This Nomination Is Just The Beginning Of World Domination. P.S. Thank You

Since I have no real life and I basically spend all day stalking the internet it didn’t take long before I came across a new comment on my blog saying that I had been nominated for a The Versatile Blogger Award. Sounds fancy, right? It is fancy, my friends. I was nominated by a wonderful woman whose blog, the World Wife Traveler is full of all things expat, it’s warm, funny, and I totally relate. I love reading expat blogs because it tells you everything you really want to know about living somewhere. It’s also the best source for travel. Really.

Look At Her, Isn’t She Pretty?

Image

 

The Versatile Blogger Rules

  • Add The Versatile Blogger award photo on a blog post
  • Thank the person (or animal) who presented you with the award and link back to him or her in your post
  • Share seven things about yourself
  • Pass the award along to 15 favorite bloggers. Contact the chosen bloggers to let them know about the award.

 

Seven Things About Me:

  1. My mother worked as a stripper when I was a baby. 
  2. I was born and raised in Utah.
  3. I am not Mormon. Thanks for asking.
  4. My father is Iranian. I blame him for my inclination to marry a foreign person. F-U Freud. I am drawn to accents and excessive body hair, apparently.
  5. My favorite movie as a kid was The Last Unicorn. When you watch it all grown up you realize that it’s kind of creepy and deranged.
  6. Once as a kid I was allowed to sleep over at a friends house. We went to rent movies and I told my friend (a mormon girl), we should watch, “The Hooker From H-E-L-L.” I was later returned to my parents. My mother didn’t believe in censoring films. For my third grade birthday sleepover she also let me rent, The Nightmare On Elmstreet. My friends were banned from talking with me after that.
  7. I live in Italy but I don’t really like pasta. Mostly because I’m kind of diabetic and it makes me feel like death after I eat it. My husband believes that pasta is a health food. It’s adorable.

And My Nominees For The Versatile Blogger Award:

Little Sarah Big World

Art 925

Frivolous Monsters

Roam About Mike 

Cute Overload

Not Your Victim

Jour By Giorno

Coffee With A Canine

Sputnik

Cynthia Giselle Loveland

Manboobz

Things Have To Be Destroyed Before They Can Be Rebuilt

I’m a firm believer in establishing boundaries. It’s a necessary evil since most people aren’t as altruistic as we’d all like them to be.  In order to have healthy relationships with ones partner, friends, or family it’s often required to lay down the mother-fuckin-law. I know that sometimes it can be more difficult than we’d like it to be but it has to be done especially when you’re dealing with archaic people. I love tradition, culture, customs, and the beauty of the different, the old, and it’s great when you’re only observing. It’s way less fun when you’re participating in someone’s 1855 throwback fantasy. Unfortunately, when you’re dealing with humans who are stuck in the “old ways” there isn’t anything you can do except for throwing a fucking monkey fit. Some people ignore logic, avoid communication, and intense arguing becomes the only way to break down stubborn ideas. It’s like Rooster fighting.

I’m pretty good at setting boundaries because I learned pretty early how to do it and that it had to be done. My father, a born and bred Iranian man, has a last name longer than this blog post, and lives by the ideas that anything before the eighteenth century was the very best ever. Some people assume that because he’s been living in the US for 35 years most of his “Iranian” went away but those people are mistaken. Culture is not an easy thing to change, it doesn’t usually melt away. My father, even after decades in the US, doesn’t like for us wear tank tops, or allow us to talk about dating, or talk with male employees in the mall. When I called home and said, “I have an Italian boyfriend. I love him and want you to meet him,” My father hung up on me and didn’t talk with me for a few months. I was 28 years old. I might be American but I’m used to old-school people who think that they’re always right and that you should dump tea in your eyes when they’re dry. If I learned one thing from my dad is how to set boundaries and check your answering machine in private. Otherwise all of your friends will hear a crazy man screaming in broken English that , “You are a god-damn Misty!” It wasn’t easy to go against his old-school tide, however, eventually, after many fights and a lot of making up, things are decent. We’re not perfect, and in fact I think he’s certifiably insane, but we have a relationship of mutual respect. This did not magically happen when I was born, but rather it came after 29 years of trying, failing, fighting, and trying.

My husbands parents have a strong case of, “I grew up in a tiny fucking village and everything that I say, believe, or have done is right and everyone else in the giant world are vile or mentally handicap.” They’re not easy to deal with as a foreign person, as a daughter-in-law, as a non-catholic, actually, their just not easy. We’ve fought with them countless times, they’ve made every step of our relationship difficult, and things escalated to a point where a few weeks ago, I did the unthinkable: I emailed the mom. This started a long dialogue of denial and absolutely nothing was resolved. Finally, this past weekend, I agreed to go with my husband to his hometown (because he begged me to go) to make some final preparations for the wedding in Cassino. For those of you who are new to my blog, we were married in the United States in September 2012 but we’re having an Italian wedding here in May.

The first day was okay but awkward. We walked in and I said hello to everyone, then I grabbed a towel and ran to our room to set down the bags I was holding and dry off my soaking wet, dirty dog who was dripping water all over the floor. This was apparently rude and Francesco spent the rest of the night ignoring me. The mom and dad spent the evening watching a movie in a small office room, Francesco took the dog to pee, and I went to our room to read. This was also rude apparently and so he yelled at me. We went to bed with him mad at me. We woke up the next day and he seemed in a better mood. Though, I was already sad from the previous night. At first things seemed okay, nobody was at home, I made some coffee and started to get ready for the day. Then the mom came home and shit got crazy.

It all started when Francesco came into the room while I was getting dressed and asked me if we could show his mom the invitations we made. “Sure, they’re right over there, go ahead and show her babe.” He gave me a dirty look and grabbed them saying, “You should come too.” I thought they were pretty cute, and I was pretty sure she would like them. He took them into the kitchen and started showing his mom. I walked in and glanced at them, and her, to see if she approved and she seemed to like them. I was still drinking my coffee and getting ready so I walked out of the kitchen to finish doing things. Francesco came running into the room after me to tell me that I was being horribly rude. And that I had to stand next to him while he showed her the invitations. I didn’t understand why, but I said okay and walked in the kitchen. I leaned against the counter about a foot away from them drinking my coffee and listening to them discuss where to buy ribbon and envelopes. Oliver, my dog, jumped up on my leg, I smiled down at him and started to ruffle his head. Out of nowhere Francesco stepped forward, grabbed Oliver and tossed him away from me, glaring at me with this look on his face like he hated me. I’d pretty much had it at that point. I burst into tears and ran to the bathroom.  Yeah, I know, me running into a bathroom with mascara running down my face over something so little is fucking crazy, but it’s been three years of doing everything wrong, of being yelled at constantly, and of Francesco being frustrated with everything I say and do in front of his friends and family. It’s a lot to deal with, people, so stop judging me.

Apparently when I ran off crying, in a fit of anger Francesco told his mom he wanted to cancel the wedding. No, I don’t understand why either, I think he was just fed up and frustrated too. This sent her into crazy-land and she came running into the bathroom after me screaming that I have to learn to “smack Oliver in the mouth like people smack their children”. The fuck, lady? I didn’t understand what she was talking about. I told her, “I’m upset because Francesco is being mean to me, this has nothing to do with Oliver.” She screamed something about my mental problems and slammed the door closed. Then, things escalated from “shit” to “holy fucking shit”.

