I’ve been going to see the troll once every three to four months since 2001.
Early fifties. Long, greyish, wavy hair down to the middle of her back. Drab, simple, long flowing dresses in muted shades of purple or green. (I don’t even know where one would purchase such a frock. It’s quite possible she makes them herself. Yes, a troll would make her own frocks.) Birkenstock sandals year round with socks. No make up.
You’d expect to find the troll outside some mossy hovel deep in the woods. Out front she’d of course have a witches pot over a fire with some mysterious concoction bubbling inside. The smell would be earthy, yet funky.
In actuality, the troll’s hovel is an office building in Boston’s Downtown Crossing. A bell tinkles when you open the door to the waiting room announcing your arrival. It’s dark and cave-like. There’s no cauldron, but there’s a trickling fountain, hot water carafes, a selection of teas, and a sign that says, “The scent you detect is jasmine - a fragrance proven to relieve anxiety and promote calmness.” A velvet, burgundy Pottery Barn couch beckons for you to repose upon. This is the most blissfully comfortable couch in the universe and the only thing I like about visiting the troll. I often toy with the idea of bringing a blanket and a pillow, taking my boots off, laying down and taking a nap. I like to imagine other clients coming in and seeing me napping there.
As soon as you sit down, the troll stirs. Her office door flies open and her head appears. “I’ll be right with you,” she says and scurries to close the door again. You then spend the first thirteen minutes of your appointment waiting for her door to reopen. This used to tick me off. Now I think she does it intentionally to give the jasmine time to kick in. Clever, crafty creatures those trolls are.
Just as a semblance of serenity begins to take over you, she beckons. “Come in. Come in.” There’s never an apology for her tardiness.
She opens her office door and you see the light. It’s a revelatory moment almost theatrically orchestrated, triggering angels to sing and fairies to take flight. She motions for you to sit in a dignified, strong leather arm chair with your back to the ‘floor to ceiling’ windows overlooking the city street. She plops down in front of her desk littered with papers and post-it notes. Shelves flank her, overflowing with “spell books” and psychiatry journals.
She picks up a folder, flips through some papers and asks, “How’ve you been?”
This is not a casual opening question. She actually wants to know. And I hate her for it even though that’s why I come. “Um, pretty even keel.”
She’s observing me now. I feel like a tagged animal who’s being monitored. I look away and add, “You know maybe one or two tough days a month.”
“Crying? Suicidal? Just blah?” she asks, her pen at attention.
“The tough days, a little crying. Not seeing the point of anything. But not suicidal.” I check the clock. It’s been one minute since I sat down. My brain screams, “Just renew my damn prescription and let me get out of here.”
The questioning continues. She asks me about my job, if I’m still seeing my therapist regularly, and if I’m in a relationship. She’s trying to determine if I’m on the right meds to keep me functioning as a somewhat normal member of society.
My favorite troll moment was when I had just started seeing Panama. The troll asked me what Panama did for work.
“Actually,” I said, “she’s a child psychiatrist.” Smart, accomplished, focused, and independent I thought proudly to myself.
The troll’s brow furrowed and she leaned in, “Kristin, be careful. Those psychiatrists are a funny bunch. Trust me. I’ve spent a lot of time around them.”
Uh… Was she calling her own colleagues a bunch of wackadoos? And did she think she was outside of that realm, somehow more “normal” than the rest? Panama was a hot Latin lady. I was sitting across from the troll!
My least favorite troll moment was the time I spotted her trolling the aisles of my neighborhood Whole Foods. I had a mini freak out. I returned to the car where my girlfriend was waiting, opened the passenger door, and got in.
“Where’s the stuff?” she asked. “And what’s wrong with you?”
“Drive,” I commanded.
“I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what’s wrong.” Heather did not like to be commanded.
“The, the, the…” My hands flailed around my head.
“The what?” Now Heather had her concerned social worker face on. Her glasses were sliding down her nose and slightly crooked on her face.
“The troll! The troll was there,” I shouted.
Heather stared back blankly.
“She’s in Brighton,” I elaborated as if she wasn’t grasping the severity of the situation, still gesticulating wildly. “My neighborhood. My grocery store.”
Heather half grinned. “You don’t like Whole Foods,” she countered.
