Anna Shane

Anna Shane: thoughts on life, God and living

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We Are the 27%

So if we don’t like the homeless, we put them in handcuffs?

The city council is trying to pass a ban on “unauthorized camping”. Sounds good on paper, but this mandate will go farther than just affecting the We Are the 99% campaign.  Not only does this criminalize those without a place to stay, but it also creates inevitable prejudice against those of a lower economic status. In other words, this mandate will hurt those already hurting. It will exacerbate the plight of the homeless.

It makes sense. When visitors and tourists visit the famous Mile High City, we want them to see only our clean manicured shops and streets…and clean manicured people. We want to give a good impression: Denver has it all together and is a city to be admired. “Come see our beautiful city! Come shop, eat and stimulate our economy! Come and see what we want you to see!”

 It all comes down to image. God forbid tourists see any problems. Problems are an embarrassment to those in charge. So, instead of seeking solutions, Denver slaps a band-aid on and hopes a problem simply disappears.  Out of sight, out of mind. If we don’t have to see the problem, then the problem doesn’t exist.

But the homeless are not just “a problem”.  The homeless, in case Denver has forgotten, are human beings. And they don’t just disappear.

The idea behind this mandate is, in theory, a good one. If we make vagrancy a crime, then the homeless will be forced to seek help and then, naturally, get their lives straightened out. The courts don’t have anything better to do then punish people without a home, right? So not only will Denver not have to deal with vagrancy, but the homeless will no longer be homeless. Everyone is happy in the end. Perfect, right?

Wrong.

If we kick the homeless off the streets, where do we expect them to go? Shelters? They’re full as it is.  According to the Colorado Coalition Of The Homeless, 27% of homeless people are sent away from an emergency shelter because there is no space. If the mandate passes, this 27% will be going to jail. They will go to jail because they have nowhere else to go; they will go to jail because they are homeless. We think the 99% have it rough? While they’re sleeping outside to make a statement, the 27% sleep outside because they don’t have a choice.  

A group of my friends and I like to go downtown to hang out with the homeless. I wouldn’t call it a ministry; most times we come away learning and gaining a lot more than we could ever give. We share food and swap stories. It’s nothing special, but it’s a good chance to see outside myself. I guess that’s why the news of this possible law caused such a riot within me.

But what do I know? I’m a college student, just trying to make my own ends meet.  Surely I shouldn’t bother with this. Surely reading about this pending government policy shouldn’t upset me. According to the older crowd, or at least their textbooks, I am supposedly apart of a more apathetic, technology absorbed, and self-centered generation. So what could my generation possibly know about this issue?

Well, I’ll tell you:

We know that people are sleeping on the streets.

We know that, perhaps despite common belief, the homeless deserve respect, whether they’re on the street because of their own life choices or simply down on their luck.  

We know that the homeless should not be made criminals.

And we know that we should care.

If Denver plans to pass this law against unauthorized camping, they sure as hell need to come up with alternative options for those without a place to go. Or better yet, we can forget this mandate altogether and actually find lasting solutions to homelessness.

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Convincing

Do you know that he

drinks vodka from the bottle and

smokes marijuana and

speaks in too many swear words and

has a beautiful soul?

Do you know that I

just sip champagne at weddings and

think weed is a garden term and

cringe at the f-word and

have a lonely soul?

Do you know that we

met not all that long ago and

argue all the time and

consider ourselves in love and

are both broken souls?

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Red Toenails

Insecurities do not begin suddenly. They do no announce themselves with a flourish or ask to be carried. Insecurities do not stomp or shout; insecurities crawl and whisper. They enter through the toenails and into the nail bed, through the soft layer of skin, and into the blood stream. Then they wind their way up, pausing at the hip.  Finally they shoot upwards, until they are pouring out the nose and ears. That is when I notice my insecurities—when I have to frantically search for a tissue for a nosebleed. When really, the insecurity has been with me for so much longer than that, taking up residence in my red toenails and cotton socks.

Filed under prose

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“This is what I love about all braided things: braid, hair, essays, rivers, our own circulatory systems pumping blood to our brains and our hearts.

I love the fact of their separate parts intersecting, creating the illusion of wholeness, but with the oh-so-pleasurable texture of separation.

It is not the same as a purely disjunctive form, the bits and pieces scattered like cookies on the baking sheet.

