What happened on the Dead Road

So there’s this big thing in the world where we are all like “oh let’s pretend we part of an alternate existence, that is usually ridiculous/boring but who cares, at least it’s not our lives”. I used to pretend like I was above all that. “oh my life is better” or “what? Reality shows and hiding under the porch eating graham crackers watching the neighbors rake leaves is duuuuuuuuuumb and so is breaking my foot pretending to be spider-man, so obviously I did not do that. I’m so above it all.” No more. I’m coming out. Here’s the nitty gritty: I watch reality shows. I play imaginary games. I spy on my neighbors and go to department stores to people watch.

Okay, I’m still a little embarrassed about it. Secretly. I secretly feel secretly ashamed. I still need to mask my true intents. I feel sort of silly/creepy about it. Reality shows usually make me feel embarrassed because I think the people must know that I am watching them, so I run out of the room, and then run back after doing a lap around the block so I can catch the end. The exceptions are with shows like Project Runway or American Idol, because I can always be like, “I’m watching it for the fashion/music/whatever bizarre competition is going on, and not for the drama or anything like that”, thus deceiving myself as well as setting up a defense if I’m ever questioned about it on Dr. Phil or Conan.

I usually don’t have the same qualms about imaginary games however. I love pretending to be in scenarios that are bizarre and that are extremely unlikely to ever occur, while being oblivious of these facts. One of my favorites was dubbed “the dead road”.

The bulk of my imaginary game playing when I was in my early fours through late eights was played with my sister who’s cardigan I covet. From now on I think I’m going to call her sister #2. I would also like to clarify that this is not a ranking system, but simply because she is the second child in the family. My oldest sister is sister #1, and my younger is sister #4. If I ever need to refer to myself in third person I might refer to myself as sister #3, just to be fair, though I dislike third person, so this is unlikely to happen.

Anyway, the dead road was a scenario made up by sister #2. In this parallel world, she was in college, and also very wealthy. She would always pick me up and show me her glamorous life and I’d be cool with that because she’d buy me extravagant imaginary gifts. Once she bought me a jet pack in the Dead Road, so life was basically pretty good.

We had to throw in some natural conflicts, which is where the name the Dead Road comes in. Occasionally we’d be driving places in the parked family Nova, and sister #2 would shout, “Oh no! The regular road is closed! You know what this means…” and I’d scream, “No, no! There must be some other way!” but no! There was no other way! It was the dead road for us, so we’d just buckle down while sister #2 frantically turned the wheel back and forth while also narrating the situation.

The dead road is a back road where animal carcasses would fly at our car, particularly in the windshield area. That is honestly and sincerely what it is, and it also was the bulk of this imaginary game.

A lot of the imaginary games I’ve played through life have been based on imaginary adversity, because they always seem grander and more interesting than my real-life problems, probably because they are not actually happening to me. So the real trick is to make the made-up problems be extremely unusual and specific so that they don’t actually happen to you. For example, the standard playing “poor”. This may or may not be insensitive; regardless, I’m pretty sure everyone has played poor at some time in their lives (P.S. Support ‘their’ being used as a singular gender neutral pronoun and not just in the plural sense! I think we should make buttons, and maybe some cupcakes). But you can’t just be poor. THIS kind of poor person can only eat grass even when people offer her food and has to stand outside in cold weather and live in some sort of trash can instead of…I don’t know, some sort of logical shelter. This is cold, hard stuff. Raw stuff. Living in a trash can. Yeah. Hard core.

Or maybe you are the leader of an Indian tribe and a famine has come and you are probably also being attacked by bison and you are also trying to court the neighboring Indian chief, which is naturally complicated and fraught with deception and eventual betrayal so it’s been a pretty tough week and on top of all that your water was just poisoned with a substance that kills by turning you inside out.

Other times I would intentionally try to get lost in a grocery store when I went out with my mom and pretend to be a vagabond, or a runaway, or maybe an orphan, just trying to survive in the cold, harsh world of Shopko. There were gangs that came out of the dressing rooms at night and I had to fight them off and make my own den with shirts and magazines. Of course I never got to live out these events because my mom would find me and make me go home.

