Horror

“How are you doing? How’s Bamboo doing?”

I can feel the delay, desperately scrambling for a response. A simple question, I should have a pat ready answer, but I don’t. I feel the tumblers in my mind whirring, locking into place, the card-file of my mind sorting itself, waiting for an answer to bubble up. A ready answer slides into place, but it’s for the wrong question — he doesn’t really care. I answer anyway.

“I’m alright, been better. Bamboo’s great though.”

My mind has found the Bamboo file, but it’s six pages thick. I sift through, looking for a tidbit I can throw out there. My gut sinks as I see two more people come around the corner, looking for this status update. Fuck. What was I doing five minutes ago? I just came out here to pee!

“Powershell’s kicking my ass though.”

“Oh yeah? Maybe we should all sit together and look it over?”

This is a good idea. No, it’s a terrible idea. He doesn’t know anything about Powershell. Nobody does except–

“Yeah, I already messaged Pat this morning. Do you know Powershell?”

That was the wrong order of sentences but he takes it in stride.

“Nah, Pat’s the best, and Ray but he’s nights.”

“Yeah, I sent him an email. I can’t get more information about the error, it just said it fails to download.”

The sort-and-skim completes; I now have the information I wanted four sentences ago, so I ramble on, dumping info on the trio that’s assembled around me.

“I got [server] and [server] deploying yesterday, we started them up but there were application-level errors. So that’s nothing to do with Bamboo, I handed it off to the appdev teams. I got [server] and [server] working this morning, and [server] will be ready once I finish this last change: it’s got a different directory structure, so I was just trying to handle that, and somehow it blew up with the most generic error ever. So I messaged Pat and I’m still working that.”

I hate every second of the conversation. Didn’t I used to be able to rattle that off up top, instead of the stalling to a halt? What the fuck is wrong with me?

It’s just fibro, I tell myself. Calm down. It’s just my brain deteriorating under the effects of a chronic disease I’ll be struggling against for the rest of my life, it’s just the last bit of my body that I felt I could actually trust when everything goes to shit failing me. No need to panic.

FML.

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Fibro by analogy

I don’t really want to leave that last post as the top post on my blog for ages, so let’s talk about Fibromyalgia.

Fibro has two primary symptoms. The first is central nervous system sensitization. I suck at explaining, so let’s take an analogy. You ever do something stupid, like slice your finger open or skin your knee, only you don’t quite notice at first? And then you look down and see blood and your brain’s like, “Oh, hey mate, thanks, I knew I was forgetting something” and the pain kicks in and it hurts like a bitch?

Wait, that’s a shitty analogy. You ever been really anxious, and like, sure you’re forgetting something? So you put your keys in your pocket and you walk outside and you pat your pocket to check if you have your keys and you walk to the car and you pat your pocket again and you get in and start the car and you drive a bit and you pat your pocket and holy shit, the keys aren’t there!! You forgot your– wait, no, false alarm, you’re driving, your keys are in the ignition.

Essentially, to my understanding, my brain’s like that, but with pain. My nerves send the same signals everyone else’s nerves send: touch recorded in upper arm region, intensity foo, surface area bar. My brain, however, is super anxious, as though I were gushing blood and it needed to make sure I really feel the pain so I won’t do it again. So it records “HIGH ALERT! UNLEASH PAIN!!” and I pull away from what was actually just a gentle grip.

The other main symptom is fatigue. Right now, as I write this, it’s 7:15 in the morning. My alarm went off at 5, and despite having an alarm that makes me turn on the light and scan a barcode before I can shut it off, I laid back down and almost went back to sleep. I got up, though, and took my shower, and I had to sit on the toilet for a few minutes to get my strength back after standing for so long. I almost had a nap in the car (my husband drove today), and as I type this, my bones ache with exhaustion just thinking about it. I went to bed last night around 8:30; it took a while to fall asleep, but I slept soundly. I’m just tired. All the damn time. I don’t let it stop me from doing things, but I do them tired. Physically tired, not just groggy.

I’m not really going anywhere with this, I just wanted to share.

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Angry ramblings

This is probably going to get whiny. I don’t like to complain much; that’s one of the reasons I took a hiatus from blogging for a while. I always feel like there’s so much wrong with me that I can neither help nor handle, that I should shut up and deal as best I can with the rest of it. But apparently studies show that dealing with trauma and being more open emotionally can reduce pain levels with Fibro, so what the hell, let’s blog.

