We stayed here in North Carolina this Christmas. The tags are expired on the MG, and it isn’t the most reliable vehicle, so we didn’t want to risk driving all the way up North. We still don’t have the title to this car, either, so we can’t register or insure it. Turns out my sister titled the car in her roommate’s name for cheaper insurance. They had a nasty split, and she won’t hand over the title. So now Lou doesn’t want to pay my sister any more money for the car until we get the title, especially since we’ve spent a lot on repairs. It is always something, and always expensive. Half the time we can’t afford whatever it needs. When the alternator went bad, I had to park on hills so that I could put the car in neutral, get it rolling down the hill, then jump in and pop the clutch. Other times, I would just open up the hood and look under until some nice guy offered to help me and I asked him to put some muscle behind the car for a push start. I’ve pushed the car plenty of times myself, so I know it isn’t too much to ask.
To save money, I permed my own hair; I thought it looked pretty good, but Lou obviously doesn’t like it, and made a big deal about the nauseating smell of the chemicals, so I doubt I’ll do that again. We had a good, frugal Christmas though. A few of us from Ramada went out to find trees together; I cut my own tree, dragged it out of the woods, and brought it back in someone’s pickup truck. My tree didn’t look quite as huge in the woods as it did after I lugged it up to our small apartment. We really don’t have decorations, so I cooked some popcorn to string into a garland, made a bunch of ornaments by hand, and put some candy canes on the tree, and fashioned a star out of tin foil. I baked a cake, too for Lou’s Christmas birthday, and served ice cream on the side. That, he liked.
I actually smell like ice cream now that I also have a second job at Swensen’s, a fairly new ice cream parlor style restaurant at Brightleaf Square, which is a renovated old tobacco warehouse in town. I had applied for a supervisor’s job I saw in the paper, but the manager said he knows I will leave in the spring, and hired a local instead who would be more likely to stay. I can understand, and asked if he had anything else open, and so I got a waitress job. I’m probably making more money with the tips than I would on a flat higher hourly rate. It’s always fun to dump my apron pockets out to count my tips when I get home. I like the people at work, the food is great, and the ice cream is delicious, since it is all freshly made right there in the restaurant. We get more families than we do Duke students as customers, so the tips are good, especially when their kids get the ice cream clown I make up extra special.
Our social life is improving a little bit; we’ve actually been to a few different parties held by a variety of people from the hotel, the restaurant and the university. Melissa, the front desk and accounting manager at Ramada had a get together at her house. I like her a lot, but I swear she is hiring every gay person in Durham to work at the front desk. She lives with a gay guy; I’ve never seen her with either a girlfriend or boyfriend, but I just assume she’s gay too. Doesn’t matter, we’re good friends, and play cards just about every day at lunchtime. We get our food from the restaurant, and go back in the bar to listen to music and eat and play honeymoon pinochle. We sing along with made up words, since nobody can hear us; my favorite is when we belt out our version of a Journey song, Broken Arms. Anyway, I think Lou and I were the only straight people at Melissa’s party. One girl from work, who is married, started coming on to me in the kitchen. I didn’t know what to do, so I just ducked under one of her arms that she had used to pin me against the counter and scooted away. Melissa has cable TV, which I haven’t seen in ages; it was tuned into a station called MTV, and the first thing I saw was this video of the song, Mickey, with these pig-tailed cheerleaders bouncing around. After that, I became glued to her color set for the rest of the night, watching music videos. We still have our black and white 15” TV, and there’s no cable. For Christmas, Lou bought a Pong video game for me; it is no small miracle it works on that old television.
Speaking of miracles, we had one recently in the MGB. Lou was driving, and I was in the passenger seat; the light had just changed from red to green at an upcoming intersection, so Lou didn’t stop and just continued through. Through my window to the right, I saw coming crossways through the intersection, a car that wasn’t stopping either. The vehicle was a lot bigger than ours, and looking up, I could see the driver and her passenger both with an expression of sheer panic. The next thing I know, Lou and I are both looking out his driver’s side window on the left and saw the back end of that same car driving away. Lou pulled over, and we sat there for a while in shock. We saw exactly the same thing, and both agreed that it had to be an angel that somehow protected us from a crash that would most likely have killed us both. If he wasn’t there with me I don’t think he would have believed my story. But there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that there was no human earthly way we could have not been in a horrible accident. The people in the other car have to be telling the same story themselves. I get chills just thinking about it.
