In North Carolina you don’t register your car and get your license in the same place, and you must have a license in order to register your car. So last Thursday I went to NCDMV to get my license and get this whole “legally living in North Carolina” thing going. James made it sound like it would take me 20 minutes. Unfortunately, it was the Thursday before school started, so I was surrounded by 17-year-olds and their parents waiting to get my license. Fortunately, I had brought a book (a biography on Cicero if you must know).
I sat down before the DMV clerk, an older gentleman who had the typical look of a guy who’s spent his entire life behind a desk. He checked that I had all my paperwork, and then started the process of getting my license set up. After a moment, he asked, “If a king sits on gold, who sits on silver?”
I cast my brain around for possible answers, and finally guessed Elvis.
“No,” said the clerk, “The Lone Ranger. Hi ho, Silver, away!”
I laughed politely and said that I’d have to remember that.
He told me two more jokes in succession, and at the end of those two I realized that they were both religious based. Not that that is a bad thing. Since I was raised Christian, I can appreciate Christian humor. My favorite Christian joke is the one about the painter that thinned his paint.
“I get those jokes from [a morning radio preacher],” said the clerk. “His segment is only half an hour long, but you really learn a lot from it.”
“Yeah, I appreciate pastors who can add historical context to their sermons.”
The man nodded. “It’s weird,” he said. “When the Rapture happens, most people will disappear. The ones who go to heaven and the ones who go to Hell will be gone. It’s only the people who are still on the fence who will be left behind.” Then he asked me if I had ever read the Left Behind series. I said no. He was astonished. Those books changed his life, he said. They were so realistic, which was surprising, considering that those events wouldn’t happen for another two years.
“In 2016?” I asked, because those books were written over a series of several years.
“In 2016,” he said.
I swallowed my tongue to keep from saying anything. Admittedly I have never read the Left Behind series. But I have read a lot about the series — the fact that characters who are Saved become completely unsympathetic, the odd morals and ethics of the protagonists and narrator, the weird treatment of women compounded by an odd blackmail plot, and the in-shape main character getting winded just by walking two miles.
The clerk started rattling off all the things in the Left Behind series that had come true. I don’t remember all of them, because other than that one afternoon where I was curious I literally do not give a flying fart about the Left Behind series. The one that he said stuck out to me was “a disease where you feel like you’re dying but you don’t actually die.”
That sounded like a lot of diseases. The flu. A bad stomach ache. Depression. Sleep deprivation.
“Guess which one it is,” said the clerk.
I guessed Ebola because at least it’s topical.
“Bed bugs,” he said. He had a gotcha! look on his face.
“Oh yeah,” I said. I have literally read one article on bed bugs. I don’t really know a whole lot about them. I was wondering when he was going to be done with my paperwork so I could get my license taken care of. I had been expecting an in-and-out errand, and hadn’t had lunch yet. I wondered if there were any restaurants in this block.
But bed bugs apparently fit the symptoms of the disease described in the Left Behind book. He went on and on about how the Left Behind was predicting things coming true, and my mind wandered between wanting to remind him that the Left Behind books were fiction and wondering where I was going to get lunch.
Finally my paperwork was done, and I had to sign something.
“Oh, do you want to register to vote?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said.
“What party? Republican, Democrat, or Independent?”
I tossed Independent and Democrat around in my head and settled on Democrat.
He shook his head. “I tried to save you,” he said.
I decided that this was a good time to point out that the appointment book on his desk had the word poop written on it.
I went to Jimmy John’s for lunch.
Today was my second day at Petsmart (the first was yesterday, but it was spent on training videos and two hours at the cash register — nothing worth noting). All my coworkers have been very nice so far. I think I’ll like them. I worked an opening shift. I followed Josh around for 4 hours as he explained the process of changing out and cleaning food and water dishes, followed by new filters for the massive filtration system, then food for the fish.
And in case anyone is wondering, of course I’ve already picked out pets I want. On the top of my list is a Uromastyx:
HELL YES I WANT A DINOSAUR.
Second on my list is an odd one. It’s a fancy rat — not so odd, I’ve had my eye on getting fancy rats for a while now. But. Well. This is going to sound odd.