(Sorry in advance)

On my birthday my mother sent me this text:

I went and peeked at your fb page this morning, seems like your really pissed off about a lot of stuff. Mostly how you were raised, I think. It makes me sad and feels weird to wish you a “happy birthday” when basically you seem to be saying, I wish I’d never been born. I do hope you have a nice day. But to be honest, I wish every day is nice for you. I do love you and I don’t lie, ever.

On my facebook page, I like to a lot of Libby Anne’s blog posts; this was a month ago, so it’s likely she saw me share one of the links from that week’s Link Love. She probably saw this share, which I linked with the teaser text “I wish that I didn’t feel as though the most abusive people in my life mean something. Because I feel like they shouldn’t.”. She probably saw me share Samantha’s post, and Fred’s. She probably skimmed right past without noticing this cool post on IUDs, or this body love post, or my status from a few days earlier:

Sitting in the parking lot at Michaels talking and laughing about stuff that’s sooooo not fit to discuss in public 😀[my husband] for getting me and being willing to hang out instead of getting things done. I think I worried [my mom] when we visited because I tend to do that 🙂

But even if every single thing Facebook showed her when she read my wall was negative, what the hell kind of sentiment is that for a fucking birthday text?!

I know what’s got her goat. It’s not that I’m “really pissed off about a lot of stuff”, it’s that I’m pissed off and frightened that her religion, the religion she turned to after I left home and which she credits for totally turning her life around, can and does destroy lives the way she shattered mine. It’s because I haven’t “forgiven” her yet. She always acts so concerned for me, like, I should forgive her for my own sake, because it’ll help me. Also I should find Jesus.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t know what forgiveness means. What would change? What is this thing she wants for me? Is it for me to recognize her essential, innate humanity, and understand how she got to a place where she could do that to me? I’ve been doing that to the best of my ability, and I have a lot more wisdom than I once did. Is it for me to choose to embrace the life I have, to move forward instead of looking backward? I did that when I left home and swore I’d never go back, and again when I did go back. Is it for me to stop longing for a mother figure, someone I could honestly talk to the way my husband talks to his mother? No; the answer to that is to keep cultivating a relationship with my mother-in-law until I feel comfortable enough to use her for that sort of parental advice. She’s happy to give it, but I feel awkward.

What she wants, I think, is for me to pretend it never happened, to let her live out her fantasy of being a good mother who just maybe made a few minor mistakes. Well fuck that. I’d love for it never to have happened — but it did, and it affects me, and I’m still dealing with the repercussions to this day, so no, I’m not going to let her have power over me uncontested. I refuse to worship at this altar of silence, forgetfulness, revisionist history that she’s erected. I am here, and I’m damaged, and it’s her fault, and she’s going to have to deal with that if she wants to interact with me. It’s not fair, and it’s not right, and she should have thought of that when she was raising me rather than trying to undo it now.

She loves the Bible, so how about Matthew 7:16? “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” The fruits she delivers are slings and arrows, aimed right at my heart.

How about Psalms 55:21? “The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords.” Or Proverbs 4:19: “The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.” How can she say those things and not understand that they’re hurtful things to say? How can she take a declaration of “I am hurt” and turn that into “I am wicked and refuse to forgive”?

I am wise enough to know I have no wisdom, I know nothing. I am bitter, fine, and angry, sure, and maybe that’s a terrible thing, and maybe it makes me the next Hitler or something, but I am what I am, and that has to be good enough. It just has to.

 

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Still Alive

I’ve been on a milkshake kick lately. I’m not sure why; I’ve never really liked milkshakes before, but suddenly, I crave them all the time. Strawberry, mostly. Maybe it’s an attempt to get calories into my system. I haven’t been eating well lately.

It’s not a relapse. I can feel confident of that, though I don’t. I saw a lady last year and she said I’m fine, so it’s not a relapse. I’m not trying to get thinner (although I’m still at the point where if a magic fairy offered to take 100 lbs off me with a wave of her wand I’d accept in a heartbeat), and I’m not rejecting food intentionally, but my teeth are in poor shape and hurt me and my jaw aches from getting them fixed and food just isn’t interesting, so I don’t eat much of it.

