Learning To Love You More




Assignment #14
Write your life story in less than a day.

Elanore Vance
Columbus, Ohio USA



When my mother was pregnant with me Hotel California was all the rage and it was what she was listening to while she painted my nursery. She's told me that when she was getting ready to have me the ally cat that hung around our house was about to have her kittens, that before she was due she started a garden and that when she brought me home the plants were beginning to sprout. I was borne at the very, very end of March... at 11:55pm on March 31, 1977. My first memory is of being in my grandmother Cee's Bathroom (my mother's mother) mom and grandma calling for me because they didn't know where I was. When they found me my grandmother was talking to me thru the door and I told her that I would always remember that experience and she said, in an exasperated sarcastic tone, something along the lines of 'what a thing to remember'. When I was three I remember being told that my mother was pregnant and then seeing the image of a baby in the opening of 3-2-1 contact and thinking something like 'hey look there's a baby and were going to get our own baby soon'. I've always loved creque ally by The Mammas and The Pappas and I remember once playing my parent's copy of their greatest hits album hoping to hear that song. Creeque Ally makes me think of riding on a bus to a far away location and of people yelling in the bleachers at a little league game and of the pide piper luring all the children out of Hamlin. I don't remember getting to Creeque Ally but I do remember hearing other songs and the imagery they evoked. That either I Call Your Name or Words Of Love (or maybe both) sounded like music someone would do a high kick dance routine to while wearing a boa and beginning the number by shaking their leg from behind a curtain at the side of the stage and Got A Feeling sounding like a clock that was sad, like what my musical ballerina toy's heart might sound like. This toy was essentially a music box. The bottom was a stand that, when wound, would turn the ballerina who was on point in an arabesque and as she turned her torso would rock from side to side to the tune of What the World Needs Now Is Love Sweet Love. I found this to be very depressing but was for some reason drawn to repedidly wind it. I'd watch the dancer spinning slower with each revolution the song becoming nothing more than intermittently plucked chords. While this ballerina music box put me under a hypnotic spell, my musical ballerina jewelry box made me want to dance. It was one of those boxes that when you opened the lid a small ballerina would pop up and began to spin to the music which in this case was Rain Drops Keep Falling on my Head. I loved that song in music box version. My mom later ordered some records from TV that had a mix of old songs on them and I was excited to see that Raindrops was included, but was disappointed with the singer's voice and general arrangement of the song. I pretty much hated all the songs, which included Charlie Brown and I Fought the Law. I was more into songs like I'm so Dizzy and Wendy and played this compilation of bubble gum music my parents had over and over and over again. I was also obsessed with Jan and Dean. One morning I woke up and looked at the floor next to my bed to see three foot long symbols that resembled a backwards K a Y and an X formed from what appeared to be dryer lent. I thought an alien left them. The next thing I remember about this was seeing these symbols written in blue ink on the paper label of the Jan and Dean album I had. I went to a Montessori preschool where one of my teachers was named Jan. I excitedly brought in my record to show her her name printed on an album cover. She was not impressed. Everything I did at the Montessori school seemed to be met with an under whelmed or annoyed attitude. One had to ask for permission before playing with any toys and I remember being told many times that the toys I had picked were for older children. There was a large yellow oval taped into place on the floor where everyone sat during group time. I was reprimanded for walking along it. I resorted to making up people who would approve of me. These people were of course the Dukes of Hazard. I remember going into the bathroom and conjuring them out of the drain on the floor. I'm pretty sure I spoke out loud to them and definitely gestured to them. I also talked about them to other kids in the school and had at least one girl pretending to talk to them; she was also pretending to be Daisy. I watched the dukes of hazard every Friday night and to pass the time from when dinner ended and the show began I would brush my teeth. I would stand in the kitchen and brush my teeth for like an hour. After the Dukes Dallas came on and My mother loved it. I tried to act mature and watch it but it was really very boring to me so I would tap my mother on the shoulder and tell her I'd be right back and then go to bed or maybe down to the basement to play. The basement is where I would listen to all of my music. It is also where I would gymnastics. I loved gymnastics. I first took classes on Saturdays from girls at the local high school. My first teacher and my favorite was named Robbie. She had freckles and an upturned nose and brown hair that was almost red and always in a ponytail. While I was an afterthought at preschool I was a star in gymnastics and Robbie gave me the nickname muscles magilacutty. One of the other coaches was named Maria and a girl told me she was home coming queen. I had a vision of Maria going home to a crown, a bouquet, a great big fluffy chair and a bunch of servants one of whom would lift her feet while another vacuumed under them. I never really liked Maria and hearing this information made me understand and even feel sorry for her. She was afraid