“That’s not the point.”
“You don’t think she should be able to leave her office. She shouldn’t be able to go to the store like a normal person.”
“Never!” I knew I was overreacting. But I also knew Heather understood. She put the car in reverse.
“She knows too much,” Heather added, bemused.
“She knows me,” I thought and pulled my seat belt on.
I see pictures of myself smiling and don’t know who that is.
My friends and family want me to call them when I feel this way, but they can’t fix it. Eventually I’ll force a smile to make them feel better.
I know it’s a wave. I’m lost in it now. It will pass. Sometimes it passes within minutes. Sometimes it’s weeks.
Time. How is it I can feel both like there’s too much and not enough. There’s too much and not enough. I want to do everything but I’m paralyzed. I want to throw everything away. I’m hungry and yet there’s nothing I want to eat.
My mother will tell me to get out and do something. I will. And I’ll feel like a ghost. Like a fake. Putting on a show for others.
I hate myself this way. I feel like a waste. A waste of life. I can’t sit still but I don’t know where to be. Can’t stay here.
Perception split. Seeing the world in dichotomies. Both real.
Everything seems loaded. And trivial. Every word. Every thought. All at once.
And I can’t keep up with them.
You need to eat.
Drink a soda.
Maybe you’re not drinking enough water.
Why is silence so damn loud?
We need to call the troll. We. Me. I need to call the troll.
I’m cold. Mexico will be warm.
Should I be writing this down?
I think it’s passing. If one feels crazy, are they.
I miss walking Cody.
Maybe I should paint my living room.
Why is it so hard to find good blue cheese dressing in the store.
An Unquiet Mind.
It passed. Three hours. Thirteen minutes.
Swinging back hard.
For the past four years “Midnight” (also known as my 150cc Vespa scooter) and I have been taking rides along the NH coast when the weather’s warm enough. There are only 17 miles of coastline in NH, so cruising along Route 1A looking at the ocean and the lavish seaside homes is a popular pastime.
Growing up, my parents owned a Harley-Davidson shop. I mention this now to prove that I know what a real motorcycle is. From as early as I can remember my father would covertly cock his head and ask my brother Gus and I, “What do you hear?”
We both wanted to get the answer right; to show Willy how smart his kids were.
“Motorcycles?” Gus asked.
Willy’d shake his head.
I’d heard a loud rumbling noise go by. Motorcycles sounded right to me. No guess seemed better than a wrong one, so I stayed quiet.
Willy leaned in toward us grinning, like he was letting us in on an amazing secret. “Music,” he’d say, sitting back, smiling smugly.
Music.? I hadn’t heard any music. Clearly, my father had.
Over time, Gus and I learned that my father’s “music” was in fact the sound of motorcycles. Specifically, Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Not those other crotch rockets and imposters that sounded like a swarm of bees.
A 150cc Vespa is no Harley. And yet I began to notice that when I passed Harley riders, they gave me “the wave.” “The wave” is a nod of respect from one rider to another, not unlike the head nod one does to acknowledge they’ve recognized you. I’ve only seen “the wave” exchanged between Harley riders themselves.
“The wave” is executed by subtly and fluidly extending ones fingers from the hip or thigh the hand is resting on, palm facing down. One’s facial expression does not change.
The first time a Harley guy gave me “the wave” I felt how I imagine a transvestite does when they pass as the man or woman they’d always wanted to be. I got so excited I waved back, arm flailing while grinning with giddiness. I could almost see him shake his head in disappointment. I immediately recognized my mistake, chastised myself appropriately, and made a mental note to contain my excitement should I be lucky enough to be given the gift of another wave
Not five minutes later, I blew it again. This time waving more like a robotic beauty queen. More controlled. Rather spastic. Still wrong. Clearly, I needed practice.
I’m a Sworegian mutt. A quarter Swedish, a quarter Norwegian, half European with a splash of Native American thrown in. If you are even part Sworegian, or know someone who is, then you know that we have no rhythm, no moves, no finesse.
My therapist tried to challenge me on this point once saying, “There are plenty of Swedish and Norwegian performers who have moves.”
“Name one,” I challenged.
She looked away and bit her lip. I waited. Suddenly she slapped her knee, smiled and retorted, “ABBA!”
