Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ten Things I Learned...

I started this tradition, and I will keep it alive!

Ten Things I Learned this Weekend

10. I don't like traveling without my teammates. I missed all the derby gossip, conversations about sex, and Amyn and Cho yelling at me to pull up my pants.

9. Claiming to own 1/500 of The End Zone, Jean-Ralphio is alive and well in Huntsville, AL. (Okay, okay. I know a lot of you don't watch Parks & Rec...but if you did, you'd find this reference hilarious.) BZ put him in his place, and Amyn wants to beat him up.

8. Watching Lita land an awesome hit is like watching a cute, determined fairy flying out of the woods with a big stick and a grudge.

7. Blicker and Griff were awesome bench coaches...but they got a bit bossy afterwards. Not to worry-- Ziggy and I put them in their place.

6. I couldn't help but feel a sense of grandiose satisfaction when I was jamming and blocked the other jammer to the floor. It may never happen again, so I'm going to chase that feeling.

5. Signing a stranger's book for the first time was both elating and slightly embarassing. (More elating than embarassing.) I felt like a real writer!

4. I knew Monroe-lling would do awesome jamming, but she was also a badass blocker. I want her to block for me all the time!

3. "Put your body where the words should go" is the best derby advice I've ever heard. (Thank you, Villianelle!)

2. It doesn't matter if people show up to watch. It doesn't matter if the next bout will supposedly be "more exciting" than the first. It doesn't matter if you play well or if you play horribly. It's derby, and it's fun. Always.

1. BCR has started to come together as a team this season. OG's, Medium Rares, whatever...we are a team. If you play with fire, you're going to get burned!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Paper Flowers

I am sitting on the floor in Blicker's mother's bedroom, and I cannot give my final insulin injection of the day. My dog, Gatsby, sits beside me. Her brown eyes flit from my face to my stomach and back again and back again with worry. She knows I am hurting. I have poked the tip of the needle into my stomach six, seven, eight times. The needle will not break my skin. Little droplets of blood dot my stomach like a living, breathing pointilism piece of art.

I suppose I deserve this.

I refuse to give my injections anywhere but my stomach. I have a custom watercolor blend of blue, black, and brown to the right of my belly button. That's my spot. That's where I always poke, prod, and plunge. My needled hand gravitates toward the space with magnetic force. I can see the spot, and I can feel the needle slide into my stomach fat. I know what getting an injection there feels like: usually as smooth as a knife through soft clay. Tonight the clay is, unfortunately, a hard baked ball beneath my skin.

I don't ever showcase that bruise.

My derby bruises, however, are works of art I am proud to display. Courtesy of tonight's bout, I already have a circular bruise (with a bloody tear) on my left thigh. My left foot was practically crushed in a pileup that I tumbled over like spilling paint. On my right thigh, a small navy circle tattoos my skin with someone's toe stop. I love touching the texture of these intricate bruises. I love feeling the inconsistency of red rink rash bumps. I feel a sick sense of euphoria when I run my fingers over the goose eggs that might break the skin at any moment.

I am proud of those bruises. I worked for them. I earned them. They are beautiful.

The bruise on the stomach, however, shames me. I stand in front of Blicker's mother's full-length mirror and look at the reflection of failed impressionistic art near my belly button. I shouldn't feel any sort of sadness, I tell myself. We won our bout that evening by over 200 points. 200 points! We obliterated the other team! I jammed, I blocked, and I kicked ass! Hopefully our Derby South ranking will improve! I sold all of my books! We skated, we conquered, and we partied!

I just survived a face-first tumble over a pile of skaters! I just survived two toe stop flicks to my shins! I just survived a skater accidentally shoving the canvas of her crotch in my face when we tripped over one another!

And now here I stand, a nude model with a bare, unused needle on the carpeted floor. I investigate my leg bruises to boost my self-esteem. You took these, I tell myself. Now just give yourself a goddamned injection. You do this four, five, six times a day. Get a grip.

Gatsby whimpers.

I am too tired to keep trying. I want to take my freshly showered self and crawl onto the memory foam mattress that Blicker's mom is letting us enjoy. I want to think about how good it felt to win; i want to think about how groovy Beatrix Killa was in the halftime dance contest; I want to think about how no one on our team gave up, despite our large lead.