Rather, the strands are separate, but together, creating a pattern that is lovely to the touch makes the bread taste even better when we lift a slice of it to our tongues.”

Brenda Miller

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My Declaration of Independence

          I remember the first time I tried throwing up.

            It was Thanksgiving Day, 2007. We’d just returned to the hotel and as my family settled into the suite, tossing off their decorative flowered leis and already reminiscing about the amount of food there’d been at the luau, I snuck into the bathroom and tried shutting the door without the loud “click”. 

            I was on the floor in seconds. I counted out crunches by tens. Although cold sweat tingled my forehead at one hundred, I pushed until one hundred-twenty. Getting up, I frowned at myself in the mirror. So much for maintaining my ninety-three pounds.  A slight bump protruded underneath the ribbon at my waist. A monstrosity.            

            “Thanks a lot, fatty,” My reflection said. Her eyes told me to do what I had been too scared to do before. 

            On impulse, I stuck my finger down my throat, inching it down slowly and tried moving it back and forth, just like those websites had instructed. I gagged, once, twice. No food. A third and a fourth time, but still no food. I was doing something wrong. Kneeling before the toilet, I stared at the water, slightly blue from the maid’s bleaching visit, and pictured my plate from just a few hours before.

            “Anna?” My sister Abby, never one for a light knock, banged her fist against the door. “Hurry up. I’ve gotta go.”

            I didn’t answer.

            “Anna!” Abby must’ve had one too many glasses of water.

            “Okay,” I called. I pushed to my feet and unlocked the door. On the way I out, I caught my reflection glaring, hatred steaming from her eyes and fogging the mirror. She and I both knew I failed. But she’d win out soon enough.

             I cannot recall when I first felt the need to be thin. I can’t even remember when I first felt the need to be beautiful. Was it when I told the hairdresser to, and I quote my five-year old self:  “Make me lovelier than Abby”? My sister still makes fun of me for that strong case of my vanity. Or was it when my mom made me wear that god-awful purple coat to the ice rink? I can still see those elegant figure skaters in their sparkly costumes and feel the shame over the puffy grape engulfing my frame. Whenever it happened, I know the desperation to be beautiful all too well. The desperation at my own perceived ugliness.

            Insecurities do not begin suddenly. They do no announce themselves with a flourish or ask to be carried. Insecurities do not stomp or shout; insecurities crawl and whisper. They enter through the toenails and into the nail bed, through the soft layer of skin, and into the blood stream. Then they wind their way up, pausing at the hip.  Finally they shoot upwards, until they are pouring out the nose and ears. That is when I notice my insecurities—when I have to frantically search for a tissue for a nosebleed. When really, the insecurity has been with me for so much longer than that, taking up residence in my red toenails and cotton socks.

******

            I grew up in Bakersfield California. Just north of L.A., it is a 100-degree hot pocket of Republicans, oil factories, illegal immigrants, carrot farmers, and retired rich country-clubbers.  Most people just drive through Bakersfield when going to and from the coast, but some, like my parents, get snared by the suburb appeal. “A great place to raise a family”. Great place indeed. If you like ninety-eight degree weather in May, smog, dirt, and palm trees, then sure, go to Bakersfield.

            My mom and dad put Abby and me in a private school. Though reserved, I had a few friends throughout elementary school and enjoyed my schoolwork.  I was usually at the top of my class, not because I was smart but because I was obedient, liked to read, and most of all, was terrified to disappoint my teachers. I was the kind of student who always raised my hand and, at nine, carried around the biggest book from the library—Grapes Of Wrath—just to quietly impress everyone else. (I didn’t really understand Steinbeck, but I distinctly remember blushing at the ending.)

            In the fourth grade, I became friends with her. Jen Harris.

             Our class had twenty-one students and Jen was the only girl beside myself. Mrs. Heider, our teacher who gave us Skittles on Fridays, placed us across from each other toward the back.

            Jen was one of the popular girls I’d previously admired from afar. I began to help her with homework and she, in return, gave me her friendship. I adored everything about her, from her white Addidas with blue stripes to her red Roxy belt that she wore with her uniform shorts and polo. But most of all, I admired her short silky auburn hair. I wondered how it stayed so straight and to this day, question its natural gloss.

            “You can touch it,” she said, “But only once a day.” I savored the feeling of the dark strands between my fingers. By the time I cut my own to match, she grew her hair out.

