Self-control has never been one of my strong suits. As a peripheral of that, during my time on this Earth, I’ve amassed a lot of dramatic situations in my repertoire of Hannah happenings. It hasn’t kept me necessarily unhappy, but it has kept me distracted. It’s hard to relax and enjoy the sunshine of a lazy afternoon when you’ve the knowledge that you willingly spent your entire paycheck on booze, and won’t be getting another for ten days. Meanwhile, bills are due.
Yes, I am guilty of treating my tolerance for stress badly, and feeding into the dramatic lifestyle of a “train-wreck.” But in the past few days, I realized something.
I’m over it.
I’ve decided to take a more serious, adult stance on life (this is a joke). I’m going to be mature (not true). I’m going to plan, and part of that plan is to finally take action on writing the book I’ve been pretending to draft for the past year (fact). It’s going to be a heart-wrenching account of the wicked, uphill emotional battle that the past twenty-three years of my life have been (I hope you’re laughing).
I got six pages into this bullshit before I realized it was exactly that.
Yes, I’m a grown up now. But here is what happened when I tried to write like a grown up. As promised via the ChaoticProlixity Facebook page, an excerpt from the elusive! impending autobiography of Hannah Tool:
“Honey, you got a card.”
My mom tossed it across the kitchen table to me, and it slid on the lumpy wood, stopping abruptly when a corner of the pale pink envelope merged with a puddle of milk beside my bowl of mini-wheats. She looked at me sideways over her glasses while I hovered my hand over the letter, hesitating with wariness I couldn’t quite grasp to even touch the slightly textured paper.
“Who’s it from?” I mumbled, not really to her, as I slowly lifted the letter off the table. It resisted slightly, stick in the sugary puddle of cereal discharge. I pulled back a little too jerkily and splashed warm, wet crumbs of whole-grain oats into my eye.
“Hey, watch it!” she warned, continuing, “And how am I supposed to know. Open it. Open it and do yourself a favor—close that mouth.”
Realizing I’d been sitting jaw agape at having cursed in front of my mother, I snapped my mouth shut and tore the side of the envelope.
A greeting card fell out. The kind you get for free from the ASPCA when you donate your obligatory annual $10 of guilt-deterrent, with off-color pictures of sad, half-blind kittens and three-legged dogs on the front. The face of a clearly lame horse glared back at me, daring me to forbid it euthanasia. Tiny, subliminal print at the bottom urged me to “Donate today!” Even at thirteen, I wasn’t convinced.
I guess I knew before I opened the card who it would be from. It wasn’t my birthday. It wasn’t any kind of day; just a Tuesday in August. But humiliation travels like bad genes in my family; probably on account of them, too.
Inside, in painfully tiny, oddly neat chicken scratch, it said,
I know you are sick, your father told me. He loves you even if that mom doesn’t tell you. I remember when you were a blessed child and would go into a coma and talk to God. Please tell him I said hello.
“It’s from dad’s mom.” I said, through a mouth shoved furiously full of too much soggy cereal. I threw the card toward my mom, missing the edge of the circular table and tossing it accidentally onto the kitchen floor.
Another sidelong glance.
“Your grandmother is concerned about you. We all are, honey. She means well.”
I snorted, sugary milk spilling graciously from my lips and dribbling down my no quivering chin, “Yeah fuck if she does!”
“Hannah-Leigh-God-dammit-what-have-I-said-about-that-damn-mouth-of-yours!” my mother shrilled, now past the point of compassion and just annoyed at my constant ambivalence toward her ceaseless authoritarian edge.
“Ma, read that and tell me straight-faced that the old hag gives a–“
“Okay! Enough!” she yelped. I started to feel a little guilty for winding her up, and stared sheepishly into the remnants of my breakfast while watching her, in my periphery, as she crouched down and scooped up the card. She stayed squatted on the kitchen floor as she read it, and for many moments longer than it surely took for her to peruse those few quick sentences.
Then, for the first time that morning, she looked me square in the eye.
This is what happens when dolphins try to be whales. First of all, this never happened to me. My father’s mother did once send me a card that said something about me going into a coma and talking to God, and it was the result of my dad telling her I was “sick” (I wasn’t sick, I was an emo teenager who thought cutting herself was an appropriate solution to angst), and my mom and I have had a lot of interactions through the years a lot like this one.
As for the bad genes part? That’s just a lie. It sounded good, literarily, but my family has fantastic genes. In fact, we’re so sexy and talented, I’m surprised we’re allowed to be in public, ever.
But this isn’t the kind of book I want to write. My life has had sadness, and happiness. Weirdness, boringness, every damn kind of -ness that a life can have. But what makes me happy is the humor, and what makes other people happy about me– from what I’ve gathered– is also the humor. So if I’m going to write about my life, it needs to be a little more Tina Fey and a little less Go Ask Alice.
Scratch that. It needs to be totally Hannah.