feelings and my front lawn: a story about coping

I’m a super huge fan of allegory. It’s the fundamental reason for why I love the fantasy genre of entertainment so much. The One Ring and the Urukai were said to be the allegorical coming of the Industrial Age; Palpatine‘s lust for power is often related by fans to Hitler‘s rise to power; and “winter is coming” for us, scientists tell us, in the form of climate change, but like the great families of Westeros, we’re all too busy with our own shit to realise it. Finding symbolic symmetry and making connections between things that are generally not connected helps me to make sense of and navigate life. It helps me to visualise and to compartmentalize, and that helps me cope. Because Lord of Light knows, I need my coping mechanisms.

Now, let me tell you about my front lawn. No, it’s not in any way related to Game of Thrones or Tolkienesque battles. Except that, like those two epic sagas, I’ve found a way to identify and extract life lessons from the stories being told. Yes, my lawn told me a story, and yes, I might be sound a lunatic, but bear with me.

When we moved into our house in June of 2013, the lawns were a small disaster. There were more dandelions than blades of grass, and the grass that was there was hardly clinging to life. It really was a sad story. Even still, there was in the middle a large ash tree that cast a shadow over the majority of the lawn. I suspected that had played a pretty major role in the patchy mess that was my yard, but I dealt with it. Not knowing much about maintaining a yard at that point in my life, I went to the internet. I did a little research to figure out what I could do to at least have some semblance of a green lawn in front of my house. Knowledge, they say, is power. I saw the task of bringing the lawn and yard as a whole back to life as a project, and I was going to make it my bitch.

So every rainy day, I’d try to go out to dethatch, sow seeds, fertilise, aerate, do a little song and dance (not really, but basically) and hope for the best. But my efforts were in vain. Either I had a seriously black thumb, or grass just wasn’t in the cards for me. That was essentially how that summer went. And the next summer, too. And then we received a notice at the end of the summer of 2014 that we’d have to say goodbye to the giant ash tree in front of the house. It had contracted the Ash Borer beetle, and it had to be cut down. Sad, I thought. Sadder still when I remembered reading how much grass generally doesn’t love a lot of direct sunlight. “Oh, well,” I thought. “There’s always river rock.”

The city workers came and went, taking the tree and most of my surrounding garden with them. That was in March of 2015. At that time, I was probably at my lowest I had been in my struggle with depression and anxiety. Watching what was left of my front yard be destroyed, watching a garden and lawn that I had tried tirelessly for two summers prior to breathe life into get shredded and littered with ground tree bits wasn’t exactly what the doctor had ordered. They happened to tear the tree down during the week that I had been plagued with a gnarly gastrointestinal bug, so between my insides liquefying and the pitiful stump left in the middle of my yard…nah, not really my best day.

I went into that spring with not a lot of hope or ambition for the desiccated yard. That shit was not pleasant. I had started working in garden centre that year though, so I managed to keep my little fire of garden-love burning, though barely, and I kept trying. I mean, as hard as anyone who is hardly managing to get out of bed in the morning can try. Still struggling hard with my mental health, I did what I would typically to do to cope – I bought things. A lot of things. A lot of things for my yard, a lot of plants that would never find a home beyond sitting in their packaging on my front step. I bought all manners of decorative planters, fancy tools, expensive grass seeds, fertilizers, whatever. Everything I bought was purchased with good intentions, but my lack of ambition and my malfunctioning brain left all of that sitting on my front step. It was sad. It was worse than when I’d started two summers before. I was equally angry at myself and at the stupid lawn. “Why can’t you just grow and be nice like everyone else’s lawn on the block?” To add insult to injury, the city workers returned to grind down the stump they had left months prior. The little effort I had managed had been destroyed again, and now, two giant tire marks and a gaping hole was the centerpiece of my dilapidated yard. I was defeated. I waved my white flag, and threw in the towel.