            Jen was the one who introduced me to boys, spaghetti straps, and PG-13 movies. When she told me, right after I turned eleven, that I needed a makeover, I wasn’t going to argue. She attacked my face with tweezers and I left her house in globs of mascara and blush.

            “You’re my best friend,” She told me halfway through the year. She might as well have told me that Mrs. Heider would be giving us Skittles everyday, I was so happy.

            Jen was one of the first girls in our grade to get a bra, so she led the rest of us into puberty. The girls got hips and the boys got taller. Couples sprang up and girls like Jen entered the eighth grade on their second or third boyfriend.

             I, like a few others, lagged behind in the development. Instead of any growth in the chest I had growths on my face. Thanks to my gene pool, a cluster of red dots coated my forehead, nose, and chin. I washed my face close to five times a day but hormones prevailed.  For a while I avoided any mirrors or cameras, but eventually I turned to concealer and foundation.

            One afternoon, Jen was over studying with me for the greatly anticipated Constitution test.  

            “What brand of makeup do you use?” She asked me, halfway into the amendments.

            I rambled off a cheap drugstore brand (Neutrogena or something) and didn’t even bother to look up from my notes. We’d been studying for three hours and if she kept interrupting, there was no way I was going to remember Thomas Jefferson from James Madison.

            “Anna,” Jen reached for my hand, “I have to tell you something.”

            “Huh?” I looked up.

            “I just think you need to know that…” She paused as if for effect, “The way you look is, well, it’s not pretty.”

            Oh. I didn’t know how to respond.

            “I mean, your makeup is terrible. With all your pimples…” She went on to explain that I obviously wasn’t washing my face enough and that my makeup simply made the acne look worse.

            Jen proceeded to take me into the bathroom to wipe my face with a damp cloth. She scrubbed the washcloth against my skin until it was red and bleeding.

            “It’ll be much better now,” she said. “I’m glad I told you. Aren’t you?”

            “Yeah.”  Where was my backbone, my own self-respect? Instead, I smiled and we returned to studying.

            Although my poor eating started to appear at the end of the eighth grade, my trouble with food—trouble I still have—didn’t have a distinct beginning. Unlike the girls in high school who encouraged me to partake in “Starvation Tuesdays”, I don’t think Jen ever mentioned my eating habits. She was just a small piece in the puzzle of my twisted thinking; she unknowingly played a little part in the hatred I developed towards myself.

            If I was destined to be ugly, I reasoned, then at least I could be thin. If no boys liked me, at least I could be thin. If I was picked last for sports, at least I could be thin. If my other friends no longer wanted anything to do with me, at least I could be thin.

            It started with skipping breakfast now and then. I’d wash out a cereal bowl, drop a few cheerios inside, and leave the bowl on the counter to fool my mom. Then the portions in the other meals became smaller and smaller.

            Now, years later, thoughts of worthlessness still plague me.

            Insecurity whispers in my ear when I step out of the shower, when I button my jeans for the day, and when I notice my shirt clinging to my soft stomach.

            Insecurity slinks through the room like a shiny auburn snake. It slithers up my legs until it coils around my throat and hisses in my ear:

             You didn’t exercise yesterday, so you have to hit the gym extra hard today.

            Why doesn’t a boy ask you out? You must be hideous!

            I can’t believe you ate that second brownie. Your appetite is out of control. 

            The acne is really noticeable today. Don’t bother going outside.

And yet.

            And yet, I do not want to be chained to portion control or the reflective store windows that I pass by. The whispering may always be around, but who said that I must listen?             Insecurity may creep upon a person unawares, but I don’t have to wait until it is pouring out my nose like a nosebleed before I reach for a tissue. I am standing up, even now, against the lies.

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How To Not Have A Boyfriend

How to Not Have a Boyfriend

            Much to my mother’s chagrin, NFL player Tim Tebow has chosen singer Taylor Swift over me.  I know this comes as a surprise, considering my good looks and charming personality, but that’s what the gossip magazines—the final authority to any truth-seeker—tell me. My mom is devastated. She convinced herself that the reason I hadn’t dated anyone was because “the Lord was saving me for someone better”. That someone being, naturally, the beloved Broncos football quarterback. I don’t think she can quite wrap her mind around that, first, I am probably not what Tebow is looking for and, second, that her daughter, at 19, has yet to date anyone. Well, it’s not hard for me to believe. I excel at keeping boy that I like at a distance and consider myself the expert on how to avoid any romantic relationship that I desire.