In the back of the store, behind the EMPLOYEES ONLY door, there are two small rooms. One is a Quiet Room, and it’s specifically for new arrivals. The animals live there for a few days, just to get over the shock of movement and travel, before they go out onto the sales floor. The other room is a sick room, for animals that are either sick, pregnant, or have been injured. In this second room, there are currently two rats. One, sitting at eye-level, was bitten by a fellow rat. She will be going back on the sales floor soon. The other one sits on the bottom of the shelf, away from humans. This other rat bites. She doesn’t bite other rats. She bites humans.
All of the rodents are kept in plastic bins that you roll out of drawers that lock. They sit tight enough together that tiny crawly mice, gerbils, and hamsters can’t get out. For the most part, you can easily grab the edge of the tub and pull it out and see baby animals staring at you curiously.
But this rat.
She sees your feet approach, and she runs up to the edge of the tub.
If you stick your fingers over the edge of the bin — say, to open the drawer, in order to change out her water and food — she bites.
It’s hard to find a not-cute picture of a fancy rat. source
I completely forgot this fact when I reached for the drawer. They had me wash my hands twice and put anti-bacterial cream on the bite, and three bandaids, since I was going to be working with a lot of water. I pocketed two. The biggest bite mark is on my thumbnail, the side where her bigger teeth bit in. It’s going to take a few weeks for that to go away. The manager joked that I was officially a Petsmart employee now that I had been bitten by an animal.
Later on, I observed Josh open the drawer carefully and feed the rat an orange. She met him teeth-first. Except that now there was an orange in the way. She was being rewarded for biting the thing the first thing she saw.
“She’s not bad, after she tries to bite you. She only tries to bite you once,” Josh said. “I handled her for a little while a couple weeks ago, and she was fine.”
I could fix the biting, I thought. No I couldn’t. I don’t want to. I can’t take on another animal. But I could fix it. I’ve never had a rat. But that rat just needs to be put into a new environment and retrained. But I’m not the one to do it. But I could. If I tried. I would name her Tara and I wouldn’t give her any food or anything after I opened the cage. But I shouldn’t. I don’t want to.
But I do want to.
I got crickets for Sonny and Slinky after I got off work, and then took the crickets straight home to feed dah boyz. Because that is my life now. I feed animals. I got out a 10-gallon tank, dumped the crickets into it, and then went to get Slinky from his tank (Slinky is James’ bearded dragon).
This unnecessary frogface of evil
I pushed back the locks and slid the tank forward, then reached into the tank to get Slinky. His mouth parted.
I frowned, suspicious, then reached further into the tank. His mouth opened further, and now his tongue was out.
I put my fingers further into the tank, and now his tongue was all the way out. I withdrew my fingers — he pushed himself forward, reaching for my fingers. He thought my fingers were superworms. He wanted to eat my fingers. Well, I had already been bitten once by an animal today, there was no sense in getting bitten by another.
I went and got an actual superworm and tossed it into the tank. I placed it so that he would have to come closer to me, and then I could reach behind him and grab him while he ate the superworm.
He jumped as I put my hand inside and dropped the superworm. His eyes followed my hand as I pulled my hand out. He stared at my hands, resting against the glass. I pointed at the superworm, crawling away for dear life. “There! Get that one! There!” He jumped with every thrust of my finger, eyes staring, widely, madly at my fingers.
Frustrated, I went and got a tong — a human tong for human food. I picked up the superworm with the tong and thrust it in Slinky’s face. He was unmoved. I turned the tong to lift it out of the tank — and he saw my fingers, clutching the tongs, and jumped forward to get at them.
Oh for goodness sakes.
I got oven mitts from the pantry and lifted him up with both hands protected. He struggled, flapping all arms and his tail, trying to get a grip. I dropped him without pretense into the waiting 10-gallon tank and let him sort it out with real food.
Sonny, of course, behaved like a gentleman and I didn’t have a problem getting him in or out and he even finished up Slinky’s food once I realized Slinky wasn’t going to finish his crickets. Sonny is perfect. Sonny is wonderful. I love Sonny.
Sonny is entitled to everything he gets
The plan for Tuesday morning was simple: at 8:00, Mom and I would drive to Budget and pick up a 10-foot truck. Mom would pay for the truck. I would drive the truck home, and Mom would continue on to work. James, whatever friends of mine showed up, and I would load the truck with my stuff, and we would leave Virginia at around 10:00 in the morning, probably.
