Sunday, January 24, 2016

The drill sergeant

(This is sooo long!!! Why??? Don't read this. Please just X out. This is embarrassing.  I only write this crap for myself. And my mom. And Eileen. And Steph. But I don't expect them to read this either.)

(Really. Go.  I won't mind.)

(Also, I have been working on this for five hours now, and I can't edit it one more time, and it needs some serious revision--moving whole chunks around, etc--but I'm done and don't care anymore. So here it is):

I'm sure most people are this way, but naturally I think I am unique (yeah, I know: I'm not).  You know how you have, like, twenty to fifty people living in your head and they all constantly talk to you?  For the most part, I'm ok with this.  In fact, I think that's why I'm an introvert and why I like being alone 90% of the time--I don't really need too many voices outside of me because I can hardly keep track of all the voices inside of me.  It's too much.  I know I should do meditation and all that ... but I kinda like things the way they are. Most of the time.  I've never done well with silence.  Internal silence, that is--external silence is usually fine.

Anyway, the loudest of these voices is the Drill Sergeant.  DS is not to be f*cked with.  When he yells, I listen.  Sometimes a little too closely.  Sometimes I should question him more, but most of the good stuff I've done in this life is all because of him.  Questioning him usually leads to agony anyway because he's all like, "DO THIS. NOW," and I'm all like, "But I don't wannaaaaaaaa ... [anguished emoji]."  So usually I just do what he says and everything's fine, things get done (usually pretty beautifully), and everyone in my life goes, "Wow!! You're so amazing!" and I say, "aw, gee thanks," and in my head I think, "Yeah, not really. I can't take credit for any of this. But I won't go there because it's way too complicated.  So you keep on believing the illusion and I'll just keep working the magic with my smoke and mirrors ..."

I think everyone knows DS. I think if I wrote out a list of all the things I've done because I had DS screaming in my ear, you would be like, "Duh.  I have this too.  It's called will power."  Like I said, I'm not that special.  This sounds really weird, and it's sort of a tangent, but I know there's some connection between my physical size (small to the point of being literally overlooked) and my will power: When you figure out around 6 or 7 that you are really, really small--and like, all kids that age are small, but when other small kids your age are like, "You are SMALL"--something clicks (or doesn't) where you realize, "Shit, if anyone's gonna see me, I'm gonna have to talk constantly, and kinda loudly, about stuff that matters or no one's gonna notice me.  I need to figure out how to appear much bigger than I really am ..."  Later, when a doctor confirms for you at thirteen that you are not getting any bigger ever--unless it's side to side--this only makes it more imperative to take up more space in the most figurative way possible.

This chasing after an appearance of largeness has spilled over to nearly every area of my life.  I might be small, but I am not easily defeated.  Sure, I whine and complain about everything all the time, but people who know me also know that when I am at my quietest, you better get the F outta my way--head for the hills, people!!--because I'm preparing to steamroll something that has FINALLY stopped scaring me.  And whatever that thing is ... ? Well. God help it.  Because this small girl is gonna crush something's ass and write about it in the history books afterward.  And how do I do that? Because I got DS in my corner, screaming and yelling and pushing me around until I finally freaking do whatever it is that has to get done.  DS never loses his voice and apparently never requires sleep, which is both efficient and existentially exhausting ... sometimes to the point of crushing my very bones or totally depleting my lungs of every ounce of air.

If the past six months didn't turn me into a raging alcoholic or smoker, then nothing ever will.

(This is why I don't deal with people who yell at me. I already have someone yelling at me 24 F-ing hours a day.  You're gonna yell at me too?  You wanna lay on a guilt trip?  An extra layer of shame?  Nope. No: You're not.  In your dreams, maybe.  If you're lucky.  Only one person is allowed to yell at me, and that's DS.  So back away. Slowly. Carefully.  And I'm gonna count to ten and generously give you a head start.  You're gonna need it.  Sadly for you, it won't be enough because this little girl has disproportionately long legs for her size.  Come on--tie up your laces. I'll wait.  Tie 'em up, baby.  Won't make a difference when I tackle your ass to the ground.  ONE ...)