I went into the room and started packing my stuff because clearly I’d made the wrong decision. I needed to get out as soon as possible. I heard the front door open and close and heard Francesco’s dad. The mom ran and told him that Francesco cancelled the wedding. I still didn’t know what had happened or what was happening. Francesco came in the bedroom and told me that he was sorry for being mean to me but I have to learn how to behave differently and when he explains things I need to stand next to him and explain things at the same time. This makes absolutely no sense to anyone raised in England, Canada, the US or South Africa. “Why?” He took a huge breathe, “Because if you don’t explain things the same time as me everyone things you don’t like the wedding!” I shook my head, “But I made the invitations, also, you didn’t stand next to me when I explained wedding stuff to MY parents in September. Why would I feel compelled to simultaneously explain something the same time as you. I think you’re competent in doing it yourself.” This pissed him off even further. “That is NOT how WE do things HERE.”

It was about this point that I heard his dad screaming that, “She is worse than the Africans. Even African people have more manners than her.” referring to me. I was thinking both, “Wow, that is fucking rascist.” He was screaming so loud his voice was straining and cracking, then I heard banging. Francesco ran out of the room into the kitchen and it was like Clash Of The Titans shit. They were screaming, the mom was crying, and it sounded like they were breaking the furniture. I packed faster. This was the first argument that Francesco had ever had with his dad, ever. Take 28 years of pent up rage, and you can imagine the amount of hostility exploding in the small apartment.  Tables were flipped over, blood was all over the wall (from Francesco punching it), and I heard his dad scream something about me having “no manners”. I was thinking, “You, sir, are an asshole.” Suddenly Francesco appeared in the bedroom and tells me we’re leaving. We grab our stuff and run out the door with his dad yelling behind us to, “Never come back,” and his mom crying hysterically telling us not to leave and trying to block the door. Yes people, my life is EXACTLY like a shitty lifetime movie. Thank you for noticing.

We jumped in the car, it was raining so hard we could barely see out of the windshield. He drove fast and I tried to talk with him.

“Honey, what is going on?”

“I’m sorry but I don’t want to talk to you right now.”

“Oh…okay.”

Then we drove for one hour towards Florence. I felt like I was sinking because I was causing all of it, that everything was fine before we started dating and now he’d abandoned his family. Way to go, Misty, you fucking suck! His sister started calling over and over but he refused to answer. I finally answered for him. I told her I don’t know what happened, maybe everyone is mad because I didn’t say “hello” loud enough? I apologize to her for not saying hello loud enough. She tells me that Francesco cancelled the wedding and I told her that he didn’t. Finally after trying to figure things out for thirty minutes I convinced him to take the phone and talk with her because she’s very worried about him. He did. Then he told her he never wants to see his parents again, and that he is done with them entirely. I’ve never heard him talk like that and I was getting worried for him. He loves his family a lot and no matter what they’ve done he’s always stayed polite, nice, and done what they’ve wanted. And now this?

How confusing. I want Francesco to be happy. That has always been my priority. Often though his happiness is in direct conflict with mine. We’re literally opposites so most of the time we don’t want the same thing. It’s very difficult, and confusing, but I try to make him my priority. I’m not trying to make myself sound like a saint. I’m not easy with my concessions, I make it known that I’m not happy with things and sometimes I’m an asshole. “No, I do not want to raise my children Catholic, No, I do not want get married in the church, no I don’t want to spend time with your friends who keep telling me how many girls you used to fuck, or your parents who tell me that I’m a horrible person with no manners.” In the end I do what is best for him but it doesn’t mean that I fucking like it. I do not like it. The point of this long paragraph is that my life would be awesome without his parents. However, it’s not good for him so regardless of how much they suck, I had to fix it.

I had to be sneaky. Now, he always reads this blog so he is going to see this and think, “You sneaky bastard.” And I’d just like to say, “Suck it, I did it for you.” So, the first thing I did was call his sister when he went to the bathroom. I told her that he didn’t know I was calling so please don’t mention it and I told her to call his parents and start fixing things with them. While she did that I would work on calming him down and hopefully get him to turn around. I hung up and erased the call. She agreed and started making the necessary phone calls to calm down the parents. Now, Francesco is stubborn. Incredibly stubborn so I knew I couldn’t tell him to do anything because he would do exactly what he wanted anyways. So, all I could do was help him see that it wasn’t that big of a deal, that fighting with your parents is normal, that I’ve done it many times, and that it had to happen at one point in his life. I teased him and made him laugh, and reminded him that old men can be like animals so while his father loved him maybe he didn’t know how to express it in a productive way. “In his frustration he acted in anger” I said. I reminded him that if things were turned around and it were me he’d tell me the same things, and he’d want me to go back and fix things. One hour of this, of story telling of the millions of times I’d been “disowned” and us laughing about his Hulk temper, he decided to turn around. He went pee again and I called his sister to say, “We’re heading back.” And she said, “Okay, I’ve talked with them and they’ve calmed down. Things should be fine.” Then I deleted the call. You’re welcome, Francesco.

We headed back to Cassino and I’d like to add that it takes a lot of character and strength to return to your parents house after you’ve had a fight where your dad tells you to never come back again. I’m a much, much more stubborn and I wouldn’t have returned for at least six months. It really takes a lot to swallow ones pride, and go back and try to talk only a few hours later. I have a lot of respect for him for being that kind of person who can humble himself for the greater good.

When we returned the mother opened the door with swollen red eyes. The dad was on the phone in the office. We walked slowly in the dark apartment-no, I’m not making this shit up to make it sound more dramatic, seriously, all of the fucking lights were off and the house was dark as shit-and sat in the living room in a little triangle. They stared at each other for ten minutes before they both started speaking at the same time. The mom screaming, “You cancelled the wedding!” And Francesco responding, “I was just mad for a minute, I didn’t mean it.” Then the focus almost instantly shifted to me. The mom, tears in her eyes, “I don’t have any problems with you. Yes, in the beginning I did, but now I don’t.” I nodded and said, “Yes, okay, but when you are not welcoming to someone it is very difficult for them to feel comfortable in your home. I don’t feel comfortable here. That’s not my doing.” Then she said she wasn’t trying to be mean because she introduced me as Francesco’s girlfriend instead of his wife. “I didn’t see a point in telling people you were already married when we’re planning a wedding.”  I nodded. “That’s fine, but you can’t do whatever you want without an explaination. I think it’s normal for me to be offended for that, especially given your protest of our marriage in the first place.” Then she shook her head frantically and told me that I’m offended by stupid things. The dad at this point had stumbled into the living room and was watching us argue. Then he finally jumped in, “We don’t have a problem with you! You just sit there like a timid animal and you never talk! You can’t act like that in THIS FAMILY. You have obvious self-esteem issues and problems with yourself” Francesco jumped in at this point and told them that I am not Italian and that my culture is more reserved. I don’t scream when I talk, I’m not passionate, and my rules of conduct are different. They ignored this entirely. Then they did that Italian thing where all of them started yelling at the same time. The parents both yelling at me about how I have to act like a different person and learn how to be Italian in their home, and Franceso yelling over the top of them about how I can’t “be Italian” because I’m not Italian. Just like he can’t be American and it’s not possible to ask that of someone. This went on for about five minutes. Then the parents both addressed me again about how I have to change who I am and learn how to act like a different person. At this point I saw that I had no option but to say, “Okay.” And apologize for being rude and difficult. Ouch, my pride.

