kedim xi: storytime

NOTE: I am going to be posting videos and writing and things for the days I missed, but for day eleven I am going to instead tell a story about proper dog etiquette and how not to do it.  I am veering recklessly out of order, and I will not apologize!

[I am a little sorry, though.]


So, I just saved a lady’s life, like, seven times.

This is a slight exaggeration.

I took Kennedy to Aqua Dog today so I could give him a bath and check out his skin.  One of the nicest ways to do this, I’ve found, is with the magical dryer.  It gets rid of his undercoat tufts, too, which is a nice bonus.  The good news is that he only has two little reddish areas that appear to be healing well and one little skin cyst that I should probably have rechecked.  It’s like a weird recurring pimple.  Dr. Gomez from NorthStar VETS did some FNAs on it long ago and told me that it’s benign but that it’ll probably keep occurring.  That experience is the closest I’ve ever come to receiving a psychic reading.

Anyway, for Kennedy, having only two red spots and his tiny bump friend is awesome.  [That’s why it’s good news.]

The bad news is that whoever works there now is not the lady I remember, and unlike the lady I remember, this lady knows zero things about dogs.  I’m going to be judgmental about it just because I can — but I’m pretty sure that even people who don’t have pets will be able to forgive me for my elitism, because this ought to be common sense.

Let me start by saying that even when I am judgmental and thinking caustic thoughts, I try to be really nice to people.  Maybe this doesn’t manifest well online but I swear it’s true.  We’ll call this person…Blueberry.  [Because I’m eating dark chocolate blueberry thingies.]

Blueberry walks up to me with a chipper expression and proceeds to tell me what a handsome dog I have.  I preen, because, I mean.  Have you looked at Kennedy?  He’s dapper.  He’s dapper af.  “What’s her name?” Blueberry asks, and I tell her his name is Kennedy.  [She continues to refer to my dog as a female for the next hour or so, and I don’t correct her because a. Kennedy doesn’t care, b. I don’t care, c. I want her to stop talking to me, d. Kennedy is sort of effeminate, especially when he’s all sleeked down and has sea lion face going on.]

She then proceeds to walk directly up to my dog [WRONG], briskly stroke his shoulder [WRONG], and then CUP HIS FACE IN HER HANDS [REALLY WRONG] AND KISS HIM ON THE NOSE [ARE YOU TRYING TO DIE?].  Thankfully, at this point in his life, Kennedy is floating on Cloud Trazodone and is so relaxed by the scrubbing and massaging that he doesn’t really care that she’s basically putting on the moves without even buying him dinner first.  Or, like, asking if she can buy him dinner.  At no point did she ask me, “Hey, would it be okay if I pet your dog?” or, “Is he friendly?” or even offer her hand to him to sniff.  She just straight up latched onto his face, and I’m not going to compare her to a Facehugger because I love HR Giger and I don’t love Blueberry.

KakaoTalk_20161031_194358647
He’s dapper.  He’s dapper af.

Fortunately, she goes away, and I think, “Oh, good.  Maybe she’ll do some real work now.”  [Like emptying the trash buckets, all of which have hair in them.  I’ve worked briefly at an Aqua Dog.  I know what your job description entails.  Go away, Blueberry.]  It doesn’t take her long to circle back to me and try to make small talk, though, so I paste a happy expression on my face while she chatters at me.  She asks about Kennedy’s breed and says that he looks a little like a Border Collie mix, which she should get bonus points for, but she’s already in negative points for trying to face kiss a dog she’s never met before.  She then asks me if I need shampoo.  At this point Kennedy is covered in lather, so I don’t…know…why she asked that, but I figure she’s just being nice, so I thank her and say Kennedy has allergies and that I have a special shampoo for him.

“He has fleas?”

“Allergies.”

“We have flea shampoo, too!  We — ”

“No, um, he has allergies.  Like…if he eats anything except his prescription food, he gets itchy.  Because he’s allergic to them.”

“Oh, okay!”