“Elizabeth, I believe you just proved my point.”
While we may never achieve cool or smoothness, with practice we Sworegians can fake it just well enough to not blatantly make an ass of ourselves. To fly under the radar so to speak. Or in this case, to not wave back like ABBA.
And so, I began practicing my wave. I started with mailboxes. They were a safe target; no judgement for an awkward wave from them. Eventually, I moved on to dogs. I liked imagining that their tails were waving back. Granted, their humans may have been a bit confused at a random woman riding a Vespa waving at them, but I could live with that.
I ended last riding season with what I considered to be marked wave improvement. Hell, I even initiated a couple of waves and instead of being laughed off or dissed, was waved back to. The edges of my mouth still quivered nervously when “the wave” was delivered and on occasion my hand extended too far - a bit more “heil” than “hey.” Regardless, from time to time, I like to believe in the delusion that maybe, just maybe I passed.
“That doesn’t work. You have to drink upside down.”
“What? Fuck you.”
“Like this.” She bowed her head forward, long blond hair spilling around her face and put her lips on the farthest side of the pint, her chin inside the mouth of the glass. Then tilted her head slowly towards the floor. Effectively drinking upside down.
Without spilling a single drop she raised her head, set the beer back on the bar, locked eyes with me and smiled in a way that was at the same time challenging and seductive.
Flustered, warm and tongue tied, I put my lips to the pint glass and tilted my head over just as I thought I’d seen her do. My nose filled with Pete’s Wicked Ale. I snorted in some of it and an epic, uncontrollable coughing fit ensued. Beer sputtered out from me like a sprinkler that’s been kicked on its side – unpredictably discharging from my mouth and in surging rivulets from my nostrils.
I felt the warmth of her hand on my back. Between hacks I grabbed a cocktail napkin off the bar, turned and stepped away, wiping my face and fighting to regain some sense of composure. When I could breathe somewhat normally again, I returned.
“That was smooth,” I gasped, my face burning.
She nonchalantly reached for a nacho chip and looked up at the Sox game. “How’re your hiccups?”
They were gone.
I found some of my old Mead, 80 sheet/college ruled, 1 subject notebooks from my undergrad BU days circa 92’ and 93’. Among the pages of highlighted lists of readings I needed to do for courses and mixed tapes I wanted to make for friends are scramblings of random thoughts and emotions I didn’t know what to do with. Here’s a glimpse. And yes, my mind is one wacky place.
Prove Yor Dedication
SPF 15. Raisins, a perfect example of what happens when you stay in the sun too long.
In the ebb and tide of the drowning music and crowded bar, you asked, and I held your hand. Working against the tide, glancing over my shoulder, your eyes, your touch, your smile.
Once you get outside, you can come back in for more clothes. (Why was this on it’s own page?)
Chairs. Cups. Napkins. Pitchers. Crackers. Sponge.
Bottle a rum. Havin’ some fun. Doritos and M & Ms. Not long ago, with an Rrr and Yoho, getting wild with pirate friends.
Gravity is an attractive Force on all matter in the universe.
Short legs can only carry a small chick so fast.
Quest - overcomes obstacle by means of a magical outside force. Coca Cola.
An action, as performed by a human, is impossible to be referred to simply in a biological sense.
Shivering from the cold, I found myself looking at you and I don’t think you saw the disgust I felt burning inside, hidden beneath my tactful smile.
Cootie shield. Tooth Fairy. Santa.
If I had my Zips on I would have caught the train.
NOT ME. Pink, flowery.
Apples to race. Sparkling light. This place, it seems enchanted still.
When you turned to walk away I had to use all my strength to not cry out and call you back.
Speckled gray rocks, break the creek’s surface like small islands. So that I can run on water.
And when you called I wanted to hug you. But I couldn’t reach or find the right words.
Heart bypasses may disrupt thinking.
My knuckle is cut, and it splits when it bends. If only I could remember a band-aid. Blood from the cracks. My skin is too tight. And I’ve lost the beat once again.
God, I need more than memories to hold on to.
Just sit next to me.
In the star’s light, I look to you. So many thoughts racing by. I can’t remember what I planned to say.
2 components. 1) Spherical: old stars. 2) Disk: gas, dust, young stars. IRREGULAR. Nuff said.
