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Stripped: A downward spiral

Justice

“I’m in love with you,” I told him for the first time after months of dating. I was propped up against the wheel of my friend Blackbird’s unregistered car that was parked in the driveway. I had my legs straight out in front of me and my back slouched over like a rag doll on a shelf. It was late in the morning, and I was still drunk from work the night before. The sun was hot and bright, and the sky was the richest hard candy sapphire blue. A beautiful day. I was on the phone

with my boyfriend and it felt like the right time to say it.

“I'm glad you feel that way,” he responded.

And then I crawled most of the way under Blackbird’s car with just my lower parts sticking out like the wicked witch's legs from under the house. Golden dry leaves from the front yard blew into the driveway and got tangled in my hair extensions. The underside of the car was grimy and black and also blurry to me because I was trying not to cry much. I was trying to play it off and carry on with the rest of the conversation. He said it like, “I'm glad you feel that way, and you’re

changing the subject so let's get back to our original point.” It wasn’t a direct, “I don't love you back,” but it was implied.

The boyfriend and I had plans to see each other later that night, which I canceled on the spot on the grounds that I was going to be tired. I was already extremely tired of it.

Inside, Blackbird was on the couch with her baby. "Were you crying?" she asked me when I slithered in. "What happened?"

"I told him I love him, and he didn't say it back."

"You're stupid" she said.

"I know" I said.

"You're not supposed to say it first."

"I know."

And then we watched Maury. We love shows about paternity tests. Blackbird's baby daddy recently demanded one. Which is ridiculous, because he looks exactly like the baby, like he gave birth to it all by himself. All fat, brown and bald, he looked like a giant version of the baby.

At this point it was after noon, and I had been up all night. I had fought with a customer, cried to the manager, gotten drunk, sobered up after a disappointing phone call and then watched a talk show with leaves in my hair while a screaming baby climbed all over me on the floor.

In hindsight, I should not have been in a fight. and I should not have let it send me on a downward spiral crawling under a car with my good hair extensions still in. The customer was extremely high on coke. He told me I was gorgeous one second, and the next he threw the

money he owed me on the floor because he was mad he had to pay. So I had to go pick it up.

People are jerks sometimes. I know that, but it got to me. It was degrading to crawl on the floor to pick up money I had earned. I suppose reframing degrading situations so that I don't see them as degrading is the only way I can keep putting myself in them without freaking out. Next time will be different, I tell myself.

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