And now I am giving up. I am putting down the paintbrush and calling it quits.

For the past couple of weeks, I have been preaching to our fresh meat that no one on Burn City ever gives up or quits. Never. Don't even think about it.

Yet with no one around but my dog and my reflection, I am ready to incur a super high blood sugar in the morning so that I don't have to try again. I am doing exactly what I said that no one on our team would ever do. I am disappointing myself, and I am proving myself wrong.

Here I stand, a bruised slab of marble, ready to break apart and crumble to the ground.

I throw on an old t-shirt, underwear, and pants. I don't want to look at these bruises anymore. I don't want to think about them.

Still, I can't convince myself to hop onto the memory foam or leave the bedroom. Thinking about letting my team down, even when they aren't around, is going to cause all of those bruises to burst and morph into a bad Jackson Pollock knockoff. I can't let that happen, no matter how badly that needle hurts.

I plunge the insulin from the old needle back into the vial of insulin. I scrounge around my purse until I find a new, clean syringe. I pull thirty units out of the vial, and I try again. I press the needle into the left side of my stomach: nothing. Gatsby eyes flit from my face to my stomach and back again and back again with worry. I take a breath and try again. And again. And again. I close my eyes and visualize how many times I jammed around the pack this evening. I did that. I made those points happen.

And finally, the needle slides into my stomach. The insulin burns as I push the plunger all the way. My hands are shaking, and I am biting my tongue. When I pull my t-shirt down over my stomach, the blood soaks through the fabric and blooms like a paper tulip.

I know that tomorrow, I will have a brand new work of art gracing my stomach. One that I will not show. One that I gave myself. One that may never fade. One that guarantees I am far less fragile than I imagined.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Happy Suuuuunnnnnndayyyy tooooo youuuuu!

Someone hum the theme from Superwoman, Cho says. We have just finished the first practice of season three. Cho, Amyn, and I are the only veterans to lace up our Sunday morning skates. I’m not sure if I should feel intimidated or excited that a new group of girls outnumbers the vets. We splay onto our stomachs, stretch our arms in front of us, and lift our skates from the dingy floor. We are attempting to hold this pose for two minutes; I can feel the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and Christmas cherry pie rolling around in my gut like an errant skate wheel.

There isn’t a Superwoman, BZ replies. She and her girlfriend, Saintly Vicious, have encyclopedic comic book knowledge. I wonder if they quiz each other as they fall asleep. Green Lantern? No, it was the Silver Streak. But there is, she continues, Supergirl.

Well, someone hum the theme from Supergirl, Cho insists. Does she have a theme?

BZ scrunches her face and looks stumped.

Fuck it, I’m just going to hum the Superman theme. Just pretend like it’s Superwoman. Cho pauses. Supergirl. Whatever her name is. We’ve already been holding this banana pose for thirty seconds, so I’m just going to do it.

Cho hums. The song sounds familiar…too familiar to be the Superman theme song. Shit! Cho interrupts herself. That’s Star Wars!

Definitely not Supergirl. Or Superman, I add.

Fine, then, let’s sing “Happy Sunday.” Twice.
Cho's looks flustered as she holds her banana pose. Before the singing commences, Cho rocks her banana back and forth.

Cho and I belt out Happy Sunday to you! Happy Sunday to you! Happy Sunnnnday to yooooouuuu…happy Sunday to you! Cho takes the high harmony. The two of us sound like prepubescent frogs. I notice that none of the others sing along; though most of the girls were not around that ancient Sunday when we initiated the song, Amyn certainly was.

You know I don’t sing that shit, Amyn says with her trademark smirk. You all go right ahead. One of us has to stay sane.

We have been holding the banana pose for two minutes. Maybe more. You know how people say that pain is weakness leaving the body? Cho asks. She deflates from the banana pose, and the rest of us follow. I’m pretty sure for me that pain is ice cream leaving the body. I try not to giggle, but one leaks onto the rink and lands beside a gum wrapper.

Why are you always making fun of me? Cho asks. She throws a wrist guard at my leg. Her wrist guard smells like vinegar, and I’m sure mine smells worse. I don’t say anything; I usually just let Cho keep talking in these circumstances. I told my friend, by the way, Cho continues, that you think I’m the female Michael Scott. He thinks that I should be offended.