(If you think I'm lying, ask my dissertation chair. She figured this one out the wrong way. The Very Wrong Way.  And do I have her signature on all my defense paperwork? F-ing hell, yes I do.  She learned to be just a little bit afraid of me.)

But this is the thing: DS is my most powerful weapon. He's awful and needs to be tamed to a large degree, but I cannot deny at all that anything I've ever done that's mattered has been largely to his credit. 

Ok, so who cares about this and why does any of this matter?  (I know, I know, none of this matters--got it.  Yet you are still reading ... come on.  You have NOTHING better to do?  I take zero blame for the time you are wasting.)

I moved because of DS.  Ron had wanted to move for about two years before the day I read that letter from the HOA. (Do you see now who read the HOA letter? Not me--DS.  DS roared after reading the letter; DS marched over to the phone and picked it up; DS put the realtor on the calendar ...)  Ron wasn't at all upset when I called to tell him what I had done.  He had been waiting two years for me to make that call.  And all it took was the HOA yelling at me about the deck they didn't own to get me to do it.  See how smart Ron is? He knew not to yell at me about moving so he could have a shorter commute.  He knew something or someone at some point would say the wrong thing to me and set me the F off ... and everything would just fall into place.  It took two years for it to happen, but it happened.

I stared at the phone in my hand and was like, "SHIT this is happening. This ball has started rolling.  That's it. This is over. It's done." (You have to back up to the last post if you have no clue what I'm talking about.  That's the bad part about this format.)  And done it was.  DS did it.

So here's the thing: there's a million more stories at this point of selling Amber and finding the new place.  But, let's keep skipping around here.  Chronology is overrated.

Some moron left this on my windshield.  Thank God I didn't see who because I probably would've punched them.

We moved to the new place on September 16th.  Two hours after the movers left us here, the winning offer came in for Amber (that's its own crazy weird story), and part of that deal was that settlement would take place on October 14th.  September flew by, and so did October and November (I still feel like Thanksgiving was YESTERDAY!! BUT IT WASN'T!!!). And December? Forget it. Gone in the blink of eye.  And then the dead pit of a black hole that is January arrived.  And with it comes school and all the mental and emotional preparation that that takes--a reality that eats you alive even when it feels good and you welcome it.

We had been in this house for 4.5 months.  And every morning I was still waking up and initially freaking out the first five seconds I was awake: "WHOA!!! WHERE THE F AM I? WHY AM I NOT HOME??? ooohhhhhh right ... I live here now." Every morning.  For nearly five months. 

Every single day during the fall semester, class would start to wind down and I would feel the air stop circulating through my chest in the middle of a sentence: Apparently (I had no idea that I even did this until after I moved), during the last half hour of my three hour class, my mind would start moving on to the rest of my night--all the stuff I had to do on my way home and everything I had to do once I made it there.  Without fail, these images would include me walking through Amber's front door to my brightly lit family room and setting all my stuff down at the bottom of my steps.  My mind would walk through this scenario--on total autopilot--in the background of whatever lecture I was giving in class.  Suddenly DS would interrupt and go, "WHOAAAA!!! WHOA WHOA WHOA, KID: YOU DON'T LIVE THERE ANYMORE!!  STOP IT.  LEAVE. NOW. YOU DON'T LIVE THERE.  BACK OUT. SLAM THE DOOR.  BACK. AWAY." And the image would evaporate like blowing out a candle, and I would come-to at the front of the room with 22 students patiently waiting for me to finish whatever sentence I had started and left dangling.  