             First, one must situate oneself comfortably in what is known as the friend zone. Avoid flirting at all costs and make sure you’re only invited to hang out with the special someone in a larger group setting. You know you’ve succeeded when they come to you for relationship advice. Whatever you do, do not tell him what you’re really feeling and do your best to set him up with someone else. I’d probably had a crush on *Grant* for eight months when he started telling me about his romance woes. He would go on and on about the blonde bimbo, and I would tell him what he wanted to hear: that he was right and that, yes, she was perfect, and that, no, her kissing another guy didn’t make her bad, and that he should keep pursuing her. The thought of him and me never even occurred to him. I’d successfully escaped any romance that might’ve occurred and even became friends with the bimbo.  Oh, that’s another hint: become friends with the girl he likes and then you get to listen to her talk all about him and give her advice. 

            Secondly, surround yourself with women who will lie to you. Guys are good at this too, but girls are even better. My grandmother tells me that the reason no boy has liked me is because I am too smart. Not only is her comment a boost to the ego but also it is so ridiculous that I can convince myself it might be true. My married friends stick to the clichés. “Let God write your love story,” they say.  Other friends, all dating of course, remind me that I am only 19. (These are the girls who have been dating since the eighth grade.) And finally, there are the girl friends that are also single. Make sure you have plenty of these; you can whine over cartons of ice cream and bemoan male domination together. They will tell you that watching a sappy chick flick will make everything better and you can believe them against you better judgment.  

            Lastly, continue telling yourself that you don’t care. It’s not easy, but definitely do-able. When the guy I liked starting dating a mutual friend, I convinced even myself that I didn’t care.  She came to me, timid, and asked if I minded. I assured her I didn’t. Of course I was happy for them. Of course I knew it wasn’t the end of the world. Of course I knew my time would come. Of course, of course, of course. Never mind that I had to pull my car off the side of the road to weep; I didn’t care and that was that. If you can convince others that you don’t feel anything when you watch a young couple hand in hand walking across the street or when you are alone on a Friday night, maybe you will eventually convince yourself. I know I have.

            

Filed under My ficiton

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Hair Dye Implications

No one tells you about the psychological impact of changing your hair color. But before I get into that, let’s start with the beginning.

It started with my roots. Not the hair kind, mind you, but with my genealogy.  I was looking at some old pictures and stumbled across one of my Grandmother Connie, my dad’s deceased mother, and her bright fiery red hair. I never really new Grandma Connie, but from I hear she was quiet, quirky, and had a surprising quick temper. A lot like me.

You see, I think something went wrong within my genetic makeup. I wasn’t meant to be a banal light brown. It doesn’t matter that I am one; I know and feel with my entire being that I was meant to be a red head, just like my grandmother.

It was this conviction that carried me to my hairdresser over spring break. Sure, I’d been warned. Our family’s hairdresser was a sweet girl but she was terrible at color jobs, but all I could imagine was the red framing my face, revealing my “truer identity”, so I asked for highlights and said what I now consider the dreaded words: “Do what you think will look good.”

Never, never, NEVER say this to your hairdresser. Especially if your hairdresser is notorious for bright colors clearly never seen in nature.

I drove away from the salon with fire hydrant red stripes, traffic light orange stripes, and a good dose of tears.

“It’s fun,” My mom said. Fun is our code word for, “I-hate-it-but-would-never-really-tell-you-that”.

“Wow” My dad didn’t even make eye contact. “It sure is bright.”

Some friends told me they liked it. Maybe they have an obsession with fire hydrants and traffic lights, but I doubt they were being honest. My roommate didn’t say much of anything—sign enough—and my cousin recommended that I ask for a refund. Thanks, cous.

So back to a salon I went: and this time, a different one. Quite honestly, I felt like I was committing adultery or something. I’ve never gone behind my hairdresser’s back, and I felt certain she would burst in at any moment, aimed with one of her poky round hairbrushes aimed at my head.

“I need help,” I told the new lady “I like red hair, but I’m not a fan of…stripes.”

She had to call back-up.