That’s not the first or only time I’ve been saved since we’ve been married, either; it has been just one thing after the other. One day, I was slowly pulling out of a parking spot at the mall, and was about to get onto the highway, when suddenly the front wheel of the MGB simply broke off its axle. I can only imagine the huge accident that would have caused if that happened to me just a few minutes later at freeway speeds. Despite the huge repair bill, I felt very lucky.
And, one evening, I was sitting in the living room, not really paying attention to Lou, who was moving around the apartment, when he suddenly ran outside, and left the door open. I went to the doorway to see what was wrong, just as he had come running back, jumped up, and was swinging a hammer to knock down a wasp’s nest that had been built over the doorframe. The hammer came down right on the bridge of my nose, with the full force of his swing, and his body weight as he came back to the ground. I fell right down to the deck. Oh my God, how that hurt, but somehow, it didn’t break my nose. We put ice on it, and all I got was a some swelling and little bit of discoloration under both my eyes. My mother rarely calls, but while I was sitting there with tears in my eyes and ice on my face, she phoned, saying she was thinking about me. Good timing, because I really did want my Mommy.
Yet another messed up thing that happened here, was when Lou and I were practicing karate together one night on campus in a room that is used as a dance studio. It is a big room with a wood floor and huge mirrors on the walls. The mirrors are probably 8 feet high by 10 feet wide or so, and the glass is very thick. We did our stretches and kicks and stuff to warm up, and then he wanted to practice his kata. I sat down on the floor along the mirrored wall, with my knees tucked up to my chest, and my arms hugging my knees, so I was leaning a bit forward. Lou was doing his routine, and got to the part of the kata when he stepped down hard and let out a big yell, “HA!” The hard step and loud yell caused a vibration in the room, and suddenly, the mirror behind me came off the wall and crashed down over my body, breaking into a million pieces on the floor all around me. Lou was standing far enough away that the mirror didn’t come close to him as it fell, but as the pieces broke, they scattered everywhere in all directions. Still sitting in the same position, I slowly raised my head and looked around. His eyes were wide open in shock and disbelief, and asked, “Holy shit, are you alright?” I said, “I think so,” not really sure if I was or not. We were both barefoot, and there was sharp broken glass all around me. I walked on my tip-toes on and between the shards of glass over to a bench, where I could walk along the side of the room on top of benches away from the mess. I didn’t have a single cut or bruise or pain on me at all. Looking at the large sharp shards of glass everywhere, it seems impossible that I was not impaled; we figure I wasn’t hurt because of my relaxed position. Whatever the reason, to me it was a miracle.
A week or so after the mirror fell on me, I got this oval spot of red bumps on my abdomen that really hurt like a burn, almost like a hot fire poker. I had an appointment with a gynecologist for a normal checkup because I was thinking about going on the pill. Lou has heard that you gain a lot of weight on the pill, and the doctor said that was possible, so I didn’t get a prescription. I asked him to examine the rash, and he said it looked like shingles, probably caused by stress or nerves. Shingles is in the same family as the chicken pox and herpes virus, but it’s different, and isn’t contagious. He said there wasn’t anything to treat it, but that there was a new cream medicine called Zovirax that they use for genital herpes and there was some thought among researchers that it could possibly help with shingles. I was willing to try anything; it was embarrassing to buy the herpes medicine, but it did work like magic, and the doctor sent me a copy of the letter that he wrote to the manufacturer about the success of his little case study. I can’t imagine not having anything to treat that condition having to just hope for it to go away. I was lucky to find the right doctor.
All in all, I feel pretty safe, knowing I must have angels watching over me.