I’m in pain a lot. Apparently I have fibromyalgia. I can’t seem to wrap my head around that. I have an incurable chronic condition. I’m going to feel like this forever: tired and sore and miserable. I guess I have to figure out how to make tired and sore not mean miserable. I don’t know how. But I don’t know how to give up either. Right now I’m just trying not to dwell too hard and instead keep moving forward.

I’ll finish Bitten soon. Probably. I don’t know how to give up on that either 🙂

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Bitten: Detour (Chapter 20)

TW: Rapey

Bitten: Detour (Chapter 20)

When we last left off, Elena and Clay were fully clothed on the couch downstairs.

When Elena wakes up, they’re both naked in her bed.

Ew. I can’t even. Just. Ew. Nope. Not touching this.


Bitten: Detour (Chapter 20)

We pick up this week with Clay and Elena naked in bed.

Outside the room, the house was silent. There wasn’t any reason to get up yet and no need to invent a reason. It was comfortable here. We needed the rest. The thought and feel of Clay’s naked body against mine sparked a few unbidden images and ideas, but he wasn’t doing anything to provoke the need to fight them. […] After a few minutes, he started to kiss the back of my neck. Still no cause for alarm. The back of my neck was hardly an erogenous zone.

So Elena is basically talking herself through panicky, rape-survivor feelings so she can continue to be sexual with Clay. Clay evokes panicked, “I’m about to be raped” feelings in Elena.

Nope. Nope. Nope.


Bitten: Detour (Chapter 20)

When we start this chapter, Jeremy informs Elena that Philip called while she was sleeping, and Jeremy had picked up her cellphone.

I hadn’t called Philip because I forgot him. It sounded awful, but it was the plain truth. I loved this man, I knew I did, and that only made it worse. At least if I could say I wasn’t in love with… In love? Was I in love with Philip?[…] I forgot Philip because that was how I was coping with this mess, splitting my life into two compartments, human and Pack.

Because something as simple as forgetting to call home when you’re preoccupied with people dying around you and torturing people is obviously A Sign and not just human forgetfulness.

No, I know this trope. She actually forgot to call Philip because she was too busy fucking Clay and that means she and Clay are meant to be together because Clay is in both her worlds or something and ….

Nope. I deny that that’s the ending coming and I’m going to stick my fingers in my ears and sing at the top of my lungs until the thought goes away.


Bitten: Detour (Chapter 20)

In today’s chapter, we find out that the Pack has an elaborate procedure for hiding a body. See, with DNA testing and forensics, they now have to spend a whole half a day disposing of the people they murdered because of their draconian rule over everything werewolf. Elena and Clay drive out to the sites, burying the body at one spot (going so far as to cut off the bruises made when Clay snapped Cain’s neck just in case they could pull thumbprints) and burning his personal effects at another. They’re on the way back home when they get pulled over by the cops, who are looking for Clay.

Good.

“Lots of storage space, ” he said. “How much stuff can you fit in these things?”

Subtle. I don’t get “Can you hide a body in your trunk” from that at all.

The cops have an anonymous tip saying Clay knows something about the murder of Mike Braxton, which Elena figures is a trap set by the Mutts, but then inexplicably, she decides the mutts won’t jump them in a building full of armed guards because…. they care so much about human life? They’re smart enough to stay out of danger? Both things she’s explicitly contradicted in previous chapters. Plot reasons, I guess.

The police station waiting room was smaller than my bedroom at Stonehaven and had probably cost less than my silver vanity set to furnish.

Way to sound like a rich snob there, Elena.

Elena realizes people are staring at her because she was found naked in the woods with her clothes all over creation.

Towns like Bear Valley had a special spot for women like me– as guest of honor at the annual summer picnic and bonfire.

Is she implying they’d burn her at the stake? For being into kinky forest sex on private property? Um… ok. Seems a bit tasteless to me.

Marsten strolls in, pulling off the relaxed, disinterested, sexy look perfectly — more evidence against Elena’s assertions that all mutts are stupid and can’t hide what they are or pass for human.

Marsten was one of the few mutts who didn’t kill humans. Like so many things, that was beneath him. […] Yet we kept a closer eye on him than on any mutt besides Daniel.

Marsten, it seems, wants territory, with a single-minded purpose that worries the Pack. So… give him some? Oh wait, Pack law, yadda yadda, mutts are all evil. Goddamn. The chapter ends abruptly here, just before LeBlanc is going to speak with Elena.

Wow, that was a short chapter, wasn’t it?