Offended? Michael Scott has floated a failing paper company for seven seasons now. I think it’s a compliment.

I sense that I need more than a failing fictional paper company to convince Cho that I find her whimsy and sparkle quite admirable. Well, actually, Blicker and I were saying that you are actually more like Amy Poehler on Parks and Rec. Leslie, that’s her name. She’s smarter than Michael, but still…quirky.

Cho’s mouth curves from a straight line to a semi smile. I sense that she is not quite appeased.

Oh, hell. I just can’t stop myself. But you know? Admitting to me that someone else thinks you should be offended that I call you the female Michael Scott is a very Michael Scott thing to do.

Cho throws her helmet at me. Lovingly, of course.

Amyn rolls her eyes. Lovingly, of course.

Welcome to season three.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Ahhhhhh! Escape of the Terrible Tutu!

Derby has turned me into a materialistic, ostentatious piece of ruffled ass.

Before I started skating, I wore gray, black, and brown to school almost every day; my gym clothes were no different. I sported black pants, black shorts, black t-shirts, and one red t-shirt that I got for free when I joined.

I didn’t want to stand out. I didn’t want anyone to notice me. I wasn’t unconfident; I just wanted to blend into the gym walls. I wanted to swing my legs back and forth on the elliptical, blankly staring at a television or magazine page. Sometimes, I would even wear my headphones without my iPod, just so everyone would know that I didn’t want to talk about calorie counting. I didn’t want to hear boar grunts. I didn’t want to make any friends. I didn’t even want anyone to look my direction.

I lost about twenty pounds that way. Of course, twenty pounds wasn’t enough, so when I would come back post-workout to my tilted trailer, I would eat nothing but lettuce leaves and a hundred calorie ice cream popsicle. Soon I had lost twenty-one pounds, twenty-two, twenty-three…but I still didn’t want to be noticed physically. I hid in my black, brown, and gray clothes. I looked great, but I felt tired. Cranky. Miserable if I missed a workout. Cruel to myself if I didn’t do at least an hour of cardio and half an hour of plyometrics.

When I started derby, I gained thirty pounds. I have no idea why. My eating habits were consistent, I still worked out, and I was getting more exercise than I did before. Of course, it could have been the prescription of antidepressants. It could have been that I was unknowingly “feeding insulin.” (In other words, injecting myself with too much insulin and later having to stuff sugar and carbs in my mouth to stay alive. It’s a vicious cycle.) It could have been that I was turning twenty-seven, and my body was preparing me for the brutal snowstorm of my thirties. I have no idea.

I don’t know where the weight came from, but it returned right where it belonged: my stomach and enormous boobs. It was back, and it was here to stay.

But without me even realizing it, something else about my appearance had changed. The brightly colored tights, floofy tutus, and booty shorts crept up on my body more slowly than the weight, but they were there too. There to stay.

Soon, my closet was overflowing with tangled tights, fishnets, striped booty shorts, ruffle panties, and a pair of kitty cat ears to wear for pictures and bout introductions. (I know, I know, my name has nothing to do with cats…but I am kind of obsessed with them.) Every practice and bout became an opportunity for me to put together an outfit in a way that I had never done with regular clothing. Do highlighter yellow tights go with a black sport skort and that red shirt I got from the gym? No. Did highlighter yellow tights go with a black sport skort and turquoise jersey? Why, yes! Of course!

And you know what? I discovered that an obsession with image had been a latent part of my personality all along, and it wasn’t a bad thing. I wasn’t the greatest skater when I started (and I’m still not), but I thrived from the attention my boutfits got. Don’t get me wrong; I am not one of those Myspace derby girls who only join the team because it’s the cool, alternative thing to do. I did, and will continue, to work hard and strive to improve.

I just want to look hella good doing it, extra thirty pounds or not.

These days, I want people to notice me.

Of course, having an ultra bright, flamboyant boutfit makes it easier for opposing blockers to knock the glitter right off the tutu. Still, I just can’t let my short lime green petticoat go. (Unless we play Knoxville, of course. I learned my lesson the first time on that one.) I cringe at league meetings when girls bring up the idea of dressing alike at every bout. I cringe harder when they want us all to wear black shorts. (Why can’t we all wear cute turquoise ruffle panties?)