Blueberry wanders away again and I get back to scrubbing my dog.  At this point my head is in a perilous place — what I like to call “The Danger Zone” — because I’m scrubbing his hindquarters and I’m trying to look for other red spots while I’m scrubbing.  She comes by again and I hear from above me, “You look just like an otter!”  I assume she’s not talking to me because I’m pretty sure I look like…a walrus or a beached baby whale or something, half-slung over the lip of the tub while I appear to be listening to my dog’s butthole like he’s a seashell and I’m hankering for the ocean.  “Do you want a treat?”

WH — WHY WHAT WH — I LITERALLY JUST SAID —

“Oh, please don’t feed him!” I say, popping up and getting smacked in the face with Kennedy’s soapy tail in the process.  “He has food allergies.  He can’t eat anything except his special food.”  I swap out “prescription” for “special” because he’s on a limited ingredient diet, not a prescription diet, but also a little bit because I’m not sure Blueberry listens to sentences that exceed a certain number of characters.  She doesn’t take the hand with the food away and I say again, slowly and politely, “Thank you so much; he really appreciates it, but he’ll get sick if he eats it.”  At this point I’m considering trying to mime what I’m saying, but at last she tucks the treat back into her pocket.  I’d like to point out that she was holding the treat against my dog’s lips.  This is the third or fourth time I have saved her life.  Maybe it’s both, because if Kennedy didn’t eat her, I would have bludgeoned her for setting me back in the Kennedy allergy game that I’m pretty much always losing anyway.

This is already quite long, so I’ve summarized her next visits in bullet points:

  • “You look just like an otter.”
  • “Oh, he’s so well behaved.  [face grab]”
  • “Make sure his feetsies don’t get too wet.”  [He’s in a tub.  His “feetsies” are going to get wet.  I promise they are.  I’m literally picking them up and washing them.]
  • “Do you need me to show you how to work the dryer?”  [I used the dryer when I first got in.]
  • “Oh, man, this song is by Madonna!”
  • “Whoa, this song is by…who’s it by?  Do you know who it’s by?”  [I didn’t.]
  • “You’re wearing scrubs.  Are you a nurse?”  [I’m a veterinary nurse.]  “Oh, you work with animals?”  [No.  I’m a veterinary nurse and I work with automobiles.]  “You know, I used to be a human nurse, but then I decided I wanted to just play with doggies all day like you guys.”  […don’t.  Just…the highway is really close and I heard there’s a shiny object out there in the traffic.  Go find it.]

Somehow I survive long enough to rinse and towel dry my poor fluffy child.  Kennedy is still floating in the ether that is Vitamin T, so he pads meekly down the bathtub steps and up the drying table steps.  I then start the incredibly long process of blow-drying him.  Kennedy has an undercoat like a shepherd or a husky.  Drying him takes a ridiculously long time, but if I don’t take enough time to make sure he’s absolutely dry he’ll get gross moist dermatitis in certain areas.  The back of his neck and crest of his shoulders aren’t really problem areas, so to save him the anxiety I usually skip them, but anywhere on his undercarriage needs to be meticulously cared for.  I usually use a slicker brush because that’s the best tool I’ve found to help break up clumps of wet hair.  So I’m drying him and he’s relaxed; I have the towel kind of draped over his shoulders and ears to muffle the sound of the dryer.

All is going well, and then Blueberry comes back.  “He’s OLD, isn’t he?” she asks me, making a moue of sympathy, her question dipping down at the end as if she’s just heard he’s going to die sometime within the next five minutes.  My voice is probably clipped as I respond that he’s ten.  She then comes out with an absolutely brilliant statement.  “Well, he’s lived a good life.”  What the fuck, Blueberry?  He’s having a bath, not being murdered.  [I mean, if you asked non-drugged Kennedy, he’d tell you one is just as bad as the other.]  She then notices that he has long nails.  Now…I’m an okay pet owner.  I’m not a great pet owner, and I’ll be the first to admit it.  Kennedy hates getting his nails trimmed.  I hate trimming his nails.  We both put it off as long as we can [and it’s just about that time] but he and I have both gotten a lot better at it.  Anyway, she proceeds to exclaim over the sound of the dryer, “Oh, his nails are LONG, aren’t they?” and then she reaches out to TOUCH HIS FOOT [WRONG] which has his half-lidded, glassy eyes flying wide as he immediately shifts an inch or two away.