of getting hurt while spotting us because she was so fragile from never lifting a finger. It still annoyed my though when she would spend more time showing us the tricks she could do then spotting us on the ones we were trying to master. In my attempt to live like a gymnast I wore a leotard as often as I could. When a leotard was inappropriate I would wear one of the many fancy dresses I had. Outside of leotards my wardrobe pretty much consisted of dresses that couldn't get dirty and those that could. One day I went to an art class to which I wore a blue polyester number with white flowers stitched around the collar. The teacher sent home a note asking my parents to dress me more appropriately for the next class. I never went back. Around this time I remember meeting with a woman in a room that looked like a smaller version of my school, but with no yellow oval on the floor. The walls were lined with shelves most holding books, though some had toys. She sat at a desk but there was plenty of room to run around. She asked me some questions but I mostly remember her having me jump up and down and catch and kick a ball. The thing that really stood out for me about the experience was that it was the first time I had ever been in a setting like that, one with neon lights... a place that wasn't someone's home, after dark. This was when I was four. It was a psychological evaluation that determined I was eligible to be admitted to kindergarten early. I went to a catholic school and my kindergarten teacher was a nun. It was like a roller coaster ride with her one minuit she loved you and the next she was calling you a moron. One time she had to leave the room and told us not to leave our seats before she returned. While she was out one girl decided she was going to begin to color the rest of us didn't move. When out teacher returned she yelled at the class for not following the girls lead. She then offered the girl a sucker. When we were acting up our teacher would call us ornery. This was a word that reminded me of my grandmother calling the sofa the davenport. Aside from having a crazy person as a kindergarten teacher I really enjoyed my new school. Part of the reason I dug it was because I knew a lot of the people there already. My aunt taught things like gym and art to the kindergarteners and my favorite cousin was a seventh grader. During recess she and her friends would talk to me. They were always complaining about the uniforms they had to wear and I thought they were crazy because having to wear a dress as a rule seemed like my definition of heaven. On my fifth birthday I had a party to which the entire class was invited. The invitations were paper dolls, girl dolls for the girls and boy dolls for the boys. The party was immediately after school one day and I'm sure we had cake but what I remember was the pi–ata. My mother had copies of a highlights hidden picture puzzle made as one of the activities and the stack of replicas mesmerized me. I'd never seen anything like it. When the kids had gone home my grandparents aunts and uncles came over. This is the first real family gathering I remember. I remember being doted on because it was my birthday and I remember two of my uncles having a head to head competition of hidden picture. Then the worst possible thing that ever could happen happened. My kindergarten teacher showed up. She talked to my aunt who worked at the school, drank a beer and left. When she was gone the adults began talking about her and weird as it was to hear them bad mouth her it was even stranger to hear them say her name without the word sister in front of it. Once we were taking some sort of standardized test and my pencil broke. I tried to get a new one but Sister just kept telling me to stay seated and finish. I tried to explain but she would not let me speak. I improvised by wetting the pencil in my mouth and indicating the answerer I was choosing with a sort of spit mark. When she saw what I was doing she yelled at me like crazy then finaly gave me a pencil. It was the first and only time I've ever been belittled. I spent a lot of time after that imagining the tables were turned, that I was in power and she the subordinate being berated by me. I didn't know how this was going to work, but the year after kindergarten she became the school principal so I imagined working for the school and being her boss. During this time my dad would take me out just the two of us places. We would go to the local science museum and he also took me to the movies. Together we saw raiders of the lost ark it and to me it seemed like we saw it fifty times (though it was probably closer to five.) This became my first favorite movie. If you were to play charades with me at this time you could guess before I even made the movie gesture that what I would be miming was Raiders. I had a book of the movie and stared at a picture of Marian in an attempt to burn the image into my brain. I can still see her looking at the coin she hid from the Nazis in the fire. I think the time I spent with my dad on the weekends is the only time I really saw him aside from dinner. He worked nights and at that time was also in school. When I started first grade my mother seemed to begin to work more. Since both my parents worked odd hours in hospitals I spent a lot of my time at each of my grandparents' homes. It wasn't uncommon for me to spend several nights of the week at one of their houses. These were my favorite nights. One day I was thinking that you never see a cement truck spinning super fast. Soon after this I was sick and was being taken to my grandma Vance's very early in the morning. I looked over and in the ravine next to the highway was a cement truck with its drum spinning at top speed. This experience got me to realize that when I think about something I want I receive it. In first grade we