August 29, 1998
Anniversaries From Hell

Seventeen years ago today I woke to gray skies and the sound of my boyfriend frantically looking for his pants on the floor beside our bed. 

"I'm gonna fuckin' be late for fuckin' work!" he said, near panic. I looked at the alarm clock: dead, silent, guilty ... unplugged. We'd forgotten to check it before we went to sleep the night before.


I wearily hauled my enormous self out of bed and waddled to the bathroom. The baby was in Full Frontal Aerobics Mode already, happily lurching and leaping inside of me: my bladder felt pummeled. I peed for several ecstatic moments, and then splashed a little cold water on my face, trying to avoid my reflection in the mirror. I already knew what I must look like: an exhausted, bloated, arthritic elephant with bad hair, wearing a spectacularly ugly bathrobe, desperately in need of some caffeine. Which, of course, I couldn't have, since I was pregnant.

Shit some more.

My boyfriend, having located his pants (as well as all other fundamental clothing items, plus wallet and car keys), was now running the obstacle course ... a hasty shave, a quick sandwich thrown together at the kitchen counter, a phone call to work to let them know he'd be a bit late ("My car won't start," he told his boss with practiced larceny). I sat at the kitchen table and watched him sprint from room to room. The baby thrashed hugely inside of me. The ceiling fan above me whirled. Everything was moving faster than me, today.

I considered eating something. Some burned toast, maybe? A nice big mug of ice-cold Ragu Spaghetti Sauce, sprinkled with cracker crumbs? A celery sandwich? But none of my usual *favorites* sounded appetizing. I could tell this was going to be another one of those middle-of-the-pregnancy-BLAH days, when all I really wanted to do was sit around in my spectacularly ugly bathrobe, watching "The Edge of Night" and checking to see if my breasts were leaking yet, feeling vaguely awful all day long.  Unfortunately, there was other stuff on the agenda that day.

The Boyfriend, running out the door with his sandwich and his car keys, bent over to kiss me where I sat glumly at the kitchen table. "I'll see ya at the church this afternoon, OK?" he said. "Oh, and it looks like one of the kittens took a dump in the hallway."

My wedding day.

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Fast forward, Three Years Ago This Weekend ...

... to yours truly, sitting in front of the world's oldest/slowest/shittiest computer (can you say "IBM PS1?") ...

... waiting for my creaky 2400-baud modem and my AOL 2.0 software to *bond* and do that magic whatever-it-was-gonna-take stuff to propel me online for the very first time.

The Tots were spread to the four corners of the house; The Boyfriend-Now-Husband was in the kitchen, chopping vegetables for chili, stalwartly ignoring me. The computer was just another typewriter, as far as he was concerned ... and if I managed to get onto this "AOL thing" I was always yammering on and on about, I would doubtless merely be spitting out more stories that no one would ever read ... more ridiculous poetry, destined for the closet ... more journal entries that would never see the light of day ... which would be fine, as long as HE wasn't required to read any of it.

And then it happened. *Connection.* The ancient, piece-of-shit computer and modem, in grumpy tandem finally. Like a playground "I love you," the first time we hear that screechy modem noise is the best. Or at least it was, for me: for me, it signalled freedom. Something entirely *mine.*  Something no one else in my family had tried, until then. The modem screeched, and the little AOL lightning icon flashed. and I felt something in my soul break loose and wing off into the whateversphere.

"Wow!" I said. "I'm online! I can't believe it!   I ... am gonna download some really cool fonts!"

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Fast Forward Once Again ... One Year Ago Today ....

... and I am sitting in the front seat of a brown & black GMC Jimmy, crossing the Washington/Oregon border as Sheryl Crow sings "A change'll do you good" on the car radio ...

In the seat next to me is a man I met online three weeks earlier. He is wearing khaki Dockers shorts, a Starbucks T-shirt and sunglasses, and he has one hand on my knee. In the backseat of the truck is a blue plastic laundry basket filled with my two best dress suits, a handful of floppy disks, my new Stabbing Westward CD, a couple of photo albums. I am concentrating on the scenery, the music, the sunshine, the warm can of Diet Squirt in my hand ... the bugs imploding on the windshield of the Jimmy ... anything, anything but the fact that I have just left my husband of sixteen years (on our wedding anniversary, no less) and our three children and the home I love and the job I like and my dead cats buried in the backyard and thirty-nine years' worth of personal history, and am now hurtling into an unknown future with someone I kissed for the first time a mere twenty-four hours earlier ...



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