I was running late.
Very late for a gonna-be-a-long-day-all-day-away kind of day.
It had been one of those nights where Middle Insomnia stole a chunk of restorative rest, and I’d stared at the ceiling for more time than I care to think about.
When these nights happen, if possible, I gift myself extra time on the morning side of things, bumping my alarm back hour by hour based on how many hours I danced with the ceiling.
Sometimes, I accidentally can’t do math with no sleep at two a.m., and I end up bumping the alarm back one too many times.
When my math gets messed up that early in the morning, I must do more math to make it out of the house:
- You don’t have to eat breakfast at home. God made protein bars. Eat in the car. This gains you 10 minutes.
- That work deadline has four more hours. You can do that in the parking lot at the library, no problem. That gains you 20 minutes.
- You’ll be back in bed tonight to stare at the ceiling and not sleep, so why make it? 7 minutes (It takes this long because I have “help” making the bed—three cats completely fascinated with the straightening of blankets. They never tire of watching/helping/hindering/and generally undoing the progress of this task.)
- The counter full of dishes will be here when you get back. Another 20 minutes...
On and on.
What must happen is shower, clothes, teeth, and backpack. Check, check, check, and check. And I can do those tasks in double time, gaining me another 10 minutes, making up for that extra bump on the alarm. Oh, yeah, and feline roll call, chin rubs, and ensuring they know they are smart kitties, good kitties, capable kitties, and “Mommy will be home tonight” promises, lest dirty dishes not be the only ugly greeting waiting for me this evening.
I load my junk into the SUV for the gone-all-day day, pull out of the drive, and—wham!
I’m hit in the face with a foul stench.
You know the one—where the ladybug wannabe beetle becomes agitated and spews putridness, the stench hanging in the air for way longer than is necessary. Gives the stink bug a run for his money, that’s for sure.
(The nerd in me had to stop right here and Google this. That release of foulness is called “reflex bleeding.”)
One of these bugs must’ve made its way into the SUV vent. Or I crunched a couple on my way out. So I kill the vent and roll down the windows despite the light rain drizzling into the window. This helps but doesn’t eliminate the problem.
Stoplight by stoplight, I think the smell should be about done. Whether the bug was still alive or not, there can’t be an unlimited amount of acid, right? I mean, how quickly can a bug replenish its stink stash?
Unless... Unless the SUV has become infested with them. Author brain kicks in, and Little Miss Muse takes off, glittering the dashboard with images of hordes of red and black beetles escaping the vents, rising from under the floorboards, and pouring in the moon roof, filling the interior with crunchy critters exuding noxious fumes…
I’m literally on my way to Writing Day at the library; we need to save these creative ideas for the manuscript, pretty please. Enough with the Creative Worry. Middle Insomnia and Creative Worry are related, I do believe.
By the next stoplight, the smell is so bad I wonder if it’s permeating my clothes. I give my shoulder that little sniff—you know the one. You’ve done it before a meeting or coffee with a friend. Just a quick check to see if you’re appropriately deodorized for human encounters.
I failed the check. Miserably. The bitterness was intense and made my eyes burn. I leaned toward the vent. Nothing coming from that. It’s me, isn’t it?
By this time, I’m across town and do not have time to go all the way back home for a wardrobe check. I pull into Walmart and head for the bathroom, where I do bug inspection as best I can. I couldn’t find it. The harder I looked and sniffed, the fainter the stench, though. Maybe it was something with the vent after all.
Then, as I’m leaving the store, I couldn’t smell it on me at all. Oh, well. I’ll leave the windows down and go on. Maybe it was on the seatbelt…
A half block away from Walmart and I’m hit by a fresh wave. And another. And another. The more I squirm, the stronger it gets.
It is me. For crying out loud.
Writing Buddy texts that she’s on her way to the library.
I text back. “I’m gonna be late. Gotta buy a bra.” Because now, beyond a doubt, I know it’s me. The bug has crawled down my shirt and has squirted, oozed, and reflex bled all over the place.
I find a Dollar General (imagine that!). I find a five-buck bra. And a five-buck shirt. I must’ve had some “look” about me because the kind cashier lady asked if she could help me with anything. “I think I stink. Like really, really bad.” My eyes are watering. Every time I move my arms, the smell comes up from the neckline of my shirt. Her eyes don’t water, but they do get rather large.
I explain my dilemma. “If the bug made it below the beltline, I’m just gonna have to stink the rest of the day. I do not have time for this.” I toss the clothing onto the counter. She stifles a laugh as she rings me up and offers me the restroom that customers aren’t allowed to use. Very kind lady. My gagging and drama have made her morning.
I make it to the library where Writing Buddy grins ear to ear—all she knows is I’m late and needed a bra. She exits her car and asks, “Blog material?”
“Why yes, yes. As a matter of fact, I spent the last mile writing two paragraphs in my head based on my morning.”
I explain what happened and she keeps grinning—she's used to me showing up in such states. I try not to get too close; at this point, every movement sends a wave of fumes into the universe.
I’ve got my Dollar General bag of cheap clothes, a half-melted deodorant stick I keep in the glove box for emergencies (it wasn’t half-melted when I put it in there, but somewhere along the line this summer, it became misshapen), and a pack of emergency baby wipes I never leave home without because you just never know when some species will reflex bleed all over you.
As soon as the librarian unlocks the door, I’m in the bathroom re-doing, well, everything from the belt up. I take my hair down out of the clip and run a wipe through it, too. What if it’s in my hair? Or worse, what if it had friends and two of them tackled the shoulders down and two more tackled the neck up and, and…
I must save some of this Creative Worry for the work in progress…
Creative Worry and Middle Insomnia are, in fact, uninvited redneck cousins that show up drunk to every function they attend…
I do another wipedown just in case—now I’m freezing on top of everything else. Pull my hair back up, reapply deodorant—carefully, lest the half-melted, misshapen goo cause another kind of wardrobe malfunction.
It takes a while for the burning in my nostrils and the water dripping from my eyes to subside, but I’m finally at the writing table by the huge window we’ve claimed as ours. Writing Buddy swears she doesn’t smell anything, so at least I didn’t stifle the word count on her work in progress.
I hope the dab of writing I accomplished doesn’t stink. I gave it one of those cautionary sniffs as it fell from my fingers, and I think it passed the test.
Even if that scene does reflex bleed, at least I don’t have to buy it a new shirt—or a bra—to get it through the rest of the day.
For now, I’m wondering if the ten bucks spent on emergency clothing is a tax-deductible expense, but I’m mostly glad to breathe fresh air…
Just in case, I give my shoulder one of those covert sniffs to ensure I’m appropriately deodorized for the other humans I’ll encounter during the rest of this gone-all-day day.