In the interest of full disclosure, I still try to spice up my life by watching sitcoms/soaps/whatever it is they play on ABC Family (those shows really aren’t good at all…but I can’t seem to tear myself away) and trying to insert them to my life. It’s a possibility that I have an affinity for drama. One might even call me…dramatic. Histrionic. Word of the day, right there. Sometimes when I get sick I jump ahead of myself. I had a headache a little while ago and ended up lying on the floor of my apartment, half-convinced that I had a brain tumor. The other half thought this might not be likely. “But!” (first half retorted) “Web MD said it might be true”. This won over the rational half because self-diagnosing has never led me astray before probably, so I spent some time planning out the next six months. How I would tell people. What people would say. How I would act. Sometimes I would start to get terrified because I would actually convince myself that it was real, and start to hyperventilate. But then I would calm down and start writing my eulogy.

I wish I could say that the brain tumor episode was an isolated incident.

A reoccurring scenario I play out is what I’m going to do when I meet David Sedaris. I’m going to be so cool and say something hilarious and then he’ll say something hilarious, and be like, “oh, you’re hilarious!” and we’ll laugh together and I’ll be clever and witty and not redundant and he’ll think I’m so awesome that he’ll be like, “oh, let’s be BFFs!” and I’ll say, “If you insist…” and that will be that.

Of course some of the details of the conversation vary, but I guess I’d rather not go into the supposedly clever and witty things I say in the imaginary conversation, because when I meet him in real life I’ll probably start squeaking, and he’ll look at me and say, “Why are you drooling on my paper?” or “Please stop gnawing on my hand.” And I guess that’ll be that.

So here’s the dirt on birds:

A few days ago, I was walking around and a chicken across the street was looking at me in a nefarious fashion. He was with some other chickens; I suspect they were a gang. I think I saw one of them wearing a bandana.

The super gross chicken

Probably on her way to burn down an orphanage.

What were they doing there, anyway? I guess it’s to be expected. It was SOUTH of center street. Sometimes I see un-mown lawns when I’m on that side of town. I, on the other hand, live in a classier joint on the north side with my bed propped on cinderblocks, several box-springs hanging out in front of my door, and two 7-11s within a four block radius, both of which I frequent often.

Chicken’s bodies are so gross. Their bodies are shaped like a cursivey ‘l’ and then there are all those feathers, and the sharp, wrinkly talons…and then there’s the clucking. They make these noises out of the back of their throats that says, “I don’t care about you, you’re the dumbest thing ever, and given the chance I’m going to suffocate you to death with my ample feathers!” They’re such jerks. Or sometimes they just stare at you with their beady little eyes, opening and closing their beaks in silence and wandering aimlessly around the pen or the lawn or the field, lifting up their legs much higher than necessary, leaving a mini dirt cloud in their wake. Oh chickens. You fiends! You are my second least favorite bird!

Anyway, I had a stare-down with this chicken across the street. To be honest, I’m still pretty unsure about what he was doing there, 400 south or no 400 south. But regardless, there he and his hoodlum posse were. After about a minute, the chicken started advancing towards me and I had to make a run for it. I think he even might’ve had a gun. Or maybe like…some nun-chucks. I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m just saying the situation was tense. So I made a run for it. No one can blame me.

My first least favorite bird is the pigeon. They are the grossest birds in the animal kingdom. And listen, it’s not like I wish ill on them. I don’t want all pigeons to suddenly drop dead and fall from the sky. To be fair, that’s partly because the only thing more terrifying to me than a pigeon is a dead pigeon. My next worst fear is of stepping on a dead bird. So if all the pigeons got the bird flu and their little corpses were littering the city, I would not only be sad and weepy, but also terrified out of my mind and probably curled up in a well-lit kitchen with all the doors locked, a blanket over my head and a broom in hand.

Once there was a herd of pigeons outside of a 7-11 I was attempting to patronize. Pigeons aren’t motorcycling thugs like chickens. They are usually more of a calculating evil, and elitists to boot. It’s something about the noises they make and the grey hue of their feathers. It’s upsetting and revolting.

So the story is, I was trying to walk in the door to get a soda and two or five doughnuts, but this herd of pigeons was blocking my way. I stomped around waving my arms and alternated making high and low pitched noises to try to signal that I wanted to walk past, but to no avail! Clearly they did not want to play nice, but since I was dead scared of them, I retreated a few steps and stood as still as possible, waiting to make my move.

Pigeons are the worst

These little brats ruined my life.

Suddenly there was a gap. I swiftly grabbed the opportunity by the…by the, uh, proverbial…handle? Hmmm.