This happened a lot.  An image of Amber would float right up to the front of my mind--so real!!--and a little girl in my head would say, "Hey, that's my home! I love it there ..." and her voice would trail off just as DS would come frantically marching into the room: "STOP STOP STOP. NO NO NO NO NO--NO YOU DON'T. YOU DON'T LIVE THERE. STOP.  THAT'S GONE.  KEEP MOVING KEEP MOVING--YOU HAVE A MILLION OTHER THINGS TO DO!!! LET'S GO LET'S GO!!!!" And I would slam the door on that thought or that image and continue with whatever task I had frozen in my hands.  DS would make sure I wasn't faking and after a few minutes would back off and leave the room.

People would ask me, "Hey! How's the new house!" And I would be like, "Fine! Good!" Without fail, the next question would be about Amber.  And without fail, I would bust into full out ugly cry in less than two seconds--complete reflex.  Just ugly ugly ugly cry.  Totally spontaneously.  Honestly, it would take my reflexes longer to get my hand away from a live socket or hot stove.  And then whoever I'd be talking to would be like, "Ohhhh!!! whoa!!!! are you ok??? No! don't feel bad!! I'm really sorry!!!" and more scarily all of them would say, "Does Ron know you feel like this?" which would make me all, "Why the F does it matter if Ron knows this? He can't fix this," and then I would be doing that horrible dance of trying to talk like I'm not sobbing, apologizing for behaving like a toddler who wants a cookie, rescuing my wasted eyeliner, and avoiding looking like an F-ing lunatic in a public place, all while trying to ignore DS SCREAMING AT ME TO STOP CRYING!!!!!!!! STOP CRYING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! STOP!!!!!!!!!!! CRYING!!!!!!!!!!!!! STOP CRYING YOU RIDICULOUS F-ING BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Inevitably, the person I'd be sitting with would be like, "uummmm ... do you ... regret? ... moving? ..." and I would just be like, "DUDE, I HAVE NOT HAD ONE UNDERSTANDABLE EMOTION SINCE JUNE.  I DO NOT KNOW WHAT I FEEL RIGHT NOW.  I HAVE NOT FELT ANYTHING SINCE JUNE."  This happened 3+ times with different people between Christmas and January 8th.  It had finally reached a point where I was like, "Ok, know what? I can't deal.  I cannot function like this."  This moment occurred in the middle of dinner on Friday, January 8th.  Ron was sitting across the table from me in "our kitchen," and while I was staring at the tile floor (that I have hated since Day 1 but you know: trade-offs. Can't have it all ...) I could feel The Cry of the Century just coming on me the same way you know, "Ohhhhhhmigod ... I'm gonna be sick ..."  I placed my fork on my plate.  I walked up the steps.  I shut my bathroom door behind me and curled up into a ball on the floor.  And then I proceeded to sob to the point of near-asphyxiation.

At some point, I became vaguely aware of Ron's presence.  I could also hear my inner Diva saying, "You know, you're visiting Annie in NYC tomorrow, and your face is just gonna be wrecked.  Like, beyond wrecked. You look like someone has beat your face with a bat ... You know what? Just keep crying because there's no helping you now.  Yeah. Nevermind.  I'll come find you later.  I'll bring ice packs."

At the same time, Ron is like, "What is wrong. You need to tell me what is wrong."  But I literally cannot talk, and he just keeps asking me this question over and over, and finally I manage to say in that horribly snotty-mucus-hiccupy voice that one acquires in such a state:

"I ... WANT ... TO ...  GO ... HOME ... PLEASE ... CAN ... I ... GO ... HOME?"

And Ron said, "Ohhhhhhhhh ... Every part of your daily life revolved around that house, didn't it?  And now it's not yours anymore."

"That house was grafted into my skin!  Fused into my bones!!! And everyone thinks everything is still normal AND IT'S NOT." (Don't be fooled--it took me six minutes to physically say those three sentences.)

I felt completely homeless.  I felt like a bum sitting on the curb.  Since September.

He got it.