We went out that night with his friends and I drank too much and then barfed my guts out because I’m awesome and that’s how I deal with stress. The next day we woke up and Francesco voted NOT for Berlusconi, and then we drove home. When we left everyone seemed happy, content, better. The dad, who hasn’t really called Francesco since our marriage in the US has been calling and chatting about wine. Things do seem better, Francesco is really happy and seems to feel like everything is fixed, fine, the boundaries have been set and life is good.

I’m feeling very confused and very heavy. All of this “happiness” is my responsibility now and it depends on my ability to change who I am and become someone else. Rationally, it’s not even possible for me to change the core of who I am. And, I’ve always liked who I am, I’ve always remained true to myself, and prided myself on my strong character in the past. Asking me to change who I am is crossing many of my personal boundaries, and forcing me to question who I am. But sometimes things have to be destroyed before they can get be rebuilt.

 

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To Be Continued On: Finding Common Ground With Italian In-Laws

Leaving The Table Is Like Announcing That You’ve Eaten A Neighborhood Child

It’s no secret that my in-laws do not  like me. Why? I have no idea. I mean, I know I’m weird, but they hated me way before they had a chance to get to know me. Given the way that they pronounce my nationality, like a disease, saying it to others as though they’re apologizing to God, tells me that maybe it has something to do with where I’m from. Now, I’d also like to say that I know most people dislike their in-laws. I know that I’m not the only person in all the world with this problem, which is my purpose for writing this, I feel like other people can relate to it. Also, my point of doing this blog wasn’t to document how “beautiful” Italy is. Everyone knows it’s beautiful. I wanted to write an honest blog about what it’s really like living here as a foreign person. If I just post photos of pretty buildings and great food I’d only be telling half of the story. If that’s your thing, there are loads of tourism blogs about Italy that don’t document things like neo-nazis or evil mother-in-laws.

Cross Cultural Love: I Own Him On Paper

Cross Cultural Love: I Own Him On Paper

So, anyways, I’ve been with Francesco for over three years and since the beginning we have had a lot of problems with his parents. They objected to our marriage, our relationship, and me. I assumed at some point they’d be won-over by my charm, and by charm I mean, “she’s cute in a baby-in-a-head-shaping-helmet” kind of way. That did not happen and in many ways things have only gotten worse.

Two weeks ago, my husband and I were in his hometown visiting his parents when his mother took it upon herself to introduce me as her sons “girlfriend,” followed by an explaination to my husband that she doesn’t recognize our marriage. This. Pissed. Me. Off. In three years this is the first time I’ve ever felt compelled to say something to her. So I emailed her because I am super, incredibly, stupid. I’m not going to paste the exact email here but it was something like this:

“Look, clearly if you still have a problem with me after three years you’re always going to have a problem with me. I have no idea what you want. You’ve never liked me and have made sure that I’m aware of that. The tension in the family isn’t good for anyone. It’s not good for you guys, or Francesco, and I don’t want to cause problems in his life. He’s  in a really difficult position. I’m aware that you would have prefered he married an Italian woman, or one of his ex’s (whom his family is still close with), however he chose me. Why? No idea. But he did. Seriously, what do you want from me? Do you want me to pack up my stuff and return to the United States and leave Francesco? Is that the goal here?”

Of course, my purpose was to address their problems with me and the “less than ideal” situation, and ask what the family hoped to accomplish by reminding me every other weekend that I am not their first, second, or third choice of daughter-in-law. This is not what the mother took from it. Of the five paragraphs I wrote the only part she paid attention to was, “return to the United States” where she decided that I’m going to leave Francesco and divorce him as an “American does.” Her response back to me was something like this:

“I have no idea what you’re talking about. You’ve imagined everything because you are mentally unstable. Maybe you should look at how you’re acting, and stop hiding inside of yourself like a hedgehog.”

Where I responded internally: Oh b&$&, just wait until I publish a book! Just kidding, that would make me crazy (because there is no way anyone is going to publish me). But seriously, just wait. 

Suprisingly, her response also pissed off my husband because she called me a dellusional liar, which she can’t do in this particular case because he was there everytime she threw a tantrum forbidding him to marry me, screaming “why would you be with an AMERICAN,” and telling his friends that whatever they do to “find a nice Italian girl, not an American,” like her son did. Not to mention, she expressed her disapproval to the entire village, which of course came back to us. So, as nuts as I really am, I didn’t hallucinate the fact that she hates me and the idea of our cross-cultural union (because it’s 1825), nor did I hallucinate the few times she’s poked my breasts and told me how incredibly unattractive I am because I don’t have huge knockers. True story. So, my point is that I did not make this shit up. My husband called her to say, “My wife did not make this shit up.” Where she responded (seriously), “She left the table during lunch.” What does that even mean? Let me explain.

Leaving The Table Is Like Announcing That You’ve Eaten A Neighborhood Child: Important Cultural Lesson

Let’s say you’re sitting around a lunch table with guests and your baby starts screaming to the high-heavens, or, in my case, your dog feels the urge to make leg sex with everyone, followed by incessant barking, and then food thievery.

The polite thing to do is:

A) Keep eating. Smile. Drink more wine, and tune out everyone yelling at your dog to “stop” and “BASTA!” Embrace the fact that your screaming baby/obnoxious dog is the center of attention. Feel the love. Own it.

B) Take the disruptive child/dog into another room and let everyone eat in peace.

We all know that in the United States, Britain, France, etc, choice “A” would make you the rudest fucking person in the history of manners, EVER. However, I’ve recently learned that choice “B” is worse than committing murder in Francesco’s family.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, you’re wondering, “How does telling you that you’re not welcome in their family have anything to do with getting up from a table?” It doesn’t. Which is what makes this woman a genius because she is using a  classic red herring move. Touchè devil woman. Now, I have to make the next move but what I really want to do is disappear.Or, I can use her own method against her and reply back, “Goats drink goats milk in the spring . You ate an orange once. Eminem. Caffe Latté!”

I’m trying to figure out what to do next so I asked everyone for advice because clearly I can’t trust myself. An Italian friend of mine said that her behavior is standard for a small southern village, and that she will continue to use a “paranoid, and insane,” strategy to try to take the higher ground politically.” I am well-versed in this behavior, since I attended an American Junior High School, but ain’t no body got time for that! I talked with a few American friends who said that I should simply stop going to their home for a while because the constant negativity is causing harm and strain. I have great friends and I value their advice but honestly I don’t want to do that either. I don’t want to play her “strategy” game, and I don’t want to avoid the problems for another decade. My goal was to address the fact that there are issues and try to resolve it so that maybe one day my kids won’t have to grow up with the same tension (yes, I’m stupid, stupid, stupid!). Though, I do realize that if I couldn’t win them over in three years, it’s not going to happen, ever.

I’ve tried compliments, helping the mom clean and cook more, doing whatever they tell me, I’ve tried everything that Francesco has told me to do to improve the relationship but it hasn’t worked. I’m not the kind of person who normally places blame on other people (but my husband has assured me that this really isn’t me), nor am I the kind of person who cares if people like me or not (because duh, everyone does), but this is my husband’s family. I really want them to like me and it hurts a lot that they don’t (whine, whine, whine). However, I’m aware that you cannot force open a closed mind. If a person isn’t used to cultural differences, there is nothing that anyone can do. I know that because my own father is racist, homophobic, and all kinds of closed-minded. Can’t change them.

So the question is: Do I keep going there, pretending that everything is fine, tune out their criticism and smile, knowing they all want me to overdose on gasoline, or do I politely step aside and avoid the tension for a while, or do I respond to the the mother-in-law’s hedgehog email and hope that if we go back and fourth enough times we’ll come to some resolve?

