There’s this level of stress and tension that you allot for everyday life. You have this schedule and you accept it. It becomes a part of you like your uniform or, for those who don’t have to wear one, all those office clothes that are your uniform. Uni. Form. One form every day. Like Einstein was supposed to have. And I don’t mean the postal, cross town traffic, manic sort of stress; I’m talking about the subdued stress, the stress you don’t realize you have until you have a basis for comparison. When you get a night off or a random day allows you to sleep in, or you’re lucky enough to get a few in a row, you realize how fast your life moves by you.

I couldn’t find a place to put myself. Jake is trying to finish up the current Harry Potter book before the kids go back to full time with mom, and I have had 3 nights off in a row from my second job. I can’t sit still; there’s always laundry to do or dishes to load or a floor that needs to be stripped of all the little bits of fuzz the kids manage to pick out of the love seat upstairs. The wires to the remote control cars and caulking from who knows where. These kids destroy everything, but it’s a beautiful sort of curious chaos. I will miss them when they go, even though I will be a little relieved. The summer was shot right out of a cannon.

Shortly after I started my second job, the kids were with us and in day care. The days lasted as long as the sun allowed, burning longer and short on fuel and time. I can’t remember where we’ve been or what we’ve done besides sleep and watch movies. Or read.

That normal level of stress, when it is added to by some typical random change, is thrown into upheaval and I long to give up the struggle. I get all whiny and mean, scared and more out of control than usual. My own words wear me out.

I start to worry. I think he’ll leave me one day, for a simpler girl who doesn’t ask so many questions. I think I need therapy, that there’s something wrong with me. And, also.

I don’t know how to talk to girls.

No, really, I don’t. I’m scared and stubborn. I don’t know how to make friends. Every co-worker I ever thought was cool left shortly after being hired. On the one hand, most of these women are bloated, gossipy, bitter, and hypertensive in that inbred poodle kind of way. On the other hand, they’re the only kind of women in my workplace, they’re all I have to work with.

Once every few months, I take a test, each one a step toward teacher certification. All of them reminding me how little I recall about those classes I took 8 or 9 years ago. I am awful at math. Jake thinks it’s funny, and usually it is. But when I miss the passing score by two points and have to pay $75 to take it again (and again and again until I pass), it’s not funny, it’s sad. It’s sad how long I’ve let my life go without a driver.

Like I said, I couldn’t find a place to put myself. When Jake reads to the kids in the living room, I have nowhere to go. Our place seems so small right now. I laid on the floor and listened to a new CD I bought. Without my stress and without company, I felt totally useless.

I wonder if I have a single good thought in me right now, or when I will stop talking after everyone’s been sick of hearing it for years.

I see the rough heels of the feet on the women I work around, the chipped polish and crowded toes crammed in sloping shoes. Asses so big and jiggly that I swear they should be made of taffy or oatmeal. I don’t speak to people when they say excuse me. I don’t look up.

When I was young, I got invited to a birthday party by a girl in my Sunday school class. All her friends went to public school. I did not. I might have been 10, maybe younger, maybe older. I didn’t know what to do, so I hid under my coat in a corner of the rec room. I’m sure at some point I was crying. Some kids kept lifting the coat to look at me.

I remember going out into the kitchen for a drink and chatting up some other kid, who politely ignored the fact that I had been under a coat a minute ago. Through other actions I don’t fully recall, the night ended with me piled on a crowded couch with all the other kids, tapping curse words into a Speak N Spell, being disappointed when it wouldn’t spell the word out loud. I remember laughing with the kids and wondering what I was so afraid of. I couldn’t tell you for sure if both of these memories are correct, since they seem so. Maybe they just felt sorry for me.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m still under that coat.