And then I spent what felt like another hour describing every. single. detail. about. Amber.  The way the key felt in my hand. How the lock in the front door turned. The sound of each light switch (different switches click in different ways ...).  The sound each cabinet and drawer made in the kitchen (because each door closed with a different weight ...). I mean everything--all of it.  I inched my way through every F-ing square inch of that house.  Turned all the lights on and off, open and closed every door, turned every burner of the stove on and off ("click click click ... click ... WHOOOSH"), wondered at the water ring on the wood ledge at the top of the steps (it was there before we moved in), listened to the sound of the squeaky brakes on the shuttle bus on south campus through the open bedroom window ... all of it.

I hadn't done any of this literally since October 13th, and apparently I really REALLY needed to do it in my head.  So easy! So why didn't I?  Because of DS.  DS was so thrown off by ... I don't even know what.  I guess he's so obsessed with GETTING SHIT DONE AND GETTING IT DONE NOW--AS IN YESTERDAY-NOW!!--that he knew (or assumed) that any thought of what I really loved and missed would just slooooooowww down the works.  And when you have 29 students spread over two different classes and you're frantically creating seven new three-hour lesson plans for crap (really hard crap!) you've barely studied ever, and you're 10 miles further away from your entire normal life and routine, and you always just feel like an inadequate friend/daughter/sister/wife/teacher/everything anyway ... well, you really just can't go there.  Because nobody has time to fall apart over what has been done--over what she has willingly chosen!--and God forbid anybody have the wrong impression and mistake your tears for self-pity and falsely conclude that you must be some kind of spoiled brat whining about a new house.  Nobody has time for that.  So when crap would float to the surface of my mind--crap that desperately wanted to be remembered and reflected upon--DS would show up and do the dirty work for me: sweep it all away, shove it back into boxes, tape it up, and feed it into the mouths of the shadows to be temporarily forgotten again.  Like everything else DS does, it was fast, efficient, thorough, and it worked. But like any band-aid solution, it only worked for so long.  The shadows threw up their mess of a diet for the last time on the 8th.

I've never been so worn out in my entire life.

I knew when I woke up on the 9th that things would have to start changing or I really would start to die while alive, which is worse than straight-up dying.  While I was getting ready to catch my train to NYC (and damn, yes, my face looked like it had been beaten with a bat.  I had to soak my face under ice-cold washcloths for fifteen minutes to make it look like I still had eyes), I had this crazy epiphany: I thought of the two people I know who live in apartments, Leslie and Annie.  I am obsessed with both of their places, and they both love where and how they live.  I know if I asked them, "Ugh, what do you hate about your apartment?" they would both have a few things to mention, like "I hate blah blah blah because I would never choose that color, but whatever," and "Such-and-such annoys the hell out of me, but whatever I don't really use it" or "I don't even notice it, so who cares?"  And I'm willing to bet that whatever they list would elicit THIS response from me: "WHAT???? Why do you hate that??? I LOVE that about your place! It's so cute and charming and omigod! No! I can't believe that annoys you."  And suddenly it clicked: Why can't I feel that way about where I live?  For example, aesthetically speaking, my new kitchen sucks ass in comparison to my Amber kitchen. It just does.  Only a full-out-gut-it-to-the-studs can really save it, and I knew that when we bought it.  But we bought it. And here we are. And here I am everyday with the same life I had before June, just inside a different box in a different zip code.  And every time I compare the new box to the old one, it makes me SO SAD.  REALLY REALLY SAD.  And here comes DS--yadda yadda--the cycle continues.

I went to NYC because it was Gemma's first bday party.  Annie wore suede shorts and a silk blouse that could've killed me, they were that gorgeous.

We bought a ton of cheese at the Whole Foods between midtown and the UES ... one of the cheeses was from a farm that's like literally around the corner from me.  So we bought some.

So ... can I treat my new space with the same manner of thinking that I use when admiring other people's places?  Places that have strange, quirky, less-than-perfect things that I admire rather than reject?  I mean ... I should be able to do that--that's doable, right?  Huuuuhhhhhhh ...

It took me five months to figure this out.

Five months.

Basically, that's half a year.

