probably shouldn't detail here because most of it surely wasn't kosher. I will say that I've been on the inside of a murder trial, seen the crime scene photos, heard 911 recordings, watched grown men weep on the stand, confessing that they're still unable to sleep six months after they witnessed the bloody scene that changed the way they see the world. Few people in this jurors' lounge understand, truly, why they're here. The gravity of the role they could play. The responsibility to judge. The power to give freedom or take it away. The pressure to be sure, and to be right. I comprehend the weight; I'd be scared but proud. Right now, I'm ready to go home.

Around 4:00, after languishing in the courthouse for the duration of an absolutely stunning, cloudless day, we're released back into the wild with a cheer (and a few balled-up papers chucked at the televisions). It's too late to hit the office but early enough to Metro to Tenleytown and stroll the long way home, enjoying the sunshine, and an ice cream cone, and sweet freedom.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Happy spring! I won't bother apologizing again for the lack of posting; at this point I'm just the blogger who cried 'busy.' Nothing's wrong, everything's fine, I'm doing what I can.

So, it's springtime! Even though we're expecting snow tomorrow. But that's okay, because even if it's too cold to wear sunny styles it's not too early to buy them. Some people garden, others clean; I shop. The spring harvest invariably yields yet another pair of cargo pants, a stack of tank tops I really don't need, and at least one 'pretty' item that will never see the outside of my closet. Someday I might accept that my (mutually exclusive) fondness for lace and button-down shirts is not a fondness at all, just a fleeting lapse in judgment. (in·san·i·ty n. : Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.) I am still learning to be girly; I only bought my first pair of thigh-high stockings last fall, and I wore them once. On Halloween. Maybe I'm not cut out for this 'sophisticated woman' thing after all.

But still, shop I shall, and soon these bulky sweaters will retreat to the high shelf, the undershirt will become the only shirt, reluctant shoulders and knees will reacquaint themselves with the sensation of breezes on bare skin. As in a reunion with a long-absent, long-distance lover, I'm a little shy at first... but my body remembers and that naked consciousness, that conscious nakedness, will vanish, in a moment, on the wind.

Monday, March 13, 2006

one pill could make me larger, one pill might leave me small

...I'm looking for the pill that's gonna tell me when my period will fall. (See what I did there? I made a rhyme! Rhyming is fun.) I'm also looking for the pill that will make me not want to leap off the roof each month. It's time I stopped pretending that my pre-menstrual symptoms are not disrupting my life, that they'll go away with my next cycle, or the one after that, or when the moon's not full, or when the sun comes out, or when American Idol is done for the season. I have a problem. I need to fix it. This will require breaking my rule of No Medication Unless You're Dying or Have Cramps.

I've always felt a bit hypocritical preaching clean living, what with my excessive daily intake of Sucralose, Cool Whip, fat-free 'cheese' and caffeine. But really, I think I make an admirable effort to eat right, exercise much, avoid medicines for pain and sniffles. I even go without glasses every few days to give my eye muscles a chance to flex. Strong body inside and out is what I'm going for. And in keeping with that policy I have repeatedly declined my doctor's offer of oral contraceptives, year after year since my early twenties. I'm not gonna lie to you; my concerns are mostly superficial. Weight gain, inflating breasts (I like mine small)... And it's really not about birth control -- monogamy (and I mean real monogamy, not like "I swear, baby, you're the only girl I'm doing right now") is the only way I'll relocate my Trojans from the bedside table to the junk drawer. (I love how that sentence gives the impression of a thriving sex life. I am quite a woman on this blog! Note to self: check expiration date on condoms.)

After slogging through an especially rough cycle this past month, something just snapped. Or clicked, let's say it clicked, that sounds a little less "men-in-white-coats-came-to-take-me-away." Something clicked and I realized I'm spending about one third of my life swollen and panic-seized in the clutches of (what is more than likely) PMDD. I must admit to myself that this is not just going to go away; that my body is aging, it's less cooperative, less predictable than it used to be, and for more than a week each month it's beating the peace right out of my mind. And it's not fair. I deserve better! There are new pills on the market. I eat well and run because it does my body good. It only makes sense I should take care of my head, and beat the bloat (which only makes me crazier) while I'm at it. I'm seeing my doctor on Wednesday. New policy, effective immediately: Do What You Must To Be Happy All The Time (Or As Often As Humanly Possible). Viva la Revolucion!

