Another Mandi Visit

Good mid-morning, everyone. (well, okay – I bid you my mid-morning) This is Autumn May here, in the blank LJ box, coming to you alive from Defiance, Ohio. That crunching noise you hear is sponsored by the Purnells, thanks to their wise foodstamp purchase of Kraft Salsa & Cheddar Cheese Nips. The two flavors in one cracker!

It’s fourty five minutes after the hour and I am wondering how many more moments of peace remain before the hellions that are Mandi and her siblings tear down the staircase and torture me mercilessly! Autumn, Autumn, Autumn! We’ll gnaw the stringy leftovers from your bones and still scream at your dismembered skeleton for more.

***

“Dad’s remodeling the van, so excuse the mess,” Mandi announced, as I tossed some random clutter from the passenger seat to the floor and hopped in. The ghettoliscious vehicle had practically no interior – wires hung from top to bottom, and the thing had already been an eyesore before this brilliant “makeover”. With no a/c, I fumbled for the dangling gadget that was the door’s control remote, and rolled down the window.

Blasting Pantera through weak, fuzzy speakers at too high of a volume, there was a lightning storm to accompany us the entire way down from Shiawassee County. Never truly satisfied with anyone else’s driving skills, I found pressure building up in my chest from body tension and it took nearly an hour for me to get situated and begin realizing my condition. I felt for the arm rests and pulled them down. I began reading the green and white signs. I realized I’d just gone from throwing some things into a bag in my kitchen in Michigan to… the middle of a severe storm as construction lights challenged the electricity in the sky.

Mandi coaxed the van to not give out and I tried my damdest to leave the conversation in my head. An online debate over abortion had started to tear at the insides of my journal worse than any doctor’s carving tools. It had been utter shock to me, seeing her from over my laptop, walking through the front door. The last I’d known, we had been sending meaningless instant messages back and forth. Had they been real? Had all of those “yep”, “that’d be cool”, “we’ll laugh so hard”‘s truly driven her all this way?

Quiet and confused, I managed to explain my brother’s condition, my father’s condition, my mother’s ongoing wrath, and my own personal hell. And although my mind was jumbled, my heart was clear and lightning began to streak sideways across the sky. Nice touch.

Life mimicked the jogs in dream sequencing as the next thing I was truly aware of after dark curves and double yellow lines, was some strange guys’ borrowed house. Now we were borrowing it, too, just without the whole monthly rent aspect. Yellow Mustang, black Cobra, sleeping outside. No one home and an unintentionally unlocked door left. These were the boys from Solid Rock Computers. (Their business card has the images of both a PC and a cross, for those holy users who want friendly, Christian tech support.) Tired much earlier at 22 than any other year before it, I crashed on a couch and woke up freezing, later.

Turn to the back of the couch. Try to bury yourself in it. Tell yourself this position creates more warmth. Try to go back to sleep. Fail to.

The next morning, I used daylight to observe the room and tried to figure out what day of the week it was. Christopher has similiar trouble such as this – some very basic realities, we’ve struggled with. His speech therapist was not pleased to find that she could not use her well-crafted method for testing memory, because he hadn’t learned the months in the year. He can’t always read a clock. He can barely recite the days of the week. Go to the swampiest land in Mid-Michigan. Grow up there and only there, between Motown and Mininite Reserve, where your brother swears up and down that demons are blocking you in at your property’s perimeter at night, and see if you can get the year right.

I have a tendency to forget how old I am, already. I’ll forget having turned 22. But ask either of us about the brown recluse spider and we’ll give you an earfull.

Desmond and Chad have different empty liquor bottles lined up above the cupboard, marking memories and passings out. There is a bench press in the living room and a Siamese cat who is blind in one, cloudy eye. It smells like new cupboard furnishing and sawdust. The place, not the kitty cat. On the mantle is a model car and no other photos or figurines.

“Why are two young men taking care of an old Siamese?” were the first words out of my mouth, sent across the room to a Mandi who was just stirring. For some odd reason, it didn’t seem like an idea of their own, from the look of all of the video games and other clashing priorities lying around.

“Ex-girlfriend. Couldn’t take it with her.”

I nodded.

Soon we were sitting in the office of, as she calls it, “Solid Cock”.

“You’ll take these calls while I go out for a smoke, right?”

My God! One person calls, and another person calls, and as you’re talking on the phone it rings again! And little, black triangles start flashing at you and there can’t so much as be a big button that says HOLD, right? Nooo. But there are plenty of orange buttons to guess from. And my mother wonders why I never responded to any secretarial classifides?!?!