For ten minutes I sat, listening to their “hmm”ing and “ohh”ing, and feeling six hands piece through my hair.

“We have just the thing,” they said.

Just the thing indeed. Two hours later, my hair was a rich auburn. As I walked back to my dorm room, it was all I could do not to look at myself in window reflections and cry. Did I even own a backbone? It looked good, but I never wanted to dye my hair! The only people my age who dyed their hair were they types who went to indoor tanning beds and wore acrylic nails. How had this happened? I wasn’t one of them.

The dark reddish brown hair received much more positive feedback than the red stripes. Some even told me they liked it better than my original hair color. No matter that I was an introvert and hated the attention; changing your hair, I quickly learned, earns automatic attention, however unwanted. I found myself avoiding people just so that they wouldn’t feel obligated to take note of the change. Silly, I know. But this was an introvert’s living nightmare.

Yet there is a lot more to changing one’s hair than just people’s reactions.

I feel like part of me is lost. I look in the mirror and it’s not me looking back. Gone is the familiar face replaced by a stranger gawking at me with a sort of dark halo. Who is she? I have tried looking at myself from different angles with a hand mirror, but there is something unmistakably wrong. Something foreign.

Maybe it’s because one my favorite soap boxes is “accepting yourself just as you are” and I feel like I have trespassed on one of my own values. Whatever the reason—I haven’t been able to pinpoint it quite yet— I feel like I am wearing a mask. A façade. Pretension.  Like makeup, I expect to be able to wipe the hair right off and see the person I have looked at for the last 19 years of my life looking back at me. 

I went into the entire venture convinced I was destined to be a red head and that something had just simply “mis-fired” in the genetics department. Turns out that I was wrong; maybe the light brown was really me after all. 

Why does it matter so much? I wish I knew. If my identity is truly not in how I appear, why should I feel like a change in hair color can affect my identity? It’s not the hair that makes a person. .

Apparently, my appearance has been apart of my psyche much more than I thought. It just took some hair dye to make me aware of the fact. 

Filed under My ficiton

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"Typical"

He needed to lose weight.

             Dan’s gain started as just a few extra pounds, but soon his little paunch turned rounder right about the beltline. Never thought he’d be the type of a guy with a belly—the guy with yellowed pit stains and a too-hairy chest—but there he was, sitting on the couch with an empty Cheetos bag and a fine orange coating in his fingernails. 

            “In just two weeks, you could look like me!” The guy in the infomercial said, flexing muscles on his arms the size of bowling balls.

            The infomercial was for some at-home gym thing that looked more like an instrument of torture than any barbell he’d seen. For only 19.99 nonetheless. Dan clicked the TV off. He needed to go for a run.

            His neighborhood full of matching track homes and palm trees didn’t offer a variety of scenery. Running in eighty degrees isn’t all that it is cracked up to be, especially after polishing off an entire bag of manufactured orange fat-foams. His body felt like a piece of lead cutting through the thick wall of humidity. But he would do it.

            “Where were you?” Amy asked when he came through the garage door an hour later. “It’s late. Hailey’s already in bed.” She was sitting at the kitchen counter flipping through one of those flimsy catalogs she got each day. She still wore the stained daycare t-shirt and jeans from work. Because she spent six hours a day with three year-olds, Amy perpetually smelled like goldfish and play dough.

            He opened the fridge. “I’m gonna get in shape.” And closed it.

            “Mmmhmm. You and me both.” Amy hadn’t really ever recovered from her pregnancy weight. Not that she’d ever been that thin to begin with. She was short and round. Flabby and soft.

            They met in sociology. It was a small class and since no one really moved seats after the first day’s random seating, she was next to him for an entire semester. He didn’t like sociology; blaming everything on the environment just didn’t sound right. Amy, on the other hand, loved it. When they were paired together for a presentation she took far more than her share and he was more than happy to let her. He felt sort of bad, but only because it was typical. He was an athlete and she was the kind of girl who spent holidays reading, so of course she would be doing all the work. And of course he would end up asking her out. But she was nice, it was senior year, and what the hell did he have to lose? They were married a year and a half later.

            “I’m going to join a gym.” He said.

            “What do you think of this?” She held up the catalog and pointed to a frying pan. “It’s cast-iron. Someone was telling me about these.”

            He shrugged. “I’m going to lose at least ten pounds.”

            “Hmm?”