“Please don’t,” I say.  “He doesn’t like his feet being touched.”

Blueberry is already not listening to me, and she gives me the spiel about the Dremel.  It’s a good spiel.  It’s a great tool.  She then gets out a pair of nail clippers and approaches my dog.  “I’ll show you how easy it is,” the blithering idiot says.  “Here, you just — ”

“PLEASE DON’T!” I say, a little frantically.  “He doesn’t like his feet being touched.”

She still has the clippers out and is inching them toward Kennedy’s feet when I step in, gently cradle his head and try to just edge my shoulder in there so she’d have to walk around me to violate him further.  I wait a few seconds — annnnnd there we go.  It kind of clicks into place.  Maybe.

“…oh, he doesn’t like his feet being touched?”

“No.  I’m sorry, but he really doesn’t.”

“…oh, he’ll bite me?”

“Probably?  You’re a stranger to him, so…”

“Oh, we’re not strangers now!  We’re friends!”

“Yeah.  Okay.  He’s still not going to let you cut his nails.”

[adopts a faux Morgan Freeman voice]  I wish I could tell you that Kennedy fought the good fight, and Blueberry let him be.  I wish I could tell you that — but Aqua Dog is no fairytale world.  After the nail situation, she mostly left us alone — and as patrons began filling up the other side of the facility [the part where the groomers work] she was away more, which was nice.  Shortly before Kennedy and I were done, though, she resurfaced the way a spider on your wall makes itself seen just before you go to sleep.  “Hey, you’re using a bristle brush?” she asks me.

“The slicker brush.”

“Oh, yeah, the bristle brush.”

[They are not the same thing.]

“Well, here,” Blueberry says excitedly, digging through her basket of tools.  One of the tools is the nail clipper, and Kennedy eyes it with immediate mistrust.  “Try the rake.”

“Oh, thank you, but I really — ”

“The rake is what you want.  It’ll help pull out his underfur.”  She proceeds to run the rake from Kennedy’s shoulder down to his leg, and I just about punch her in the dumb mouth as Kennedy stiffens.  It’s at this point that I notice Blueberry has an open, bleeding cut on her hand that looks like a dog bite puncture.  When we first arrived at the place, she was trying to cut a dog’s nails.  I’d heard a scuffle but didn’t realize anyone had gotten hurt.

The amount of surprise I feel that she got herself bitten is zero.  Zero surprise.

“We’re just about to leave, actually, but thank you.  I’ll give it a try,” I say, trying to get her to leave by taking her dumb suggestion.

Fortunately, that WAS the last we saw of Blueberry until we checked out.

The morals of the story:

  • Don’t face kiss, brush, or pet dogs you don’t know, unless the owner says it’s okay or you’re directly in charge of that dog’s care [e.g. a stray or found dog, if you feel comfortable enough].
  • Don’t offer treats to dogs with food allergies.
  • Don’t try to clip a dog’s nails if you don’t know the dog, especially if the owner asks you multiple times to GTFO.
  • If you’re incapable of seeing a dog like a child, try to think of them like phones. You wouldn’t face kiss, brush, cuddle, or feed a child without asking his or her parents, would you?  [I don’t know; I have virtually never wanted to do any of those things to a human child with one rare exception.]  Likewise, you wouldn’t grab a stranger’s phone and just use it and start flipping through their photo gallery without asking, I hope.
  • Essentially, don’t be a Blueberry.

kedim vi and vii: lovemaking and iron man

I have been running fevers all week and I slept most of yesterday.

I still feel awful today.

