The summer when I was fourteen, my best friend and I decided to try to put that dismal, oblique-rayed sun that shines over Milwaukee to its test and get a tan. I was a dark haired, pale person whose skin did absolutely nothing unless challenged by more direct rays, and my friend was a fair-haired freckly person who burned easily. Needless to say my skin did absolutely nothing, and my friend got a painful sunburn.
The next day we tried again. I got nothing, and my friend burned some more. Third verse, same as the second and the first. By the weekend I was intensely pale, and she was burnt, peeling, yet stubbornly insisting that if she stuck with it long enough the burn would turn into tan. By that Friday, I had the faintest of faint pink on my nose and shoulders. My friend was a peeling mess with a band-aid on her nose.
That Friday night she slept over. We each put Noxzema on our burned parts -- that's what you did back then -- and I took two aspirin. Again, because I was a child in the dark ages when aspirin was what you took when something hurt. My friend, however, did not believe in aspirin. She believed in cigarettes, she believed in fake ID's and buying alcohol and she believed in marijuana, but aspirin? That was a drug.
That night she complained. Her sunburn hurt. It burned. That sun was a force of nature, the source of all evil, and no one had ever been in as much pain as she had. She decided to peel the peely parts despite my suggestion that might make it hurt more, and she snarled at me because she was in terrible pain and as a "drugged" person I had no authority on what might or might not feel better. It did indeed make the pain worse, which she insisted was coincidence. She kept peeling, kept rolling the peeled bits of skin into little balls, and flicked them onto my carpet, daring me to object.
I said nothing, because I was younger, infinitely less cool, and I had taken aspirin which apparently left me brain addled and not to be trusted. There were so many things I wanted to say, like, Why are cigarettes okay and aspirin isn't? Why must you throw bits of peely skin everywhere? Why, when you knew that you don't tan, did you lay out every day and simply increase your burn quotient?
What I wanted to say most of all was, Since you chose to burn, and you chose not to take an aspirin, why do you feel you have the right to complain for so long and with such relentlessness and why, why is any of it my fault?
I feel right now like I'm breathing in a little bit of her air, and how one could land oneself in a situation voluntarily, a situation one very much dislikes, yet still wish to retain the right to whine.
I want to complain about moving. I want to complain about packing, about unpacking, about finding a place for everything. I want to complain about the thrill I get from emptying a box, ripping off all the tape and reducing it to a flat expanse of doubled cardboard, only to look behind me and see thirty more boxes just like it, still packed.
But I should not complain. You all might ask me -- and rightly so -- why we own a house in one city but live in another and are thus slaves to our landlord's right to sell or resume occupancy when the lease is up. And why, when we have chosen this complicated situation for valid yet completely optional reasons, I dare seek an audience for my lamentations.
So I'll just go about my unpacking quietly, because anything else would be irritating to all involved.