Monday, March 06, 2006

I know, it's been almost a week. I'm digging out. Bear with me. Sometimes I feel a bit foolish going public with emotional downswings, sometimes I want to delete a post that looks bitter or weepy in hindsight, but I try to uphold the law of No Regrets here. So the pity party's over but I'm not getting rid of the evidence. (You sweet blog people who wrote to see if I was okay -- thank you so much for asking. I am feeling much better.) Little Mary Sunshine will be back with you shortly. Thank you for your patience and please enjoy some fresh snark while you wait. It's on The House.

I've spent the last six days at my family's home, making sure my 15-year-old sister didn't get knocked up or burn the place down while Mom and Dad were on vacation. It's been said (again and again and again) that you can't go home again. And you know, it really is true. My parents live in a beautiful house with a gourmet kitchen and big-screen TV, huge laundry machines, buttery leather living room sofa, my beloved piano... luxury upon luxury that my cozy little apartment could never hold. And you know what? I'm uncomfortable there. Really uncomfortable. The beds are unforgiving. The water takes an eternity to heat up and the pressure is weak. (My shower in the city will wash your nipples off if you forget to face away from the stream; back in the 'burbs it takes the better part of an hour to wash my hair.) The cats are annoying -- one of them shits on the doormats and the other is too neurotic to sit in a room by himself. The kitchen's overwhelmingly large and I don't know where the coffee filters are hiding. And it's FREEZING in there. I think there's something wrong with my family, they're like pod people -- something's just a little bit off... Who the hell keeps a house at 67 degrees? It isn't right, people. I'm telling you, it's just. not. right. Normally I'd touch the thermostat on pain of death, but I figured there wasn't much Dad could do to me from Florida (though he might just be anal enough to sense the temperature shift from 1,000 miles away and send a neighbor to enforce the law). I bumped that baby up to 70 degrees. That's right! Try and stop me! Anybody need help with a dirty deed? Scamming your dealer? Robbing a bank? Get me while I'm hot! I made sure to drop the temperature back to Arctic Tundra before I left the house this morning; maybe I should've left a window open for good measure. I don't think my father will know what I did. Y'know, until he reads this, or gets the gas bill, whichever comes first. Then I'm Dead Meat. Which is no big deal, really, 'cause they can hang me up pretty much anywhere in that house and I'll keep for a month at least.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Bless me, Bloggers, for I am pinned. Suffocating beneath the weight of a looming panic attack. It's been four weeks since my last menstruation.

I know I should not let my hormones rule me, that I'm supposed to keep my urges in check, but it's overwhelming, Bloggers, and I don't think I can stifle the impulse to curl up and sob much longer. Just for a moment. That's all I need. If indulging in such a sweet release is a sin then let me be guilty. I'll pay my penance later.

In the last four weeks I have been good to myself. Eaten well, exercised a lot, cultivated some cherished new friendships -- one in particular that's illuminated corners of my intellect I'd almost forgotten were there. It's been a happy month, Bloggers, at a time of year when even happy days are scarce. Except, of course, on cable. I didn't realize how good I felt until I started feeling bad. I took happiness for granted and now I feel badly about that, too.

Around quittin' time yesterday my gut began to sink. By dinnertime my chest was growing tight. I climbed into bed early, breath shallow, mind racing at breakneck speed. I even took some NyQuil to knock me out -- a desperate measure, I know, since I'm loathe to take medicine even when I need it -- but still I was up three times before dawn. (Actually that could have been the tea.) By the time my alarm came to life at 6:45 my brain had been up for an hour. Roused, apparently, by my heart, which was pounding against my ribs. "Nice of you to join us, lazy bones," the two of them scowled at my puffy reflection. "Now go wash your face, you look like shit."

Seven hours later my ticker is still thumping. Needless to say I can't concentrate on much besides breathing deep and slow; if I turn my attention the wave of panic might hit shore. It's time to leave the office, I think.

Blog, grant me the strength to soothe my restless mind so I may sleep in peace, wake with a smile and revel in the joys I'm so fortunate to encounter from day to day. I have faith that this will all blow over in a couple days. It always does. It almost always does. In the meantime it helps to unburden myself to you, Bloggers. You are always there, simply to listen and not to judge such a self-indulgent pity party as this one. Thank you for that; I'm feeling better already.