were taught the very basics of reproduction including a general idea of what giving birth entailed. Someone posed the question of how birthing was facilitated before there were doctors. The boy sitting next to me took it upon him self to answer JACKHAMMER and then go on to make jack hammer noises. This is my first memory of experiencing uncontrollable laughter and laughing to the point of tears. I was introduced to the bane of my existence in the first grade when we began spelling. I can't remember most of the rules of spelling and when I'm in the middle of a word I'm hopeless at putting the rules I do know into practice. Even though (or perhaps because) I was taught to spell and read thru fonix the least help someone can give is to tell me that a word is spelled the was it sounds. This began the darkest five years of my life. Years spent locked in a room with my dad, a spelling list and a tape recorder. He would give me words and I would spell them out loud to him. I'm not sure why he taped these sessions; maybe it was so I could listen to him yell at me again and again for getting the words wrong. He would try to come up with different devices to help me memorize the words. Once he drew a picture of a giraffe with the letters in giraffe and it didn't help at all and didn't look like a giraffe but I do remember him pointing at one of the letters and saying 'this is it's ass' and I started laughing and fortunately he did too. When I attended catholic school they still used corporal punishment and during the announcements the principal would say things like 'every one's been very good lately but we still have the switch out in case any one acts up'. SO when people were going to get punished they would be called to the office over the loud speaker and every one knew they were getting the switch. Well, every now and then I would be called to the office. I was always mortified walking down there, but when I arrived I found my aunt and the principal and maybe someone else chatting and they had just called me down the see how cute I was and did I want a jelly bean. I believe this has made me unduly paranoid about authorities. As bad as our kindergarten teacher had been our second grade teacher had the reputation of being a witch and I was afraid of her. I always thought that the principal was the only authority who could discipline, but one day our teacher flew off the handle and hit a boy across the face with a hardbound book. At the beginning of second grade my dad took me and my sister to see the smurfs and the magic flute. He then left us at my grandmothers and picked us up the next day and took us to the hospital to see our new sister. As far as school went Second grade was a bad time all around. It began to become apparent this year that I just didn't fit in. There are factors that if had been different may have changed the trajectory of my life. I was a year younger than my peers. I spent a lot of time at my grandparent's homes. I lived on the other side of town from most of my classmates. But I think it's just a fact of my life that I don't play well with large groups of others and if I can't find someone to spend quality time with I'll spent the majority of my time alone. Sometimes I wished I could be other girl in my class. I didn't want to be like them I just wanted to experience what it would be like to be them. I wondered how waking up and making your bed before braiding your hair every day before riding the bus to school and having a normal name like jenny shaped someone's insides. There were plenty of clues that whatever it did to you was not something I wanted to have happen to me. A girl asked of the name under a painting of Jesus' mother 'why does that say Madonna? That's not Madonna!' This girl was in my class... hadn't she seen the stained glass window of mother Mary wearing a T-shirt reading 'my other name's Madonna'? Another time at a pep rally during the middle of the school day the cheerleading squad did a dance routine to the song centerfold. I was shocked that they were allowed to do this. After incidents like being looked at as crazy when sharing my thought, while looking at the illustration on a trash can of a person putting trash into a trashcan, that maybe when we throw a piece of trash in a trash can we become a simple explanatory scene that a giant sees labeling a giant sized trash can it was pretty clear that no one really wanted what ever happened to turn me into me happen to them either. The experiences that lead to who I was were ones of prolonged imagination and strong family bonds. Though I had an exception connection with most of my extended family, it was within my own house that a lot of personal problems began to manifest. I remember crying every day and thinking about not crying the way I thought about not biting my nails. That it was a habit I had to out grow. This attitude stopped neither my nail biting nor my crying. I don't even know what I would always cry about but I think the stress over my dad's temper and the tone of his voice when he lost it had a lot to do with me leaving the dinner table most every nigh in tears that would flow until my head hurt. It sort of became a symbiotic relation ship. Everything my dad did annoyed me and when I was annoyed I got smart and when I got smart he yelled. He yelled at my mom too. I remember him telling her to go to hell and imagining her being pulled down the stairs by an unseen force and caused her to disappear into the basement. I imagined the portal to hell to be some where around the dryer vent. But it wasn't like I had an unhappy child hood. I think it all came out normal in the wash... that I had a very happy child hood dotted with moments of extreme discomfort. As far as school went this discomfort came in the form of lunch, where you had to finish every thing on your tray including the disgusting