Saturday, April 23, 2011

Pascha is coming up

Tonight at church Fr. Justin asked me to help carry the... something, I forgot what he called it... during the procession around the church. It's the cloth that the icon and Gospels are placed on inside the Tomb. I was one of four people, and we each held a corner. While we walked around the church, we all held it over Fr. Justin's head. When we went back into the church, we held it up before the doors that lead into the sanctuary and everybody walked underneath it. Rick said to me, "You gotta hold it higher! You have to actually hold it UP, for it to be UP. Use two hands!" He didn't think I was holding it high enough for people to walk under it safely. I didn't see a problem with it, however. Nobody else was using two hands, and people were moving along just fine. Nobody collided with it, and all four corners exhibited the same quality of height and head clearance, I thought. I'll admit that it had irked me a little, the way Rick had talked to me, as if I were mentally deficient and required explicit instructions as to the meaning of 'up' and how that applied to the art of fabric support, but I prayed for forgiveness and soothed and petted the irk until it was nice and comfy.

After the service I signed up for grave watch. I took the 3:00 am slot, right after Chris Jones. It's gonna be a long night for me, but I'm looking forward to it. Grave watch has become one of my favorite things about Pascha. I called Leah to see if she wanted me to sign her up, but I guess she wasn't interested because she didn't call back or message me to let me know anything. She doesn't pay much attention to me anymore, and I can't say that I blame her. I never really understood her, and I've always been befuddled when it came to communicating with her. She's an enigma to me... I still hope that we can be friends though. We have the rest of our lives to work on it, I guess.

Anywho. I'll always remember my first grave watch... Leah and I shared a time slot for 2:00 am. I was supposed to meet her at her apartment, and then we were supposed to walk to the church together. I had taken a nap beforehand, and my alarm didn't go off as planned and I woke up 20 minutes late. Man, I've never woken up, jumped out of bed and gotten dressed as fast as I did that night. I imagined Leah walking down to the church alone and by herself at 2:00 am and I felt absolutely terrible. I was out the door at 2:25 and at the church before 2:30. When I got there, she was sitting there in the church, reading by candlelight. I walked in quietly and mouthed "I'm sorry!" to her, and everything was ok after that.

Tomorrow night and leading on into the small hours of Sunday morning is the Pascha service. It will be my 3rd Pascha, and my first as an Orthodox Christian. Unfortunately, I have to work Sunday so I won't be able to enjoy much of the picnic, but I did ask Chiy if I could come in at 4:00 instead of 2:00. Last year on the day of the Pascha picnic, Leah, Debra, Mike, Lauren, Nick, Ben, and myself all sat in the back yard for most of the day, near the spit where the lamb was roasted. Nick and Mike had the alcohol, and we all laughed, drank, ate, and smoked cigarettes. At one point, Leah's ex boyfriend, Adam, showed up. I was fairly alarmed by this, as I didn't want him upsetting Leah. He didn't stick around for very long though, and we all managed to enjoy ourselves.

We all went to Nicks afterward and drank, played music, talked, and had a good time. On that particular day, I felt like I was finally making friends. It seemed to me that things were really going forward in my life; that I was on the verge of being happy. Leah and I were still together then, and that day marks the last time we had a good time with each other as a couple. We broke up a few days after that. It was a great day, and I'm glad things ended with such a positive memory to commemorate our last few days together.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Just some musings and observations

I'm almost over my strep throat, I think. My throat still hurts a little, but I'm not running a fever anymore. I felt like caca upon awakening today I and didn't feel up to going to vespers this afternoon. Plus, I had a lot of stuff to do... cleaning, laundry, etc. In between chores I downloaded the new Harry Potter movie and spent a good part of the afternoon trying to get my laptop up and running so I could burn it for a friend. I tried several different conversion programs, but each attempt at conversion failed. After scouring the internet, I finally found the old software that I had used to convert and burn the first season of Angel a while back, so I think this attempt will finally work. It takes a long time though... it's been running for the last hour. Hopefully it will be finished before I have to go to church tonight.

I haven't been able to go to any of the services at church this week and I'm looking forward to tonight. This morning I washed some clothes in the bathtub and hung them outside on the fence this afternoon. A few minutes ago, as I was checking to see if they were dry, a couple walked by. They were just walking along and conversing. They seemed to be enjoying each others company and having quite a nice time. Joy in simplicity. That's all I want really; I've never craved a lot of material things or money. I just want someone who will walk with me, who enjoys my company as much as I enjoy theirs.