Being a grown up is hard.

For A Follow-Up Of The In-Laws Saga Click Here. 

Do Bribes Work in Real Life Like They Do In The Movies?

There are times when I think I’m in the mafia. Sure, I grew up poor, in bad areas, but somewhere in my brain I believe that I’m the godfather. In the fourth grade I tried to start my own gang. I didn’t know what a gang was but I knew that I was good at convincing people of things and I knew that I could have followers. All was nice until I wanted my gang to beat up another kid for me. That kid was a dick, and he irritated me by bullying other kids. My gang of four or five nine year olds refused to inflict violence on the larger kid, which, ya know, was smart. Since I was smaller than my fellow members I couldn’t intimidate them to encourage them to hurt someone else, so I turned my persistent, irritating nature to another cause that allowed me to lead a group of humans and started an environmental group instead. The environment totally won.

About twenty years later we come full circle to my life now. I live in Italy with my boyfriend whom I love. However, as relationships often are, it’s problematic. We have problems. It all started about eight months ago when I realized I didn’t know my boyfriend at all. He’d lied to me about most of the details from his past. I’m jaded, I’ve been the rebound girl lots of times in my life. Since I’m totally awesome it’s not difficult for me to become a distraction for men. However, distractions only last so long, and eventually they go back to what wounded them in the first place and also I’m weird. Weird isn’t fun forever. Because this has been a recurring theme in my life, and because I’m not a fan of repeating my mistakes, I asked my boyfriend in the first few months of our meeting many details about his ex’s. Unlike many women, my jealousy is usually only attached to people I have a reason to worry about. Lying or hiding is a big read flag that I have a reason to worry.

I found out the truth after we were engaged, after we’d moved in together, after we got a dog together. The truth was this: He didn’t date his ex for “four months” nearly two years before I met him as he told me. He dated her for two years, ending only three months before I met him. Tragic. This left me with the decision to leave or to stay. I chose to stay, because I love him and because I’m an idiot. He was all like, “but I didn’t love her, EVER,” and I was all, “prove it, liar-face.” He can’t prove it. Which is weird because it should be an easy thing to prove. Right?

There are a variety of reasons why proving it seems to be a challenge. One, Italians don’t like to be involved in each other’s business. Even if it’s simply validating a friend’s story. Most of his “friends” have refused to even simply tell me, “yes that’s what happened” or “no it’s not.” Another issue is that nobody really knows the truth except for a couple of their mutual friends, her, and him. He lied so obviously he doesn’t count. Their mutual friends don’t want to be involved, and neither does she.

Unfortunately I know she doesn’t want to be involved because in a moment of desperation I asked her very politely if she would be willing to confirm something for me. She never responded, rather she called Francesco and told on me (what the fuck happened to women uniting!? Rude.). I’m always shocked when people have these reactions to things. Despite being a total asshole, I’m pretty fair and sympathetic to other people. Not always, I’m not perfect obviously, but I try and I would totally talk to me in this situation. Really.

Since that didn’t work and I hate being told “no”, I’ve resorted to bribes. They work in movies, and in the place I grew up. Maybe they work in Europe too? So, I sit at my laptop trying to think of the least creepy way to bribe her. I write and re-write the email in various forms. Note that, I’m kind of being silly and joking at this point. I know it won’t work and that I’m being super weird BUT I kind of feel like doing something silly makes up for the fact that this whole thing has made me feel like doodie.

Here are the first few drafts I wrote.

“You are a stupid bitch and I hope you die. If I give you 200 euros will you talk to me about my idiot boyfriend, if not I will take the money and pay someone to pee in your shampoo.” This one would obviously not work.

“Please, this is destroying our relationship and you’re the only person that can help me. I’ll pay you, please just take pity on me and help me out.” Since she’s a heartless, evil, witch this won’t work either.

And finally, the one I chose, “I get it, you’re bitter, I’m dating your ex, and you think I’m crazy. I am. Still, I need info and you have it, how about we make an exchange, you answer a few questions and I pay you 200 euros.” This one, maybe. Hmmm.

Now, I’m aware she isn’t going to answer back. I get it. However, I am unbearably tenacious, and slightly obsessive. I rarely, rarely, give up on anything, ever. My friends have tried discouraging my many crazy or odd “goals” many times in my life. Bless them they still try to talk me into more “normal” behavior. Sometimes I wonder if they hang up the phone with me and think, “dear god there is no hope for her.” Some of my friends have resorted to the idea that eventually I’ll off myself or develop serious Prozac dependencies in my future, something to curb my non-stop crazy thoughts. I like to think that it just makes me effective rather than broken. That’s justification!

The truth is that I’m scared. Sure, anyone can lose anyone they love at anytime. People change, grow apart, fall in love with someone else, lots of things can happen in a lifetime. But, it’s entirely different to start your life with with a base of lies, deceit and the idea that they are possibly in love with someone else. I could sweep it under the rug and “move on” but anyone knows that every woman will hold that in the back of her mind for the rest of her life. Ten years from now I’d wonder still if he misses her. And he’d sure as fuck never be allowed to go to spain without me for the rest of his life. Of course.  Wouldn’t it be easier to be sure?

I’ve always believed that hope is our greatest friend and biggest enemy. Hope makes us lie and trick ourselves, but it’s also the only thing that pushes our species forward. Without it, we’d give up and die off. It could very well be for the best.

But before that I’d like to focus my annoying nature to fixing my relationship so I don’t have to give up on it. I’d like people to cooperate, and since I can’t force them to do it just like in elementary school, the least I can do is make cooperating appealing. It works in the movies. And I mean, money! Who doesn’t like money!?

My Life with Animals: Nervous Breakdowns and Dingoes

M.E. Evans

June 29th, 2011, Taken from the Short Stories section from my more serious blog DirtyFilthyThings

My Life with Animals: Nervous Breakdowns and Dingoes

I moved to Italy for art school, the calm Italian lifestyle, great coffee, lax smoking laws, inexpensive wine, and beautiful cobblestone streets lined with sophisticated Europeans. That was the imagery I had of Europe from my random vacations over the years. Living in Italy, as with living anywhere, changed the idealistic setting and replaced it with reality: The cobblestone is often covered with excrement, the sophisticated humans have no concept of personal space, and the calm lifestyle is actually just well-dressed laziness, and it’s isolating. Terribly isolating. The loneliness is different than what I had experienced growing up in Utah, but every bit as uncomfortable. I can handle it though, it’s something that I’ve grown used to and developed a lifelong love-hate relationship with because I need to be alone to work, to write, to think, but in it’s in these great flashes of productivity I notice the silence.  The sporadic urge to inform close friends of rare moments of genius is expunged by the fact that I can’t, there isn’t anyone of the same species to call here. And “home” is eight hours behind by phone, or twenty hours of traveling by air.

My boyfriend, Francesco, gave me a midget poodle for my birthday last year and I bonded with the animated mop of fur the way most women might attach to a human baby. Maybe that’s because I’m thirty, and I don’t have an actual human baby and, really, who wants one anyways? I’ve never been a fan of the things that throw up on you during weeks of sleep deprivation. I like to tell myself that I’m set, I have a career and a homeless looking poodle that pisses on his own legs and walks like a drunken iguana. Living in a foreign country, it’s important to have someone who can’t get away from me whom I can depend on.

