Why you need to start your own detective agency, STAT

Melissa Chaib 1

The house on Dever Drive was green stucco. One of those early 80’s shoeboxes that we tried to make feel like home, but that always ended up smelling like something we never cooked. We had lived there for four years by the time the yard sale rolled around.

My brother Colin and I took on the responsibility of the extra float. We also manned the lemonade stand. You don’t know this when you’re a little kid, but lemonade stands are pointless. Nobody ever wants lemonade, they just buy it because you’re a cute 8 year old.

It was July, and it was hot. Desert hot. Dry heat that refuses to let you sweat but makes you feel constantly thirsty. Colin and I propped our little table up in between the two crab apple trees in our front yard, taking extra care to avoid getting tangled in hanging caterpillars.

We sat there for two hours while my Dad heckled with neighbors over the price of his ham radio gear. Our youngest brother, Stephen, lay napping on the grass beside us in his diaper while our last brother, Ben, was busy trying to re-claim all the toys he had previously decided to put up for sale. No one wanted lemonade. The yard sale was full of too many other goods.

“I have an idea” I said to Colin. “Let’s become detectives.”

Colin, 6 at the time, was thrilled to participate. I got smelly markers – orange and cherry scented – and wrote the words out on a piece of cardboard.

DETEKTIVES AT YOUR SERVIS

As I propped the sign up in front of the lemonade, Mr. and Mrs. Wallace from across the street came over.

“Whatchoo got there?” Mr. Wallace boomed.

Oh, we’re detectives now!” I called out.

“No, no” he said “behind the sign?”

I turned, deflated, to get him a cup.  “It’s our Mom’s lemonade” I said “fifty cents.”

He drank it fast and asked for another before leaning in to whisper something to us.

“I’ve got this problem, you see” he began “…it’s my apple trees…”

Colin climbed up onto the table excitedly, prepared for whatever was to come.

“The apples just keep going missing. Do you think you could sort this out for me?”

We took his ten dollars, with a promise of ten more to come when we gave him the answer. He took another glass of lemonade.

Mrs. Wallace looked at him with sparkling eyes and as the two of them walked away — Mr. Wallace to the ham radio and Mrs. Wallace to the Tupperware — Colin and I made the decision.

“Racoons!” we yelled after them. “It’s got to be raccoons.”

Colin held out his hand for the other ten dollars.

And we both knew at that moment our detective careers were over.

***

When did we start to feel self-conscious about reaching for the stars and falling short? When did we start worrying about the logistics of our big dreams and stop doing it because it might be nothing except for kind-of fun? What is it about the dread pirate responsibility that stops us in our tracks? Why, as we grow into the ages where the possibility of success is two-fold, do we pop the top back onto the Pringle container? We don’t need to fear rejection letters and bad Trip Advisor reviews — the only thing we have to fear is not putting the sign up.

This week, go forth and start your own detective agency. Who knows, you might even make a quick 20 bucks.

XOYW1

image credit: Melissa Chaib

Trust me, you’re not the biggest creep in your apartment building

I’ve always considered myself to be a bit of an exhibitionist.

I mean, I would never go into the adult entertainment industry or join a colony, but if I was a celebrity I would be all over the Halle Berry in Monster’s Ball stuff. Nakedness has just never been a thing for me.

Now, don’t start with the whole “well I don’t like how I look” garbage. Ceasing to care about being naked has nothing to do with what you look like without Spanx on — it has to do with freedom, which is what we’re all about over here if you hadn’t noticed.

The necessary step is not pulling a Rumor Willis and exercising your right to bare tits all over Manhattan, the ingredient I’m looking for is the ability to stand in front of a mirror and say “I feel good” (not “I look good”) and continue on with your dish washing. Which is exactly what I was doing when I remembered that my curtains were open, it was 10PM and my apartment was bow-shaped.

“I told you to wear pants!” Steve messaged me, “We’re not the only creeps in the building!”

It’s become a favorite pastime of ours to shut off the lights and spy on the neighbors. Seriously — if you’re one of them, I’m sorry, but you provide way better entertainment than Kourtney & Khloe take the Hamptons. Sometimes we’ll make up conversations you’re having. Sometimes we’ll create entire life stories — which you honestly make it really easy to do when at 9pm every evening you turn on Pink Floyd laser-show lights in your 200 square foot living room and leave them on for the entire evening with the shades up.