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Bitten: Prisoner (Chapter 19)

When last we left our protagonists, Clay had abandoned Elena while she was at the bank.

I could imagine only two reasons for them abandoning me. One, the meter maid had been making her rounds and neither had a nickel for the meter.

Charming.

There was a third possibility: Clay was really pissed off at me, knocked Antonio unconscious, and drove off, abandoning me to my fate.

PSA: If this ever crosses your mind as something your significant other is seriously capable of doing to you, seek help. Pretty sure Elena’s being wry here, but I could totally see Clay doing it because she broke some bullshit rule he just thought of, so who knows.

I closed my eyes and tuned out everything else. The Mercedes was less than a few blocks away, the sound of its engine fading, then growing, then fading as it seemed to be moving in slow circles.

I don’t care how luxury it is, you can’t identify a car by the sound of its engine from a few blocks away in the middle of downtown. Fuck, really? Really?

[G]ravel crunched behind me and the edge of a large shadow encroached on the left of my vision field. Clay. He was downwind, but I didn’t need to smell him to recognize his flavor of practical joke.

As I whirled around, a hand grabbed the back of my shirt and sent me sailing face first to the ground. Okay. Not Clay.

Remember a few chapters ago when she could tell wolves apart by the sounds of their paws on the dirt? Now she can’t. Amazing consistency here.

Elena tries the witty banter thing on Cain, who is basically standing around looking intimidating. She insists that mutts always stand their ground while Pack know when to run, because once again, anyone not in her super sekret speshul club is a sub-human monster who hasn’t got two brain cells to rub together.

Elena pulls a Bella Swan:

I lifted both arms to wave and my left foot hit the gravel wrong. As I fell, the silver car slowly vanished from sight.

Now Cain feels like hitting her. Raping her, more likely, since he rips her shirt open. But when she was right in front of him a moment ago, he crossed his arms and glared at her, like he was waiting for something.

I’ve just noticed Cain doesn’t have any lines here, at all. Is he capable of speech? Oh, wait, no, I missed one. Twice, earlier, he says “Get up”. So I gather the narration agrees with Elena’s opinion of Cain’s intelligence.

Apparently Clay and Antonio sensed a trap, so they left a train and were circling so that Elena would walk right into the ambush and set it off for them.

This is how werewolves fight:

Cain took a step left toward Clay. Clay mirrored the maneuver, moving forward to the right. They repeated the dance steps, gazes locked, each watching the other for the lunge. The pattern for the ritual was ingrained in our brains. Step, circle, watch. To win, you either had to lunge without warning or catch the other about to lunge and sidestep. […]

This was how we fought. One-on-one, no weapons, no tricks. It was the wolf in us that dictated the rules of battle; the human side would goad us into winning at all costs.

Here’s some great footage with explanations of wolves fighting for dominance at the International Wolf Center:

As you can see, it’s not one-on-one, and there’s not the prolonged, tense, circling behavior. Instead, it’s over very quickly, with little to no injuries at all.

Here’s a pair of dogs dominance fighting in a closer example to the text:

But as you can see, their movements are constrained by the one being on a leash. Here’s an unconstrained dog fight:

But it’s anything but silent, dogs are rather vocal compared to wolves. In fact, the fight reminds me most of this:

So I’m not thinking it’s the wolf bit of them that makes them fight like this, is all I’m saying. Clay wins, and they bundle Cain into the car, pick up some submarine sandwiches, and head back to Stonehaven.

Elena stays upstairs because:

I’m squeamish about torture. Maybe that seems silly, considering how much violence I’d witnessed and participated in during my life.

There’s definitely a difference between what she can dismiss as a fair fight or a fight for her life and torture, though, so I’m glad to see the book recognize it.

Years ago, I went to see Reservoir Dogs with Clay. When it came to the infamous “Stuck in the Middle with You” scene, I covered my eyes and Clay picked up pointers.

I could take yet another point off Elena and Clay’s already negative compatibility score, but I think I’ll instead point out that being squeamish about violence is a stereotypical feminine trait, making this a scene that plays out in any number of teen romance flicks every day: boy and girl go see horror film, boy is keen, girl is squeamish, they make out.

When he tortured a mutt, he was completely methodical, showing no emotion at all.

As opposed to…?

Most people torture for information. Clay did it for instruction. For every mutt he’d maimed and let live, five more would see and take a lesson from it.