milk, and recess, where I am really only thinking about the intolerably cold days we were forced to stand in the middle of a great bit field for twenty minuets which quickly changed my views on wearing dresses. One thing that really stands out is that during religion class someone asked how many times we were allowed to sin and the answer given was nine times ninety nine times. I wished I'd kept a journal of the times I had sinned so I could know how many strikes I had left. Things at home also got hard when what had been something of a bond between me and my middle sister turned into an all out grudge fest. I remember once sitting with my one-year-old sister on the stairs telling her I couldn't wait until she grew up and the two of us could be friends. I remember coming home from school one day and just being sick of it all and my mother telling me I was going to attend public school the following year. I was ecstatic and finished the school year excited in knowing that I wouldn't have to return. At that time our house number was 852. That summer on my middle sister's birthday I was 8, she was 5 and our younger sister was two. My dad bought new house number at a hard wear store and took a picture of all of us holding the number corresponding to our age. If you drive past my old house you will see those numbers are still up. That summer I was in a gymnastics program with other girls my age. When I finished the rotation I moved up a level and into a class with girls who were much older than me and far more advanced. By the end of this summer session I felt dejected. I couldn't do a backhand spring and I just knew I would never compete in the Olympics. This is when I lost my first love, the first time my heart was broken. I gave up dreaming about my self as a gymnast and thus lost all my drive. I was eight. Though I would continue on in the sport for over five years I never advanced from the level I was at that time. That fall I repeated third grade in public school. I don't remember much except that at this time my sisters and I were baby sat by the mother of one of the most popular girls in my class. I hated that my mom had to leave us there and I hated that our littlest sister had to spend her entire day there. I really hated the fact that I didn't feel like I could be my self when I was there and felt like I was counting the seconds waiting for my mom to come pick us up. The popular girl would play with me when she had nothing better to do but she usually kept her distance and I staid near my sisters. I never cried when I was there but I certainly did when I got home. The next year our little sister was the only one who had a sitter (though I don't know who was watching her) and My other sister, who was now in the first grade, and I would walk home from school together. I would say we were latchkey kids except we never locked our door. Public school was a social and academic disaster for me, but it was during this time that I had my first crush. Vaughn was a tall lanky blond with the only nose I've ever seen in person that I would use the term button to describe. I was head over heals in love with him, but I never told any one about my feelings, preferring to imagine scenarios that would find us quarantined together and thru the long conversations we would have during the time we spent together he would profess his love for me. Vaughn was the only joy school brought me. On the going away card the class gave me when I moved half way thru fourth grade he signed his name and drew a box with a sort of chimney protruding room the top and from this he drew several hearts. I always thought of that as a love factory and I was devastated thinking that I had lost my chance and that the boy I loved maybe loved me too. Moving was the best thing to ever happen to me. At my new school I had the first great (school) teacher I ever had. I would have Mr. B for fourth and fifth grade. He believed that everyone was a genius at something and he was a genius at bringing out the genius in everyone. He helped me to see I was smart and that not being able to spell was the easiest hurtle to face because that's what spell checkers and editors were for. Under his tutelage I discovered an aptitude in math an affinity for horror stories and the love of learning. The part of town we move to was and is considered to be stuck up and snobby. I don't know if every one is just wrong, if the kids in my class were an apparition or if what I am at heart is a snob but I found the kids at my new school to be the most friendly and welcoming that I had ever encountered and it was at this time that I started making real friends. At home my habit of crying seemed to subside (though I couldn't seem to drop the nail biting) but ingrained was a sense of looking at things in black and white. I wanted things to be simple but this was not going to happen in a house with two parents (not to mention a daughter) with short tempers. It was hard when someone you loved all of a sudden did something to enrage you. So instead of learning how to deal with mixed emotions I decided that everything would have to fall into one of two categories; love and hate. I decided I loved my mother and hated my father. I would go on to put everything that came into my life into one of these two categories. I discovered a new thing I loved the summer between fourth and fifth grade. The story goes like this. I received a bunch of cash for my tenth birthday (every one gave me a ten dollar bill, how cute!) but I managed to misplace it in the black hole that was my bedroom. That summer the traveling show of Cats came to town. Something struck me and I felt the need to see this show. I begged my mother to take me and she made me a deal that if I saved my money and could pay for one ticket she would pay for the other and that I would probably have enough to see the