            “Ten pounds, Amy.” He said. Maybe fifteen.

            His boss was the first one to notice his weight loss. They were right outside his office discussing the weekend’s trip when he stopped mid sentence.

            “—You lose weight?”

            “Uh, yeah. Yeah, I’ve been working out.” Dan answered. It’d been three weeks. Eight pounds. Monday, Wednesday, Friday were for running. Tuesday and Thursday he lifted. Saturday was pretty much booked for membership programs and there was no way he was putting on spandex for any stupid spin or yoga class.

            His boss continued the discussion, as if Dan hadn’t even answered. As if he hadn’t even asked. He was assigning Dan to the new program with the intern, Elise Peterson. So basically, Dan would tote around some college girl and pretend like he enjoyed his job for two months.

            Later that afternoon, he was late picking up Hailey. Amy’d wanted more kids, but one was plenty. Between soccer and piano lessons, how did any sane working parent have time for more? He chose sanity, thank you very much.

            “How was school?” The typical parent question. He’d become that, recently: typical.

            “Eh. Fine.” She said as she got into the car. “We had a sub who didn’t know what she was doing.” Haiely began rummaging in the glove compartment.

            “Cup holder.” He said.

            “Thanks.” She reached for the gum she was searching for. “I am just, like, so over high school.”

            Dan smiled. Hailey was always a little above average, but this was a bit much. She was just a freshman. And it was September.

            Amy already had dinner waiting when they got back. Chicken Parmesan. (She wasn’t helping his diet.) They ate around the kitchen island and alternately watched the news and one of Hailey’s TLC shows, switching back and forth during commercials.

            Dan and Amy exchanged a few pleasantries for Hailey’s sake. How was work? Fine. You? Busy but fine. Turned out to be sunny, didn’t it? Yep it sure did.

            They fell into their usual silence. They’d lost things to talk about a long time ago.

            On Wednesday he met the intern.

            “I’m quite passionate about my work.” This is what she first told him. “I hope you have high expectations because I intend to meet them.”

            Elise had very long thin legs. Unlike the other women in the office, she never wore nylons and he noticed the faint freckles clustered around her kneecaps.  Her cropped hair was black, but it was the kind of black that looked faintly fuzzy, giving its true origin (a box at Walgreens probably) away.

            He gave her easy jobs the first week. Sorting and Filing bored her, however, and she didn’t hesitate to tell him so. She was soon talking to clients.

            “Do you ever dream?” Elise asked him over lunch. It was just the two of them in his brown office. He was at his desk and she sat against the wall with her legs tucked up underneath her. She waved her peanut-butter sandwich at him. “I don’t mean the pillow kind. The aspiration kind.”

            He looked at his salad and sighed. Down 20 pounds and he still didn’t care for spinach. “I dream, I guess. Like anybody else.”

            She gave him a pointed look.

            “I wanna have a boat.” His words surprised him. He did? Since when did he want a boat?

            “That’s a beautiful dream. A boat.” She said ‘boat’ as if she slipping it into her mouth with a spoon.  She looked at him, tilting her head slightly. He wondered if she ever blinked.

            “And I want to travel Europe.” He hadn’t thought of that since grad school. Italy had a funny way of feeling farther and farther away.

            Elise smiled. “I figured.”

            “Why is that?”

            “Oh, you just look like the Europe type,” She said. “I’m the Europe type too, you know.”

            “I figured.”

            It was a week before they started sleeping together—or as Elise insisted on calling it, making love. Her car broke down and she called him at home.

            “I could’ve gotten someone else,” She said. “But I knew you’d come.” She’d already called a tow and so he gave her a ride back to her apartment.

            “Want to come in?” She asked.

            Yeah he did. “Nah, I need to get back.”

            “I can at least give you some coffee.” She twisted a piece of hair at her temple around her finger until it stood straight out. “You were my rescuer tonight.”

            He thought of Amy, on her back in her snowman flannel pajamas, asleep with her mouth open. “All right.”

            She invited him in and they sat too close on the couch. When she said she was hot, apologized for having no air conditioner, and took off her shirt, he wasn’t actually all that surprised. He never planned on having an affair, but that night it was like they both just knew it was expected. He was the king of ‘expected’.

            Dan bought two smoothies before picking up Hailey. An all fruit smoothie for himself and peanut butter banana smoothie for her. Hailey swung her backpack into the backseat and thanked him for the drink.