But this is the part that really makes me do the whole face-palm thing: The same part of my mind that DEMANDS getting stuff done fast/now/perfectly in the most focused manner I can muster, etc etc etc is the same part of my mind that derailed any attempt at adjusting--in that manner--to the biggest thing I've been through in years.

What is that about?

WHAT IS THAT ABOUT???

Yeah, me neither.

I mean, come on.  Is this not the dumbest story you've ever heard?


Ok, granted, I've been this way my WHOLE LIFE.  But this is the first time it borderline almost-wrecked my life.  And I really mean "almost-wrecked" too.  My foundations were rocked.  It's like I survived a 9.5 earthquake and the rest of Philly is like, "What earthquake? What are you talking about?" and I'm like, "I am legit cray ...  am I the only one who sees this totally transformed landscape?" and before I could really reflect on it, DS would start screaming at me to ignore it and move on.

I was a wreck this fall.  Not that (most of) you would've guessed it.  And while it was painful ... it wasn't BAD.  It just ... was.  There was no other way around it--it just had to happen.  I wish it could've happened faster, but it didn't.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

I am completely insane. [please send help/not literally though]

In October 2013, I had a really odd encounter with a complete stranger.

That is a really weird sentence.  Wherever your mind just went, rein it back in. Stick with me here.

It was a meeting that I had signed up for, but I could not predict at the time how it would go or what would unfold.  (I wish I could be less vague for you, but this is the best I can do at this time.  Deal with it.)

(I'm sincerely saying that last sentence in my nicest tone of voice, although I know it does not read that way.)


I recorded the conversation that I had with the complete stranger in this odd encounter.  (Yes, I am aware that this is PA: all parties consented to this recording. Everyone just chill out.)  Twice, I have played back this conversation.  Twice, I have listened in almost-agony to the permanent conversation that plays from the past like some weird, creepy, scary echo that won't stop bouncing around.  Toward the end of the conversation, the other person offers me a bizarre non-sequitur: "You know ... you really should move."  To which I vehemently reply, "WHAT? NO. I HOPE I'm not moving. No, that's not happening."  And the silent pause that fills the next several seconds on the recording is remembered as the stony blank face that answered my swift response.  I can hear the annoyance in my voice; I can hear myself rolling my eyes: "Yeah. No. No one's moving."

Whatever. I don't know.  Also, this is the lock screen on my cell phone.

October 2013 feels like a really, really long time ago.  Maybe that's because it was.  On the particular day of this conversation, it was warm enough for me to wear shorts--cast-offs from Leslie--and a black T-shirt and a ton of long gold necklaces.  Big gold hoops in my ears. Perfect hair day because the humidity was gone.  I was nearly done with physical therapy after foot surgery (remember that?), but there was still a lot of puffiness and I was grateful it was still warm enough for sandals (only the prettiest, of course) because I could still barely fit into normal shoes.  A few weeks prior, I had just secured a job in a different department at a new school and given notice at the school that had almost totally leached the soul from my bones.  Stuff was shifting ... slowly.  Slightly.  The earth was moving though.  I could feel it.  It didn't seem that anyone else really noticed. I was ok with that.

2014 came. And it went.  And I breathed a sigh of relief.  We hadn't moved.  "I knew it! I knew what I was talking about. No one's moving. I'm not moving. Why would I move? hmmm ... let me think, let me think ... Oh wait! duh! I wouldn't move! So this is a dumb thing to ponder! ok! on to the next!" And then I probably started planning my outfit for the next day or something like that.

2015 began, and things were off to a good start.  Winter sucked as usual, but my life at school was good--I tried not to waste too much time wondering why I didn't leave that other school sooner.  There was a much needed trip to California in there somewhere.  My ethics class only had 8 people and all of them were awesome.  I'm trying to think of what else ... I can't come up with anything, but all of it was good and things were just moving along.  The spring semester ended, and summer was coming and our back deck was a mess, covered in that green mold that any northern-facing physical structure tends to acquire.  Ron gave up an entire weekend to power-wash and restain it, and this was enough time because he only restained the interior of the deck, i.e., the floor and the inward facing sides that you see while on the deck itself.  He skipped the exterior with my blessing because life is short and staining outdoor living spaces sucks as bad as living through a PA winter.