My mother-in-law, very clearly aware of my distress (from both the garden and my already broken mind) stepped in after about two months of stagnant ugliness. She brought mulch, edging, grass seed, tools, and willpower. I can’t begin to imagine how annoyed she and my husband were at my continued slack that had been piling up in the front of the house for the whole summer, but it had obviously reached a tipping point. Right now–as in today–I am so grateful she did this. That day, however, I was anything but. Watching her work the yard, the lawn, the flowerbed, was a hideous blow to my ego. It was a stark representation of how I’d failed to bring my own dream for the yard into fruition. I want to make it clear that I wasn’t mad at her. I was mad at myself. I had failed at being a gardener. I had failed at being an adult. I had failed at being a functioning human. In that moment, I hated myself and the very existence of my front yard.

She was out there for the better part of the day, and I went back and forth from sitting on the step watching her to laying in my bed upstairs in tears. It was pitiful. After I had felt like I had been sufficiently miserable for the day, I went out to see how things were going. Her cheeks were red, her clothes were dirty, but she was smiling. “Do you like it?” “Yeah, it’s really nice. It would have taken me forever. Thanks.” We talked a bit, but I was still feeling miserable.

Over the next few weeks, the seed she had laid began to sprout. The patches in the lawn were still there and they were still unsightly, but just seeing the new blades of grass was a flicker of hope. It was a miserable experience for the majority of the season though-the kind of misery that leaves you constantly exhausted. So even though I felt a small shred of satisfaction with those sprouting blades, I couldn’t do anything more. I let that be the last of my effort for the season. I cleaned up my accumulated junk, and called it quits.

Last fall and the winter leading into this year was awful. I struggled at work. I struggled with relationships. I struggled with existing. I never actively wanted to die, but I really, desperately wanted to figure out a way to just stop existing. A multitude of things played into why my mental health was a veritable rollercoaster of manic highs and extreme lows. Every week, I’d fall apart. Every week, I sewed myself back together. Each time, the stitches becoming less and less sturdy. Ruptures happened frequently. My cat passed away suddenly. Work was inconsistent. I was struggling with undiagnosed PMDD and ADHD, and I was on the wrong medication. My mistakes, great and small, felt apocalyptic to me. Any hint of confrontation would trigger a kill switch. My flaws were unforgivable, my mistakes were crimes. And then I’d find myself thinking about the lawn. How ugly it is. How dead it was. How the only life it could sustain were ugly, useless, invasive weeds.

I made it to spring. This past April, I was able to get back to the garden centre where, even through my struggles last year, I felt the most at peace. I attributed the feeling of peace and calm to working in the outdoors and with products that I genuinely loved.  Immediately before I began the season in the garden centre, my psychiatrist diagnosed me with severe ADHD (along with a slew of other neuroses that are mostly related/due to long untreated ADHD) and started me on the proper medication. And what a difference. What a wake up. What clarity. I’ll talk more specifically about my experience with ADHD diagnosis and treatment in a future post, but for the purpose of this story, I need to be quick – you guys – EVERYTHING CHANGED.

At the first hint of warmer weather, I was out in the front yard raking up what the winter had left behind. Up came the undercoat of dead grass. To my amazement, the new grass from last summer had survived the winter and had already begun to come up. I was out there every other day, raking up the dead grass, digging up the dandelions, pressing holes into the soil. When it started getting warmer, I made sure to water the grass as often as possible. The one thing I employed this year that I hadn’t in previous years was consistency. I kept at it. I  made a goal, and I worked towards it. And the weirdest thing happened – the grass grew. The patches disappeared. The lawn came in lush and soft. The weeds were still present, but the sight of full grass all the way up to the curb was astounding. HELLO, MY NAME IS LEAH COOKE, MOTHER OF TWO, WIFE OF ONE, OWNER OF GRASS THAT IS GREEN. I’m not going to lie, folks, that grass is an embarrassingly significant source of pride for me this year.