Although the sign on the Budget office said OPEN, the doors were all locked. There was a guy working, but he looked and acted more like a mechanic. He didn’t speak English very well and said that someone would help us soon.
At 8:30 the office worker finally showed up. He looked about 20 and sounded tired. I told him that I had made a reservation a few weeks ago for a 10-foot truck. He said they didn’t have any 10-foot trucks, but we could get a 16-foot truck for the same price. I told him that I wanted a 10-foot truck. He began to call local Budget offices, trying to locate a 10-foot truck. Mom and I conferred. I didn’t need a 16-foot truck. I doubted James nor I could handle a 16-foot truck. I hadn’t had breakfast, and Mom wanted to go to work. We told him we would be right back.
Mom drove us to McDonald’s while I got on the phone with U-Haul. They said no problem. There wasn’t a 10-foot truck at the nearest U-Haul, but there was one nearby that we could get. I got a sausage McMuffin and waited for the confirmation email.
“So where’s the U-Haul?” Mom asked.
“Alameyada,” I said. I creeping sensation went down my spine.
I looked it up. “Orlando, Florida.”
Mom pulled off to the side of the road and I got on the phone with U-Haul again. A man answered.
“I’m moving today and I just ordered a 10-foot truck, but the reservation is wrong,” I said.
“What’s your last name?” he asked.
“Where are you moving to?”
“Morrisville, North Carolina.”
“That looks right here,” he said.
“No it’s not,” I said. “It says I have to pick it up from Orlando, Florida!”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“I’m in Virginia!”
“Oh,” he said. “Well I can transfer you to someone in Orlando.”
“What? How is that going to help? I don’t want to talk to someone in Orlando!”
“What do you want then?” he asked.
“I WANT A TEN-FOOT TRUCK IN STERLING, VIRGINIA.”
He gave me an 800-number to call. A woman answered.
“What’s the problem?”
I gave her my information and my reason for calling.
“Well I don’t see any reservation in Orlando,” she said. “And I don’t see any 10-foot trucks in Sterling, Virginia. The closest one I can find is in Fairfax, Virginia. How’s that?”
“It’s in Northern Virginia,” I said heavily. “That’s fantastic. I’ll take it.”
“It’s going to be, let’s see, $667.”
I told Mom. “That’s ridiculous,” she said. “We could get the 16-foot truck at Budget for $550.”
I negotiated with U-Haul and ended up with the truck for $380. Mom ended up getting insurance added onto it, so the total was somewhere around $440.
I drove up to the Sterling house at 10:30 in the morning, already exhausted from the phone calls. James, Katie, and Josh were waiting. We got the truck loaded up in half an hour, but we didn’t leave until 2:00.
Something weird about it, though: while waiting at random times to get off hold with U-Haul, I kept glancing over at Mom, who was supposed to be at work but was instead waiting for me to get off the phone so we could do the next step. I felt bad. I felt like I should be guilty and sorry, but why should I? I said, “I keep feeling like I should apologize to you for holding you up, but this is the opposite of my fault.”
And when I was finished yelling at the guy because I wanted a truck <i>in Sterling</i>, I wondered how I should have handled that. But I couldn’t think of a way I could have. I told him exactly what I wanted and then he gave me what I wanted. It had all gone rather smoothly, even if I had lost my patience a bit. Shouldn’t I feel bad about losing my temper?
I confessed to Mom that I felt conflicted.
She explained that women seemed to think that they had to be liked by everybody, and other such things that Sheryl Sandberg says a lot better than I can. And that I should never feel bad for standing up for what I really wanted.
When I was in third grade, we moved to Sterling, VA. My parents rented a townhouse in the Sugarland Run community there and I attended a nearby elementary school. We lived in that townhouse and I attended that school for two years. There, I made some friends, some connections, but I wasn’t part of any particular group; mostly I sat at my desk and read, to be perfectly honest. But I knew lots of people and was generally well-liked.