My sole intent is to catch people doing it a la that Sex and the City episode where Samantha invites the girls over for popcorn and wine to spy on her neighbors who just can’t get enough of each other.

Yes, I’m weird. Maybe even illegal — I’m not sure of the repercussions of telling you all this — but what I am sure of is that Steve was right. We are not the only creeps in the building.

There I was, minding my own business, in the process of some seriously delicious and empowering naked me-time when out of the corner of my eye, I saw him.

Just standing there, glass in hand, looking at me.

I immediately followed the proper protocol for encountering a bear (as opposed to a peeping Tom) — I yelled for Steve, who wasn’t there. I then said “Oh, shoot,” — in other, more explicit words. I told myself he could smell fear, so I had to continue to be confident, & then I slowly and [hopefully] inconspicuously started to back away from the window.

I made the one fatal mistake of looking directly at him, which he responded to by jumping and turning off his light.

Gross.

I finally made the call to just fake a fainting spell an slither to the floor, where I crawled into the bedroom (where the curtains were shut, because #privacymatters) and remained for the rest of the night.

At least I got to bed early.

I remember reading a book called “The Bad Girl’s Guide to Getting What You Want” a million years ago. One of the things it stated as being a “seriously bad girl move” was to dance around wearing nothing with the curtains up. At the time, I didn’t have my own apartment so dancing around naked made for quite a few awkward family moments, but when I did finally move out I was way more concerned about landing an episode of Criminal Minds written about my untimely and nude murder than I was about being a bad girl.

Over time, however, after one becomes experienced in the ways of both apartment living and living alone, you kind of forget that your windows are two-way.

Which is actually why I was doing the dishes that way in the first place. Who likes pants?

When I woke up this morning, I had forgotten all about the late-night rendevouz I had just hours before with corner unit, floor 12 guy. I walked to the washroom (in clothes). I showered. I got out of the shower . . . only to realize that my towel was back in the bedroom. I booked it — a total of 20 feet if I’m being generous towards the size of my place — straight into my towel.

As I plodded my way back to the washroom I couldn’t help but look out my windows into the units across from me. Some of them had curtains drawn, but most of them were wide open. I saw a girl eating breakfast (I almost typed Cheerios but realized that was taking my creative liberty too far), I saw a man looking out over the ocean, and as I finally let my eyes drift towards corner unit, floor 12 guy I prepared myself to come face-to-face with him.

Instead, I saw him where I’ve seen him every moment I’ve peered over there since I moved in (often, obviously). Seated in front of his television, playing Call of Duty (not artistic liberty. I can see the little people on the screen).

He wasn’t sitting there staring across at me, waiting for my next blunder. He wasn’t searching the skies for the next naked person. He had just gone right on living.

Which is exactly what I should have done when I noticed him in the first place.

Living in close quarters with strangers does incredible things for your psyche. It shows you you’re normal. It shows you you’re not normal. It exercises this little muscle inside called trust that is defined as “that thing you do in silence that assures people in the elevator you aren’t going to bring up what you saw them doing last night.” It makes you feel excruciatingly alone — but also really on public display. It reminds you — often — that you are not special, and that this is a good thing.

Because you’re never going to be the first naked person in the window.

You aren’t going to be the last.

& you’re never going to be the only creep in your apartment building.

XOYW1

photo by Saga Sig

The oldest lie in the book

Joshua Tree Silhouettes at Sunset

Do you ever tell yourself a story so many times that you start believing it’s true?

Well, that story is my life.

When I was younger, my parents called me a compulsive liar. I blame it on my creative imagination and also never quite having the guts to launch into a full blown rebellion. Instead, I would be bad (tell 7-11 that I had $1 worth of candy when really it was $1.50 and kiss boys in dingy basements blaring Black Sabbath) and then lie about not being bad.

For the most part, I’ve grown out of it. Publishing all my stories on the Internet has a lot to do with it, because my lies (or “stories” as I call them) could be so easily exposed if the right person decided to log on and read. Also, I’ve decided it is way more fun to actually live through stories worth telling as opposed to creating them in my head.