On the way home from work one night a few months ago, I passed a home a few blocks from our home that boasted a stunningly perfect lawn. Like, Stepford Wives perfect. I bet if you went and measured ever blade, they’d all be the same height. Dark green, soft, beautiful, not a weed in sight, not a blade out of place. And I felt a tinge of disappointment. No matter how hard I worked on my lawn, I thought, it would never look like that. Unless I dropped $1,000 for sod and hoped for the best, maybe then? I felt silly that I was so proud of my lawn that, next to this one, looked like me standing next to a Kardashian. Just… not good enough. I let the feelings of disappointment sit in the back of my mind.

After dinner that night, I went out and did my regular watering and cleaning up of my flowers and the lawn. When I was done, I took a seat on the front step. I took a second and looked around at my work. With the mental snapshot of the horror that was my front step last year–half dead plants strewn everywhere, stacks of empty planters, tools that hadn’t been put away after use–I saw a stark difference that day. One of the pots I had bought last year I had filled with a pretty purple arrangement, and it was sitting neatly at the corner of the step, watered, flourishing, healthy. A wind chime that my son had picked out from my garden centre was singing quietly in the gentle breeze. A beautiful hybrid petunia that my mentor had given me for my birthday was sitting in a quaint little decorative pot, thriving away. Then I shifted my focus to my lawn. My husband has mowed it the day before, and it was glistening from the watering I had just given it. A few small patches of buttercups had come back up, as happy as pigs in shit, yellow and healthy as can be. Small saplings from my neighbour’s sumac were popping up in two places, vibrant frond-like branches of orange and yellow. Green clover had invaded the remaining empty patches the grass had struggled to fill in.

I looked at the diversity of growth in my front lawn, and for the first time in the 3 years we’d been there, I felt a love for it. I felt the kind of love you feel for your favourite t-shirt, for your old teddy bear, for your spot on the couch, your broken-in sneakers. I felt the love you feel when you have something that is safe, something that is familiar, something that you identify as yours.

I looked at my lawn, and I saw myself. The struggle we faced together and separately. The trials of trauma outside of our own control. The welcomed help from people who truly cared about our survival. And though we’re both littered with weeds and our flaws are still apparent, we’re unapologetic. There’s still beauty in us, and we can see that now. There’s still room for growth for us, and we’re growing now. There is still a will to survive, and we’re surviving now. I saw the results of care, and now I can see a future that is alive.

“Sometimes the feelings inside of me get messy like dirt. And I like to clean things. Pretend the dirt is the feelings. This floor is my mind. That is called coping.”

– Crazy Eyes, Orange is the New Black

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Wiggle your big toe.

I’m an addict.

I’m not addicted to any tangible substance. I don’t steal. I’m not a hoarder. I’m addicted to failure. Most of my life, I’ve allowed myself to just slip by. I’ve never excelled at anything. I’ve never been special. Almost every romantic relationship I’ve ever been in ended because I gave up on trying to be a good person. I tire easily; physically, mentally, and emotionally. I have a short attention span, and an even shorter fuse. Everything I didn’t give up on, gave up on me. The best friends I had in primary school were gone by middle school. The ones I made in middle school were gone before high school. In high school, I had more enemies than I did friends, and none of those friends are really around any more either. And somehow, I suspect that all of these things are related.

The older I get, the less patient I become. I’ve never had the mental fortitude to deal with others’ bullshit, but somehow, until recently, I’ve always managed to put up with my own. In all fairness, I was only able to do so because I was probably oblivious to most of it. I was quite content with tossing the blame to whoever could catch it, and then taking off on my own merry way. Sans consequence. Nothing to see here, folks. It’s when you become of aware your reckless disregard for responsibility that you suddenly feel heavy. Like an immoveable object. Eventually, you give up.  You resign yourself to being a gelatinous lump of apathy. Your brain muscles fades into atrophy. Your care bone becomes weak and brittle. Your soul checks out. The guilt of every wrong you’ve ever done hides in your subconscious, waiting for the day you’d accept responsibility. And then you do. And you realize that the world isn’t what you’ve made it out to be, and when you have tiny humans watching and collecting, and learning from your every word and action, you swiftly realize that the “ME” show should have ended long, long ago.