show the next time it came around. When she said this I walked up to my room opened the bottom drawer of my dresser reached underneath some cloths and viola found my missing birthday money. My mom shook her head and purchased the tickets. I saw the show with my grandmother and I cried when it was over. The only thing that had ever evoked such emotion with me was gymnastics I was surprised and thrilled to feel the same way again. I wanted to be a part of that world; I once again had a dream. I approached fifth grade with gusto, though I did go thru a faze where I would invent things about my self and my life, telling lies to make my self seem cooler then I was. I had my second crush in the fifth grade. James was cute, the opposite of Vaughn, more the male version of me. He was short had terminally straight dark brown hair and he was half Italian like me. The first time I saw Paul Simon I remember thinking that he looked like James. Unlike with Vaughn I did not carry a secret torch for James but flat out asked him to go with me. After being denied the first time I would appeal to him about once a month, or whenever he stopped avoiding me, to see if his mind had changed. It never did. One time Mr. B tried to talk me down about James saying he was just an appetizer and I shouldn't get excited about a cocktail weenie when the main course was yet to come. I didn't understand why James couldn't be the main course. Another thing I remember Mr. B saying to me was when I showed up for school my eyes puffy with sleep that I looked like my best friend just died. Thing kept on keeping on thru that summer and the following school year. I spent a lot of time with my family and made friends easily with most every one in my middle school classes. I still pined for James but gave up on my active pursuit of him. A big thing in my class was having a best friend. I had strong feelings about committing to this title and was hesitant to allow my self to be considered any one's best friend, but I was free with signing notes with the endearing, though meaningless BFF. I did resign my self to best friend status of this one girl, Regina, who lived down the street from me and had been in my fifth grade class. I was ok with labeling the friendship as best because she was proximal and thus I spent more time with her than with anyone else I knew. It was at the end of sixth grade though that I finally found what I'd been looking for when I met my first soul mate. Zandy was new to our school and we were assigned to do a science project together. She was the first person whose reaction to the odd ball things I would say was not to shake her head in befuddlement, but would laugh and add her own. It seemed like everyone else in my life had been time passing entertainment, that my definition of friend could be seen in Zandy. In the black and white composition of my life I began to use this standard when defining people in my life. They would either perfectly fit into friend or they had to exist outside of that definition of that for me. I also began to partition my life and be different people in different circumstances. While I was weary to call just any one friend I still wanted every one to like and conceder me a friend. So I spent time with a lot of different groups to more easily facilitate the propetuation of my image and did not socialize in mixed company so that I would not have to contradict the any given facade. I had a lot to hide the summer after sixth grade. That is when my father entered drug rehab. My mother told us about this on a warm Saturday evening after she had taken us to five o'clock mass. We sat on a picnic table at a park near our house. The news made me feel empty and made me wonder if maybe ghosts weren't the souls of dead people but those that had to get out of human bodies because they couldn't deal with what was going on. My mother explained that my dad was sick and that once he had help we could be the perfect family. Like on the Cosby show I asked Yes like on the Cosby show she said. We will never be able to be like that mom, I replied, we aren't black. That was the first time I remember using humor to get out of an uncomfortable situation and cover the feelings I was really having. My dad worked as an anesthetist and I pictured him as having been caught stealing drugs from work. It was a pretty good summer, it was just us girls and we got more treats than usual (by treats I mean frozen yogurt, kool-aid and video rentals on nights other than Friday or Saturday). There was just an over whelming sense of dread associated with this time as the fact that we had to go to the rehab facility every weekend loomed over me. I hated that place. It wasn't about having to see my dad because I actually enjoyed the visits. It was just the place. The food was extraordinarily bland and they didn't have salt. I was excited the first time because they had Mrs. Dash, but then discovered that Mrs. Dash actually sucks the flavor out of food. That wasn't the worst part. There were all sorts of classes and workshops to attend and the place smelled like the saddest cigarettes in the world. My mother tried to bribe me into going to a family-counseling week with her to learn about addiction. We were shown a bunch of movies about eating disorders and told about how every member of the family plays a role in addiction. I saw the necessity of addicts to go to twelve step programs as simple addiction replacement and after the first day decided that I could not swallow one more ounce of tripe, no amount of sister free activities in the world could persuade me to do so. On top of this the rehab was to be kept a secret, which worked to intensify my habit of wearing different faces in different places. My dad came home right around the time school started back and things on the home front were rather quiet, considering I was