Again, I don't know.  Why do people think I can answer these questions?

TWO WEEKS later, I'm in my summer Intro course at school.  It's Crito-time: I've taught the Crito (at last count) at least thirty times.  blah blah blah it's a long story, but the conversation devolves into this debate where Joe--a 26 year old in the Army reserves with several tours of Afghanistan under his belt--is arguing against HOAs and I (because this is a debate) find myself defending them.  I'm pointing out all the normal stuff (i.e., "What if my neighbors are CRAZY? I want to know that I have an organization to defend me if they want to pile trash on their lawns, etc!") and Joe keeps going back to the original example I offered: "WHY DO YOU LET ANYBODY TELL YOU WHAT COLOR TO PAINT YOUR FRONT DOOR??? WHAT IF YOU HATE GREEN???!!!" And I keep saying, "THIS IS ABOUT TRADE-OFFS!!! I PAINT MY FRONT DOOR GREEN IN EXCHANGE FOR PROTECTION AGAINST POTENTIALLY AWFUL NEIGHBORS!!!! JUST LIKE SOCRATES CHOSE TO LIVE IN ATHENS AND DO EVERYTHING ATHENS' WAY--INCLUDING ACCEPTING AN UNJUST EXECUTION--BECAUSE ATHENS' LAWS LEGITIMIZED HIS ENTIRE EXISTENCE."  Joe totally got the point, but he just kept shaking his head at me and saying, "I've worked too hard for anyone to tell me what color I'm painting my front door."  I just kept laughing and saying, "It's really not a big deal!"  It was a lot funnier than it sounds here.

THAT SAME DAY, I came home from school and walked to my mailbox.  I dropped the mail on my kitchen table like I always do and immediately began sorting it. Lo and behold, there's a letter from the HOA.  Whatever--they always send us letters.  I don't remember the exact words of this particular letter, but it went something like this: "Your deck looks awful. Clean it and stain it in the next 30 days or we'll fine your ass and make your life a living hell."


Everything that happened next is a blur.  I just remember screaming "SON OF A BITCH" maybe ten times like Sonny in The Godfather when he knows that he needs to go kill Carlo once and for all, and the next thing I knew I was on the phone with Molly and Dan's realtor.  When I hung up the phone, I had two appointments on the calendar: one to discuss selling our house and one to discuss buying a different one.  I remember staring at the now-silent phone in my hand for a few seconds: What just happened?  Did I really do that?  And then I called Ron to tell him what I had done.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Buon Anno


A few weeks ago, I made my semi-annual trek to Total Wine.  It was a really crappy day outside (December in general was really gross in Philly, wasn't it?), and I knew if I didn't go that day there's no way it would get done before Christmas, OR it WOULD get done before Christmas but it would be such a godawful mad house that it would make the entire trip barely worth it.

(Ok, well anything that helps me stick it to Harrisburg is always worth it, but you know what I mean.)

I had this long list of stuff that I had to get, but luckily the place was pretty empty since it was almost dinnertime on a Tuesday.  While agonizing over sauv blancs--the last thing on my list--I could sense the presence of some random person directly approaching me to talk to me.  This happens to me all the time wherever I go, and it's been happening I think pretty much my whole life. I can be out anywhere, doing anything, and people just walk right up to me and start conversations.  RIGHT UP TO ME.  Like I'm the only person around and they've known me for years.  And I don't mean, "Hey do you know where the such-and-such-is?" conversations. I mean, "Hey, have you figured out life's answer to this problem yet?" conversations. It blows my mind.  80% of the time, I am perfectly fine with this, and I'll talk to these people until they're done and walk away.  The other 20% of the time, I'm either totally up for it but have no time and can't do it, or I'm in no mood for it and have to put on some kind of magical, invisible shield to create some kind of barrier between my mind and the rest of the world.  It works too--I see people coming right for me, and they just sorta bounce right off of it like a tennis ball and I don't really even have to do anything.  Usually, I feel pretty bad about it, but it's necessary the days that I do it.

