After preparing for a deep sneeze through use of uneven inhalation, I puked instead.
When it comes to the repercussions of my actions (particularly by way of sending people Facebook messages and anticipating a response, ‘liking’ posts on various social media platforms, messaging artists via Etsy about purchasing their work, etc.), I get so anxious that I’m convinced I’m going to pass out, or worse, shit myself. Luckily, the latter hasn’t happened—but the first has and more than once. I’m a nervous person and probably should be on some cocktail of anti-anxiety meds and anti-depressants, but I’m on neither, and thus exist in this space where I’m so afraid of my own digital shadow that there are somatic consequences. The problem with me is that this anxiety doesn’t make me a passive actor: no, I’m not afraid of the cause, just the effect.
So you could imagine the dilemma that arose when an ex-friend, one I had a messy enough falling out with to warrant her never speaking to me again, referenced an in-joke from a manuscript I’d been working on since 2011 on her Tumblr. Is she going to steal my work or is she just… reminiscing? She’d been among the most supportive during the bulk of my writing process, what would have become inside jokes with myself became inside jokes with her, and she even contributed her own character to the rich universe I’d created: the protagonist’s boyfriend. It was perfectly possible that, well, it was less about me and more about the role she herself had played. But still. This was no good.
She wasn’t referencing her own work–not the character she’d written–but mine.
The first thing I did was research copyright laws. The manuscript in question was my thesis, there was robust enough a virtual footprint that I could prove to anyone who asked that this was, indeed, my intellectual property, but would that hold up in a court? Did it matter my professor had seen me through writing and re-writing this for the greater part of six months? Luckily for me, all signs ultimately pointed to yes. And then, for good measure, I manically submitted excerpts to any lit mag I could find, as well as posted them to my online professional portfolio (which naturally counts for shit, but you know, paper trails, etc).
The second thing I did was ask everyone I know for advice. Should I threaten to kill myself to prove that I’m the conductor of the train to crazy town and that I’ll stop at nothing to protect my art? Should I say something less…batshit insane, but still scary enough to put the kibosh on any novel-stealing-plans she had? The consensus was either ignore it or give it a subtle nod, an “I saw that,” but nothing incendiary. So I ‘liked’ it, reblogged it with a counter-joke and now I wait, on the edge of my seat, hoping to god she doesn’t acknowledge me or that I don’t wake up with a confrontational text/email.
The thing that’s really ridiculous about all this, besides the glaring issue of me being a self-obsessed shitbag, is that I’m pretty well entrenched in writing communities. I have a 4-year degree in writing. Playwrights, screenwriters, novelists, poets, journalists—I run the gamut on writerly friends and at all levels of success. I’ve worked (and extensively) in almost all areas of the publishing industry.
The theme that’s common enough is that successful writing is, as my favorite professor once put it, “magical thinking.” Good writing is difficult to sell, in any capacity, let alone poorly edited theses. The paranoia is, all together, unwarranted and after all, I wasn’t exactly writing One Direction fan fiction. And better yet: the girl in question is too lazy to write her own material, material I know she’s passionate about and has dedicated multiple therapy sessions to.
The entire premise is preposterous no matter how you slice it.
If anything, I should be a little taken aback that she’s clinging to jokes from a dead friendship (or sharing them with other people). I probably shouldn’t even be lurking on her blog in the first place. Hell, maybe it was bait to confirm I was snooping. Because I do. Multiple times a day. And I know that she has an analytics app installed and keeps an eye on her visitors.
I mean, who else is visiting her site from Buttfuck Nowhere, New England at 3am with no referring link? 😦
Line, hook and sinker, I guess.