The poodle, Oliver, started out as my dog, because Francesco had never had a dog before and didn’t believe they had personalities, memories, or the will to live. This is what happens when you have children kill chickens for dinner. However, after a few short months, he changed his mind and began talking with Oliver and carrying him around the house while cleaning and cooking like a schizophrenic Aunt Jemima. Oliver even sleeps between us, head on pillow, tucked under our comforter, we fall asleep turned towards each other with our hands resting on him.

I read somewhere that dogs reduce anxiety and lower blood pressure but that’s probably every dog except for Oliver who can’t even stand still while he poops. Regardless, one day when Francesco announced we had to go to his hometown for a weekend visit, I picked up Oliver and started rubbing him. Hard. Many things make me regress in the world, but parents, especially his parents have me all but sucking my thumb and wetting my pants. I know from life experience that parents are not to be trusted, and the fact that he concedes to their every whim is enough to shut down my frontal lobe. I don’t like to be rude so I tried to lie instead.  Nothing came to me, and the harder I tried, the harder I rubbed his dreaded fur, until it bordered on molestation and Oliver had turned his head and gave me a look like, “are you going to at least buy me dinner first?” I usually had excuses reserved for that: A bladder infection, a yeast infection, a staph infection, syphilis, a plague of some kind but this time there was nothing, my brain was on strike and regardless of the fact my body began objecting with nausea and anxiety my brain wouldn’t respond. I finally accepted my defeat.

“Can Oliver come?” I asked. Oliver, hearing his name, perked up his ears and pawed at the air.

“Yes of course he can.” said Francesco, leaning over and kissing Oliver’s head while making eye contact with me, “Don’t start freaking out.” The intense eye contact is something I’ve always enjoyed about him, it’s creepy, a little invasive, somehow sexy and an excellent momentary distraction; even in the most stressful moments he calms me down and lets my brain drift off to sex. Unfortunately it only lasts as long as a teenager’s hymen.

“I’m not going to freak out. But why the fuck do I have to go!” I whined.

Everything you’ve ever heard about Italian families is entirely true. Well, except for the cool stuff. The sexy mafia men don’t exist; instead it’s a nation of man-children who supplement their diet with breast milk well into their fifties. A psychologist from Milan wrote an article about how the “supervisory, overbearing nature” of the family causes actual emotional impairment of the children who grow into functional vegetables. The same article said the needy relationship is also accountable for the majority of divorces in Italy, probably suicides too. This is something I can’t understand, since I raised myself in my formative years. My boyfriend is much less of a mamma’s boy than most Italians, except for when we are in his parents’ house where he often resembles a menstruating teenage girl instead of an Italian Stallion. I did the only thing I could do: panic, and pout while clinging to Oliver like a baby monkey. Oliver is my only true friend in Italy and, like the children who bear the burden of their mother’s loneliness; it’s entirely against his will. He’d rather be peeing on something or molesting another dog at the park with his “lipstick”.

We set out for his parents that following weekend. Oliver sat on my lap, readjusting himself every three seconds bored out of his mind, sitting, lying down, sitting, growling at me, and lying down. I stared out the window trying to imagine possible conversations to mentally translate so I’d be ready to slaughter the Italian language in front of his family. I do this often, but the problem is that I can never think of something I could actually say out loud to anyone. “How was your weekend?” Turns into, “It was fine. I saw a man masturbating at the park. Another time a man chased me with his penis in the center near a grocery store. Speaking of, is everyone in Europe really uncircumcised? Or, would I love to see the church again? Of course I would! Say, do you think Mary was REALLY a virgin or do you think she just didn’t want to get in trouble for getting knocked up?” This is yet another reason why I prefer the company of Oliver, or animals in general. They don’t have expectations, they don’t care if you talk with them or not, and they’re not particularly judgmental. It’s nice to be loved and needed without fear of disappointment or abandonment.

My boyfriend’s hometown, Cassino, despite its name, which I think means “mess” or something, is an objectively beautiful place resting between Rome and Naples, surrounded by mountains and vineyards. The city is famous for the Abbey of Monte Cassino, and the Battle of Monte Cassino where both allies and Germans suffered massive losses during WWII when the original city was destroyed or so I’m told.

After four hours of driving-because of my newborn sized bladder-twenty-five pee stops later, both in public off to the side of the freeway and in tangible bathrooms, we made it to his parent’s apartment. I stalled at the front door as always pretending to converse with Oliver about how to behave. “Now these people are insane so you have to be extra good okay honey,” while Francesco rolled his eyes, anxious to get inside. We entered their home and gave the customary kiss on both cheeks before going into the kitchen for dinner. We all took our places and sat silently, as usual, while the mom scurried around the kitchen adding the final ingredients to a creamy pasta dish and pulling a fish with its head still intact out of the oven. Francesco’s father, surely to piss off his wife, pulled Oliver onto his lap and fed him bread and cheese.

“Mimmo no! Metta il cane giù!!!!” Squawked the mother, shaking her hands the way someone might to expel water, nobody turned in her direction since they’d grown accustomed to disregarding her. “Mimmo, the dog you put down,” a literal translation into English sounds like she is learning disabled, or wants to euthanize him. Like most women she’s a pain in the ass, but then again, I’d probably be the same if I’d spent my life as an underappreciated servant. How tolerable could she possibly be at this point? Mental note: Never do anything nice for Francesco lest I end up like her.

His mom is a notable chef but I can’t handle the quantity in my stomach or on my thighs. She brought course after course of food while I reminded myself that I put bulimia behind me in college and I had to resist throwing up, difficult after eighteen courses. I kept one hand on Oliver under the table to make sure he didn’t get into any mischief and to give me something to do so I seemed too busy to communicate. Francesco’s father was the first to break the silence in his dialect which doesn’t resemble Italian at all, but instead sounds like musical Russian.

“You resemble someone who made free from Auschwitz. You have the need to eat more!” He said to me. I would take him more seriously if he wasn’t the size of a tall midget.

The mom quickly jumped in.

“She has the need to drink more wine. To put color in her the face!” said the mom, “And she has the need to put more of the eye makeup!”

I looked around as though I were alone in a restaurant examining bad wall-paper while absent-mindedly picking through my food. Strange, I thought, I’m sitting right here.

“Oliver it is dirty.” His father said with a crinkled face like a dehydrated fruit.

“You make the brush on him more, and make a slap on him more.” His mother chimed in, “the dog upstairs it is better than Oliver because with her they are more serious!”

I tried to respond back in Italian,

“We don’t make the hitted Oliver. They made him washed. He makes to play. He like. A lot,” but I sounded like an idiot, so they ignored me.

“He plays too much. And for me it’s like this!” She waved her hands like she’d cast a spell ending the argument.

The only thing his mom and dad can agree on is that Oliver and I are a hot mess; I’d like to think that it’s their mutual distaste for our lazy appearance that keeps them together. I deliberated on how long it has been since they’ve had sex…with each other. I watched Francesco quietly stare at his plate. Something about being in the south changes him, and it scares the shit out of me. In a less severe way it reminds me of that film, “Not Without My Daughter,” where an Iranian man marries an American in the United States. They have a perfect marriage for ten years before he takes her to Iran for vacation. Once they arrive he turns into a real asshole and starts beating her and his daughter refusing to let them leave the country. My mom made me watch it when I was a kid to make me fearful of my father, which didn’t work because my dad is a huge push-over when it comes to daughters plus he’s a scary lesbian-level feminist. Instead, she made me weary of Francesco. Humans are inconsistent and weak because of their constant need for approval. A life spent desperately seeking a gold star destroys their character and makes them unpredictable. In the mistrust I felt unaided, In their home it was just me and Oliver against the judgments of Francesco and his family.