I won’t say that derby has given me the confidence to wear my underwear outside my tights. In some ways, derby has made me less confident. However, derby opened up a new part of my personality that was, um, slightly brighter than I imagined.

These days, I have an edgy, asymmetrical haircut. I tend to buy regular clothing in a rainbow of colors. Sometimes, I even wear blue eye shadow to work. I don’t mind that my mom’s coworkers alert her when I change my facebook profile picture to me with one panty on my head and one under my tutu. I don’t mind when my mom calls and asks me why I decided to dress that way. (Though I have told her that my boutfits cover way more than a bathing suit would.)

My teammate, Ziggy Bloodlust, told me that one night, she browsed through all of the Burn City Rollers’ pictures. Start to finish. She said to me 9, when you started, you looked so…young. Now you look so much more womanly.

I just smiled and gave myself a little pat on my materialistic, ostentatious piece of ruffled ass.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Every Now and Then

I am in the bathtub. The water is cold and will be shut off tomorrow. I haven’t had the money to pay the bill. Everything but my face is completely immersed in the chilly, indifferent bath water.

I drug the computer into the bathroom, all because I wanted to listen to my Bright Eyes Pandora radio station. The first song that grows from the green plush rug is “Untitled (Lovers Turn Into Monsters).”

How appropriate, I think. Of course this song would play. Bright Eyes reminds me of almost every single guy who ever fucked me over and tore my heart to tiny shards of ripped

I am almost, if not completely, certain that beer does nothing for me…except cause the overdramatic piece of my brain to fill up and completely spill over.

I start crying. I don’t know why. My tears warm the bathwater.

Blicker stayed at the Indie. He told me that he wanted to hang out some more. I was tired from skating, dancing, singing, drinking, and getting a lap dance. On my drive home, I convinced myself that Blicker wanted to stay at the bar because he knew a bunch of random girls there. I swear sometimes that he has dated (or almost dated) every girl in Auburn.

The night began sweatier and happier. After practice, some of the team went to The Independent for beer and indie-rock karaoke. (Indie-rock karaoke, I discovered, is basically the same as regular karaoke, only with a separate page at the end. Label? NEW. The number of NEW songs drops in at about thirteen, and I could swear that I have heard all those songs on the radio, minus one.)

It only took Cho a couple sips of Jack and Coke before she was ready for her highly anticipated rendition of “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”

9 and Ziggy you haaaaaaaaaaave to come up there with me and just dance or something, Cho begged from the stage as she struggled with the mic. The mic made thud thud sounds as it slid through the stand. I don’t want to do this anymore, Cho whimpered. I’m scared.

Earlier, Cho had shown us a magic trick. She pretended to put a coin through the back of her neck, and then coughed the quarter up from her throat. Turns out, as Ziggy noticed, the coin was in the crook of her elbow the entire time. Cho said that the trick really impressed kids, and I am certain that it did. I didn’t see anything but giggles come from her elbow.

Ziggy and I agreed to go onstage with Cho, but we made a pact first. Just stand there and stay really stoic, Ziggy instructed me. Don’t crack a smile. When I look at you, then we’ll crossover behind Cho.

I wish I could have upheld the pact, but I admit: I faltered once or twice, mostly because Cho did the Old School version of the song. She substituted freakin/fucking/fuggin at every possible opportunity. Still, I was impressed that Cho covered the song as well as she did. I mean, it was Bonnie Tyler, after all.

At the theatrical close of "Total Eclipse," Ziggy and I (stoically) made a short line behind Cho. When Cho belted out her final note, she threw her hips backward and her hands in the air. Her hips hit my cup of Shocktop, sending beer all over my face and the stage. I felt like instead of a standing atop a beer-soaked stage at a nearly empty bar, I was at a raucous concert gone wrong. I felt like I was making up for all those quiet teenage afternoons I spent in the library, or all those times I convinced myself that meekness was a necessary approach to every situation.

I don’t think there could have been a more appropriate ending to the girl-friendly power ballad than the hip thrusts and flying sloshes of beer.

The song eclipsed the bar that night. After Cho’s performance, more drinks went down our throats and made us crazy. Insane. Blicker sang Bob Seger’s “Against the Wind,” in a gravelly voice that I’d never heard him use before. Seedy Elle danced all the spilled beer off the stage. Beatrix Killa played an invisible bass-accordion-guitar-ukulele for each BCR member who attempted to sing.