I’m 26 this year, but truthfully, I often feel like the same 17 year old girl, wandering from room to room, party to party, hangover to hangover. No direction, no expectations for myself, zero regard for consequence. That’s not to say I haven’t grown at all in the last decade — surely, on the outside, I have. I guess it’s accurate to say that I learned to internalize the destructive behaviour. Still, I’m more aware of the emotions I allow to come out, and how the shit that I do can and, in all probability will negatively affect someone I love. But it’s not enough to just put on a show. I wasn’t genuinely feeling like my actions were an accurate portrayal of who I am. I felt like my real self was inside watching my outside self flailing about, trying to be nice and happy and positive. It becomes disorienting after a while.

So I found a psychotherapist. After months of being held hostage by crippling anxiety and depression (triggered by something I can’t talk about publicly, perpetuated by a sick, pregnancy hormone addled brain), I found the courage to drag myself to her office. I wasn’t confident that this could actually help (let alone cure) my sick brain, but there were no other options. I’d gone as far as I could with medication, and I needed some serious cognitive talk therapy. Someone to listen to me complain and tell me how to deal with everyone around me. What I got was something not completely different but perhaps on the opposite end of that spectrum of “dealing.”

My first time seeing her, I remember walking in, the scrambled wire ball of anxiety simmering in the pit of my gut threatening to start shooting off random bolts of terror and nausea with even the slightest off thought. I sat down, sort of impressed with my ability to maintain composure, and listened to her introduce herself to me. She told me her name, how long she’d been a psychotherapist, some minor details about her family life, and what it is exactly that she does. Her voice and demeanor were very calm, confident, and welcoming. I consider myself a pretty good judge of character, and so I basically knew right off the bat that I liked her.

She began the actual therapy portion by asking me what I was looking to get out of talking to her. I was a little confused by this. “What do I want?” I thought. Although it seemed liked a simple question, I hadn’t really thought about it specifically. “I want to be happy,” I finally told her. Isn’t that what everyone wants? I half expected her to tell me that that wasn’t an acceptable answer based on the cliche of it alone. “When was the last time you think you felt truly happy?” she replied. I remember letting out a defeated chuckle, and replied, “I haven’t.” And then I cried.

It all came out. I told her that I never felt happy or satisfied with anything, and how I’d never felt that I was where I was supposed to be. I told her that I always felt guilt for my unhappiness; that I had everything but it didn’t matter. I told her that any time happiness threatened to enter my life, my mind would promptly put up a “No Entrance” sign with all kinds of reasons for why it wasn’t allowed here. You don’t deserve this. This isn’t going to last because nothing does. If you’re happy for any amount of time, it’s just going to make the end even worse. Why bother?

I couldn’t believe the words falling out of my mouth. I’d never admitted this to anyone, ever. And here I was letting my whole life flow out onto this woman I’d just met. We talked about my parents’ divorce, about my earliest recollections of feeling anxious, my relationships with men – all of the typical therapy topics. But after all of it, she was able to expose the root of all of my mental issues, and it was something that I’d never seen. I’d always looked at my triggers at face value. Example – I’m terrified of getting sick because being sick sucks, right? I’d never considered the underlying issue that connected them all: control. I’m now a diagnosed control freak.