The next day we went to see his sister Laura to take a break from his parents-or more importantly-to give them a break from me. She lives near Gaeta, close to the coast. Most of the time I like her because she’s really bitchy and in a lot of ways reminds me of a black girl from the Bronx, which I love; however, she still has this obnoxious traditional side that makes her seem like a freak. Always waiting on her husband despite the fact that they both work which in my mind means, “both work, both cook, both clean or hire a Spanish servant.” She yells while she waits on him and calls him an idiot regularly to my amusement, but she still does everything for him.  Another note to self: Do not clean or cook.

We met her and her four year old daughter, Leila, out front of a pizzeria in a long line of locals to take something to go. While waiting, Oliver barked himself into a high-pitched frenzy at a dog across the road.  The dog, a small, Lassie looking creature had fur the color of wood paneling wagged his tail and tap-danced with his front paws. I picked up Oliver when he patted across the street to come see us because Oliver has a tendency to pee on other dogs out of jealousy. I pet the dog and talked into his big brown eyes. A young boy with a huge ass and Hanes sticking out of both the top and bottom of his booty shorts explained that the dog had been abandoned a week prior. The tenants simply moved away and left him outside, the way one might a broken stove or an old bookshelf. I wanted to take him home, so I tried to think of the fastest possible solution to make it happen. I turned to Francesco,

“I want him” I said.

“No. I’m sorry, but no.”

“Asshole” I said.

“That’s fine, still no.”

“What can we do!?” I begged.

“Nothing, honey.” He said as though it were the most obvious answer in the world.

“What? Why? Can’t we give him to your dad? He likes dogs.”

Francesco looked at me as if I’d just announced I’d once had a penis.

“But I love him. This is bullshit!” I cried.

“You just met him honey,” he mumbled and rubbed my arm.

He stopped listening at this point and was more focused on removing me from the situation by standing in front of me, so I couldn’t see the stray dog. I stepped side-to-side trying to see around him, while Francesco mimicked my movements to conceal him. Francesco’s sister caught on and tried to shoo the dog away.

As he politely shoved me towards the SUV with our pizzas and without Lassie, I could feel it building. I tried to think about something else to avoid the embarrassment that was to come, but I could hear his pitter patter footsteps behind us, wood-paneled Lassie, and I imagined him thinking, “A new family! Someone loves me again!” My stomach ached, and I felt light headed. I could understand him, because I could understand me. Just as we reached the door, I let out this hideous “gaaaaah” and started howling like Mary while Jesus was being hoisted up on the cross. Saliva and snot were all over my face while I climbed into her car. Francesco and his sister remained silent, exchanging a few uncomfortable glances. It was not the proudest moment of my life, but it wasn’t the first time I’d cried over a stray dog. I felt guilty for making everyone uncomfortable. Then again when did humans start feeling guilty for being sympathetic? This is how I spare my pride: telling myself that I’m exactly like Joan of Arc. I felt as though I deserved to be sainted, “I’m amazing,” I thought. “If only everyone were like me.” And then I realized that being sympathetic isn’t that impressive when it only extends to certain non-human species. Thinking back throughout my life, I’ve always had an “unhealthy” attachment to dogs.

Years ago during university, my medically ordered psychologist had a lot of notions about my “animal issue.” One was that I should never speak to my parents again, primarily my father who my therapist called a “lunatic.”, his other theory was that I should work on my bond with humans and stop using animals as a crutch. This was the same therapist who said, “Well you won’t die so, so what!” after everything I said. Next to death nothing really matters, according to him.

This guy is nuts, I thought; here I am for a nervous breakdown, and he can’t stop talking about animals as though I told him I was in love with a goat, or fucked a horse. All of this for telling him I’d recently smacked a blind person.

I was sitting on a bench reading The Hollow Men, on campus, when I saw a young man outfitted like Mr. Rogers punch his seeing-eye dog, a wheat-field-in-the-sunshine colored golden retriever. I thought that was pretty low considering the dog spent all day putting up with his bad outfit. I had to do something. I figured he couldn’t identify me unless I wore a ring with brail so I ran over and slapped him a couple of times growling, “You can’t be a jerk just because you’re blind.” In my mind, I was the one in the right, because I was defending something that couldn’t protect itself. Though I was never perfect myself, was I?

There was a point at age eight where I had a rabbit (an actual animal, the pink and pearled, elongated rubber version I wouldn’t purchase until college), twelve hamsters, a dog, a cat, six rats, a hermit crab, sea monkeys, and frogs I’d dug a pool for in the back yard. I spent most of my time tending to my animals, or at least trying my best to do it. I wasn’t always perfect. There was a time when my hamsters ate each other, because while I remembered to play with them, I forgot to feed them. I accidentally baked my rabbit in the July sun because I thought he would want to enjoy the fun of the summer sun too I boiled my sea monkeys in a similar fashion. Then following my mother’s divorce, she let my rats go in a field nearby, euthanized my dog (but told me she’d given it to a neighbor), and gave my hamsters to our carpet cleaner guy. I was devastated. I vouched I would never forgive her. Of course a few days later, I moved on from it in my own way, remaining only slighter bitter.

At age ten I started an environmental group that was featured in various newspapers because I was a freak demanding an end to littering, and animal cruelty at city hall meetings. I’d also taken up the habit of calling the humane society of Utah thirty times per week on every neighbor with a pet for neglect, brutality, or tail docking which I associated (and still do) with cutting off a leg, arm, or penis.

Honestly I had nothing better to do, and nobody to do it with. Apart from being really poor, my mom had me when she was only eighteen, and regardless of how hard she tried she was simply far too young.  We all have our own ways of dealing with humans and mine was by dealing with animals. For a very long time I’d coped with loneliness and lack of control by drinking entirely too much, which I started at nine, or caring for someone else instead, be it a dog, the world or a friend. It’s difficult to think about yourself when you’re worried about someone else. It was a coping device I learned as a child with my first dog and my mother’s first clinically insane boyfriend.

When I was four years old there was a period when pet rocks were the closest thing I had to friends, and my mother was still making, “shit on a shingle” for dinner. It was her favorite food, and required minimum ingredients: White toast, and gravy. I hadn’t started school yet and I was still an only child so my social circle consisted of my mother and me and even that was about to change. One morning I roamed around our apartment in northern Utah wondering why my mother wasn’t up smoking, and drinking Folgers. I could breathe real air, so I assumed she’d left me.

On my way to her bedroom I lingered on a picture stuck to the fridge with a Christmas magnet of a self-portrait I’d drawn, me, in stick figure form, fishing in a small pond with the title, “I’m Phishing Fer My Mommy.” I’d drawn it with a green Crayola two weeks prior when she’d left me with a babysitter a bit longer than expected. Melissa, the sitter, was great and much better than the previous baby-sitter who made me sit in my room so she could watch porn with her friends. Melissa was around fourteen and handled the situation pretty well for someone pre-pubescent. “I don’t want to call the cops, but I’m not old enough to keep you either, don’t worry I won’t leave you alone. I don’t want you to end up like that other girl. I just don’t know what to do, your mom is over twenty-four hours late.”

I’d drawn it for revenge, making the little girl as sad and pathetic as possible with an upside-down “U” mouth bolded for emphasis. When my mom finally strolled in later that night, I didn’t even bother to say hello. I marched the drawing up to her before taking my seat in our over-sized brown recliner.  I waited for the waterworks. I’d fantasized about her dying from guilt and heartache, falling to the floor in remorse when she realized how distraught I’d been. She took the picture and examined it in one hand while holding a cigarette in the other: “I thought I told you I was taking a road trip with some friends. No? Strange I thought I did. Well, I tried to call,” she said, “and at least you made some extra money this weekend.”  She stuck the picture to the fridge, “I really like the picture sweetie” then turning to the babysitter, “she’s really good at drawing.” The baby sitter shot me an “I’m sorry” look before leaving the apartment.