That’s not instruction any more than the Mafia sell you insurance.

Of the three experienced mutts in Bear Valley, Zachary Cain was the worst choice for an informant. Any plans Daniel and Marsten had deigned to share with him had since become lost in the empty wasteland of his brain.

Seriously, that level of stupidity isn’t typical. Is Cain supposed to have a mental handicap? Is it the werewolf in him hijacking his ability to think straight when he’s in danger? The text plays it off like he’s just your ordinary below-average intelligence person, but even stupid people can remember the basic outline of the plan they’re signing on board with for a few days. I could probably have phrased this paragraph better, but I’m really getting concerned that Clay is torturing someone who is mentally incapable of giving him information due to a disability, which is really kind of gross.

Cain had joined them because he was seeking “release from tyranny”

he says as he’s being literally tortured for not wanting to join up with the goddamn werewolf Mafia.

[Cain] was “sick of having to watch my fucking back every time I piss the wrong way.” Since the Pack has never taken any interest in the urinary habits of mutts, I assumed he meant that he was fighting for his right to kill humans

Fuck you, Elena! Your Pack literally kills people for being Mutts, tarring them all with the human-killing brush, and then you have the GALL to insist that he’s the evil one because obviously he’s killing humans because he’s a Mutt!

[Daniel] wanted to wipe out the Pack and start his own, probably envisioning some kind of werewolf Mafia

How is the current Pack not a werewolf Mafia?! In 500 words or less.

He’d say anything to save himself from torture, even if it meant condemning his coconspirators to death. The loyalty of a mutt was an inspiring thing to behold.

You racist piece of shit. I suppose it’s better to lie and cover up murders on behalf of your buddies in the Pack?

Then they kill Cain. Then sit around making plans to murder his friends, which puts Elena in a content mood, so she cuddles up and has a nap on Clay.

Fuck. This. Book.

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Bitten: Conviction (Chapter 18)

The title of this chapter is Conviction.

I could talk about how the police show up and basically exonerate the pack because the body was killed elsewhere, or about how Jeremy feels he has to be perfect and strong at all times because that’s what it means to be Alpha, or about Elena’s assertion that the police ask her no questions because she’s female, but since the title of the chapter is Conviction, let’s begin with the sentence in which the word Conviction appears.

Clay is speaking:

“I’m not the stubborn one. You’re the one who can’t get past what I did no matter how much–”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Of course you don’t. God forbid any truth should complicate your convictions.”

The truth is that the police think Elena is Clay’s wife because he’s engineered a situation in which everyone in town believes they are married despite the fact that they are not.

The truth is Elena has repeatedly insisted she wants nothing to do with Clay and Clay overrides her every. Damn. Time.

The truth is Clay is violent, lashing out at anyone and everything that displeases him like a toddler having a tantrum.

But clearly, we have to tar Elena with the same brush so that when they find “true love” they’re both deserving of each other and both have to accept each other’s “flaws”.

Clearly we have to dote on Clay’s few high points, like his intellect:

[Clay] didn’t have a photographic memory, just the uncannny ability to absorb everything he read, making it pointless to save any form of the written word

Or the fact that her surrogate-father likes him:

[Jeremy would] start talking about how difficult my circumstances were, with Clay and being the only female werewolf and all, and how he didn’t blame me for being confused and wanting to explore my choices in life. Though he’d never say it outright, he’d imply that he was certain if he gave me enough latitude to make my own mistakes, I’d eventually see that I belonged with the Pack.

Or his manly concern for his pack members that basically extends solely to avenging their deaths:

Clay walked out from the study. His eyes were bloodshot and dark. Though he was exhausted, he wouldn’t sleep. Not now, with two Pack brothers dead, his Alpha wounded, and none avenged.

Or the assertive way he takes charge of the situation:

“Truce?” he said.

“Whatever.”

“Love those definite answers. I’ll take that as a yes.”

Which is obviously a sign of, er… “maturity”?

In a crisis, we were both capable of summoning enough maturity to know we couldn’t afford to threaten the stability of the Pack with our fighting.

Right.

In yet another stellar move, Clay and Antonio ditch Elena at the bank while she’s getting out cash for groceries after she’s insisted she doesn’t want to go but gets dragged along anyway. Conviction, ladies and gentlemen, is apparently a bunch of bunk standing in the way of Elena’s true love. The prosecution rests.

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