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2003-08-20 | 10:33 p.m.

This started out as a note to poorlady, but I decided to cut and paste it into the diary to remind myself of this time in my life.

I spent some time in Iowa, during the Utterly Insane Blizzard of '93, followed by the Huge Unbelievable Meningitis-Carrying-Mosquito Attracting Floods of '93. I had frostbitten fingers so many times that winter that even after I left, my hands were numb from the third finger to the outside edge. For two full years.

I remember sitting in my car in the parking lot of a convenience store in Tiffin, Iowa, on more than one snowy morning, with tears streaming down my face. It took about that far from the mobile home park for my car's heater to start generating warm air, and as my hands would thaw out, the throbbing, stinging pain was sometimes too intense for me to drive through.

I remember I had a window air-conditioning unit in my single-wide mobile home, and it was usually enough to keep me comfortable, even in the most extreme heat. But one summer it went out for the entire month of August. That was rough. I just couldn't afford to fix it. I couldn't afford to pay attention, frankly. Now that I'm back home in Northern California, with its relatively mild climate, I don't even bother to run the heater or the air conditioner at home. I guess I figure once you've been poor in Iowa, you can live through anything.

I ate a lot of Tombstone pizza when I lived in Iowa. I liked it because it was microwaveable. I don't buy Tombstone pizzas much anymore, but at the time I practically lived on them. That and Budget Gourmet Swedish Meatballs.

It was around then that I first made it onto the Internet. This was before the advent of the Web, you'll recall. I spent so much time online that I lost about thirty pounds. I kept forgetting to eat.

I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation every night at 10:30 p.m. I watched it because it was the only thing on television that didn't remind me of Brian. I had a black-and-white TV with a nine-inch screen that only brought in two channels and a 12-inch color TV that got no channels but could run the VCR. I kept them both on the kitchen table and I would sit in front of them and watch Star Trek: The Next Generation and eat my Tombstone pizza.

When I ran out of big money I bought the newspaper every day and read the classifieds. The only thing I was qualified for was a job shucking corn. I kid you not. Now I look back at that time and think, why the hell didn't I just apply for a job at Target, or Wal-Mart? That would be the obvious thing to do. My rent was only $100 a month, for the lot--how hard could it have been? I suppose my pride wouldn't let me. I must have wanted to avoid seeing the other graduate students in my program--the program I left. I was depressed and not making any sense. Everyone could see it. Even I could see it, but I couldn't pick myself up. For the first time in my adult life, I was completely alone. The only thing that got me out of bed, ever, was my dog barking to be let out.

Friends started sending me money from California. I had found my first Internet boyfriend and he flew out to help me make my way back to California. The relationship was very intense and didn't last long, but it was long enough to get me over Brian and all the way home. I don't think of him all that often, but when I do, I think of him as "my sorbet." (Because he came between two long relationships.)

I was with Brian for more than eight years and now I've been with Duff for almost ten years. Iowa was in between them. It's a place where you can go three weeks without ever seeing the sun. Then the summers are so hot it's as if you're actually being cooked in some kind of enormous convection oven. I had made a rule in my life never to wear shorts or flip-flops in public. That went out the window when I lived in Iowa. I went to Target and bought a pair of flip-flops with pink foam straps and palm trees on the footbed. I loved those damn shoes. I still have them. I even loved Iowa in a way. As much as I hated it then, sometimes I sort of miss it. But I've always been stupid that way.

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