I point is, I jumped over those pigeons, covering my eyes and screaming the whole way! I ran through the automatic doors, hoping they would close fast enough to prevent the pigeons from following, but just in case I grabbed bags of chips to use as ammo in case of an attack. Luckily the pigeons did not follow me, and by the time I had purchased a soda and wanted to leave, the herd had dissipated. Really, though, it was a close call. It’s all politics and mind-games with those guys.

I should also mention that my sister who is older than me but does not own a swish-swish cardigan was with me at the time, but had very little tolerance for me, because apparently she is some sort of super-human who doesn’t want to vomit when she thinks about pigeons. I don’t know what that’s all about.

There’s this scene in Home Alone…2, I think it is, that inspires a physical reaction in me somewhat akin to being on fire and trying to throw up a watermelon at the same time. First of all, there’s that bird lady who’s always like, “feed the birds…tuppence a bag…” and then she sings about it. But actually when I looked up how to spell ‘tuppence’ I realized that is Mary Poppins and that they don’t sing in Home Alone 2.

So the details are hazier than I thought. However, there is still a bird lady in Home Alone 2 and she’s like “feed my pigeons!” Like they belong to her. But I guess she does sit around and feed them all day, so she probably has some claim on them. Anyway, there’s nothing wrong with feeding birds, but she lets them sit all over her which is gross enough in and of itself. But that’s not the worst part. No. The worst part is in the end, when the robber men who hate Macaulay Culkin (who, I just found out after googling how to spell his name, was dating Mila Kunis for eight years? What? I had no idea) are chasing after him, and they probably slip a lot, and get a bunch of injuries that quite honestly should be fatal. Anyway, they are in a park and the bird lady pops out and throws tons of birdseed on them, and the pigeons attack! And THAT is what has provided fodder for my nightmares ever since. Being covered by pigeons eating stuff off my flesh is the most horrifying thing I can imagine. I would probably pass out from fear and disgust. I hope I would pass out.

It’s revolting. I do have a list of favorite birds, though. And by “favorite” I mean “least upsetting and fine from a distance” and by “list” I mean two. Quails are my favorite. They can fly, but they don’t usually. They run around, bobbing their little things on their heads. Baby quail sometimes follow in a row, and they are potentially the cutest things in the entire world. Ducks are pretty awesome too. I mean, I don’t want to go cuddle with them (unless the duck in question is in fact a duckling…then that’s a whole different story) but I watch respectfully from a safe distance and admire. Plus ducks never try to get up in my face, and I appreciate that. We can coexist.

I’m not a hater. I’m just a girl who knows the truth about birds and once ran over a dead rodent with her bicycle and then threw up in a ditch. That’s all. Peace, love, and rainbows.

The Story of the Swish-Swish Cardigan

So there’s this cardigan.

It’s my sister’s.

It is black and long, and made of a cotton knit.

It comes to about mid-thigh.

And I guess I have some things to say about this cardigan.

First of all, I need it to be mine.

It’s like those cardigans in the movies, where the girl gets a call in the middle of the night about a fire in her office, or an emergency with her boyfriend’s stepdaughter, or maybe she receives a call that she needs to jailbreak her sister for the night (her sister is most likely in jail for impersonating a lab technician or perhaps for embezzlement) so she rushes to the scene! She throws on some pants or leggings and a shirt that she just finds on the floor, and for footwear probably some boots. And granted, with this woman, the shirt she finds on the floor is probably equivalent to my nicest shirt and not, say, a free t-shirt I got from a grad fair I wasn’t invited to that I also use to clean the sink on occasion. And the pants are probably real pants and not gym shorts with paint stains on the crotch. Not that that’s something I have, but you know, it is. And the gym shorts are necessary because jeans take forever to put on, plus I swear I gain weight in my sleep. But that’s another matter.

Okay, anyway, the point is, she grabs all this stuff manufactured to look unplanned but still nice. But it’s not complete yet. What? Oh no, it’s chilly outside, so she grabs the black cardigan from the closet that is long and perfect and suddenly there is effortless class. Like, oh whoops, I didn’t do anything, but suddenly everything is fantastic and I look fantastic and life is just fantastic and now she’s ready to face the angry neighbor who is holding her dog ransom because the dog kept peeing in his (the neighbor, Mr. Leg or something) mailbox. This is a magic cardigan. And best of all it swishes.

I usually call it the swish-swish cardigan. Because when she arrives at the auditorium at the local kid’s club she manages that had a bomb in it, it is cold. So you take both sides…

and swish

SWISH.