“I try not to step on ants.”
I stopped picking the dirt out of my sneaker treads and looked across the circle in disbelief at Christina Larson. Had she really just said, “I try not to step on ants.”
I was in a nursery school in Woodstock, NY circa 1977. I liked animals a lot. So I considered Christina’s statement.
I pictured myself walking head down, painstakingly trying not to squash ants with my Zips. A) I’d look like an idiot. B) I’d never be able to run away from Gus after accidentally breaking one of his toys.
“That’s dumb,” I blurted.
Our teacher, Miss Susan, shot me a stern look. Not used to receiving disapproval, I recoiled. She then said warmly, “Go on, Christina.”
Miss Susan, had wavy long dark hair parted in the middle. She reminded me of Paula from my favorite TV show, “The Magic Garden.” Paula always had her long black hair in pigtails and played the guitar. Miss Susan also played the guitar.
“Well, they’re animals too and I just think I wouldn’t want to be stepped on.”
I saw myself in the shadow of a giant foot. I’ll give her this – being crushed would suck. In theory, she was right.
But in practice? C’mon, they’re ants. They’re everywhere!
While I didn’t yet know the expressions “kiss up” or “brownnoser,” I instinctively distrusted the sincerity of Christina’s remark and highly suspected she was saying this ant stuff to try to one up the rest of us.
“Do you run?” I countered, knowing she couldn’t deny it.
Christina glared back at me. “Yes. Carefully.”
Ha. Now Miss Susan had to see that Christina was lying. You can’t run carefully and avoid ants. That’s impossible! Vindicated, I looked to my beloved teacher.
Perhaps she was hung over and had a pounding headache that day. Or maybe she’d just been dumped by some “free lovin’” hippy jackass. Clearly, she had no desire to entertain my need for truth and justice.
Instead she stabbed me in the heart with the dagger of absolute betrayal.
“That’s very thoughtful,” she said and patted Christina on the back reassuringly. The little liar grinned back at me, victorious.
And so I had my first of many lessons that people in authority positions aren’t always interested in the truth. Sometimes any answer, no matter how implausible and asinine, is accepted, commended and rewarded.
And yes, to this day, that still really pisses me off.
Rusty and Yo have a small wooden box on their bedside table. You’d probably guess that inside it you’d find jewelry – maybe some earrings – that type of thing. When you open it, you hear applause. It’s their condom box.
Near most people’s beds you’ll find such practical items as an alarm clock, lamp, box of tissues, ring holder, waste paper basket, stack of books, vibrating happy sticks, prophylactics and lube.
Me, I have a 15 ounce can of Ortho® Total Kill Brand Wasp & Hornet Killer. “Kills on contact!” “20 ft range.”
I purchased it late this summer at Home Depot. I think lesbians are supposed to feel confident in Home Depot. I’m utterly lost from the moment I walk in. Yes, I know where to find the AA batteries. Conveniently, they keep those jumbo packs near the register.
I love that they have those greeters trained to spot bewildered consumers like me. I stepped on the magic carpet, the doors schwooped open and a sturdy woman asked me, “Can I help you find something today?”
“Yes! Wasp spray.”
She turned and began walking toward Gardening. “Right this way.”
I followed feeling self-conscious, as though I needed to explain why I would need wasp spray so desperately. To her back I remarked, “My father says I need it for protection…”
“Oh yes. They can be very dangerous. Here we are.”
She hadn’t let me finish.
I bought a condo in Boston last year. Think about it. When was the last time you encountered a wasp in Boston or any other city for that matter?
“…from intruders,” I mumbled. But she was already walking away.
I live in the Jamaica Plain section of Boston. About two streets over, you enter Dorchester. Each “neighborhood” in Boston has its reputation. Jamaica Plain is artsy, cheap for first-time homebuyers, and gay friendly. Dorchester, “The Dot,” on the other hand is renowned for its popularity in the news. Every day you can find a story about a shooting, stabbing, or meth lab explosion. Basically, “The Dot” gives Bostonites something to read about.
A couple months after I moved into my condo, my father forwarded me a “MUST READ” email. Unlike most of his forwarded emails, it was not about how he’s convinced Obama and the democrats are sending the country to hell in a hand basket or pictures of hideously dressed people in Walmart. I delete those pretty much instantly.