The climax of the evening came when Cho did a somersault on the stage. I didn’t know she could do a somersault. I was glad that she was still wearing her tights from practice.

Cho is the goofiest, most loveable person in my life at the moment.

After Blicker handed me my third beer, my derby wife Skully approached me from behind. Some cute, gay guy from Hair Expo was singing “Beauty School Dropout.” Skully's hot breath in my ear startled me.

I just wanted to tell you, Skully said, that Ziggy is going to give you a lap dance.

I looked at her with my left eye squinted. My left eye has always been my suspicious eye.

I just thought you should know, she said in her best neutral voice.

I didn’t know what the fuck was going on anymore. The room spun like a carousel in my head, the band posters and fliers replacing colorful horses, camels, and unicorns. We could have been in California, New York City, or Auburn, Alabama. We could have been a roller derby team, or we could have been a handful of escaped criminals. We could have been senseless drunks, or we could have been savant singers, dancers, and magicians. I just couldn’t tell.

The lap dance, I discovered, also involved Cho. While Ziggy grinded her ass on my thighs, Cho shook her butt next to my leg. I’m not very good at this, Cho admitted. I lost any stoicism that I so earnestly began the evening with. Ziggy leaned back, put her head on my neck, and stroked my hair.

If any of this seems sexual, it wasn’t. It all seemed completely normal. Expected, even.

Just another night in Burn City.

After the lap dance, the tiredness hit me like one of those anomalous microphone thuds. Skating. Dancing. Singing. (If that’s what you want to call it, commented the smug karaoke operator. I don’t recall the song.) Drinking. Receiving a lap dance.

And now here I lie in a chilly bath, listening to songs that weren’t on the indie-rock karaoke list.

I don’t think I can move my arms or legs.

I don’t think I can feel the water anymore.

I hear the rush of the faucet backgrounding the radio. I can’t stop crying, and I don’t know why.

Turn around, I think before I sink my head completely under. Bright Eyes. Every now and then I fall apart.

Monday, March 28, 2011



Fall forgets the South; just leaves her
in a pile of red clay and roots.

While wind strips Northern trees naked,
the sun beats Alabama dry.

As I sleep to field cricket chirps,
the dust crusts my eyes like sand.

Here, the geography flatlines
like a dying man; horizons

stack in vast rows of tomorrows,
while I wait for zephyrs to blow

past my face and breathe relief
into a baked soul and hardened eyes.

Spring forgot the South, too. And now
I stand in the center and wait

for the first magnolias to bloom.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Waist Land

The Waist Land

My curves are bad tonight. Sloppy, ugly. Sleep with me.
Comfort me. Why must you leave the lights on?
Quiet. Say nothing more.
Are you thinking of my bruised breasts? My paunch? My ass?
They fill your hands like pudding, like wet rags.
I never know what you are thinking when we touch.
I think we are in some B movie
where the actress has lost her mind.
Why there? Why my hip? Don’t grip me there.
I feel nothing.

The cuts on my arm.
They quit bleeding minutes ago. Why touch them? Why try?
Nothing, again nothing.

Do you understand why? Why I can’t let you inside?
You don’t know the disgust. The horror of my body.
Don’t you see these things? Don’t you remember how we saw
that blonde girl, and that skinny girl, and that girl with slim ankles?
The perfect ones. Don’t you remember?

I remember well.
I remember well,
my brown eyes like bronzed cinnamon,
you asking “Are you okay? Are you okay?
Are. You. Okay?” No, no, I mean, yes.
Just stuck in the drawers of my brain,
always these papers in my head,
ready to blow through the room like rotting leaves.


O O O that Elliott Smith waltz--
It’s so saddening,
so maddening.
I shall not dress. I shall not paint myself as a doll.
What should I do now? What should I do?
I might rush out as I am, breasts, ass bouncing.
I might walk the avenues and curse the streets,
my hair showing so. What will I do tomorrow?
What will we ever do?

A hot shower at ten,
and, if it rains, we fuck at four.
I shall lie there naked,
pressing printless thumbs in fatty flesh,
waiting for you to come.