A year after I get married I give birth to Melissa. I’m twenty-two years old. Dr. Spock’s Baby and Childcare book does not have a chapter titled “The Emotional and Physical Needs of Young, Dysfunctional Mothers” or “When You Cry More Than Your Baby.” I read the chapter Trust Your Instinct. Melissa has a fever and no appetite. I bring her to the emergency room in a panic. “I think my baby has encephalitis. She needs to be seen right away.”
I’m working as a receptionist at a construction company. Most of the calls go something like this at an elevated volume: “I want to speak to the owner immediately about everything wrong with my house.”
One time a guy walks in and demands to speak with the owner. I say he’s not in. The guy parks himself in the lobby for five hours. He tells me everything wrong with his house. He finally simmers down when I tell him he’s lucky to be buying a house. “I live in a tiny one bedroom apartment with my husband and baby. I hardly make ends meet with what this company pays me. So what if the blue paint in the dining room is not what you picked. At least you have a dining room.”
At the suggestion of my oldest sister I sign up for night school to earn a paralegal degree. It’s not at all like my dream of becoming an interior designer. Instead of taking the class Color Theory I’m taking Wills and Probate. I’m pretty sure it’s not as exciting.
I get a job working for five solo practitioner attorneys while I’m in school. Being an attorney is a tough gig. There’s a lot of competition. The attorneys take whatever case they can get their hands on.
I say to the attorney Rob: “Do you know anything about maritime law? Are you sure you should take that case?”
He laughs. “Nah. I can wing it.”
The attorney John does a lot of criminal work. He wears schmuck on his Ralph Lauren sleeve like Danny Zuko wears cool on the sleeve of his leather jacket. John is so shady I wonder if he will need to represent himself one day. He has a lovely wife and adorable young children. He takes the beautiful receptionist out to “buy toner” once a week. The office doesn’t need any toner.
My marriage is a mess. It’s as healthy as beer and pizza without the going together part. We argue like siblings who hate each other. We decide it’s time to separate.
We move out of our house into apartments. Not only does Melissa have to contend with the breakup of her parents; she is uprooted into new dwellings that are small and sub-par. I’m a player in her sorrow and it devastates me.
Ray and I strive for civility during the separation. It’s a challenge but it mostly works.
Ray tells me about all of the things wrong with his apartment. While I’m at work I hear Jeff and Jeff, a couple of pranksters from a local radio station. The show is called Victim of the Day. They call unsuspecting victims and play practical jokes on them.
I had pranked Ray once before on the show. When I hear Jeff and Jeff I get the idea to prank Ray a second time.
I call the radio station. Jeff immediately remembers Ray because his reaction to being pranked is loud and scattered with expletives. Jeff tells me Ray was their favorite Victim of the Day.
I tell Jeff we recently separated. I have an idea for a prank.
Jeff is worried. “Hmm, what do you have in mind?”
“He recently moved into an apartment. He told me a list of things wrong with the apartment. He just dropped off the list with the landlord.”
I tell Jeff the list of problems. He rolls with it.
Jeff calls Ray. Jeff sounds like a schmucky used car salesman. “I’d like to go over the list of the problems in your apartment.”
Ray says, “Okay.”
Jeff says, “Regarding the worn out and damaged tile in the kitchen I’ve arranged for you to pick up a used piece of tile from a veterinarian’s office in Dinwiddie.”
Jeff, “You say you’ve got to manually turn on the light bulb in the bathroom to make it work? I suggest you don’t stand in the bathtub while you turn on that light bulb.”
Jeff, “Let’s see here, the cracked window. My advice is that you stay away from that window. By the way the neighbors tell me they saw you with a pot-bellied pig. We don’t allow pot-bellied pigs in the apartment.”
Ray remains polite but it’s obvious he’s seething. “You mean to tell me you want me to pick up a used piece of tile from a veterinarian’s office to replace my kitchen tile, not stand in the bathtub when I turn on the light bulb and stay away from the cracked window? You have got to be kidding me. And by the way, I don’t own a pot-bellied pig, it’s a dog.”
“Ray. This is Jeff and Jeff. You’re victim of the day.”
Ray, “Oh my god, oh my god, you guys suck! Hahahaha. You guys suck! You really got me good.”