Where I used to write “student,” I now write “slave.” As a “slave,” you will find me seated within the home of a Miami Mamacita on the third chair from the left in the second dining room from the right. I am assistant slave, otherwise known as Intern, to Mamacita, and am in charge of doing lots of things I am not qualified to do. My superior is a 19 year-old Mamacita-ita, a smaller version of the main Mama-we’ll call her Ita. She sits to my left and stares over my shoulder as I carefully insert pages into a manual. Her jobs include dealing with social media, scheduling stuff, and remaining as firmly chained to the Mamacita as her small wrists will permit. At this table, I sit on a chair with a puke green cushion filled with what feels like a bag of poorly diced onions. Sometimes it serves as a nice, uneven ass massage-other times it just reminds me that this is not how puke-green seat cushions should feel. I’ve considered making a small slit in the cushion while Mamacita and Ita are out of the room, but was unable to find a proper knife in time. “Hahaha you crack me up, baby!” screeches Mamacita. She assumed I was going to get my spoon to consume my daily mound of peanut butter. “Hah..I…yeah I love my peanuts!” *facepalm*
This particular day, I was on my period. I made extra sure to put in the XL tampon with the green label instead of the slender toothpick of a purple one. For hours on end, I sat metaphorically chained to my chair, occasionally getting up to pee, grab a spoon for peanut butter, retrieve additional glasses of water, or take secret shits in her second bathroom. During these long hours, occasionally stuck two fingers underneath my unfortunately white skort to make sure my green friend was doing its job. My Mamas were under the impression that, because I often sat silently and worked with a look of focus and dedication brushed across my face, I had no interest in doing anything but that. They gave me document after document to re-format, correct for grammar, and turn into the pages of a presentation. Mamacita’s 15 year-old daughter giggled each time more nonsensical tasks were added to my teetering pile. We will call her Marissa. I grumble in a tone low enough to be confused for their bull dog’s snotty snores. As I worked, a tiny flower-shaped speaker projectile vomited Popular music in my direction. Realizing I was about to lose it, Marissa tried to change the music, but unsuccessfully, as her mom changed it back each time. “What is that goldie-oldie-moldy bull crap, my baby boo??” That little flower was about to meet my angry, bloody ass cheeks.
Bathroom trip number one and I’m still doing well. I begin to urinate, making sure to distribute the pressure so that the tampon will stay in. I wipe my butt, pull up my skort, and tuck in my t-shirt. Good to go. Outside the bathroom I notice Marissa futzing with a green seat cushion. “Do you know what’s in those?!” I ask. “I was gonna cut one open to see but my mom’s everywhere,” Marissa tells me. “Mama y mama!!” calls Mamacita. We run back to the living room to sit in our assigned seats once again. Ita sneers in my direction and whispers, “you pregnant or something, peein’ all dat time?” Instead of growling in her direction, my stomach makes a horrific noise that is thankfully confused for another one of puppy’s nasal grumbles.
As my day comes to a close, Mamacita sits next to me to slow down my computer with some software. “Flyers” blah, blah, “pink and pink!” blah blah, ok I have to pee. “Erm, excuse me.” I receive a glare from Ita, suspicious of my pregnancy. “I need to use the…” As soon as I stand up and swivel out of my chair, I swiftly plant my ass back in my seat. The green, onion filled seat cushion proudly displays a massive, dark stain on its edge, the edge my ass was so recently perched upon. Marissa begins to open her mouth and I “accidentally” knee her in the nose. “Oh, gosh I’m so…*you better shut your whiney little trip, ya hear*? I get up slowly, flip the chair cushion, edge my way sideways to the bathroom, Spongebob style, and bend over to check my behind out in the mirror. Green ruboff stain? Check. Blood? None! I open my skort to scope out the scene and come across what appears to be the undergarments of a lady who has just broken her water. My underwear is not only soaked, but so is my white skort, and now, poor Mamacita’s onion cushion. Maybe Ita was onto something with the whole pregnancy accusations. After stuffing half a roll of toilet paper in my underpants, I run back out to find Mama away from her seat. I take the cushion, pour some water on it to make it look like a water drip, and, before stuffing it behind the sofa, slit the corner open with the back of my peanut butter spoon.
My metaphorical slave chains rattle as I take a step outside my denoted boundaries. Still a slave? Always. But the cushions, I made them mine.
Oh, and they were stuffed with a mixture of beads and hastily torn lumps of a foam mattress topping. Where am I?