When I was a kid, I took a bite out of an apple and discovered a worm inside. The texture was slimy and I spit it out. I’m pretty sure I ate some worm intestines or tiny organs before the mangled apple and worm mixture splattered on the kitchen table. Since then, I never eat an apple whole. I always cut it up and stare at it carefully before I take a bite.
When I was a teenager, I poured myself a glass of Coke. When the liquid hit my tongue, it was bumpy, but chewier than tiny ice. I looked into my glass and saw several ants floating around. I must have bitten them in half and swallowed a few before I dumped the rest down the drain. After that, I always took a look at my drink before I had a sip. Well, at least until recently.
About a year ago, I met a friendly mommy at one of my daughter’s activities. She formally introduced herself as Livia while shaking my hand, but said she preferred Liv. I wondered why I hadn’t moved to the suburbs earlier. She looked younger than any mother with three kids I had ever seen. She had energy unlike any I had ever felt. Well, at least since I gave birth to my daughter.
We both discussed our need for a break from the children, so she invited me to a mommy happy hour she was hosting at her house that Friday evening. I had only been living in the suburbs for a year, so I was looking forward to making some new friends and some mommy’s time out.
My husband arrived home early from work to watch our daughter. The minute his key toggled the front lock, I dropped the spoon I was cleaning into the kitchen sink and sprinted up the stairs. I wanted to look good for my new maybe-friends. Our neighborhood had been known to be cliquey and I was pretty sure I had found my way in. All I needed to do was impress this woman named Liv.
I put on my favorite red dress that I had laid out on the bed. I slid on my black boots with a one-inch heel. An inch was about as high as I could go without ending up in urgent care and walking out on crutches. I stared at myself in the mirror. My hair looked disheveled with cookie crumbs dangling off the ends. The bags under my eyes aged me ten years. The lines on my neck were in desperate need of moisturizer. I felt tired, exhausted even, but I knew I needed a second wind.
My husband’s friend, who always came to visit, loved Red Bull so we had a few stashed away in the garage. I asked my husband to do me a favor and find me a can, so I could wake up and head out. He obliged and came back with two. He must have sensed my desperation to feel more alive and aware.
I had never had Red Bull before, but within minutes I was pretty sure I would grow wings. The drink was as strong as espresso and just what I needed. I splashed water on my face. I iced the bags under my eyes to soothe the puffiness. I sucked in my stomach to hide my post-pregnancy belly. Three years later and I still had a tiny, six-pack of Oreos in there. Not much, but enough to alter the shape of my dress.
My hair was frizzy, so I tried to wet it, but it just turned to damp, wiry frizz. I was getting nowhere. I only had five minutes, so I tied my hair in a bun, I slapped on some concealer, I finished up my make-up and I did the best I could do with what my mommy-day had left me with.
As I wobbled down the stairs, my husband and daughter both raved about how beautiful I looked. They didn’t see the bags, wrinkles or frizzy hair. Maybe I just looked like an upgrade from my usual disheveled self.
I drove a few blocks to Liv’s house. I sat in the car and gulped down another Red Bull. I needed another boost. It didn’t help my nerves, but I wanted to make conversation, not fall asleep on her couch. I wanted to make a good impression. We planned to live in our house for a long time and this was the throne of the “Neighborhood Queen”.
I sucked my Oreo six-pack in again, took a deep breath and headed for the door. I was alarmed before I got to the front door, as a couple of albino rats scurried across the path ahead of me. The last time I had seen a rat was when I lived in the city. The last time I had seen an albino rat was in India.
I ran to the front door, praying I wouldn’t roll my ankle with my one-inch heels. I rang the doorbell, silently whispering, “come on, come on, come on, please answer the door.” I couldn’t see the rats, but the longer I waited, the better my odds of catching another glimpse of their long, dirty, white tails.
Suddenly, the door flew wide open. Liv was standing behind it and peaking around it. She was peaking around it like she didn’t want anyone to see what she was wearing. She was peaking around it like she was still in her robe. I was desperate to figure out the mystery and see what she was wearing, so I leapt into the front door. “Hi Liv!” I shouted with over-exaggerated animation.
To Be Continued Tomorrow