The thing is — I have rarely even made up stories worth lying about! I made up mundane stories that only slightly varied from the truth. I think it’s because I wanted to protect myself. But I could also just be really mentally unstable.

Anyway, like I said, I’ve knocked it off.

Until this week, when Steve and I booked a trip to Palm Springs and I somehow led him to believe I had been there before. Instead of being all “Oh, I haven’t been there, silly, I just read a lot of gypsy blogs so I feel like I have,” I just went along with it.

I created a convoluted story that both enticed and infuriated him. I had been with an ex-boyfriend he didn’t know I had. We stayed in a house. And we spent our days traipsing through the desert with no map and no water and a Nikon camera that was left on the airplane en route home.

OK, see, that last part I never told him. I just told that to myself because it completed the sentence better.

Anyway, eventually I was like “OMG, I’m the weirdest person ever, I have to tell him before this turns into something bigger and the government is willing to pay for my therapy.”

Do you know how awkward it is to tell your [completely sane] boyfriend that you made up a story about something super pointless?

Er, so, uh, I’ve never actually been to Palm Springs. I was . . . just . . . kidding?

It wasn’t awkward at all, because that’s not the type of person I am, but still. It was ridiculous.

The scary part was that he took it rather well. In fact, it seemed like he expects that sort of thing from me — probably because on our second date I told him point blank that I’m bat shit crazy. Because I know what the boys like to hear.

The saying goes something like it’s easier to tell the truth than to tell a lie and I think whoever first coined that was a big fat liar.

Yes, convoluted lies are hard to keep straight and easy to mess up, but there’s nothing more difficult than telling the whole truth and nothin’ but the truth. In the truth we are exposed. We are vulnerable. We are easily wounded.

The easy part comes later, when we realize we’ve been accepted just as we are — with no frills, no judgement, and no imaginary trips to Palm Springs.

XOYW1

What happens when you accept bad vibes only

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When was the last time you had a week?

You know the kind — everything spirals into a giant catastrophic bad day, every day. It’s like that scene in Finding Nemo where the super cute sea turtles are riding the current all crazy, except they were all like “woah, dude” and you’re all like “fuck, man.”

Well, I’ve had one of those weeks.

So much so that when I woke up this morning I had to put myself back to bed because I was so miserable. I was all maybe I’ll try waking up again, and not being such a colossal C-U-Next-Tuesday. Of course, it didn’t help at all, because Taylor Swift’s “Shake it off” woke me up and informed me that I was now late.

Everything from forgetting really important birthdays to smashing Steve’s car to getting ready to move into a new place to having freak-outs about asbestosis . . . (that was totally warranted, FYI. I wasn’t being paranoid) this week has just made me feel crappy.

And it steamrolls. Oh man, does it steam roll. If Monday’s bad you just know nothing good can come from it.

But, last night, in an attempt to make up for that forgotten birthday I told you about, I took a girlfriend out for a well-deserved dinner. The moment I stepped into her car, my entire world was rocked.

Radiating out of this woman, and literally punching me in the face, was the most incredible and powerful and positive and beautiful energy. She told me stories of how she had recently opened herself up to accepting things from *The Universe* (put in asterisks because you can insert whatever you pray to here) and how everything was falling into place perfectly.

& I was like . . . what am I doing wrong this week? I am attracting all the bad vibes. All of them. Every single last bad vibe on the planet I am attracting to myself. But other people are attracting good vibes only. What is the difference between a person who attracts all the bad vibes and one who attracts only good ones?

good vibesI think it’s that whole you get what you give mantra that they use in all those crappy financial advice books. For the record, Scotiabank, I’m not richer than I think, no matter what I invest with you.

Anyway. If all I’m sending out is negative, high strung, whiney energy, it kind of makes sense that those are the “vibes” I’m going to have reciprocated.

Which is why, earlier this afternoon, I thought I was really onto something when I started sloughing things off and slowing down and keeping my complaints to myself. I thought I was doing it right.

But then I bent over and the zipper on my pencil skirt exploded from the pressure of my bass (seriously, how stuck in your head is that awful song?!) and I just stood there like . . .

REALLY?

But in the scheme of things, it’s my weekend now, so I’m just rocking the 1990’s around-the-waist sweater trick until I have a chance to change.

How do you guys attract good vibes only? I wanna be more chill, bro.

XOYW1