Here are two unrelated ten minute poems to cover yesterday and today.  ♥

NOTE: I know very, very little about Iron Man.  Feel free to correct my terminology!


in this patchwork-patterned sea of blankets
sleeps an island chain
of mossy, glossy, curled-up cats:

tabby-tinctured
pastel-pied
stone and froth
sand and shale

you are the storm
and I can feel your whispers in my bones
eons before you ever reach the sound

you part the waters
send islands scattering
engulf them in pleochroic waves of velvet

and I am Atlantis
aphotic, atramentous
enchanted sleep
cloud of ink
coral-encrusted

you stir the surface
insistent fingers through seaweed locks
teeth of lightning
windward licking
growl of thunder
incorporeal throat

you plunge within
past the lurking reef
past the ruined ships
past the impenetrable dark
past the sleeping monsters
and find what was long lost

I am a spined thing,
brittle and bullet-riddled,
a settlement submerged

but there is magic in your invasion

the spires of my fortress
crenelated and crumbling
quiver

beneath the weight of your whisper
every gate unlocks
every chain breaks

and I am transformed
silver-spun and scintillating
wave-wracked and wanton
arch of back
flex of fists
eyes sharp-arched
and lips nipped taut

the cry of my clarion lost to the sea
muffled in blankets


to outrun the demons
you built yourself faster —
harnessed velocity
bent tachyons to your will

and maybe you knew all along

the heart is a flawed prototype
vulnerable and willful
racing and skipping
leaping into your throat
dropping to the soles of your feet

so you fixed that, too

see, you’re a genius
and your specialty is armor

armor and weaponry —
they’re one and the same

hurt you?  no.

you’ll hurt them faster, harder
before the threat has time to fly

so you built yourself stronger
you gave yourself flight
you’re smarter than Icarus

(feathers and wax?  please.)

and at the end of the day
after you take it all off —
all that gleaming crimson and gold
all that armor
all that weaponry —

you don the mask you built to replace it
impervious, vibranium
cast in a roguishly handsome
I-don’t-give-a-shit smirk

you hold your tongue like a throwing knife
and you press fingers to glass
as you look alone across your city

 

kedim v: stray

you

girl

I see you,
shadow-skulking
when you’re scared of the dark

spine shrapnel-studded
bent and double bent

I see you,
head down, eyes up
oblique-glinting gaze
above tight-locked lips

hunch-shouldered
heavy-hearted
stone-still but feather-light

tiptoeing
on tenterhooks

I see you,
razor wire fingers
sharp-shackling your wrists
knuckles worry-white

where is your flock, sheepdog?
where is your pack, she-wolf?

kedim iv: airplane day

Today is Airplane Day.

Thirty-two years ago I was put on a plane bound for John F. Kennedy International Airport with nine other Korean children.  Eight of us were born in 1984, from October to December.  One girl was born in October 1972.  Our flight’s 막내 [“maknae” — the youngest person in a group] was born in January 1985, which means that she would have been considered a Rat like the rest of us — and I really do mean the rest of us.  Coincidentally, all ten of us were born in the Year of the Rat.  1972 is a Water Rat year and 1984 is a Wood Rat year.  Had we grown up in the culture we were born into, we nine could’ve called each other 친구 [“chingu” — same age friends] and we might’ve called Miss 1972 언니 [“eonni” — a term that means “older sister” and is used by younger females to address an older female they are close with; also romanized as “unnie”] or 누나 [“nuna” — a term that means “older sister” and is used by younger males to address an older female they are close with; also romanized as “noona”].  I’m going to put a list of the names of my fellow passengers here on the off chance some of them are out there in the void:

  • Choi Myung Wha
  • Kim Jeong Soon
  • Lee Ja Won
  • Kim Yoo Mee
  • Yoon Mee Sook
  • Choi Seong Jin
  • Kim Min Seong
  • Lee Seong Joon
  • Kim Yeong Ae

I came with an instruction manual like every other imported good.