I think Ellie came into the store the other day, but I can't be sure. Honestly, I don't know if I would recognize her if she came in and didn't say my name. I didn't say anything to this girl who might have been Ellie as she was paying for gas, so if it was her, she probably thinks that I just don't give a flip about her efforts to be friendly. That's not the case though... it's just that I'm awful at remembering faces, and I've only seen her twice. In an attempt to remedy the situation, I wrote her name in really big, fancy letters on a sheet of paper and taped it to the front of my register so that if she ever came in again, she would see it and alert me to her presence. Well, a lot of people commented on it, and over the course of a few days a few people asked me for updates on the Ellie situation... had she had ever come back in? Did I get in touch with her yet? I even met another Ellie, but not the one who calls me Elias and counts the days between her visits. She's a student though... I'm sure she'll come back in. And when she does, I'll have my little sign ready for her.

Ok, time to finish getting ready for church.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Getting sick

The night before last my throat started to hurt. Then last night when I got home from work it hurt so bad that I couldn't even swallow, and it even hurt to talk. I looked in the mirror and saw big white bumps on the back of my tongue, way way back. My first reaction was, GROSS! And I wanted to pop them. But that would have been even grosser, popping those things in my mouth, so I left them alone.

I just came home from work and am running a fever, and my throat hurts again. The general consensus is that I have strep throat. I've never had that before, and it sucks. Fever, ache, tired, throat pain, irritable.

On the way home I saw a poor dead kitty on the side of the road on the grass near the sidewalk. It looked like it had been hit, and then crawled out of the road and laid down and died. It wasn't contorted... just lying there, dead. It had some head injuries. I'd seen that kitty before on my way to work. I thought about it being alive, and petting it, and hearing it meow and I almost started crying. A mother and daughter walked by soon after I had passed it, and I heard the little girl go EEWWW! I found an old cardboard box and put it over the kitty. A little bit of dignity for the poor thing.

My Amazing Superpowers

Tonight I was a hero! Oh yes, a real, bona-fide hero. With superpowers and everything! Allow me to elucidate.

Tonight I was scrunched down behind the counter, counting cigarette cartons for the end of the shift, when I heard Brittney talking with someone who was describing a problem she was having with her gas cap. Apparently this person had just gotten a new gas tank installed in her car, and a newfangled gas cap with a built in lock had come with it. She was having trouble getting it unlocked, and was asking Brittney if she knew anything about how to do it.

Brittney turned to me and said, "Do you know anything about how to open a locked gas cap that won't unlock?" Well, of course I didn't, but I stood up smartly, straightened my shirt, and said to the girl, "I'll come outside and have a look at it, see what I can do." I walked around the counter purposefully and followed the girl outside.

Now, this wasn't just any ordinary girl. This girl was just stunningly gorgeous. Man, what a beautiful girl! A true damsel in distress. And there I was, the manly man, going out to help this hapless victim of circumstance with her befuddling mechanical problem, as only a man could. I strode out towards her car, exuding competence, absolutely sure I wasn't going to be able to do a damn thing.

We arrived at her car and she showed me the gas cap. It wasn't just the little door that flips open that had a lock installed, as I was expecting... it was the actual cap which screws down to seal the gas tank, and there was a lock built into the thing, with a key hole smack dab in the middle of it. I considered this bizarre turn of events. I had been fully prepared to ask her if there was a little lever on the floor next to the drivers seat that could be pulled up which would release the little door that closed over the gas cap, but I knew that couldn't apply to a screw on gas cap with a built-in lock.

"Is there a little lever you can pull up, on the floor next to the drivers seat, which will release the gas cap?" I asked with calm authority. "Let me check," replied this true specimen of exquisite beauty. As she went around to the front of the car, I fiddled idly with the gas cap. I gave it a test twist, just to see if it would come loose, but not really expecting anything. Surprisingly, it did. I twisted some more. It loosened some more. I twisted and twisted, and just like that, easy as pie, the gas cap came right off.

The heart-breakingly beautiful girl popped her head up over the roof of the car on the drivers side and said, "There's not a little lever there. Do you -" I held up the cap for her to see and basked in the knowledge of having performed the impossible. As I expected, her eyes opened wide in amazement. "How... how did you do that?" she stammered in disbelief. "Oh, I just have magic fingers, I guess," I said with the kind of confidence which can only be achieved by one in the possession of extraordinary super powers. She gazed at me adoringly, and I knew she had just fallen for me, hard. She was in love with me. Irrevocably. I knew it could never be, however, for although she was beautiful and had a cool car, we were from two different worlds. She'd never understand my superpowers, and I'd never be able to explain things to her like how to unlock a car door with a tennis ball.