Lingering on the picture, I tried to accept that I might be alone. My mom had never slept longer than me, being the kind of woman who runs on jet fuel, coca-cola and three packs of cigarettes per day. I pushed her bedroom door open expecting an empty room when two figures shot up from her waterbed; I screamed and jumped back. A man with brown hair, short but somehow disheveled with a shit-eating grin on his face, had his arm around my mother, “I’m Kevin,” he said, resting up on one elbow. His eyes twinkled like tap-water. My mother was smiling too. They both smiled awkwardly at me as they floated and bobbed like two hung-over rubber duckies.

“Are you my dad?” I walked towards him to get a closer look.

“No honey! MISTY! Oh my god! I’m so sorry!”

My mom squealed like someone shoved a hot iron up her ass. He smiled as though he’d just been nominated for some kind of hillbilly Grammy,

“I sure can be if ya wanna.”

I shrugged and left the room to make a packet of Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal and watch He-Man. I’d been collecting Skeletor toys and was a proud owner of Castle Gray Skull, where I stuffed all of the Barbie gifts from grandma.

“That’s what you get,” I’d tell them, “for waltzing around naked like a hussy and crashing your sports car,” either before or after burning their hair off.

For the next two years Kevin took on the role of my father. Both my mom and Kevin actually told me he was my father, as though I were a goldfish and couldn’t remember meeting him. In the two years that they were together they made a little boy named Mitch. Then one day when I was around six and Mitch was around one year old, Kevin stood my mom up at the alter and just as they’d told me Kevin was my father they told me he wasn’t. My mom was taking a bubble bath and I was sitting on the laundry hamper as usual bouncing my heels off of the white weave. She blew bubbles and slumped down into her four inches of water.

“Misty, I have-ta tell you somethin’.”

“What?” I looked down at my hands.

“Kevin isn’t your dad.”

“I know that,” I smiled. “It’s okay mom; don’t worry.”

“How do you know?”

“I just do. I mean, I don’t even look like him.”

She sat up in the water and stared at the bubbles in her hand for a minute.

“Your real dad lives in Salt Lake. He’s Persian from Iran, and you look like him. But he doesn’t want you even though the DNA test was 99.9% positive. Men are so full of shit.”

“Why doesn’t he want me? Did I do something?” I asked.

“He thinks you’re not his because we never had sex.” Just what I always wanted: God status. I popped into her womb just like Jesus.


My childhood was sprinkled with feminism regularly, but during this time, after the Kevin relationship, she was at her peak. I was taught to never trust anyone, and to never need anyone because more likely than not people wouldn’t stick around. Unfortunately this had a lasting impression, and regardless of how many times Francesco asks me to marry him I refuse to accept the idea, because in my mind men can’t be trusted, and nobody could possibly like me long-term. Her intentions were good; she wanted to protect me from the evils of the world, both men and hell so every night she lectured about both subjects together as if to show they were on par with each other. She’d sit on the side of my bed after reading a Dr. Seuss book and tell me about life while she smoked or I played with her hair.

“Where do babies come from?” I asked after watching a cartoon with a stork. It conflicted with my mother’s pregnancy, and the fact my mom told me my brother was in her stomach, which explained why she ate so much: he was swimming in her food and stealing it.

“Babies come from sex; you should never have sex, because men can’t be trusted.”

“And sex is with your privates?” I asked horrified.

“Yes. After you turn eighteen.”

For a long time I believed neither the penis nor vagina could function until after a person turned eighteen.
“Who is God? Everyone at school talks about him” I asked.

“The nicest man in the world”

“What is h-e-l-l?” I spelled because I knew it was a swear word and I didn’t want to risk my mother’s belt.

“Lying will make you go to hell where the devil lives. He’s the meanest man in the world, and he skins babies alive.”

That little piece of information she could have kept to herself. It took me a few months to be able to sleep in the dark after her vivid description of some asshole named, “devil.”

As disturbing as these talks were they somehow paled in comparison to her “stranger danger” drills, inspired by the rise in child abductions and violent crime that year. The eighties were a dangerous time in America, and we lived in government housing, in Utah, a state known for its repression and astonishingly high rate of sexual offenses. Her stranger danger drills came randomly throughout the week in an effort to protect my vagina from foreign objects.  She’d read a book called, “Never Talk to Strangers,” and then we’d discuss what to do in case of emergency. If anyone touches you, tell me. If anyone looks at you, tell me. If anyone breathes air by you please tell me. Then we would hide.

“If anyone breaks into the house to kill us, hide in the laundry basket and don’t come out, no matter how much I scream and cry and even if there is blood everywhere.”

Then she’d stuff me in the basket to make sure I fit. Dying from lack of oxygen was second to sexual violation. For years every time someone would accidentally bump into me, or pat me on the back, I’d wonder, “Was I just molested?” and scary noises at night would prompt me to roll onto the floor and crawl like a war veteran towards my dirty laundry.

All of her seemingly useless, often disturbing information proved useful at Kevin’s house where a cesspool of degenerates congregated daily. Despite the fact that my mother dumped Kevin and he wasn’t my real dad, she would occasionally leave my baby brother and me with him for weekend visits. On the way I’d stare out the window and watch the fields blur by while my mother belted out country top-forty hits between cigarette drags, occasionally singing to me. She always had a lovely voice.

Kevin was in his early twenties and still lived with his mother, Lorraine, out in the country in the middle of nowhere. His father died when he was young and because Lorraine worked full time her kids were more or less raised without any discipline. All three of his brothers and sister still lived at home.

Lorraine was an older woman, who for some unknown reason refused to kick her drug addicted brood from her home. She was what she called a “good Mormon” and went to church every Sunday. She came home, complained about her bunions, and hung her Sunday pantyhose in the hallway talking about how tired she was. She worked for the IRS and spent a lot of time running between offices. Every few minutes the smell of old, tired feet would waft into the living room.

I loved Lorraine, but honestly if we had lived in ancient Rome all of her children would have been left to die on a cliff.  And I think she knew that, but being a good person, she tried really hard to love them in spite of themselves. I, however, avoided them as much as possible and knew they were not to be trusted.

On a few occasions she took me to church with her, but I wasn’t good at it. I couldn’t sit still, and asked, inappropriately, if it was “time to eat Jesus,” my favorite part was when they handed out bread and water. She also tried to teach me to play the piano, but quickly resigned after my tenth attempt at, “Mary had a little lamb,” still sounded like, “Mary beat the lamb to death and ate it raw” two months in. I felt bad for her, despite being a woman of god, she was obviously being punished for something.

I spent a lot of time in the fields with the horses, or sitting on the back porch. There weren’t any children in the area my age not that it would have mattered since I was, I am, and will always be socially retarded. One thing I can’t say about that house was that it was boring. Kevin was as emotionally mature as a pine tree, he felt victimized by everyone, cried over everything, and drank incessantly. Lorraine would yell “unjustly” for the way he left beer cans piled higher than tee-pees in front of the house, or for his porn magazines being too visible from the hallway, which were stacked in ten piles, waist-high around his bed and visible from Montana. My two-year-old brother had randomly developed a habit of humping pillows, and furniture. Don’t do that! We’d say, when guests from the church were over, Lorraine had to pry him off of the sofa arm with a broomstick, “Where in the heavens did he learn that!?” She’d holler. I had a few ideas, and all of them were bound, and glossy with titles like, “Hustler.”