I also came with a letter stating:

Re: (84C-3093) SHIN, KONG JOO —ALBORA—

The above mentioned case is the birth mother was unavailable at the time of intake.  We received this child from the Head of Clinic after the natural mother disappeared from her recovery room.  Therefore, no one has any information about the birth mother and we have no possible way to locate the mother.  Thank you.

Sincerely,
Mrs. Choi
Chief
Information Department

This is the first Airplane Day I’ve experienced since the rift between me and my parents became utterly insurmountable.  This time last year I was still soldiering through, still trying to go along to get along, still choking on retorts whenever various events from my past were inevitably brought up in “casual conversation” — events that painted me as the villain to my own tragedies.  There’s probably some truth to that, but there’re at least three lies for every truth when my parents tell a story.  Maybe it’s cowardice on my part that lets me write publicly about them when I have not spoken with them since I sent them a text message on July 31st, 2016 asking them to leave when they arrived uninvited at my door at 10:15 p.m.

Here is an excerpt from something I wrote that day:

I have not been answering my parents’ phone calls or text messages recently as a matter of self preservation, so tonight they showed up at our apartment uninvited and spent the past fifteen to twenty minutes banging on my front door [which was not locked; thankfully they did not try to open it out of curiosity; I am still not sure what I would have done in that case, but things probably would have become physically violent] and yelling and calling out to me.  At some point my mother began theatrically weeping and wailing.  “Don’t you feel like what you’re doing is evil?” they asked.  “Don’t you feel that turning against your parents is evil?  You can’t possibly feel good about yourself after what you’re doing.  You can’t possibly feel good at all.  You can’t possibly feel good as a daughter or a person.”  My door is not soundproof; it was easy to hear them talking to each other and to my dog — “go get Mommy, Kennedy; go get Mommy and tell her to open the door; Kennedy, where’s Mommy?” — and I am going to refrain from posting the things I heard because I am ashamed and hurt and infuriated by them and because I don’t want anybody else to have to house this vitriol.

When I was younger, I never thought I would ever in a million years want to meet or even know about my birth mother.  Today, though, just for a little while, I admitted to myself that I do.  That not knowing sometimes hurts.  I still don’t know for sure whether excommunicating my adoptive parents was the right thing to do.  I know that my depression and anxiety are my things and not necessarily linked to them, but I also know that life without them is easier.  I know that I feel healthier.

I’m not good at burning bridges.  The fire hurts my eyes, burns my fingers.  Everything I am is equipped for putting them out instead of starting them.

Anyway, enough of that.  Airplane Day is always a bittersweet day, but I’m going to end this post on a sweet note.  What’s important to me is connecting with my culture and connecting with people who share it and can teach me about it.  On June 5th, 2016 I received my Ancestry Composition Report from 23andme.com and was able to confirm my Korean blood; on June 13th, 2016 I connected with a second cousin through the same website whose parents were born and raised in Busan.  I have joined Facebook groups for Korean-American adoptees and have joined the Portland Korean Language Meetup Group.  I haven’t been brave enough to make real life contact yet, but I hope I will gain more confidence soon.  ^^;;

I’m also keeping up with KEDIM, even though by the time I publish or upload anything it’s a day late.  As long as I stay motivated, it’s okay.  Right?  ㅠㅅㅠ

kedim ii and iii: writing on napkins

For the curious, I have managed to keep my pledge thus far.  I’m already struggling with what I’m calling the Broadcasted Accountability Aspect [BAA!] of this challenge, though.  I’m not very active on any kind of social media, so when it comes to proving I’ve actually reached my daily goal, I fail big time.  Still, as this blog is called The Unapologetic INKDOG for a reason, I’ll let myself off easy.

On that note, my work schedule leaves my Mondays and Tuesdays virtually emptied out in terms of time.  If it continues to be too hectic for me to post on those days I’ll initiate “Work Ate Me!” Wednesdays to showcase any content I’ve missed.

So, that’s what we’re doing today!