            “School good?” He didn’t respect a response.

            “We talked about love in lit today,” she said.

            “Oh.”

            “Yeah. The other kids are pretty immature. I didn’t think they’d get into the conversation—other than to talk about sex, I mean. But you know what?” She took a drink, let it sit in her mouth, and swallowed. “Everyone actually participated in the group discussion. We talked about how love is much more than, like, all the sex stuff.”

            Dan drummed his left thumb against the steering wheel and thought of Elise perched on her side on top of his desk.

            “Did you say anything?” He asked.

            “Just that love isn’t always exciting. I actually mentioned you and mom, like as an example.”

            “What?”

            “You and mom. I’m not an idiot, Dad. I know you sleep on the couch.”

            Dan wondered if Amy knew that Hailey knew. How much other stuff did Hailey know?

            “But you guys still love each other, you know? Even though the excitement is gone, you’re committed.” Her straw made a squeaking noise as she moved it up and down. “Can I have the rest of your smoothie?”

            “Uh, take it.” He couldn’t stomach any more.

            Amy was mad at him. He could tell by the way she sighed when he left his shoes by the door and by the way she sighed when he put his dishes into the sink instead of the dishwasher.  Those things only irritated her when she was mad about something else. He waited until Hailey went upstairs and followed Amy into the laundryroom right off the kitchen.

            “What bugs?” He asked. The room was not very big so he was talking to her back as she began to fold the whites.

            “Two kids threw up on me today,” She said.

            “Gross.” But what else was new?. Welcome to working with toddlers. “And?”

            “Elise Peterson called.” She snapped one of Hailey’s t-shirts in the air to get the wrinkles out. Once, twice, a third time. She flung the shirt down and turned around. “I know.”

            “Oh.” He knew she would figure it out eventually since he wasn’t all that cautious. But not this soon. He wasn’t ready to put an end to it quite yet.  “I’m sorry.”

            “Are you?” Amy’s voice rose. “Are you?”

            He wished he were. “Yes.”

            Amy shook her head.  “I feel sorry for you.”

            “What do you mean?” Hadn’t expected that one.

            Amy scooted past him back into the kitchen. He followed her to the bedroom. He sat on the edge of the bed as she went about the room, undressed, and ran a comb through her hair. 

            “What do you mean?” He asked again.

            “I thought maybe you could be more creative.” She went into the bathroom and came out with a toothbrush. She stood in the doorway and attacked her teeth with a few violent strokes. “I mean, the intern? It just never occurred to you to rise above the expected, did it?” She pointed the toothbrush at him and he watched a glop of toothpaste fall on the carpet. He thought for a second of scooping it up before it dried, but at this point, why bother? It could blend in well enough.

            “You think you’re something special, do you? Working out all the time, staying late at work, sleeping with some girl not even old enough to have real breasts?” She laughed and left to rinse her toothbrush. She called over her shoulder, “So original. So daring.” She came back and got into bed.

            “I’m sorry.” He said, turning to face her. What else was he going to say? He never would have expected this kind of response. Tears for Hailey’s sake? Yes. Yelling in frustration? Most definitely. But not this bitter acceptance.

            “You’re the one who chose this life. Yet you walk around like some puppet of life. Frankly, it’s pathetic.” Her voice was malice. “You’re planning to sleep with her for, what, another two weeks or so? Then break it off, realize that you love me, and try to make whatever we used to have work?”

            He didn’t say anything. She was right. A puppet of life.

            “Well, you don’t love me, and that’s fine.” She turned the lamps off with the switch by her bed.

            “That is not true-” He did love her. He did. Didn’t he?

            “Go and marry the bitch for all I care,” She sat up, fluffed her pillow, and laid back down.  “And work for another twenty years, retire with a nice savings account, and go live the rest of your days in Florida gaining back the weight you tried so hard to lose.”

            Dan opened his mouth but nothing came. He’d never seen Amy so angry, yet so calm. He sat, paralyzed into stupor and let his eyes adjust to the darkness.  How long was he sitting there? An hour, perhaps? Ten minutes? He needed to workout but he didn’t feel like it anymore.

             He watched Amy for a minute more and left for the kitchen, leaving her on her back in her snowman flannel pajamas, asleep with her mouth open.

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