There’s something oddly therapeutic about discovering the cause of a problem. Of course, only knowing the cause isn’t a cure, but it proved to be a huge jumping off point for me on my way to recovery. I walked out of that appointment with a feeling that was completely alien to me. I’d never felt it before, not ever. I let it simmer for a few days to try to figure out what it was. The day seemed a smidge brighter. The morning was a little loss foggy. My mood was noticeably less irritable. My outlook was more positive. Simply knowing that all of those years of being a complete fuckwad to everyone around me, ruining friendships, alienating people, abusing drugs and alcohol, philandering – all of those things I did because I wanted to be in control of my life in some ass backwards, roundabout way. I thought that acting as if losing people didn’t affect me gave me control of my emotions. I thought drinking until 4am when I had to be at work the next morning for 9am gave me control – no way would I be a slave to a set work schedule. And over time, it becomes an addiction. A backwards, self-gratifying habit that serves no purpose other than the delusion of self-control. Simply knowing that there was a common, reoccurring theme to all of my past destructive behaviour gave me this alien feeling that I now identify as hope.

Over the next few sessions, we talked about things, current and passed, and how I could channel my hunger for control into more positive outlets. We talked about letting go of the past, and what that meant. We talked about how being charitable with my time and indirectly with my thoughts and actions would yield better results. We talked about cliche things like finding joy in small endeavors, how to make and keep friends (something I’m still struggling with), and how, most of all, to not be so hard on myself. That last part I’m still working on. What I’ve taken from this is that I’ve woken up from a long, deep, dreamless sleep. Life, up to now, consisted of me simply floating from one shitty experience to another, no feet on the ground, trying to find some semblance of joy in the easiest ways possible. Floating required no movement. Without movement, my muscles never strengthened. I could never stand on my own. I could never wake myself up. With the help of an extremely gifted therapist, and a few amazing, patient, and loving people, I’ve woken up. I’ve discovered my muscles. Though weak and essentially atrophied from disuse, they’re there, they’re ready. This is where life will begin.

Wiggle your big toe.

An OC Transpo tale

A girl walks up to an OC Transpo kiosk and asks to sign up for a regular monthly pass. “Sure,” says the teller, “just stand over there and I’ll take your picture. That’ll be $(whatever grossly overpriced cost it is now). Thank you.” To this, the girl replies, “Wow, that was painless! Thank you so much!”

*****

Meanwhile, on the other side of luck, another girl has just realized that she’s lost her wallet. This realization was only made worse when she realized that in her wallet, along with all of her other forms of identification, was her Eco Pass. And since this girl resides in the far-off lands  of Orleans, her Eco Pass is her connection to civilization. Well, shit.

So, with a tight schedule and a  limited cashflow, she decides that the first,  most important, and easiest thing that she’ll get replaced is her bus pass. After all, it’s how she was able to go to work every day. The alternative was to use tickets until she had her pass replaced, and since she takes express routes twice a day, that could have gotten expensive. Quickly.

Alas, replacing her Eco Pass was of paramount concern. “How hard could it be?” she thought.

It is at this point in our story where we must refrain from bursting into uncontrolled laughter at her faulty assumption. She is, after all, a naive little girl who believed that this would be a simple matter of proper documentation and, most likely, a fee. She was fine with this considering it was her silly mistake in the first place losing her wallet. But she was wrong. Oh, so very, very wrong.

After receiving the replacement form from the accounting department at her place of work, she set off (rather quickly because she had a deadline and two meetings to attend that day) to the OC Transpo kiosk at the Rideau Center. It was nearing the end of the month, so of course, there was a monsterous line-up. Praise be, Fruit Ninja.

After 25 minutes in line, it was finally her turn. The conversation went a little like this:

Girl: “Hi there. I need to replace my Eco Pass. I lost my wallet. Silly me.”

Asshole: “You’ll need your replacement form, photo ID, and it’s going to cost you $25.”

Girl: “See, here’s the thing. I lost my wallet that had my photo ID in it. I do, however, have my health card (the red and white one, unfortunately), birth certificate, a paystub to prove I work there, the original forms from my first Eco Pass, and the replacement forms.”

Asshole: [Blank, emotionless stare] “I need photo ID.”

Girl “…but I have all of this other documentation. Is there nothing you can do for me? Please, I need my Eco Pass.”

Asshole: “Without photo ID, I can’t replace your Eco Pass. Next in line, please.”