Also, grammar?  I don’t care about it on this blog.

That’s a lie.  I do care.  In fact, I have reread this post at least ten to fifteen times already and have made a plethora of miniscule changes that would probably have made zero difference to any of you — and I’m already doing it again.

STOP IT, BRAIN.

I have a tendency to get writing ideas at very inopportune times, specifically when I am a. driving, b. showering, c. ¾ of the way asleep.  Because of this, I do a lot of writing on things that aren’t quite ideal: tissues, napkins, my left hand, etc.  Today I’m going to share some of the snippets I scribbled on day two of KEDIM.  ♥


LONGISH SCRIBBLE

I thought the light in your eyes was the sun
but the deeper I sank into them, the more I realized:

the light was merely fire.

I couldn’t see its heart, so I tried to feed it, appease it —

but the fire got hungrier.

My hands got emptier.

I drew from my wellspring and I gave the fire blood.

I thought it would never run empty.


TEENY SCRIBBLES

Who left you on the roadside in the rain?
Does someone miss you or have you been replaced?
— regarding a plush tiger

“Be reasonable,” you like to say.
You compared us to other warzones.
— regarding my adoptive parents

kedim i: pledge

I’ve decided to embark on a month long journey to get back into creating regularly, whether I’m writing, making ASMR videos, or practicing a new creative skill I’ve always wanted to learn.  A few things I’m particularly interested in trying are needle felting, calligraphy, and painting.  I’ve also been neglecting skills that I took great pains to cultivate and purchase materials for: e.g. 매듭 [“maedeup” — a traditional Korean art form involving knotting and braiding], playing the piano, and a plethora of DIY projects.

I filched the idea from YouTubers who participated in VEDA [Vlog Every Day in April].  I know that VEDIM [Vlog Every Day in May] is also a thing — but I don’t vlog.  Not habitually, anyway.  I thought about calling my project CEDIM [Create Every Day in May] but another thing I’d like to do is focus on studying Korean every day.  People say, “If you don’t use it, you lose it,” and I don’t want to lose the little Korean I learned so far.

So…KEDIM?  Kreate and Korean Every Day in May?  I kind of like it.  Unfortunately, when May started I was knee-deep in an overnight shift at work, which doesn’t leave me a ton of time or muse to create much of anything.  I’ll let myself off easy and say that writing this pledge is at least writing something — and if there’re several cop-outs like this throughout the month, I’ll try to let myself slide.  I’ll have to make up the Korean component when I get home from work.  Maybe I’ll just try to translate this post and post what I get on Italki.

laugh

trigger warning: profanity, abuse


When I was small, you loved me so much you named your boat in my honor.  You called it the Royal Princess, making reference to my Korean name — a name that you carefully folded up and locked away like a relic from a dead, unblessed time.  I don’t remember what came first, me or the boat, but I do remember that when you piloted it, you laughed — and when you laughed, your teeth broke white and shining through the tan of your face and that was my cue to laugh along.

I could always make you laugh.  It was a skill I acquired early.  I’d make you a crown out of garish yellow construction paper, grip a Crayola marker strong-steady in my fist, and spell out your name on the brim until the marker’s pinpoint tip slow-eroded to a blunt plateau.  I’d cry out, “Hail to the king!” and parade around the living room and even if you were watching football, you’d spare me a glance and you’d laugh — a gentle, tolerant, paternal laugh — and call me your little princesa.  When your team did something you didn’t like, you’d yell in outrage and pound your knee, words I wasn’t supposed to know, and I’d laugh, scurrying out of the room to cover my ears so I wouldn’t accidentally overhear them — but I always listened.

