Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Looking Forward - Looking Back Series II

Dedicated to Crystal - I was strong but should have been stronger.

Okay, women are nuts, well, become nuts as we grow, read magazines, see actors/models on TV with those perfect bodies, perfect teeth, perfect highlights, perfect boyfriends/husbands, perfect lives. Everyone has issues. Everyone! Some of us try to hide them, but no one is perfect.

So looking back - my senior year in high school, my friend Crystal - did not have the "perfect" body. She was a normal girl, not fat, not skinny, just in the middle -- perfect. But she didn't think so. 

One day, waiting for her in her car, I opened the glove compartment and boxes - now I mean maybe ten, maybe twenty boxes of diet pills fell to the floor. I hurried, stuffing them back in before she knew I knew.

Crystal, all smiles, got into the car and off we went to the pizza hut. Scarfing down four pieces, she abruptly left our table, hurrying to the bathroom. Now I've always had a sort of sixth sense when it came to people - well I can read the writing on the wall. So I followed her - tiptoeing behind her.

And yes, my suspicions were confirmed - she was barfing in the bathroom. I hurried back to the table, acting as if I knew nothing. I watched my friend, poised, smiling, skipping back to the table, laughing with friends like she didn't just puke her guts out two seconds ago. She was nuts. We all get nuts sometime in our lives and that's when girlfriends are needed the most.

So - I let it be known - we were driving home, alone, and I opened the glove box. The pills tumbled out. Crystal freaked. She screamed at me, my friend. I shoved them all back in, but then I demanded to know what was up. She lied. Which infuriated me. We were friends! Why lie. But she was nuts.

So I confronted her. I told her I heard her puking the pizza. I knew what she was doing. I knew why she was thinning. She told me to F-off. To get out of her life. To mind my own business. I was crushed. 

She dropped me off at my house. Days passed without a phone call, without an apology. She owed me. But she was nuts! She needed me. 

I thought about what to do. Who could I tell? Her mother. Yes, I knew when Crystal worked - I knew her schedule well. I waited until she left, then I knocked on the door. Her mother answered. I went in. We sat at the kitchen table where I spilled the beans. As she listened. She started to cry. She said she knew something was wrong, but Crystal had denied it, even got angry with her.

I made her promise not to tell, but to help her without her knowing. That didn't work. Soon I got a phone call - the meanest from Crystal. She called me a fake friend, a liar, a bitch. She said I hated her. She said I was never there for her. I started to hate her back. This was my friend? But she was nuts! 

A year passed and Crystal balanced out. But I was still grumbling inside. My so called friend got the help she needed because of me, but nothing, not a I'm sorry, or you were right. I was owed that, right?!

Then three years passed by and the call came. I answered never guessing it would be her. I didn't even recognize her voice. She said she was just calling to see how I was, that she had ran into my mother and she had given her my number. Anger boiled. The things I had wanted to say years before came out. Crystal never did apologize. Now I was nuts.

A few more months passed, where I questioned myself. Then she called again. We agreed to meet for lunch. She apologized. I sat there amazed, happy, confused and sad. I wish this would have happened years ago. I wish she would have stepped up. I wish I would have been stronger. I wish I would have stepped up. 

We hugged. That was that. I wouldn't say we are friends now, but I would say we respect our past. That when we see each other we are friendly. And that's wonderful.

Lesson: Looking back I was right in getting help for my friend, but I was wrong in letting her anger anger me. I should have been stronger. She was nuts and I should have been able to see past that. 

 Today after struggling with relationships with women, I have many female friends. And some of them are nuts. They need a friend. But I am timid. Crystal's strong reaction to my help has scared me from helping others. But I can't be weak. When my friends are nuts, I need to be strong. I need to help them, even if that means they will hate me for a time - maybe for forever. Hopefully not. 

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Looking forward - Looking Back

This blog is dedicated to the life lessons I have learned thus far in my 34, oops, just had a birthday, 35 years on the planet (in this lifetime).