Girl: “Awesome. Thanks.”

While she understood the need for photo ID, she was a little ticked off. She remembered in her younger days when she’d applied for a regular pass without a shred of identification or hassle. The difference, she supposed, was that if you’re paying them upfront, everything was A-OK. But if you’ve already been paying them off of every paycheck for the last few months, they won’t even talk to you.

“Well,” she thought, “I guess I’ll just have to pay for tickets until my new driver’s license comes in.” Unfortunately for her, she wouldn’t find the time to do that until almost two weeks later. That was also right about the same time she realized she’d have to change her address on her license, which would probably make the whole waiting process that much longer. She swore that if she didn’t have bad luck, she’d have no luck at all.

After three weeks of spending $8 a day on tickets, and a week after she had filed for her replacement driver’s license, she boarded the #35 from Lakeridge Drive to make her way to work. She popped in her tickets, and the bus driver, as he routinely does, asked her if she’d need her transfer. Absentmindedly, and in all probability still 86% asleep, she replied “no, thank you.” And off they went.

Just as she was arriving at her stop (Laurier Station), who boards the bus but the OC Transpo agents. Joy! Unable to remember whether or not she had taken her transfer , when the agent approached her, she looked up at the uniform with a flustered look and said “I can’t find my transfer!”

“Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you to get off the bus with me.”

After giving the emotionless and clearly uncaring agent all of her information and explaining to them then entire ordeal, the girl was slapped with a $150 fine and three options: 1) pay the fine, 2) have it revoked within two weeks with proper identification, or 3) bring it to court.

So here she is, stuck in limbo. Up until now, she’s given (between buying tickets and still paying for an Eco Pass that she isn’t using) an estimated total of nearly $300 over the span of a month. A sum which will only continue to grow until a plan of action can be decided. Until then, she’s unsure of when her license will arrive so that she can replace her Eco Pass and effectively shoot down the fine, whether she’ll have to take the matter to court, or whether she’ll have to bite the bullet and pay the $150.

If ever there was a case for human kindness and leniency, this, ladies and gentlemen, is not it.

Any semblance of respect I might have had for OC Transpo has all but left the building.

Panic – and other ways to be counterproductive.

I’m afraid of a lot of things. Most of the things I’m afraid of are discernible and mostly legitimate. Spiders, drowning, heights, getting hit by a car — all of these things I would never be reluctant to admit. These kinds of fears are simple, straightforward, and avoidable. I never j-walk. I avoid skyscrapers. I stay away from deep, dark water. I see a spider, I smash it.  It’s easy to run away from something that you can see. But what happens when what you fear is less tangible? How do you run from something that lives in your mind?

Enter: anxiety.

Here it is. This is my confession. I’ve been struggling with panic attacks and anxiety for the last few months. It might seem superficial, but I assure you, it is the opposite of that. To anyone who has dealt with similar things, I’d be preaching to the choir if I tried to explain to you what it feels like to be completely overtaken by illogical terror.

It’s like a war with yourself. For me, my mind has been split into two distinctive sides. One side is the logical, level-headed, and collected me. This is the side that is ready and willing to take on the world. It’s the me that’s ambitious, productive, and social. The other side is a variable display of agitation, confusion, and instability. It’s the me that’s afraid to take a step outside my apartment, afraid of everything. It’s the side of me that came bounding out of left-field.

These two side are at war with each other constantly. And lately, the latter side has been winning.

My palms are sweaty. My heart is pounding. My lungs ache for more air than I can possibly breathe in. My head is spinning. I feel like I’m about to vomit as the world in front of me turns completely sideways. The walls close in on me slowly but surely. I try to convince myself to relax and snap out of it. I tell myself that it’s going to pass, and that I’ll be fine soon. But it’s all an act of utter futility. The panic takes over, and I completely fall apart. And each time that happens, my grasp on who I am is weakened.