beginning to become an all around cocky teen agar at that point and continued to push his buttons and fostered the general feeling of hate I had grown to harbor against him. The school part of middle school was generally a fun time for me. I went ahead and joined the gymnastics team and did a bunch of plays. Zandy was also a musical theater nut and we had fun singing along to various cast recordings. Something very annoyingly middle school happened to me in the seventh grade though. Regina broke up with me as best friends. She did this in note form and if you want to know what she wrote go rent beaches and watch the scene in the department store where Barbara Hershey gives Bet Middler the speech about how all best friends grow apart. For three months after this Regina would whisper about me but other wise act like I didn't exist. Then she wrote me a note saying how much she missed me and wondered if we could at least try and be friends again. I was happy if only for this cold war to be over. The damage was done thought and we were never tight again. And I must admit I still get a little pissed when ever I think about it. Two days before thanksgiving break I felt sick but my mother told me I had to go to school and could come home if I threw up. I made it to the end of the day but as I headed down the stairs from my locker I lost it and threw up so violently I ended up huddled on the floor. Some one helped me to the nurse's office and my mom came and got me. I threw up to the point of nose bleeds that night. I was rewarded the next day be feeling fine and getting to stay home from school. I spent the day playing Mario brothers and for the first time in my life saved the princess. This was around the time that my father's mother gave me an intricate antique silver diamond ring. Not long after this did she descend into an Alzheimer's like dementia. I loved this ring and thought if I were ever to marry the only kind of engagement ring I would wish to have would match it in style. During this time I was still boy crazy and for a brief time went with two different boys. These relationships were really just two week license to write I heart so and so on my binders. Interestingly though soon after we broke up each of these boys began going with members of the popular clique. I thought about using this as an advertising ploy to get James to go with me, but never went thru with it. If I had to relive a school year it would be eighth grade. Zandy and I were inseparable. I spent most of my time at her house sleeping over nearly every Saturday night during which time we would watch Charlie and the chocolate factory followed by Grease then we would watch SNL and finally dead poets society. In school we were pretty much Dana Carve and Mike Myers quoting machines. All we did that year was drink coffee laugh and discuss important matters like what kind of tattoos were acceptable and reasons we wanted to be cremated when we died. In addition to show tunes we intently listened to the doors and jimmy Hendrix. One day there was some feature in the paper with aged photos of rockers who died in their youth showing what they would look like if they had lived. Zandy was outraged at this saying they had died young for a reason, that their memory shouldn't be bastardized like that. She was so cool. I had a musical ephiny my self when one night I heard an unbelievable song that incorporated every aspect I loved about music. I flipped out about how great it was. The following valentines day my mother gave me a tape. I was not familiar with the band and was not impressed. That turned out to be the best tape I ever had. It turned out to be Queen's greatest hits, the song I'd fell in love with was bohemian rhapsody. Queen soon became my very favorite band. Zandy and I only had one night together during the summer after eighth grade. She left two days after school got out for new York and would return the week after I left for Italy. I watched her pack while listening to Lenny Kravets. I kissed my first boy, and my second, while in Italy. My mother warned me that the boys would all think I would be easily taken advantage of because I was American. I used this to my advantage and got exactly what I wanted out of each of them. I wished freshman year would progress the same way eighth grade had but life did not stand still. It was at this time that I finally let go of the gymnast in me, as it was painfully clear that I would do nothing but embarrass my self as part of the high school team. As had I, Zandy also broke the barrier between her self and the opposite sex over the summer, but while I was content with French kissing she was looking to go much further. She lost her virginity just after midterms our freshman year. We remained close friends but this put her in a different league than me, it was also the end of relationships I would have with women that weren't in addition (if not secondary) to relationships with men. This was not the only thing that would separate us. At the end of freshman year Zandy's parents split up and she moved with her mother within the same city, but out of the school district. We stayed in close contact but for the first time in over two years didn't sped the majority of our time together. My parents smoked on and off over the course of my life. Early that summer I got it in my head that I wanted to try a cigarette. It was during a time that my father was smoking and there were generally always packs of cigarettes lying around the house. I looked every where but the house was completely tobacco free. That night I went to a vintage clothing store and I saw this dress I liked. I am not one to try n cloths but I decided to throw it on to see how it looked before buying it. There under the chair in the dressing room was an unopened hard pack of Marlboro lights. I bought the dress took the