However, the winds of change were sweeping through Sterling. It was the mid-nineties, and the dot-com boom was in full swing. With it came AOL and Verizon and government contracts. Lots and lots of government contracts. A server hub was built in Sterling. AOL set up its headquarters right outside of town. New houses and schools were built to accommodate all its news residents. The demographics changed within the two years we lived there; the newbies had their large, fancy McMansions with high fees to pay for their “fascist” HOA. They looked down their noses at the likes of the established Sterling Park and Sugarland Run communities. They didn’t want their children going to school with those children. Boundaries shifted. To my mother’s horror, we would no longer be attending the same school we had attended for third and fourth grade. We would instead be attending…another school.*
The time was nigh. Just before the end of fourth grade, Mom and Dad bought a townhouse in the relatively new Cascades community and we moved in. For fifth grade, we attended a brand-spanking-new school with high test scores.
I never really fit in with the kids at that school. It was 1997, and we were all hitting pre-adolescence. I continued to read Animorphs and Star Trek novels in the back of the classroom. All the other kids wore designer children’s clothing and sang Spice Girls songs. I made one friend, but she moved away halfway through the year. I spent the year alone, desperately alone. The Vice Principal even noticed how alone I was and tried to make some popular girls spend time with me. I tagged along with them for about a day before going back to reading quietly in the back of the classroom. They were actually very nice (I was actually had many classes with one of them throughout middle school, and we were perfectly friendly), but we just didn’t have anything in common. I was just that girl who didn’t have any friends.
The same year that school opened, a new high school opened, right behind our townhouse. Towards the end of fifth grade, all of the fifth graders in the school district were bused to the high school to see a special production of Alice in Wonderland. Not everyone in my class would fit in our assigned row, and three of us had to go sit with another school. That school was my old school. We were sitting with all of my old classmates.
“Kelsey!” they all shouted.
“Hey guys!” I said.
“Geoffrey likes you!” said one boy.
Geoffrey gestured wildly that this was not true, but I laughed. I didn’t care whether Geoffrey liked me or not; what was more important was that I was welcomed back. I had a place. I was too goody-two-shoes of a girl to sit backwards on my seat, so instead I had to keep turning in my seat to add to conversations. I caught up with all my old classmates, how their schoolyear had gone and what middle school they were going to and how sports was going and how much they liked or didn’t like their classrooms and what books they read and where they had gone on vacations and oh the play was starting but I kept turning around to talk to my friends. Sitting next to me was a boy in my class named Andrew Olson. He was a boy I didn’t like very much; he teased me a lot. He slumped lower and lower in his seat throughout the whole afternoon.
I finally had to say goodbye to everyone from my old school as the chaperones collected us and brought us back to the bus. The class was waiting for us as we approached the bus.
We hadn’t even reached the whole way when Andrew Olson shouted at the class, “Well Kelsey made a lot of friends! All her friends were there! She wouldn’t stop turning in her seat and talking!”
And everyone was surprised, because I was tiny and quiet and smart and quiet and I never talked to anyone. Andrew Olson was brought back into the fold. I stared off into the sunlight and scratched my teeth, because I am gloriously attractive.
I heard a boy shout, “WHEN’S THE WEDDING?” followed by laughter. I worried about my dental health.
One of the girls in the class — Sam, maybe? — approached me. I was broken out of my sunlight-and-tooth-scratching reverie.
“Andrew Olson likes you,” she said.
Well that was right out of left field. Andrew Olson couldn’t stand the sight of me. I once won a science-review contest by remembering that the skin is the largest organ of the body, and he had followed me around the entire recess shouting “skin! skin!” at me. I said a cuss word one time and he had laughed hysterically at me. Another time I said a cuss word and he ratted me out.
I had no idea what to say so I just smiled awkwardly.
“Do you like him?”
This was clearly the heart of the matter. I have no idea what I said; I stammered it out, whatever it was.
So Andrew Olson, fuming, had to sit next to me on the bus ride back to school. He slouched in his seat and stared at the windshield. His friends sat in the back, popping their heads up, trying to see what we were doing. I had the window seat, and I stared out the window and rubbed my tongue along my teeth, thinking about plaque.
I wouldn’t have another date for nine years.
EDIT 8/22: Apparently I wasn’t clear enough on my school situation. My family liked the school I attended in 3rd/4th grade; they were “disappointed” in the school I attended in fifth grade. The school that I described as “dangerous” my family was indifferent to. The main reason that we moved to the house we ended up moving to was because it was right next to a high school, and my family wanted us to walk to high school rather than depend on transportation. I was mistaken.