The first lesson: Getting Rid of a Downer Customer (insert Friend here if you like).

In my years, BK (before kids), I have been a Babysitter, Lifeguard, Firefighter, Shoe Salesperson, Grocery Cashier, Waitress/Hostess, Fruit Basket Maker, Actor, Hospital Records Keeper/Organizer, YMCA Swim Instructor, Wave Pool Assistant Manager, Aerobics Instructor, A Notary Public, Architectural Drafter/Office Manager, Team Member, Manager of a Team, Bank Teller, Loan Officer, Mary Kay Sales Rep, Day Care Teacher, and Writer (which I still am). 

During these diverse, fun, awful, never ending, exciting and sometimes scary jobs I learned skills for survival. One of those lessons learned, losing the downer customer, came from my time as an Eat-N-Park waitress in the small town of Beaver Falls, PA. 

How old was I? A teenager, maybe fifteen, sixteen...old enough to know better, but young enough to not care. And they, a family group, consisting of a grandmother, grandfather, son, daughter and grandkids. Now before you think "aww" this is not your fairy-tale family. They stunk. And I mean the entire restaurant smelled like a garbage can. They never washed, dirt embedded under each fingernail. They never talked, to each other, and barely to me, their unlucky  waitress. Oh, and they NEVER NEVER NEVER tipped. 

This poor family group came in each night, ordered on bowl of soup, which came with free bread, took up a six person booth for five hours, then left without a penny for me. 

I know, I know, now....they needed a place to warm up, and some food to share, yes they were vagrants, living on the street and yes, I feel awful....NOW. But back then, a teen, I was pissed. Angry that they sat in my section, irritated that I had to wait on them, sickened that I had to smell them, and tired of working for nothing.

So I devised a plan to get rid of the group. Their one bowl of soup, I would add one ingredient, red hot pepper. Not too much at first, but little by little, just enough to make it uncomfortable. And as they came back, I would add more, and more, until the soup was unbearable. 

I figured it wasn't really harmful, it wasn't gross and it might get them out of my section or maybe, hopefully, the restaurant for good -- a win win.

The first hot pepper laced soup I placed in front of them, the grandmother sipped as I watched, waiting for her reaction. She slurped. Then a chill. She sipped again and again. They shared. I failed.

The next bowl I doubled the red flakes. Placing it, well dropping it, in front of them, they sipped. Grandfather blinked up at me. "This soup is hot." 

"Yes," I said. "It's soup." (oh how awful I was.) I left them. They finished their bowl. I failed again.

The third bowl, I tripled the spice, and slammed the bowl in front of the six dirt covered customers. By this time the rest of the wait staff knew what I was up to. In fact they wanted to add more ingredients to the soup. But I knew the red pepper would work, eventually. 

Everyone waited. Grandmother sipped, shivered, stopped. She glared up at me, knowing eyes. Pushed the soup away. With one nod the six scooted from my table and out of the restaurant onto the cold streets. And that was that. 

Never again did I see them. And I often wonder about that poor family. Where did the go? What restaurant did they pick? Which waitress did they annoy next? 

I didn't fail, I won. Right? Yes to the winner go the spoils. The waitstaff celebrated my victory with cookies. I had many other customers, tipping customers, great smelling customers, clean customers....but none of them do I remember. None of them do I think about. None of them haunt me with that look, the knowledge of betrayal. 

If I could, I would apologize to this family. I would buy them dinner. Sit with them and talk with them, let them warm up from the frost. 

Lesson: Yes, you can rid yourself of downer customers, downer friends, downer family members. But who is the winner? I am all for getting rid of those drainers - the ones who take and never give. But before I add hot pepper to one more of my relationships, I'm going to try some salt first. I'm going to be honest, try to help, and change the dynamic. Of course I'll keep some pepper flakes in my purse, just in case. :-)