He called last night and threatened more court dates, more legal fees, more excuses.  I broke my number one rule and talked to him on the phone.  I swore three years ago I’d never do that again.  In a matter of just a few minutes, all the while having so strongly defended myself quietly and calmly, I snapped.  There’s only so much berating you can take from someone who doesn’t even recognize himself as unreasonable and unbearable that a civil conversation simply can’t take place, it can’t happen.  It simply cannot happen.  After so much screaming and blaming and going back 9 years to how this is entirely my fault to begin with, I hung up on him, took a deep breath, and walked back inside the house. 

He never asked how she was.  He never asked where she was.  He never even asked to talk to her.  And she doesn’t have a clue he’s back, like some kind of joy sucking parasite who is never content with causing just enough misery.  Oh, no.  Not this one. He needs to cause more than he did the last time and he needs to feel that he’s impacting someone’s life, that he has such a profound effect on someone that he’ll be remembered for a long, long time.  After I hung up on him, he actually called back and was surprised to hear my father’s very protective and cautious voice on the phone.  Then he told my dad, “Look, I know you’re stressed.”  It’s his little game.  How would you respond to that?  You’re going to declare, “I’m not stressed.”  But you are stressed now because that joy sucker accused you of it and you don’t like him and you’ll do anything you can to not be stressed or anything else he accuses you of being that you get very, very stressed.

I thought I was fine this morning after a surprisingly good night’s sleep and a few hours of a deep mind departure to rest my nerves and calm my churning stomach.  Being shorthanded at work helped to keep my mind away from last night’s phone call and it prevented me from recognizing the tell-tale signs of an anxiety-ridden episode.

And I’m not talking about the shaky hands and shortness of breath kind of anxiety-ridden episode.  I’m talking about the Holy crap, she is losing her freakin’ shit! kind of anxiety-ridden episode.

Thankfully, I was so busy this morning lifting boxes and counting books over and over again. Counting isn’t really my thing, by the way, as it involves numbers.  Numbers are not my friend.  However, this morning, the numbers had me figured out because I kept screwing it up, the counting and the numbers, that I had to count books over and over again until I was either a) CORRECT or b) too tired to count to 35 even one more time that I just didn’t give a shit and said, “Here, Hayden.  Tape it, label it, and ship it.  I’m tired of counting.”

I don’t like numbers but those numbers saved me this morning.  They kept me confused and made me count things more times than necessary, so many times in fact that I was distracted from thinking about that phone call last night. 

But everything got counted and, next thing I knew, I wqas caught up.  The orders that had been sitting at my desk since Tuesday had been shipped, the stacks of papers on my desk  that have been sitting there, in random order, had been organized into workable piles of chaos, and I could actually stand around thinking, What am I supposed to do next?

And my brain said, Lose your freakin’ shit!  That’s what you do next!  BECAUSE NOW IS A GOOD TIME!

I remember I said something out loud and out of nowhere, my boss asked me why I wasn’t able to do a particular task and, strangely, I grunted at my boss, threw my hands in the air, and told her I was overwhelmed.  Why?  I HAVE NO FLIPPIN’ IDEA. The hard work was already done but it just sounded like the right thing to say at the time.  This isn’t a woman I feel especially cuddly toward, simply because she makes me cower under my desk when she walks past me and seems to have a permanent scowl on her face because she has to deal with idiots all day, some would say including me. Yet she put her arm on my shoulder and walked me back toward to my desk and said, “Tell me what I can do to help you.”

Then I almost cried.  But I stopped myself short because she was dangerously close to giving me a hug and I would have really lost my shit then.  Not because I’ve gone mental or anything, just because I am extremely uncomfortable with people doing nice things for me.  A hug is a nice thing, it’s a nice gesture, it says I care without having to say I care.  I don’t know why, but I’m not used to that sort of thing.

Then I realized for the first time that it wasn’t the job that was overwhelming me.  I told her this because I didn’t want her to think that I was about to lose my freakin’ shit over some VPK manuals that weren’t getting shipped out on time.  I’m not known around the office to go berserk over a task (unless it’s last minute stuff), maybe over the way people treat other people in my office, but not over a task.  My reputation wasn’t about to be tainted because of a childcare center awaiting their overdue books.  And this was the first moment all day that I felt myself try to relax.  The boxes were gone, the books were gone, the demands for immediate service were gone.  I was told to take a walk and chill out somewhere so I headed for a hot cup of tea.  And my body hurt.  Oh, did my body hurt.

It seems I was very discreetly losing my freakin’ shit! all morning and even I had no idea.    The tension in my muscles became  obvious and the headache I noticed was like that of a good after-cry headache, except I hadn’t been crying.  Not outwardly, at least, but maybe on the inside.  Maybe my subconscious was trying to tell me what to expect in the next few months as it had accepted the reality of another courtroom drama while I naively stood around in denial counting books and purposely losing track of orders just so I could start counting again in some mad attempt to avoid facing another round of emotional breakdowns. 

Last night, after he called back the second time, he wanted to talk to Elle but I suggested it wasn’t the best time, only because of the verbal rampage we’d just thrown down onto one another.  Call back Friday night, before 8.  You can talk to her tomorrow night.

It’s now after 9:00 and he never called.  And still, Elle has no idea.  She’s at a sleepover with her girlfriends. Elle’s busy being a little girl and not worrying about this nonsense going on in the courts.  That’s my job.  And it’s time to start counting out the legal bills…

One thousand dollars, two thousand dollars, three thousand dollars…these numbers will save me.


About Dena

I'm a suburban Clevelander by way of Oklahoma City, by way of North Florida, by way of Southern Maryland, by way of Upper Michigan, by way of Northern Italy, by way of Lower Michigan, by way of Texas. Because of living in so many places, I have something in common with almost everyone I meet. I love reading, writing, and American history (especially reading or writing about American history). I'm interested in culture of place, historical trauma, and writing about the kinds of histories most people don't know about.
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4 Responses to Numbers

  1. Carolina says:

    Hey babe I wish I could find him and run him over with my car for you. I also wish I was close enough to give you a hug. Miss you tuns

    • one of the girls says:

      My other friend offered to punch him in the chest. You guys are awesome. I hope one day I can walk around that town without looking over my shoulder. Love you.

  2. Chris says:

    I thought you said he didn’t go to college. He obviously has a PhD in douchebaggery.

    • one of the girls says:

      He actually came close to getting his PhD in physics but dropped out. He has a degree in douchebaggery and a degree in dumbassery.

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