*To this day I have no idea what was wrong with the school we would have gone to had we stayed in the rental townhouse. Mom insisted it was dangerous, or in a dangerous neighborhood, or something. I have had plenty of friends who attended that school who said that there was no such danger.
All day long I’ve had various songs from Tangled stuck in my head, so during dinner I sat down and watched it. I wasn’t even sure why I wanted to see it so badly. Then we got to the famous lantern scene.
Flynn: You okay?
Rapunzel: I’m terrified.
Rapunzel: I’ve been looking out a window for eighteen years, dreaming about what it might feel like when those lights rise in the sky. What if it’s not everything I dreamed it would be?
Flynn: It will be.
Rapunzel: And what if it is? What do I do then?
Flynn: Well, that’s the good part I guess. You get to go find a new dream.
And then a minute later he eye-fucks the hell out of her.
Thank you, Flynn Rider, for existing. You are precisely what I need for the next few days.
I’ve packed three boxes! I put some clothing in my overnight suitcase and I’ve been stuffing the rest of my clothes into the boxes. It feels good, making progress, you know?
My sister Lacey stopped by the house momentarily. She was looking for Dad, but Dad was napping, so she grabbed a rug and some old CDs of hers that Mom had found. We carried them out to her car, where she took inventory of the CDs and found a CD by Ludo. She then pulled up the song I’ve shown you above to show to me. I was kind of mumbling random Labyrinth quotes as she pulled it up.
Ludo doesn’t say much
Then she started playing the song, and she straight-up started chasing me around the parking lot pointing at me, jabbing at me, and moshing in general. I was walking backwards around the lot, trying to make sure we didn’t back into anything.
Towards the end of the song, Mom drove up, stopping short of hitting Lacey and I in the street. She was talking with her brother Steve via hands-off cell phone about the ice cream social/my going-away party tomorrow. Lacey and I leaned our heads in and chatted with Steve as well.
Meanwhile, our next-door neighbor emerged from his house to interrupt our conversation. He wanted to report to our mother that we had been dancing in the street, and more importantly, we had done a fine job of it.
We helped Mom carry groceries into the car. Mom bragged that she had gotten an entire case of Dominion Root Beer into the car all by herself (quite an accomplishment, given her recent surgery).
“What is this for?” Lacey asked.
“Some of it is for the social tomorrow,” Mom said.
“Oh, I’ll just put it in my car,” Lacey said.
“No, only some of it is for tomorrow. Some is going to North Carolina.”
It’s those…little things in life, you know? Mom went out and got my favorite root beer for me to take to North Carolina. We have a friendly enough neighborhood that we can play eldritch horror songs and dance in the street to them and neighbors will compliment you on your dance. I’ve been reading nonstop about Ferguson for the last two days, but it seems like it’s okay to acknowledge that your own neighborhood isn’t that bad. That I have good things in life. And maybe, in my new life, I’ll find new good things, too.
So last night my Britches and Hose took me to IHOP and bowling as a going-away party for me. And I had fun — good conversations with good people, and I made three strikes — but at the end of the night I felt sad. I realized that I was supposed to feel sad. It was a going-away party because I was leaving these wonderful people. I am going to miss all these good friends.
It doesn’t feel real to me. My room is full of boxes. I’ve put all of my books into all of these boxes. I’ve put about half of my wall hangings into these boxes. But not all of them. I spent this morning staring at the boxes, until I went upstairs and played on my phone. I spent yesterday morning making up a silly story about zombies trying to eat someone. Normally I would chalk this sort of behavior up to depression, but this doesn’t feel like depression.
I’ve been planning this move for months and months, and now that it’s almost here, I’m scared of it. I’m sad to go. Afraid of change. I’m avoiding the work of packing. If I don’t pack, then I won’t move, and nothing will change. Even though I want the change, I’m scared of the change. Part of it is fear of it turning out the last time I moved out of state — came back nine months later at my lowest point in my depression — or maybe like the last time I moved in with a boyfriend — less said about that the better — and even though I know it won’t be like that, I’m still afraid. I’m not even sure what I’m afraid of. Just the abstract concept of change?
Packing is hard. Moving is hard. Next week, nothing is going to be the same.