I'll never leave home without them again.
It was one of the last days of my Spring Break. My internal clock was still on School Time, so I got up around 6:00 a.m., grabbed some old, high-water sweat pants and a tattered sweatshirt and took Kia out for a three mile walk in the semi-darkness of the early morning.
I came back home, slightly sweaty and decided to celebrate my day of freedom by having a leisurely breakfast in bed while reading the paper. Mmmmmm! Peanut butter scooped up with shredded wheat squares! Delicious! I dropped a big blob of peanut butter on my chest. No napkin? No problem! No need to disturb the two cats and one dog already camped out on my body. I wiped up the blob with my sleeve. After all, I would be doing laundry later on. I had the whole day ahead!
There is something spectacular about having a day to yourself. No schedules, no meetings, no need to get up and go anywhere. I could loll around in bed all day if I wanted to. This was one day I didn’t have to follow my usual routine of showering, then applying ample make-up and at least a pound of hair products, followed by blow drying and dressing up in my teacher clothes.
I’d get to all that hygiene stuff soon enough, I thought, but first maybe I’d take a nap in this little Pet Paradise that surrounded me.
A nap in the morning. Oooooooo… I thoroughly enjoyed it and after about an hour of snoozing, I uprooted the animals and went out to the kitchen for a stack of cookies and a glass of tea.
Wiping my mouth with the back of my hand, I surveyed my backyard. I spied a bare piece of ground and the flat of ice plant I had been waiting to plant there. Spring was in the air, the ground was soft and muddy, and I was out of cookies, so I went out and started digging. I planted that flat and then decided to transplant some other flowers. My nails were filthy and so were my sweats. Kia joined me, jumping up on me with her muddy paws. Together, we enjoyed a full morning of gardening.
Since I was already filthy from the planting, I decided to take Kia to the dog park before I took a shower. I pulled on a hat over my hair that was strangely flat on one side and teased up on the other and headed over to the park. Kia played with poodles, boxers and one very slobbery Newfoundland who enjoyed passing by my leg, leaving his foamy spit on my thigh.
I fully intended to take a shower when I got home, but as I walked by the garage I noticed some things that needed to be moved around and straightened out.
I was already filthy, so I thought I should do it before my bath. Besides, this whole not taking a shower thing/ marinating in my own filth thing was starting to feel really good. It emphasized the freedom of my day. There would not be the hypercritical eyes of eighteen and nineteen year-old students scrutinizing my wardrobe and hair. Ah yes, life in these high water sweat pants was good! I finally understood why people (OK, OK, usually non-ambulatory patients or the morbidly obese) wore them all the time. Freedom, baby!
I started cleaning the garage and really got into organizing some tools I had thrown on the shelf. Then there were all the recycles to sort out. Oh, and I needed to sweep out all the dirt that had built up in one of the corners.
I stopped only to eat chips and salsa out in the garage, sitting on a lawn chair and slurping up the thick and chunky salsa. Some fell down onto my lap, but I found a chip scraped across the surface of fleece kind of left a wavy pattern of red reminiscent of a blood stain just like on the crime shows on TV. Cool! As I sat and ate the chip that I had done the scraping with, (oh yes, I did) I looked around at my garage. I was getting things done! I was organizing my life!
I drank down two cans of Diet Pepsi in a row. (I include this detail in the hope that the caffeine can be blamed for my next series of thoughts.)
I eyed the shelves against the wall. Suddenly, I needed plastic boxes—the see-through kind—to put all my stuff in! I did!!! AND I had to have them immediately! My purse was already in the car. All I had to do was get in and go.
So I did.
I headed to Target.
The one people go to.
People with eyes.
I sat there in my car in the parking lot, kind of stunned. What were all these other people doing here? Really? Other people? Shouldn’t they all be at home or at work? I looked down at my outift and realized how ratty and dirty I looked.
Still, I didn’t want to go back without my boxes, so in desperation, I dug around in my glove box for a tube of old lipstick I had thrown in there when it got sort of crusty and I didn’t want it cluttering up my purse. I put some on in the rearview mirror.
Oh yeah. That would do it, I thought. That would distract from the high water pants with the dog slobber and salsa on it. No one would even notice my sweatshirt with the peanut butter now covered with dust and cat hair.
Since the lipstick was pretty crusty, I pressed hard on the tube with my mud-encrusted fingernails, circling it over and over my lips in a semi-maniacal way.
Just a little more round. Just one more coat.
I could feel the waxy, slightly chunky layers upon my lips.
I got out of the car, pulling my sweats down until they almost reached the top of my shoes, (which of course, pulled down the crotch of the pants almost to my knees). I stuffed my uneven nest of hair under my hat, stood up as straight as I could (what with the pants situation and all...) and then I took my clown lips into Target, determined to look just as natural and at ease as I could.
Walk with confidence, I thought.
It’s all about the attitude. Zena, Warrior Princess, Strides Through Target for Plastic Boxes.
Alas, Zena turned into Ms. Pacman the minute she saw someone she knew. It was a student of mine!
Nooooooo! No. No. No.
I zipped up one aisle, cut through one of the back aisles and then turned the corner. I was almost there.
One more aisle.
Then I saw her. There in the box aisle, in front of MY BOXES, was a woman I had not seen for a very long time.
OH CRAP. NO. NO. NO.
Now, she’s a perfectly nice person, but not someone I’d consider a close friend—not the kind of person you could sidle up to in my condition, snort and say, “Oh, man! I knew I’d see somebody I knew. I am a mess! Look at me! Can you believe it?” No! She was an acquaintance to me. We know a lot of the same people.
And the first thought that entered my vain little head was that I had not seen her since my divorce.
I could just hear her telling people about our encounter later.
“Ohhhhh, I saw Betty at Target and she has really let herself go since her husband left. It is so sad,” she’d say, shaking her head.
I spun around and headed the other way, trying not to look too obvious. I pulled my cap lower on my face, and quickly turned the corner and headed down the first aisle I came to.
What aisle was that you ask?
The mirror aisle.
Yep. Imagine a nightmare where you are trapped in a creepy museum in which every display, every diorama, is of you at your worst. All the displays are the same and yet all just a little different, each one, just a little more horrible than the last.
There under the florescent lights, I saw myself pass by small mirrors, large mirrors, full-length mirrors, round mirrors, square mirrors, and weird little mirrors in the bellies of stick figures.
My mouth was still a bright O shape from the lipstick I had raced around it like a Formula One car. The peanut butter stain was still prominent on my chest. Since there were mirrors on all the shelves, some featured my pale face with my Mr. Bill mouth, while others just captured my sweatshirt with the mud and peanut butter stain. One very special row of mirrors framed the salsa stain which, now that I was standing, was hideously near my crotch and which still had a bit of either thick or chunky encrusted in it.
That did it.
The Target security staff watched as Ms. Pacman cut through aisles, around corners and straight through the doors at lightning speed. I went home and headed directly to the bathtub. I did not stop at Go. I did not collect $200.00. I had a mission. I used at least $50.00 worth of cleansing products and when I got out of the bath, I used another $75.00 worth of beauty supplies.
My recent adventure reconfirmed my decision to avoid prison and not to try out for any reality show that takes place on an island or anywhere devoid of a bathtub and a blow dryer. However, I gotta say, before I lost my mind and went out into public, my vacation from personal hygiene was pretty darn fun.
I may just do it again some day, but next time I'll give my car keys to a friend before I begin. And, no, there will be no vacation pictures to share. I promise.