I hear this voice over my left shoulder go, "Can you explain to me why women typically prefer white wine over red?"  I turn and look and this little old man is giving me this quizzical expression, and it's obvious that I'm going to be here for a good thirty minutes.  But, I had no place else to be and didn't really care and so was like, "Ok, here we go."

This guy had the coolest life story.  It turned out he was 90 years old which was insane because he looked significantly younger.  ("It's true! 5/26/26!") I didn't think twice about his hearing aids until he tapped my arm while I was talking because I had turned my head away for a few seconds: He had lost his hearing in Okinawa and relied primarily on reading lips.  After Okinawa, he came home--without most of his friends because they didn't make it--and then decided to enroll in college, but then he got kicked out after a few semesters.  Apparently, this happened eight times.  He studied all kinds of stuff, mostly the sciences and engineering, but never all the way to a completed degree.

Blah blah blah, he gets this job in Washington, DC.  Next thing he knows, he's being called in for this job interview, only he didn't KNOW it was a job interview.  And then he spent several decades reporting to cabinet-level people in the White House, working on secret projects that he couldn't tell anyone about, and taking trips all around the world that he couldn't discuss.

"You couldn't tell your wife about your job? or where you were going?" I asked.
"Nope, none of it really, but she didn't mind.  It was ok. I did tell her when they sent me to Vietnam in the early 60s.  But I told them, Ok I'll go, but I'm telling my wife, and they said ok."
"What about your kids? Did they think it was weird?"
"Well, they did, but it didn't bother them. Other kids would ask them, 'What does your dad do exactly?' and my one son would say, 'He works for the mob,' and then they wouldn't ask anymore!"

And then I started to think, What if this guy IS TOTALLY NUTS and all of this is fiction?

"Wait," I asked. "If you dropped out of college eight times ... how did the White House pick you for this job?"
"That's what I asked them!  They're asking me all these questions and then they reveal to me that they want me to take this high-level job and that this whole thing has been an interview, but they had already decided that I was it.  'Do you understand what a screw-up I am? Why do you want me?' and they said, 'Because nobody has your background except you.  You've done many things: physics and chemistry and engineering and math ... Where are we going find someone better? No one else has what you have.' And all this time, I assumed that I didn't have anything.  And then I realized that I couldn't say No.  They came and found ME.  I was supposed to do this."

Being who I am, I realized at this point in the conversation that this little old man had, in fact, come and found ME.  So we just keep on talking.

At one point, he sighed really heavily and goes, "My wife is still alive, but she's totally lost her memory and lives in a home. It's horrible."  And what do you say to that?

And then he gestures to our surroundings and goes, "What's your favorite thing to drink?" And without hesitating, I gesture to the eight bottles (not joking) of champagne in my cart and go, "Champagne!"

"Are you being serious??" he said.
"YES! This is an easy question."
And he looked at me for a long second and goes, "You're like someone right out of a movie, aren't you?"
And I nearly started to cry.  Because if I'm being honest at all, all I've ever wanted--for as far back as I can remember--is to make all of it look, sound, and feel like a movie.  Just for me.  It's what I do, and I'm good at it.  But no one has ever pointed at it and said, There it is!

And then he said, "Ok, my wife has no memory and New Year's Eve is coming up. When you enjoy your champagne on New Year's Eve, you have to promise to think of me and I will think of you. Do you promise?"
"Yes, I promise!"
"You can't forget!"
"I won't forget! I never forget anything!"
"I know!"
"I know you know!"

And that was it.  The guy with the wife who has no memory found the girl with the indelible memory in Total Wine.

Just one of thousand crazy-creepy-weird things that have happened in the past six months, and I have no explanation for any of them.