I gave her a wistful smile and a wink, turned around, and without a backward glance I walked away. I would have disappeared into the sunset if the store hadn't been in front of me, and if I'd been facing 90 degrees to the right. Her sobs faded into the distance and abruptly cut off as I entered the store and the door closed behind me. When I turned around to look, she was gone...

Ok, I made up the part about the sobbing, but everything else happened exactly as I described it. And the smile and the wink, I made that part up too. I do think she was in love with me though.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Imagine Elmer Fudd reading this out loud

I'm so lonely,
Oh so lonely...
So lonely and sadly alone.

There is no one,
Just me only...
At home here with my little phone.

I love really hard,
Maybe too much they say...
Because when I love a girl,
She goes away.

So, I'm lonely.
Oh so lonely...
So lonely, I wish 'I' was 'we'.

I'm not homely,
I'm quite comely!
It must be my personality.

In the book of my life,
I'm stuck on the same page...
Not yet married, it's scary
At my kind of age!

And I'm lonely.
Oh, so lonely...
So lonely, like leftover food.

I'm an oldie,
But a goodie...
I've even heard I'm one heckuva dude!

When I'm worthy, then maybe
I'll find my true love...
But 'til then, I'll just have to trust
Heaven above.

So, I'm lonely,
Oh, so lonely.
So lonely, and that's how I'll be.

Yes, I'm lonely,
Oh so lonely.
So lonely, this poor little me.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Happy - part 5

I'm deliriously happy. I can't explain it, and I don't care to anymore. Mostly only at work though. Still, happy. I've never ever felt this way before without being on drugs, except for being in love. I can only imagine how it would be if this feeling really were combined with being in love with someone who loved me. It might be too much to handle. I might laugh myself to death out of sheer joy.

It keeps getting better, even though I still have crap days. It keeps getting better. I hope it extends beyond work. I hope it spreads, to church and home and days off and every second of my life. I'll find somebody some day to share this with. God is good.

Monday, April 18, 2011

That Guy And The Cup That Leaked

Tonight a guy came into the store, walked up to my counter, and plopped a Super Gulp down on it. It was slowly leaking out of the bottom, all over the counter.

Guy: This here'n done leaked all over muh FLORE.

I looked at the guy, then looked at the cup. Yup, it was leaking, fer shore.

Guy: Watchoo goan do 'boudit?

I considered this for a moment. I knew one thing for certain - I definitely wasn't going to go clean up this guy's floor, so I thought of the next best thing.

Me: You can go get another one for free.

He gave me a not-so nice look and went over to the soda machine. I checked a few more customers, and then the guy called over to me.

Guy: Whar's the lids for this'n here?

He was holding the Thor promotional cup, the one that costs two fifty.

Me: You'll have to pay for that one. Get a cup like the one you had before.

Guy: Well, there ain't'n like that'n. That's why I got this'n!

I looked over there and saw that the slot for the Super Gulps was empty.

Me: Ok, I'll go get one for you.

I went into the back and got a sleeve of Super Gulp cups, saying to myself 'I'm calm, I'm calm' and walked back out front. I opened it, took out a cup, and handed him one.

Guy: I don't want that'n, yore FANGERS done been all over't.

He threw the cup in the trash. Yeesh.

Me: Ok, whatever.

I pushed the sleeve of cups into the slot. The guy pulled out the first cup and threw it in the trash, I guess because my fangers done been all over that'n too.

Me: My fingers have been all over most of those cups, you know.

The guy dumped out the Thor cup into the soda drain, spilling a good quarter of it all over the sneeze guard and the floor. He filled his 'fangers free' cup with soda and headed for the door.

Guy: I din't come in here fore a free sody!

Well, I'd just about had enough of this guy, and I just seen red again. Again.

Me: I definitely ain't gonna come clean your floor, if that's whatchoo come in here fore!

The guy stopped halfway out of the door and stared daggers at me.

Guy: I'll see you out'n front here, when you git off work. I'ma kick yore ASS!

And he left. Well, I got off work and got home safely, sans ass kicking, so I must have escaped his wrath by a hairs breadth. And this was the same guy who I'd offered to buy food for the other day, when he was outside panhandling. Yeesh.

Oh yeah...