cigarettes home and got so buzzed after smoking one in my basement. From this point on cigarettes would present themselves to me. Shortly after this Zandy and I smoked a joint she'd found while going thru her stepfather's drawers when she was babysitting for her (half)brother. We'd snuck sips out of her parent's liquor cabinet before, but we never really had the opportunity to get our hands on enough alcohol to get drunk off. This changed when I spent the night at Zandy's while her mother was out of town. They lived in a duplex near a collage campus. I was expecting a night like we'd normally spent, but soon a bunch of her collage aged neighbors were over with loads of beer pot and whippets. All I did was sip beer not being that interested in the loudness. The crowed thinned out and soon Zandy slipped off to have sex with some guy that lived across the street. I let the dude's roommate make out with me in Zandy's mother's bed and we shortly fell asleep without any of our cloths coming off. I have no idea what I was thinking and am endlessly grateful that nothing happened that I didn't want to have happen. I did not have too much time to reflect on this as I was woken by a screaming crazy lady. Zandy never mentioned to me that her mother's best friend lived in the other side of the duplex and would be coming over that morning to let the land lord in. It has only just occurred to me that she might have intentionally done this to get back at me for something or to symbolically sanctify our separation. In any case my parents were called and I was grounded from Zandy for the rest of the summer. Thru that experience I learned how to play things safe and not get caught. The next fall I made a new group of friends. I guess you could call us the alternachicks. We all hung out a lot and made each other laugh and every weekend we could we would get drunk. The connection I had with these girls was different from the one I'd shared with Zandy, but they were more my speed. I connected most with one girl named Leigh. After we knew each other for some time she told me about how in middle school she'd helped some girl who had vomited all over the place to the nurses office. I told her that sick girl had en me. I attended my first rock concert with her and the night of the show I met her brother Jack who drove us. High school was like a Disney land ride when I met Trish and her boyfriend... Vaughn. They had been deeply in love but, by the time I cliqued with the group, were headed for the rocks because her mother and his father were getting married. In the spring I found my self spending a lot of time with Vaughn and one weekend in particular making out with him. All I wanted to do was quell my childhood crush but didn't think about what would happen when we opened our eyes and unlocked our lips. I wanted to be able to hold up the men I'd conquered as trophies and used the power I could hold over guys as one of the external scales I measured my self against. By the end of my sophomore year I placed a lot of stock in partying, drinking and smoking pot. I never withdrew from my family and if anything grew closer and more appreciative of their role in my life at this time. My friends, especially Leigh, were quite concerned with making good grades. I could have done better in school but really focused in the things I was interested in, like journalism where I was the only sophomore on the newspaper staff. The summer after sophomore marked the beginning of my friends being left home alone while their parents went out of town. I had a parent leave that summer too, my mom and dad finally got divorced. This was a real relief to me. It also sent my mother into an oat sewing phase, which left her little time to worry about me. Junior year was an all around good time. We were being exposed to a lot of new ideas and were making our own discoveries and theories about how the world worked. We also discovered acid. I really thought that every one should smoke pot and do acid so they could experience the world on a different plane. Near the end of junior year I went with Leigh and Trish to a party Leigh's brother was at. The two girls were on acid and while they were together in the kitchen I hung out with Jack and after talking for a while we kissed once or twice. That was the best night of my life up to that point. The summer after junior year Leigh, who had joined the newspaper staff, and I went to journalism camp together. There I met Dave and even though we lived eight hundred miles apart he became my first love. We traded love letters and I ran up the worlds largest phone bill so we could just be connected in silence thru the line. We each traveled to visit each other twice and tough we had spent less than five hundred hours together it was planed that he would move to my home town once we were out of high school and we would be together. I was in love and definitely didn't need drugs to enter a different plane of reality. One day I was cleaning up and found a message that Zandy had called. Things hung around in my house for ever, I once found a three year old child support check from my dad in the middle of a pile of junk mail, so it this message could have been anywhere from a day to a year old. The two of us spoke maybe once a month but whenever I was asked who my best friend my first thought would always be Zandy. I looked at the note thinking I wouldn't call but then found my self dialing. She answered and we spoke for a while about being in love and when we would get together. She said she would call me the following weekend and I thought to my self yea right before hanging up the phone. The next day was Sunday and I was having dinner at my grandmother's house. The phone rang. It was for me. It was Leigh. She wanted to know If I'd heard about Zandy. She said Zandy'd been killed in a car accident the night