Wednesday, October 22, 2014


It is the mid-Nineties. The radio plays “Waterfalls” by TLC on a nearly-constant loop and everyone has seen the video, too. The twin force of radio play and MTV heavy rotation continues as though it will never come to an end. Record companies spend millions of dollars for four minutes of bottled lightning.

No one has yet heard of file sharing programs or iPods, social media or the possibility for making a fool of oneself on it. In sports, Michigan quarterback Scotty Dreisbach has implausibly thrown the game winning touchdown on a crucial fourth down play against Virginia. AOL offers a free clip of the winning catch of no more than fifteen seconds in duration, which takes two hours solid to download over a phone line.

In the days before the proliferation of digital cameras, smartphones, selfies, and photobombs, she used the tools available to her. The thick glass panel of a flat screen scanner was the surface she chose. She sat naked upon it, straddling sharp rectangular corners in hard plastic. I imagined the process must have been terribly uncomfortable, or at least require a kind of nimble flexibility. Had she laid it flat against the floor? That was the only way I could reckon she'd been able to pull it off.

The image produced, squished against the perfectly level surface, had stretched external genitalia to an extreme, making certain portions of the female reproductive system much larger than they were in reality. I wish I would have kept the file around for the sake of novelty, but it got lost while transferring from computer to computer. It only would have reminded me of her.

I was not the only one to receive a copy, which she offered like some persistent souls offer business cards, though I was one of her favorites. We spoke over the phone and online on a daily basis. She had even offered herself to me, someday. That would have required a lengthy car trip my parents would not have agreed to, and even if they had, my only other option would be relying upon a ride from the airport that I knew might never arrive. Amanda was not very responsible when it came to the passage of time and I knew I might need to wait helplessly with bags in hand for hours before anyone showed.

Her mother was exasperated with the fact that she had no female friends. A little later, I called the family residence following the birth of her child. Is Amanda the Mommy here? It was a corny line, the kind I rarely use, but I was trying to make nice. The mother always made a choice remark slightly after passing the phone along to her daughter, caustic remarks I overheard from time to time. I gathered the woman didn’t like me much and I could have cared less.

The only time I ever had a productive conversation with her was the time when Amanda took off to New England from Minnesota. Her mother feared the worst, but everything was proceeding as planned, secretly and stealthily. She and her boyfriend had never met in person before, but that was no detriment to this exercise in making it work in spite of consequences. Amanda was a take-charge sort of woman. He would be collected and relocated forcibly to the upper Midwest, whether or not it took a 15 hour drive, and especially whether her mother liked it or not.

Upon one particular call of that period, I noticed a dramatic difference. The mother was panicked, frightened beyond belief. It was a momentary contrite period in her life resulting from fear and anxiety. Only then did she address me with anything resembling good manners or basic courtesy.

Even the dysfunctional can occasionally stumble across the proper way of behaving themselves, especially when in shock. The woman kept me on the line for over an hour, begging me for any information I had to share. I knew the truth, but out of respect for my friend (and spite for the mother) I shared only the most cursory details. She was a parent in a state of grief, but I already resented her enough to keep her in suspense a little longer.

Amanda had no boundaries. What entered her brain exited her mouth. Her favorite subject was sex, but in particular her own sex life. This is how I knew about escapades with her near-husband on top of the dryer in the laundry room when no one else was at home. Her man was against condoms and she had a willful nonchalance and lazy non-compliance for any form of contraception. It wasn’t long before pregnancy resulted, a fate she accepted without any complaints, apparently intending to give birth to their first child and whichever kids followed.

She worked with alcoholics and drug addicts at a treatment center on the edge of town. I often wondered if she sought to heal herself by placing herself in the midst of patients with other addictive behaviors similar to her own. Hers resulted from incest, from the awkward persistence between older brothers who always wanted to sleep in the same bed as the younger children. I think that she enjoyed those past experience in a perverse kind of horribly conflicted way, the result of which became a bonafide sexual addiction. She was vocal about her sexuality in the way few women I encountered ever were.

I refused to believe at first that women like her really existed. Most girls I knew back then, my senior year of high school, were petrified at the mere thought of becoming pregnant. I wondered if most people really treated the conception and birth of children with such little thought or concern. I live now in a world of doulas, specialty services for expectant mothers, and classes that both father-to-be and mother-to-be can take simultaneously. Women do their research, then obsess about their diet and intake of almost everything, seeking to give the fetus the best possible chance for a good, healthy life.

Idealistic, legalistic motherhood was nowhere to be found with Amanda. She was almost Catholic in a weird way, almost fatalistic about another human life to be brought into the world. Her behavior grew ever more eccentric from then onward. The only major concern I could discern from her was a desire for her child to not be sexually molested at a young age as she was. Amanda swore she’d enjoyed it, which was either a colossal lie or proof that children can be oversexualized at ages before they fully understand the sensations produced and the intense emotions that go along with them.

One could make a case for both arguments. I, however, had my fill of it. I regret to say that I raised my voice in anger against her, believing I needed to make a clean break. The voice at the end of the line was not angry, it was instead confused and perplexed. I hung up the phone after an extended rant of which I am not especially proud. I can’t remember what I said, but it terminated our relationship quite neatly. I wonder how many children she has now and if she’s been married multiple times. I wonder about the safety of her children and wonder how many like her exist.

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