For the whole of my life, I’ve never had to deal with anything remotely close to this. I’ve always considered myself to be mentally durable and straight-laced. I’ve dealt with my fair share of stress and everyday anxiety, and I’ve always come out on top. To admit to everyone, and to myself, that I’ve submitted and surrendered my mental strength to an anxiety disorder is totally alien to me. Before this, I never would have pictured myself relying on pharmaceuticals to get through every day. And that’s where I am. Each day starts with a 10mg dose of Cipralex, and each day, the shadow of my former self weeps. The anxiety hasn’t left me, but the medication has created a disconnect. I’m aware of it, and I know it’s there, but I’m able to ignore it.

I imagine that this was the feeling Rogers Waters and David Gilmour were talking about. I am the very definition of comfortably numb.

As lousy as this all sounds, I’ve recently discovered a flickering light, hidden amidst all of the black, empty space. It’s weak and it’s wavering, but it’s there. The reason I’m writing this — outing myself to my readers — is because talking about it and sharing what I’m going through is acting as the fuel to my little, unsteady light. The more I share, the healthier I feel, the brighter my light becomes.

I’ve decided that, although this disorder has my life in a choke-hold, I will refuse to tap out. I refuse to let this define me. I refuse to let this interfere with my life any further. I made a plan for myself. I’m paving a road for my life, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let this pothole put me in the ditch.

The most powerful words that have gotten me through were these: ‘you’re never alone.’ And it’s true. You’re not. I’m not entirely sure how I managed to fall into the mess that I’m in, but I do know for certain that shutting people out won’t help me. Letting in and surrounding myself with the people who care about me and want to see me progress is exactly what I need. To those who’ve already given me their support and love, my gratitude is boundless.

When (not if) I recover completely from this, and I’m able to get back to my way of life, I vow to make every effort to pay my little light forward.

an ode to Carmen.

You know those moments, those rare little slices of life that you hear or read about, random acts of kindness between strangers, that you just can’t help but smile about? I guess yesterday was my day.

I was at a department store in search of the perfect boyfriend blazer. I had the style, the colour, the texture of the material pictured exactly in my mind, and I wasn’t going to leave until I found it. It wasn’t long before I spotted the sleeve of my would-be dream blazer sticking out between two ungodly leather jackets. Kind of like it was waving me over.

I heeded the beckoning of the inanimate object. I reached out, grasped the peeking sleeve lightly, and when I felt the silk-like texture of the material, I knew I’d found it. I reefed the two unsightly jackets it was sandwiched between away from it, and there it was. In all of it’s glory. All of it’s… $110.00 glory.

You know that little tune you hear when Mario dies? Yeah. Cue that music right about now.

Damn it.

There’s no way I’m forking out that kind of cash for a blazer. It’s not that special…
Okay, it was, but I’m not exactly swimming in excess cash here. So, with a sigh of reluctance and bitter defeat, I put the jacket back. It just wasn’t meant to be for me and you, Beautiful Boyfriend Blazer. There’s gotta be another one here somewhere. I walked away.

It must have been about ten or fifteen minutes later when I felt a little tap on my shoulder, followed by a pretty little french accented voice:

“You have impeccable taste, young lady.”

Before I looked at her, I looked at what I had in draped over my arm: a plaid button-up and two white t-shirts. Uhh? She’s not talking to me, is she? And I looked at her, and at what she had draped over her arm. THAT BITCH. She had my jacket. And by the looks of her, she could afford it. Okay, lady. Rub it in. It’s fine.

“I saw you looking at this jacket a few minutes ago, and I just thought it was beautiful. I tried it on, but it’s too small for me. You need to buy this.”

“Oh.. uh, yeah.. I wanted to, but I really can’t afford it..”

She looked at me like I was being silly or joking or something. “What do you mean? If you love it–and I know you do–just buy it. I watched you when you were looking at it. It’s worth it, isn’t it?”

Okay, lady. Do you work here or something? Why are you trying to get me to buy this? I don’t get it.