before. Again I felt like the opposite of a ghost. I couldn't say anything about it to any one. I just went home and once their Leigh picked me up and sat with me while I blankly chain smoked for as long as she was able to stay out. When I told Dave what he said was that the closest thing he had experienced to what I was going thru was when some girl he knew of who dropped out of high school and had become a stripper died... I don't remember how. I was blown away that he was comparing Zandy to a high school drop out stripper. It wouldn't have mattered what he said. I blew a bubble around my self to keep everyone out. I was determent that no one could relate to what I was feeling. All I could think was how at least she would always be young and beautiful and about my teacher saying I looked like my best friend had died. I wondered if the way I looked that morning resembled in any way the way I looked at that time. One day I went with Leigh to get some basket making materials. Out of no where I just said that I was really happy that Dave was going to move here because I couldn't move to where he was. That night he called me and asked if I would consider moving. As far as I was concerned that was the end of me and him. After that I had no real energy or ambition to do much of anything. I spent the summer watching movies and eating TV dinners with my sister. I think I might have disappeared without her. Some how I go t into collage though I don't ever remember applying. When school started Jack and I began dating. I was 18 he was 23. we flickered on and off that year but I was still deeply depressed and he confused about what to do once he graduated from collage. After that I knew that I had screwed up something great by getting into it as soon as it was possible and not necessarily when the timing was right. I simply sleep walked thru the next two years. I was like a forgotten potato in the back of the pantry. Over time I sprouted and a part of me reached the light. I began making new friends and reconnecting with old ones. This was only a break thru in the very outer layer of who I had become, but it was at least a start. I began dating this guy who I decided to like because he liked me. I lost me virginity to him when I was twenty, the fact that he was supposed to leave town three months after I met him did not play a small role in my decision to connect with him. I wanted to be in control and not be in danger of giving too much of my self away. He ended up not leaving and I ended up staying with him long after I knew we had no future together. I was such an idiot I actually thought he was going to ask me to marry him when he told me he needed to talk to me. It is a good thing he broke up with me because I was stupid enough to have said yes. By that point I was twenty one and had discovered the satisfaction of drinking in bars as well as the joy of karaoke. I spent the next year being angry which might have been annoying to my friends but at lease was a feeling for me. I began to play with fire around the time I turned twenty three because of the rush it gave me, the way it mimicked what I remembered feeling alive to be like. The specific form of fire I toyed with was the emotions and trust of others. This came to an end in May of 2000 when my friend Mason and I looked each other in the eye and realized we were in love. This came to an end in August of 2000 when I looked at him and realized we'd had amazing chemistry but had never really been in love. I stayed with him though for two years after this realization as one unable to give up something that once so satisfied me. In July of 2002 I learned that something I had allowed my self to believe for years to be completely false. I fount out that my father hadn't been caught using drugs or forced into rehab, but rather that he went to my mother showed her the needle marks on his arms and asked her to help him. Being confronted with this information is what really began to shake me and bring me back to the surface. I was having emotions for the first time in over seven years and I was thrown into uncontrollable crying jags. Mason broke up with me when I couldn't explain to him what was sending me off the deep end. My friend Leigh was in town at this time and two days after the breakup I went with her to see The Who. We went with Jack and that night the two of us talked for the first time since we had called it quit before. We realized that the only reason we didn't work before was because each of us had to become who we were meant to be before we could continue on together. When he proposed a year later it was with a ring that mimicked the one my grandmother had given me, though he had never seen the ring or knew of my wish. I wear both rings to remind me of all the wishes that have come true for me in the past and to be conscious that manifestation of my hearts desire is possible and probable. The past three years have been spent in a state of self-discovery. The realizations about things that I have written about were all made during this time and could not have been made without a belief in my self fostered by all of the people in my life who live me. It is now 9:15pm on March 31, 2006. In two and a half hours I will officially turn twenty nine. I have been thinking about undertaking this project as a birthday gift to my self for about two months now. As I wrap this list of the memories of my life I look back to the first memory I state as having. I realize that this might not be my very first memory that any of those early flashes could have come before it. I did this exercise with no real path in mind just wanting to see where it would lead. What I see is that though our past may not be exactly what we remember what we remember has a big effect on who we are; that we must se clearly what we remember before we can hope to shape our future.