My mom never really knew the extent of weird shit that went on over there because I never told her anything about Kevin’s after my first attempt failed. One random weekend I caught him buying cocaine, which I knew was bad, illegal, and not something children should be around thanks to Twenty-One Jump Street. If I would have been twenty-four however, I would have made him my best friend and it would have been a different story. Still, I wasn’t twenty-four and I tried to do what I thought was right to remedy the situation.

“Mom. What’s an eight ball of coke?”  I asked when we arrived home one Sunday.

I tugged her shirt. She whirled around and glared at me mouthing, “I’m on the fucking phone with grandma!”

“What’s an eight ball of coke?”

“Hold on mom. What? Where did you hear that? You probably saw that on T.V.” She exhaled smoke, which acted as a curtain between us.

“No, Kevin bought it. So what is it? He was acting really weird and he tried to spell it, like I can’t read,” which was very insulting because at the time I assumed that everyone learned to read at three years old, not realizing it was actually an insight to my future as either a librarian or a serial killer.

“You think everyone is weird. Don’t be so dramatic. I’ll talk to ‘im. He better not be doin’ that shit.”

She turned her back, giving a full ass view of her favorite jeans, where the zipper started at her crotch and ran all the way under and up to her butt crack so one leg could be removed at a time. She shooed me away with her hand and continued talking on the phone with my grandmother,

“Oh it’s just Misty saying something about Kevin.”

“Yeah I agree he’s a piece of shit mom. I know…they all are.”

“Well, I think she just watches too much T.V. at daycare.”

I bring up Kevin’s house when I want to win “worst childhood” contests. My time there was also responsible for the so-called-compliment, “Despite your childhood you turned out okay,” which is like telling someone that despite their cleft lip and peg leg they’re really not so bad looking after all. Although, I have to admit, though my family wasn’t even remotely ideal the chaos taught me how to be self-sufficient, empathetic, and determined, which is something that I see lost in families where the children are spoiled. I wouldn’t call Francesco spoiled, but I don’t understand their need to still make decisions for him, or govern his plans. For me it’s also damaging, just in a different way, or maybe it’s simply so foreign I can’t make sense of it.

Though I didn’t like going to Kevin’s house I didn’t really object because they had horses that I could ride and a dog they kept in a dog house on the side of the yard that I took naps with, plus I never really objected to things that would stress out my mom. Since I didn’t have friends my own age at my mother’s house either, the animals were at least something to interact with and they weren’t crazy like the people were. Plus, once in a while Kevin could act like a normal human being, or at least his interpretation of a normal human being.

On one of Kevin’s Saturdays, I hopped out of my mom’s car with my chubby brother, whose blond ringlets had been put into barrettes. He resembled a cross-dressed midget. My mom dressed him like a girl because, “He looked good that way, and barrettes never hurt anyone.” I couldn’t remember the last time anyone died from hair decorations so I let it go. I walked to the front of the small brick house where Kevin waited at the screen door, handing over my tranny brother. Kevin smiled at me from under his cowboy hat, itched his balls through his dirty wranglers, and said, “Frog-legs I’ve got somethin’ for you in the barn. It’s early, but it’s for your birthday. Go see it.”

He spoke a destroyed version of English common in Utah where consonants are left out as if it would be too much work to leave it in, “moun-in” instead of “mountain.” I stood there staring up at him. The last time he said, “I’ve got somethin in the barn” he’d managed to plug up the rat holes, laid a twenty-two next to the barn and told me to sit at the other end of the rat tunnel to shoot them when they emerged.

“It’s a gift” he added. “Well what are ya starin at? Go, look!”

I ran around the back of the house and through the field that led to the barn, trying my best to dodge horseshit and horses. The grass was up to my waist, and it took effort to get through it. When I finally arrived at the barn gate, there he was, sitting calmly behind the chicken wire as though he were waiting for me; I threw open the gate. He was brownish-red, the size of a loaf of bread. I scooped him up and squeezed him. He wiggled around breathing puppy breathe into my face.

“What’s his name?” I asked Kevin who had caught up with me.

“You hafta name him” Kevin ruffed up the top of my head.

“What kind of a dog is it?” I nuzzled the puppy and kissed his face.

“A dingo pup.”

“Okay, I’ll name him Dingo then.”

We spent all day and night together doing nothing much. I found blankets for his doghouse, fed him and gave him water. He teetered around and slept, I talked to him and tried to explain what the horses were and what was expected of him. He began following me, and coming to his name. It gave me something to do, and someone to talk with. Generally on hot afternoons, Kevin would kick us out of the house to have, “adult time” where his friends Boyd, or Lloyd came over to circle jerk to the porn channel, or smoke pot in the living room before his mom came home from work. During those times, I would swim in the irrigation ditch, care for my brother, look for grasshoppers, or collect beer cans to sell to the aluminum plant. I was allowed to keep any money I personally earned, unless it was over five dollars. Then that would go to Kevin for what he referred to as, “booze tax.” Because of booze tax, I stopped filling them with dirt to make them heavier.

Dingo was a fast learner, which I appreciated because I didn’t have the patience or know-how to train him to do anything special. He was also able to ignore my blabbering and decipher between commands and me talking about my favorite movie. By the third or fourth week he could already come, sit, stay, lie down, and do a number of other things he’d learned with ease, such as avoid everyone besides me. He was smarter than my brother who just sat, drooled and shit his pants. I hated leaving him and tried to bring him to my mother’s as well, but I wasn’t allowed. During the week, I would draw pictures of Dingo in between watching cartoons and wandering in the apple orchard next door. I’d moved schools twice already that year and didn’t have any friends with the exception of a little boy across the way that I’d kicked in the balls and, consequently, stopped speaking to me.

After six months had gone by, Dingo was almost as big as me, around seventy pounds. When I’d arrive I’d run to the barn, and he would run out and meet me half way. I’d turn my back to him while he ran circles around me until he calmed down enough to hug him. I’d share my ice cream with him convinced that things couldn’t get any better for me.

One of my last weekends at Kevin’s that all changed. My mom dropped us off in the same fashion as always, I waved goodbye and ran full speed towards the barn. This time, Kevin stepped out from behind the house and nearly clothes-lined me. “Frog-legs,” he said, “we’ve had an accident, and Dingo was hit by a car an died.” I stared at the ground and tried not to cry.

“You need time alone,” he said, as he headed to the barn with some friends to smoke a joint he was rotating between his fingers.

“Don’t worry, we’ll git-ya another dog” he called over his shoulder.

A half hour later, I stumbled across Dingo’s corpse near a ditch on the side of the house, next to the road. For one reason or another, they didn’t bother to bury him. There wasn’t anyone else to talk with, so I sat down next to him and, while rubbing his head, I told him that I was sad. It was strangely comforting. It wasn’t like when he was alive, but it was nice to have someone there. And so I continued that way for the rest of the summer; me, Dingo, and the ditch every other weekend.  When it got to the point where I couldn’t stand the smell anymore, I sprayed Old Spice inside of my shirt and pulled it up over my nose. When the maggots finally came, I turned my back to him and talked straight ahead. This carried on until snow finally covered his bones and what was left of his brown and red fur.

For Ari.
This is the way the world ends: Not with a bang but a whimper. -T.S. Elliot