But to this one, Pop had added a note that caught my attention.
“Get yourself some wasp spray. Love Dad.”
So I read it. It began:
“I have a friend who is a receptionist in a church in a high risk area who was concerned about someone coming into the office on Monday to rob them when they were counting the collection. She asked the local police department about using pepper spray and they recommended to her that she get a can of wasp spray instead. The wasp spray, they told her, can shoot up to twenty feet away and is a lot more accurate, while with the pepper spray they have to get too close to you and could overpower you. The wasp spray temporarily blinds an attacker until they get to the hospital for the antidote.
She keeps a can on her desk in the office and it doesn’t attract attention from people like a can of pepper spray would.
Thought this was interesting and might be of use…”
Of course that’s not all. For added punch, the email takes it a step further:
“Val Glinka teaches self-defense to students at Sylvania Southview High School. For decades, he’s suggested putting a can of wasp and hornet spray near your door.
Glinka says, ‘This is better than anything I can teach them.’
Glinka considers it inexpensive, easy to find, and more effective than mace or pepper spray. The cans typically shoot 20 to 30 feet; so if someone tries to break into your home, Glinka says ‘spray the culprit in the eyes.’ It’s a tip he’s given to students for decades. It’s also one he wants everyone to hear.”
I smirked, thought about how much I love my pop, and deleted it.
I live alone, but I have a dog. Cody – a 15-year-old, deaf, three-legged Cairn Terrier with one red eye. Clearly, he’s a great source of protection. Perhaps I’m delusional, but I feel pretty safe. Well, I did. Until the nightmares began.
They typically happen in the morning, close to when I’m about to wake. I hear very real-like sounds and voices in the room. I know that someone’s broken in, but I’m paralyzed. I can’t turn over to see who’s there or try to escape. I’m not asleep, but I’m not awake. And I can’t get myself out of it. It’s actually pretty terrifying. Much more so than my “I’m stuck in the Jaws movie again” nightmares.
After finally waking from a particularly fun one, I did a Google search. Turns out they call it “sleep paralysis.”
“When sleep paralysis occurs upon awakening, the person becomes aware before the REM cycle is complete. The paralysis can last from several seconds to several minutes by which the individual may experience panic symptoms. In addition, the paralysis may be accompanied by terrifying hallucinations and an acute sense of danger. Sleep paralysis is particularly frightening to the individual because of the vividness of such hallucinations.”
The Jesus People believe your body is waking up before your soul has returned from it’s nighttime wanderings and that praying to God will get your philandering soul to come home.
I thought of Willy’s email and went to Home Depot to get wasp spray. I brought it home and tucked it on the floor by my bed.
For months it sat there, gathering dust and making me feel somewhat foolish. Then a few nights ago, I awoke soaked in a cold sweat to a sound in my condo. I glanced to the doorway and saw a dark figure quickly lean back.
I tried to feign sleep while my arm flung itself over the edge of the bed and fumbled around for my can of Total Kill. The figure leaned forward. Fuck!
I’d like to take this opportunity to provide a few helpful hints Val Glinka should include along with the tip he’s been giving his students for decades.
In case you haven’t bought wasp spray before, it comes in a canister akin to that of spray paint.
In case you haven’t bought wasp spray FOR PROTECTION before, it’s critical to note that the top, which you have to remove before you can access the nozzle, is both child and adult proof. You think that you’ll be able to easily pop that top off. Sure you can spin it, but good luck dislodging it.
In outright panic my hands repeatedly struggled to pry the top off, but just slid off. I raised the can to my mouth and tried to catch the edge of the cap with my bottom teeth. This only succeeded in adding slobber to the situation. I glanced back to the doorway. Fuck!
He just peeked in again.
I turned the light on. Cuz that’s subtle. What was he waiting for? Finally, I sat on the can for leverage and ripped the fucking top off, flung my arms out in front of me, and took aim.
My vision slowly pulled focus to reveal a stream of words around the canister nozzle.
“Align nozzle with black dot.”
Black dot. What fucking black dot?
Precious seconds passed. I needed my glasses.
