Little by little

The challenge to remove those layers.

I hear Grant and Lary are planning another heifer intervention for my sake, threatening to trap me in a room with a toolbox to wire my mouth shut so I can't shove any more food through it. "Jesus God, so I gained a few pounds. I'll deal with it, back off," I gripe. Lord, it's amazing to me how picky people can be about a couple of pounds when they don't even have to sleep with you.

And let's not forget that these two guys are guys. Neither of them can put on a permanent pound if they tried. Lary's main food group falls under "Internet amphetamines," and Grant, it seems, can lose five pounds just by nodding his head yes in response to an offer for bestial sex in the back of his car. Given this uneven advantage, these two are in no position to judge me, yet Grant still threatens to chain me to a radiator and feed me only lemon juice and cayenne pepper until I'm nothing but boobs on a stick.

"We're coming for you," he said over the phone recently.

"What the hell are you eating?" I asked. "Is your mouth full?"

"Fair warning," he continued, smacking his lips on who-knows-what. "One day when you turn around, there we'll be, with pliers and wires."

Like I'm worried. They are both completely incapable of staging a successful kidnapping. The only time we as a group ever effectively kidnapped a friend to send her to rehab was because I stepped in and orchestrated the whole thing. Lary was not even there. He was in Chicago on a job, so his purpose was downgraded to giving Grant directions via cell phone, such as, "Forget the roll of cellophane and just throw a thick blanket over her head," while I — me — I am the one who pushed Grant out of the driver's seat so I could position his car to block our subject from escaping. If it were up to Grant, he'd still be shrieking, "There she is! What should we do?"

So Lary's biggest failure was that he failed to even show up. Grant's biggest failure was that he almost pussied out when the opportunity availed itself, and Daniel ... well, Daniel I guess didn't fail at all, because it was his idea in the first place. It's saying something that he didn't blink before galvanizing us all into action, while I hadn't even thought to kidnap this person at all. So I guess you could say my biggest failing was that I had already thought her permanently buried in the land of the lost when it turned out she was, in fact, very retrievable. Thank God she had friends who believed in her retrieval.

To this day I'm amazed that she became lost so quickly yet by such almost imperceptible degrees. One minute she was herself, the next minute she was "not exactly herself lately," and then the next — poof! — she was lost. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, considering entire civilizations become lost in much the same way: little by little. I took an archeology class once, and I remember wondering why do you have to excavate to find signs of the past? How does the past get buried? The teacher told me it was debris and dirt that covered everything up, and the neglect to sweep it away, and layer upon layer upon layer of that over the years completely transforms the landscape so there is no sign of what used to be there. And the longer it's neglected, the deeper you have to dig to find it again.

Grant and Lary have known me a long time, they keep reminding me of what I used to be, and I keep arguing that I'm not that person anymore. I'm busy, beat-up, my heart has been happily amputated and handed to my daughter as a plaything, and the husk I am in the aftermath is glad to just collapse at night in front of cable television and a pile of pizza crusts.

"Remember who you are," Grant insisted, waving his hand at me from across the table at the coffeehouse, one sweep that took in my entire visage; the wet hair piled in a knot atop my head, baggy cargo pants and paint-flecked T-shirt, "because this ain't it," he finished, and I could hear in his voice that he was, like, serious.

Christ, Grant is never serious. So to keep that from happening again, I've been trying to see myself in myself lately, trying to remember who I am. What is this weird layer of fat around my ribs? I didn't used to have it before my girl was born. I know I didn't, but now I can't remember ever not having it. Lord, this is like excavating. All this debris — one birthday cake here, a donut there, pasta Alfredo here — all this debris, little by little, covers everything up until it seems like what used to be there is irretrievable. I should sweep. I should dig. I should do what I can to preserve my landscape. But once again I am in danger of being foiled by my biggest failing, of believing I am permanently buried in the land of the lost when it turns out that I am, in fact, very retrievable. Thank God I have friends who believe in my retrieval.

Hollis Gillespie authored two top-selling memoirs and founded the Shocking Real-Life Writing Academy (

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