Brittney: (laughing) Don't kick that guy's ass after work, Ash!

Last night

Last night I worked with Matt. We usually don't talk much, as I'm in the cooler for most of the time on Sundays with four separate orders, organizing, stocking, breaking down boxes, and in between helping with customers. I got finished a little early yesterday though, and I had time to fix something to eat. I put some onions on a tortilla and some mustard, and Matt watched me do this. His look was somewhat puzzled. I looked at him and said, "Oh boy, this is gonna be tasty," and I kind of rolled my eyes and smiled. He said, "Throw some cheese on that bitch!" I told him that I'd like to, but that I was just going to eat it like that. He asked why, and I said that I was fasting for Lent. He kind of went 'Ah,' nodded his head, and that was that.

Later he asked me if I was Catholic. I said no, that I was Orthodox. I started to explain what it was to him, and he said, "Yeah, my grandparents are Orthodox. What are you, Greek Orthodox?" I told him that the church I went to had Russian influences. We talked about this and that for a while, and about an hour later, he asked me about my church again. I was a little surprised, as we had never really talked about anything in depth before, and I didn't expect it to be about church. I told him about it, and that we were almost finished with Lent, and that I was missing a service tonight because I had to work. He frowned and said, "Hell, church is more important that work. You should have gone." I tried to explain to him about how I couldn't keep doing that to Chiy, but I kind of got lost in saying it. We didn't say anything much for about another hour after that.

Then he started telling me about how he had always been interested in religion, but that he was non-practicing; an atheist, pretty much. He asked me what I was allowed to eat during a fast. I told him that it was pretty much a vegan diet. A customer he was checking overheard us, and got involved in the conversation and said, "What about alcohol? You can drink on Fridays, right?" I explained about alcohol to the customer, and it all turned into this impromptu discussion between me, Matt, and this girl about Orthodoxy, and fasting, and all of our own religious views.

Later Matt told me that when he used to spend the summer with his Uncle, that he was only allowed to stay if he went to the Baptist church, and that was what had put him off of religion. Funny, that. It's what put me off of religion too, when I was young. I also thought it was interesting that every time Matt brought up something to talk about, it was always religion.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

When I was a little boy

When I was a little boy, my world consisted of a lime green, run down mobile home at the Green Pines Trailer Park in Raeford, North Carolina. There was no concept in my developing mind of the true enormity of the world... to me, that trailer park was planet Earth. A trip down to the Puppy Creek grocery, about a quarter mile down a brush lined dirt road, was synonymous with crossing the Atlantic. Not that I had the faintest inkling of what the Atlantic was at that time.

In my earliest memory I’m standing at the top of the front steps to our trailer and peeking in through a crack in the barely opened door. There was no porch at all, just that top step which butted up against a battered aluminum threshold. As I stood there, perched precariously on that step oh so high up in the air, I longed to open the door all the way and run inside to safety. However, it was my third birthday and my mom and my grandmother were doing something covert just beyond the door; something which warranted a loud “Kitate!" from grandmother, followed by my immediate expulsion into the front yard to play... I was pretty sure that kitate was Mexican for “Get the hell out of here!". We had a German neighbor who had a similar expression - “Roust!” - which I was pretty sure meant the same thing, as both were said loudly and were usually accompanied by the forcible removal of myself and/or my brother plus any other miniature people from the immediate premises. I don’t remember if I fell from those steps, but I’m still alive, so I must have survived somehow. I do remember though, later that day I was presented with a brown ride-em-up horsie which, due to four strategically placed springs, bounced and floated magically within a square frame of aluminum tubing.

There were woods that surrounded the trailer park - tall green pine trees, as a matter of fact. Kalamazoo, a roofed and walled fortification of branches and leaves established by grandaddy for me and my brother, was our sole outpost into that forbidding frontier. Our trailer was situated right up next to those trees at the far end of a dirt road which ran between two rows of about ten trailers each, with grandmother and grandaddy’s trailer being the first in our row. With a solid wall of immense pine trees enclosing our little community, it wasn’t hard to believe that the world in it’s entirety was represented inside. The dirt road which ran between our trailers connected the two grand loci of my existence; the opposite ends of creation... so, other than Kalamazoo, grandmother and grandaddy’s trailer naturally represented adventure to me. The day inevitably came when I took it upon myself to make the trek up the Grand Avenue all by myself. I don’t remember that adventure; I only remember running back down the road with dad running behind me, his foot connecting with my butt every few steps, propelling me along a little faster and a little more airborne than I could have managed on my own, yelling “I’m gonna slap the shit outta you!” I heard that so much when I was a little kid that for years I thought ‘slap’ was a cuss word.