I glanced at Cody sound asleep at the foot of my bed. No help. I grabbed my glasses off the bedside table. Surely by now, I should be raped, maimed or dead. He must not know I’m packing wasp spray. Or he does and is laughing his ass off.
As my mind slowly begins to wake and survey the scene of what my body is actually doing – sitting in a lighted bedroom at 3:12 am, wearing glasses and grasping an uncapped can of wasp spray – it begins to dawn on me that my eyes and ears were quite possibly playing a nasty little trick on me.
Still, in order to be able to sleep again, I needed to investigate. With what I believed to be a black dot and my nozzle aligned, I rose and began going room to room holding the Total Kill like a Glock in front of me, clearing one room at a time.
Then I returned to the bedroom and got back in bed. Cody startled awake and looked at me holding my can of Total Kill.
I leaned over, placed my uncapped, black dot aligned nozzle intruder deterrent on the floor, took my glasses off, and turned off the light.
Screw you, Val Glinka.
My mama’s letter. Printed in the Hampton Union last week. She only had to write once. Progress!
A side note. The weekend I came out to my mom about 8 years ago, I remember asking her if she thought gays should be able to get married. She was honest and said she didn’t know how she stood on that issue. Clearly, she was a bit overwhelmed. I know this because the next thing she said was, “Don’t expect me to be leading any parades, Kristin.” Which if you know my mom (aka as Juanita), that’s just hysterical. Of course, there’s no way I laughed at the time.
What I think she was actually doing that weekend was looking at the new baton in front of her, not quite yet ready to put down her old more traditional, “my daughter will find a wonderful man, get married and have a family” baton. Over the next few weeks she began to pick up the new one, testing out what her close friends thought, meeting my new girlfriend (who as my father said upon first meeting her was actually not “300 lbs with an orange mohawk.”)
I love you mama!
It Gets Better
Thanks to Kristin Carlson for her courageous letter encouraging lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people to take hope from her story and the stories of others that “It gets better”. As a mom of six energetic, varied, totally individual kids, now all in adulthood and contributing to society in their own unique ways, I know that we have to accept and love each other for who we were born to be.
Life can be a struggle for each one of us and we grow hopefully stronger by facing those challenges. It is wrong to judge people by whether they are gay or straight, black, white, of another race or culture, overweight, too thin, rich , poor or otherwise challenged by birth defects or disease, wounds of war, etc. It is good for me to read that the issues of bullying are being taken up by our schools and communities, and government. We all need to take an active part in accepting and protecting our youth and each other in this world in which there is so much violence and hatred.
It warmed my heart to read in this morning’s (Dec 1st) Wall Street Journal that: “Gates has urged Congress to repeal a ban on gays serving open in the military.” Isn’t it about time we stopped asking gays to hide who they are while serving their country in the military?
Thank you Kristin for coming out and being the beautiful person you are and for trying to help others have the courage to follow suit and for bringing attention to the Trevor Project (www.youtube.com/user/itgetsbetterproject). It’s worth a visit for us all to see the efforts of this group and will help us to understand how difficult it can be to be “different” and to be accepted by our peers.
Janet N. Carlson
So I admit it. I’m single and dabbling in the world of online dating. My profile is very clear that I am looking for a long-term relationship with a SINGLE woman who is comfortable with her sexuality. No threesomes, no men and no discrete crap. And yet…
The other day I received an email from a married woman with husband and kids. She claimed to have discovered late in life that she is a lesbian. She had read my profile and hoped I would be interested in “befriending her.” Other women had done so and found it a “rewarding experience.”
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m flattered when anyone reaches out to me. But the more I thought about it, the more it ticked me off. It felt condescending and presumptuous. Here I am very clearly looking for someone to build a life with and there she is in a life that’s a lie, wanting what from me? Befriending her would be rewarding? Uh… how.
I know coming out isn’t easy. I know people who stay married “for the kids”. No matter when you come clean to them, it’s going to hurt, a lot. You know what else hurts? Lying to them and your husband for years. You want “like-minded” friends? Find a meetup group. Don’t go on a dating site. You want something on the side so you can maintain your mirage of a happy family… go sing your own praises someplace else.
I’m holding out for better.
Bam! They finally published it. Many thanks to my Facebook friends for not letting me give up. I’m thinking this isn’t the last the Hampton Union has heard from me ;)