Oops. Apparently, that was the Piss your customers off/Hangup Shortcut button. Better luck next time…

Some hick called whose English was horrible, and he insisted he was “in business”, “at work” and demanded immediate service. He walked in later with frayed shorts on and looked about 60. Whatever.

I felt pretty bad the entire time, because I wasn’t much of a party person. After work, Mandi would blow dry her hair and get all dressed up only to come out of the bathroom and find me playing combat with the dog, while Alex and Erica mused at every scratch and bite left on my arms. She was insisting on deadlines for leaving the house to go out and get drunk, and I’d still be dressed down, complete with bruises and dog slobber, wrestled to the floor with my hand wrapped inside Lexy’s jaw. It didn’t make Mandi very happy.

We went to Hammers, which is a JJ Shakers wannabe. The “I wish I was a bad ass club” club. No where near dingy enough for the proper crowd. Just a lot of losers trying to be somewhere cool. Took all night to play so much as the Ying Yang Twins’ “Get Low” and even then, the DJ took out everything from “ya’ll these bitches crawl” to “ya’ll skeet skeet, goddamn”. One of my favorite gangsta club ballads had been brutally censored, and that offended me. You couldn’t have had a cornier party than that, out in the middle of a corn field.

Don’t get me wrong – I was never anticipating the hard core; I was in fact, dead tired before midnights, and this left additional disappointment in Amanda. As her day was just getting started, I wanted to call it quits. When she was having visions of alcohol and male company, I was thinking about Alex and Erica back home, in their final days of Summer. I remembered the ways they grabbed at my hands all day long, telling on their sister to me, “When we’re walking together, she holds us back and when you’re far enough up, yells ‘This is MY friend, not YOURS!'”.

Have you ever done something because of peer pressure? What sad thing do you call that, when the pressure is coming from people much younger than you are? Cause there was a point in time where I was falling off from a high dive at the community pool going, “Now. This just wasn’t right/holy fuck, I’m going to die.”

Bickering back and forth in the shallow end, exchanging lighthearted shut- your-stupid-face-up’s, Alex slammed me with, “You don’t act like a twenty-two year old.”

I slammed him in the back of the head with the water nurf, and disappeared.

Under water, everything shuts up immediately. Under water, the community is gone and you’re floating as if in outer space.

You can hear the creaking of the ladder pipes knocking against concrete.

You can see your comany swimming up above you.

You can get a perspective of your life inside you, and the entire world, under the water. You can have a moment to yourself with the whole planet at the same time. Brief collections of breath during which you know everything, under the sun’s magnifying glass. As soon as you break the surface, however, you seem to forget half of what you just knew.

The family broke a record for house wrecking, I swear to God. When they first moved in, that place was sharp. Now the mangy dog runs around with parts of the couch cushion in her mouth while she looks for an uncluttered place to shred at. She settles for semi-clutter. I don’t know if she’s trying to contribute, or just on the grand journey to find the last clean spots in the household.

It’s my last day here and I’ve gone from snatching up paper plates and other garbage, to reaching into the fridge and pouring milk into a gigantic bowl for drinking. I have added to the mounting dirty dishes, oh Lord, I have sinned. And as I dipped a styrofoam cup into the bowl for drinking (because tipping the bowl up to my lips had resulted in drenching the front of my shirt) it drizzled dairy product all over the counter and I failed to so much as look for any kind of paper towel.

“Fuck it,” I surrendered. “Hell. It just matches with everything else. Looks like they belong,” I thought, about the tiny puddles of 2 percent.

Now, when Lexy sneaks up and tackles my back, I’m not smiling, anymore. I’m booting and backhanding, and she doesn’t even get that I’m serious. She’s thankful for the attention. She’s a lot like the kids. And when I start to ignore her or she gets the slightest hint of a clue, she starts to back up and bark at me.

I fear for all of them. Probably don’t have to – I know they’ve gotten by many years without any of my help… but I still worry, sometimes. Not sure why. And I also have to admit that I really get a kick out of the teethmarks being imprinted on my left hand, right now. Reminds me of when you smack a cat and it turns around and sticks its rear claws into your arm as it bites you. God I love that feeling.

And with that, I’d better go wake up Mandi from her downer of a weekend, so we can ride home. I’m sorry, Mandi. I don’t know how to act, anymore.

“Autumn! You’ve been on the computer forever! Can we play now!”

“YES! OKAY! HANG ON!”

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