On my fourth birthday, I woke up with the instant awareness of the fact that the day was MINE. With an excitement that has gone unmatched since then, I kicked the covers from my bed, leaped up, and ran to my dad’s waiting arms, yelling, “I’m four, I’m four, EEEEEEEE!” Later that day my shalocolate birthday cake was topped with a toy Noah’s Ark with little toy animals all over it. However, if you had asked me what Noah’s Ark was right then, I would have looked at you with the clueless expression of an ignorant four year old. To me, it wasn’t “Noah and the Ark”, it was “Nolah in New York!”, thanks to a record of childrens bible stories that I listened to obsessively - Nolah, of course, being my favorite bible character. When one of my plastic animals inevitably broke, my dad lit the stove and held each part over the fire, melting them back together. I was amazed.

I remember the first time I saw my sister Cheyenne. Previous events had left me tired and confused, as I remember long boring stretches of time spent in a hospital waiting room with grandmother and grandaddy, who seemed a lot more excited than the situation should suggest. Next I am standing in the yard, looking up the front steps through the open door of our trailer. Inside I see my mom seated on a chair, facing me, with a little blue bundle in her arms. That was my sister, Cheyenne, and it was the first time I’d ever clapped eyes on her.

I started kindergarten at Skerlock Elementary School in Raeford, North Carolina. Skerlock school was like another planet to me, representing the absolute limit of my ability to comprehend anything outside the things I knew. Certain memories of my kindergarten class are startlingly clear... for instance, I remember a kid named Brian. He used to wear a dark blue knit cap that had corners on each side that poked up. I was fascinated - they looked like kitty ears to me. I used to go up to him and say, 'meow, meow!' He was a shy kid, and small, even for a 4 year old. When I did that he would always run away to his cubby hole (a little square shelf where we would put our things; each kid had his own cubby hole). I also remember a kid named Vernon. He was the first black person I'd ever met, and when he had to go to the bathroom he'd shout out loud at the top of his lungs, "I need to go DOOKIE!" I even had a girlfriend, of sorts, back then. Every morning when I arrived at school and got off of the bus, she would be waiting there for me in the breezeway. "You got to walk me to kindergarten!" she'd say, and then she would grab my hand and lead me to the kindergarten room.

One day my mom gave me a Kit-Kat to eat at lunch time. I was so excited! During the entire bus ride to school all I think about was how much I wanted to eat that Kit-Kat, but everybody knew that we were absolutely forbidden to eat candy on the bus. I knew that it would be a terrible thing to break that rule, but oh how I wanted that Kit-Kat... so after a fierce internal struggle, I came up with a plan. I figured that if I was absolutely quiet and the bus driver couldn't see what I was doing, then I wouldn't get caught. I slumped down in my seat as far as I could and unwrapped my Kit-Kat as quietly as I could. I had hardly taken two bites when I looked up and there was the bus driver, standing right there, looking down at me with stern disapproval. He confiscated my Kit-Kat and pulled me up to the front of the bus, where he made me sit for the duration of the trip to school.

So there I sat there, afraid and in serious trouble, wishing that I'd never unwrapped that Kit-Kat and hoping beyond hope that the bus would never get to school. We got there all too soon however, and the bus driver immediately escorted me to the principals office. When we got there, the bus driver gave my Kit-Kat to the principal and told him what I had done. I started to cry. The principal asked me why I had been eating on the bus, and I said that I didn't know why. The principal frowned, handed me my half eaten Kit-Kat, and said that since I had already broken the rule, that I might as well just go ahead and eat the rest of it. I stood there with the Kit-Kat in my hand, just looking at it, not knowing what to do. The principal asked me if I was going to eat it, but I was to afraid to say anything. Finally he told me to either eat it or throw it in the trash can. I didn't hesitate. I threw in the trash. As I stood there and looked down into the trash can at my Kit-Kat, I felt overwhelming guilt. Guilt for breaking the 'no eating on the bus' rule. Guilt at wasting my Kit-Kat, all because I couldn't wait to eat it. And worst of all, guilt because my mom loved me so much that she gave me a Kit-Kat for lunch time, and there it was, lying half eaten, half melted and alone in a tattered wrapper at the bottom of a hard, cold metal trash can. I felt like I had thrown my moms love down there.