It’s perfect. I love to swish-swish. When I wear the cardigan, I rarely do anything but swish-swish. It’s just like in the movies. I look so classy. And that’s not an adjective I pretty much ever apply to…well, anything associated with myself. But let me tell you. The swish-swish makes everybody classy. I just sit there in church and swish-swish, and then I toss my hair at the jealous people around me. Natalie Portman would swish-swish this cardigan. Nicole Kidman would swish-swish. Also I have this feeling that Will Ferrell would swish-swish the exact cardigan I am wearing, and that he’d probably rock it too. See! This is what I’m talking about! Versatility.

Okay, but also here’s the thing: I’m talking about how it makes casual things classy, but it also predictably makes nice clothes nicer. One of my biggest problems with dressing up in the winter is what to wear over the nicey-nice clothes. I have an all-purpose XXXL hoodie that I took from a lost and found (and by that I obviously mean…well, I took it from a lost and found. You know what? Sue me) that has always smelled vaguely of toast and on special days mildew. This both confuses and upsets me.

Anyway, I have that hoodie and it has served me well, but…well, I’ve received feedback that it’s “gross” and “ugly” and been instructed to “stop wearing that”. My sister tells me these things. She thinks it will change my mind. She thinks it will help the world. No. No. What will happen is, I will not wear the toast hoodie with nice clothes (fine) and take the swish-swish cardigan with me. HA!! That’s not a win, Annie! I still wear the toast hoodie! And I will swish-swish my life away in bliss.

The execution of this plan is going to be difficult, though. I know my sister. She likes her clothes. She keeps track of them. And she knows I covet the cardigan. I tried hiding it when we lived together, and thinking maybe one day she’d be like, “Oh, have you seen that one cardigan?” and I’d say “what? Keep track of your stuuuuuuuff…” like she always says to me. But my efforts were fruitless. None of my plans panned out. The swish-swish cardigan is not in my life. And let me tell you, IT WOULD CHANGE MY LIFE. Just like the blue sweater did, that short time I had it…

The blue sweater appeared in my dorm my freshman year. Just appeared. This happens from time to time, but I don’t question it. Because then it might, you know. Not be mine anymore. And a lot of good stuff has appeared in my room over my life. However, It was the incident with the blue sweater that taught me to adopt the “don’t-tell-people-when-you-find-new-clothes-in-your-room-because-people-will-steal-your-happiness” policy.

Like I said, the sweater appeared in my room. It was near my bed, but I didn’t touch it for a day or two just in case it was my roommate’s, who I feared. Not that I had reason to fear her, but listen…I did. One day I casually picked it up and was like, “what? wha–is this your sweater?” She shook her head. Hmmm. Later, under cover of darkness, after the roommate had left to see her friends, I tried it on. I looked in the mirror and what I saw was magic mixed with rainbows and joy. It fit so perfectly. I’d never loved anything like I loved that sweater. I ran around Provo with my arms stretched out, wearing pure joy! I was on top of the world! The peak of happiness! Nothing could bring me down!

INTERJECTION: Just to clarify, I’m not actually obsessed with clothes in general, I just attach to certain things. Certain pieces of clothing, on occasion. It’s like in Twilight. I imprint. On inanimate objects. It’s a thing. I develop this weird obsession, and then all I can think about is how much I need that shirt, or stuffed animal, or piece of chicken, or bottle of water. This is a real thing that happens. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Anyway. Fast forward two weeks. I think it’s Thanksgiving. My sister and I are at my parent’s house. I’m excitedly telling her about the blue sweater made of love and rainbows, and I rush to show it to her. Then she was all, “That’s my sweater. Give it back.” I started to scream and back away from her, thinking I might be able to make a run for it. There was a struggle! She’s deceptively strong, especially when it comes to getting her clothes back that I’ve imprinted on. Blood was drawn. Limbs were broken! It’s possible that those last two things are not true, but it’s also possible that one of them is. Long, gruesome story made short, I lost. She won. The fat lady sang. That’s all she wrote. Whatever.

The glory days were over. I’ve been mourning ever since.

The point of this is that I can’t make that mistake again. It might be too late for the sweater (she does not let me near it anymore, though once she let me wear it on Christmas for 24 hours), but not for the cardigan. I will find a way, and when I get it, I will walk around and swish-swish, and maybe let some people try it on that are not fortunate enough to have such a cardigan. But you know what, we’ll just have to see how generous I am feeling. You know? We will just have to see.