“Don’t be silly. Let me see it on you. Here.”

I think in a normal situation, I would have been weirded out to the max by this. But there was just something about her, something that was warm and welcoming, motherly, even. So I put my stuff down, shimmied in the jacket, and walked over to the mirror with her. OBVIOUSLY it fit me perfectly. Like it was made for me. Which just made it even worse. I am sooo not made for this expensive clothing bullshit.

“SEE! Tell me you can’t buy that now. Look at yourself!”

I wanted to cry. Why, oh, why must I be so broke. Stupid money. Stupid life.

“Listen to me. Put this other stuff you’ve got back. You have to buy it. You’ll regret it if you don’t.”

The look she gave me was hard to explain. It was a combination of genuine admiration and.. pleading?

“You know what,” I said, “you’re right. I will regret it. And if I wait, it won’t be here when I come back for it. I’m going to do it. I’ll be angry with myself later, but oh well. I’m buying it.”

“Good girl!”

We shot the breeze for a little while longer while I continued to skim the racks. I wasn’t really registering anything I was looking at. I was pretty much inside my own head at this point, trying to figure out how I was going to budget after this ridiculous purchase. Why am I so weak sometimes?

“Well, young lady, it was nice talking to you. I’m going to go pay for my things now. Enjoy your jacket!”

“Thanks. It was nice to meet you.”

She walked away and up to the cash area. Just as she was finishing up her transaction and grabbing her bags, I got in line. She turned around before leaving, held her hand out to me and said, “I’m Carmen, by the way.”
“Oh, I’m Elizabeth,” I said, almost dropping everything on the floor as I tried to hold my arm out to her to shake her hand.

And then, as we shook, I felt something paper-like her hand. Oh god, please tell me she’s not giving me her number or something. Look lady, you’re gorgeous and nice and evrything, but I’m not exactly batting for that team.

She just smiled at me and said “It’s nice to meet you, Elizabeth.”

When she removed her hand from mine, I stupidly looked down at my hand, contemplating how to react appropriately without being rude. And then I saw it.

It wasn’t a phone number, Elizabeth, you moron.
It was money.
Money? Yeah. Money.
A nice, crisp bill.

No.. I’m not taking money from a stranger. That’s not right. I looked back up at her to try and reason with her, tell her I couldn’t, in good conscience, take her money. “No, plea…” But she was already on her way out the door.

“You’ll never forget me!” She said with a wave and the most wonderfully generous smile.

I just stood there: jaw on the floor; money in hand. I must have looked ridiculous.
When I finally came to, I turned to the boy at the cash register.
He had a giant smile on his face.

“Cash or debit?”

beer. punk rock. good people. nostalgia.

A faded ‘PAID’ stamp on my hand; a rockin’ headache of epic proportions; a faint memory of screaming “JOHN MELOCHE IS SEXY!”

All indications of a great night. It seems like a lifetime ago that this kind of thing was a nightly occurrence for me. I’d almost forgotten what the allure of that scene was. Last night sent a rush of memory from my toes right up the very tip of my skull (making a special stop at my now damaged eardrums—thanks guys.) A hundred different faces, familiar and new. The same idea applied to the music. A lively crowd, complete with a moshpit, crowd surfers, and special appearances by the bands’ front men. The devoted fans shouting along with the singers, reinforcing the social, political, and moral significance of the lyrics.

All of these elements made for one resounding and undying theme: unity. The sense of singularity and harmony was overwhelming, pasting a smile permanently across my face. Mavericks was the center of the universe last night.

Or maybe–six beer and three shots later–it was just a sauce-induced euphoria.

Either way, I was reminded of why I was so in love with this scene so long ago. There is a part of my heart, I think, that has always been reserved for all things studded, drunk, and grungy. And that piece was brought to the front and center last night.

would thank everyone myself for an awesome time. But someone already said it best last night, and to try to top it would be an act of utter futility:

“Cheers to beers and queers.” – Kyle Loverin