When I got a little older, I developed a penchant for accents that would turn your face red and send you reeling for the first piece of sturdy furniture.  You still laughed, but it wasn’t just tolerant anymore.  I’d leveled up.  You told your friends I was a “funny kid” and put me through my paces.  “Do the Rap Reiplinger skit!” you’d urge me, your eyes already laughing in an anticipatory way.  “Do the room service one with the haole guy.”  I was shy, but I launched through my repertoire with ease.  I’d mimic with uncanny accuracy the yawning vowel sounds of Boston and New York, the rollicking singsong of the island, and the chattering quickness of the Filipino family who lived next door.  You always laughed.  Your friends did, too, but that was just a canned laugh track in the periphery; you were my target audience.

It got so the jokes were so warm and worn that you’d start laughing the second I uttered a fragment of a line of dialogue.  They were our jokes.  I knew them backwards and forwards.

I was maybe ten when I learned a new brand of humor: the self-deprecating kind.  Some boy at the beach who I had a crush on called me fat.  “You’ve got a lot of pudge on you,” is what he actually said, not unkindly, just stating the facts and calling the shots as he saw them, and when I went crying to you about it, you laughed — and I watched the white of your smile flash through the dark sheen of your face in the Waikiki sun and for the first time I didn’t get the joke.  “Come on, honey,” you said, still grinning, impatience thinning the edges of the mouth that used to blow raspberries into my flyaway hair, knifing your lips into something unfamiliar.  “What’re you getting so upset for?”  Your voice took on an edge of irritation then that I now habitually wield as a blade against myself: come on, honey, what’re you getting so upset for?

I tried to catch up.  I said, “I guess I’m growing out instead of up, yeah?” and you clapped me on the back with your strong-steady hand and laughed.  The impatience bled away but I stayed away from the beach after that, and you sold my neon pink and yellow Local Motion shortboard to the same boy who referred to me thereafter as “Pudge” in an exquisite act of betrayal.  My love for the sea warred with my fear of the boy and the threat of your growing friendship with him, because he was Korean, too — only he got to keep his name and his Korean parents, which made him more than me.  More Korean, more svelte, more worthy.  Better surfer, too.  When I saw you laugh at a joke of his, your face bright red and your arm groping blindly for the nearest palm tree, I learned to hate myself.

That was around the time I stopped being a “funny kid” and started being a “pain in the ass” or a “smart ass” — (Come on, honey, what’re you getting so upset for?) — and our relationship began to decay.  Over the next five years, you laughed — but a lot of the time I was the joke, and I was seldom laughing along.  I was fifteen when I met a boy you didn’t approve of, and looking back now, I can’t remember if I was ever able to make that boy laugh.  I can’t remember if I ever really tried.  That was when we had the cleaning business — when things were good and we could throw money around and the laughing you did at my expense was muted by the cloud-cushion of being found attractive and useful and sweet.

I let that boy own me officially for the next three years until he put me on consignment for the next fifteen, and I learned real quick that I wasn’t any of those things.  He’d settled for me, and he made sure I knew it, and I disappointed him about as often as I disappointed you.  When things went really south, you found out.  You didn’t laugh, but what you learned turned your face red and sent you reeling for the first piece of sturdy furniture: a wooden folding chair.  Your strong-steady hand lifted it effortlessly and fierce-flung it at me, and your teeth broke white and shining through the tan of your face as you screamed at me, renaming me: little whore.  I showed my teeth, too, warning you away, but you didn’t listen — so I fierce-flung myself at the door and slammed it in your face and slammed the lock home.

You yelled at me through it, shaking the walls with the boom of your voice and the pound of your fist, and I remembered how, when your team did something you didn’t like, you’d yell in outrage and pound your knee, words I wasn’t supposed to know, and I’d laugh, scurrying out of the room to cover my ears so I wouldn’t accidentally overhear them — but this time when I covered my ears it was to keep you out.  That’s how you found me when you kicked my door down: palms pressed to my ears, fingernails digging hard into my scalp.  You laughed.  (Come on, little whore, what’re you getting so upset for?)  Your eyes were wide and wild, the gash of your lips sliced open with the serrated alabaster of your triumphant grin, and you laughed, panting and slavering, your mouth wet and cruel and your skin dewed in perspiration.

I could always make you laugh.