BY CHRISTIE K. TORCHIA
Are we good, Jen?
“Fuck it, Christie. Sometimes you receive karma, sometimes you deliver it” – Tara Hegg
I wronged her in a past life, maybe in multiple past lives.
I fucked over Jen, and got what I deserved, right?
How the fuck do I end this shitty cycle?
By late March 2021, I was able to see around this pandemic. What I saw was sweaty, crowded concert venues, packed patio bars, and speedboats.
You could smell the hope.
And then…again…fucking Jen.
I was only one bottle of red in, which by pandemic Wednesday standards was a light night. I gathered my shit from the coffee table. The usual suspects; books, notebooks, pencils, wine glass. The awkward stack was unstable, and I pep talked myself that I would be able to keep it balanced on the short trek to the kitchen when Jimmy’s phone buzzed.
He’d been asleep for just short of an hour. Neither my movement nor his phone buzz, disturbed his deep, open-mouthed, snoring slumber. I leaned over gently placing everything BACK on the table and grabbed his phone.
Do I wake him? Do I let him sleep? He looked so peaceful…gross… but peaceful. This late, it could have been the restaurant, the roofing sales manager, his parents, Uncle Tony.
It was fucking Jen.
What I knew about Pandemic Jen:
– A vendor Jimmy worked with at our restaurant
– A replacement for a vendor, a friend, John, who recently retired
– She is from Pittsburgh, our hometown
I also knew, from Jimmy, that she is not yet 40, single, husband hunting for baby making, and that she earns over $300k a year. Further, to use Jimmy’s words, she is “a hot mess,” or “complete looney.”
Jen messaged to find out when she should be in for lunch tomorrow.
Before passing out on the couch, Jimmy shared he had an appointment in Van Wert at noon, so lunch at the restaurant wouldn’t work. I went to respond to the vendor, Jen, who we work with at our restaurant, to let her know that he couldn’t make it and about choked up my own fucking tongue when a series of texts between them slapped me in the face. It appeared that the stories Jimmy told about Jen were not gossip from his friend John, but were right from Pandemic Jen’s mouth. Upon reflection, their conversation started right around the same time I found the new prescription of dick pills, when he started the dramatic “apple diet”, and right around the time his schedule started to get more complex. So complex that he couldn’t even explain it to me.
I learned that Jimmy was “protective” of Jen, that he thought they needed to “get drunk together and have long conversations,” and that when they missed each other for lunch, they used fucking sad-face or straight-face emojis.
This wasn’t the first time a Jen had come into my life though, took everything I thought to be true, twisted it into a disgusting pile of dirty washcloths, dogshit, and 10-day old peel-less banana before setting it all on fire.
Pandemic Jen pulled the now dirty and brown Band-Aid off a wound I thought had long since scabbed over, fallen off, and healed.
Less than 10 years earlier, “Hmph” was the word a Jen, let’s call her “Cowgirl Jen,” used to end a dysfunctional mess of a fifteen-year relationship, seven-year marriage, and nine-month fucking dry-spell.
Nathan was cooking when I came into our sunny kitchen. I took a seat at the breakfast nook, stared out the window and listened to the birds chirping, the bacon sizzling, the coffee dripping. The buzzing of his phone startled me. I picked it up, slid to the end of the bench seat, and took a step toward him, my arm starting the stretch to the handoff when I saw the message from Jen:
“Strange,” I thought.
I noticed Nathan’s back was still facing me, and the noises of brunch and Control Machete masked my movement. I took a peek. No history at all. No text before, no text after, just fucking “hmph.”
“Who’s Jen?” I asked.
When he turned, I knew everything I needed to know. A look of terror, as though I was holding a fucking torture device. All the color drained from his already genetically pale fucking face. I didn’t know who Jen was, but I absolutely knew who Jen was.
What a wild fucking feeling.
Over the course of two days, what I learned about Cowgirl Jen:
– Prematurely greying 26-year-old brunette
– Pharmacy technician for pharmacist Nathan
– Likes to send pictures of her tits and her hairy seventies bush
– Likes to text about her favorite sex positions…. reverse cowgirl.
You may find it yet again hard to believe that even this was not my first encounter with a Jen coming into my life, taking everything I thought to be true and shitting it out, stuffing it down a garbage disposal, covering it with maple syrup, and throwing in some fine silver utensils and turning it on.
I’ve often tried to somehow connect Cowgirl Jen and Cow-touching Jen, though unsuccessfully.
Cow-touching Jen came into my life when I was a new high school freshman.
I looked like you might envision any girl next door…except with much, much smaller tits; blonde hair, pale peach skin, perfectly positioned freckles and giant green Precious Moments eyes. My boyfriend, Mike, was a sought-after Junior, and exactly what you might envision circa 1994. Think curtain hair; Leo, Johnny, Brad, a too-prominent nose, and Adam’s apple.
Mike had his hand up the leg of my noticibly short jean shorts in the back seat of the Renault as his Dad drove us to band practice when I noticed a number scrawled on the back of his hand.
“Who’s Jen,” I asked.
He stopped his heavy-handed petting, looked at his hand, looked at me and responded.
“Oh, you know her. Jenny C. She wants me to hang out with her step-brother who just moved back in with them.”
It was only when Mike’s best friend, Mike, sat next to me, as I was tripping balls on a floral couch at a party almost a year later, that I’d found out the truth.
Cow-touching Jen walked into the room and sat on the piano bench. She picked up a soft, floppy cow pillow. Unbeknownst to her, only moments before, I’d put that cow, for which I’d developed an LSD-induced attachment, down in the spot from where it was retrieved. Mike grabbed my chin and turned my face toward him.
“Quit staring like that. Even if you’re right to act like a bitch, she is way bigger and way meaner. They only fucked once.”
Fucked again by a Jen, turning everything I thought to be real on its head. Though again, this was NOT the first time a Jen took everything I knew was true and turned it into a nasty come-down off mushrooms while inadvertently sitting on an ant hill as a car drives by and splashes you with mud, bad trip.
And Jen numero uno. I honestly don’t even remember her last name. I remember her face, pointy, a slightly warmer skin tone than mine, scarred and pock marked from the cruel joke puberty played on some. She wore her honey-colored hair in a loose crimpy chin length bob. She was a Color Guard, a Junior. I was a saxophone player. A freshman. I didn’t know she existed, though she knew about me. She knew about me because she didn’t support a freshman dating an upper classman, especially an upperclassman she wanted.
I had never been the victim of bullying; always popular, kind and cheerful, but there was one day, one ride home from one football game. I didn’t know it in the moment, but boyfriend Mike had turned down an offer for a BJ because he was “with me.” For that, Color Guard Jen wanted to punish me. She sat in the back seat of the bus, which alone indicates the hierarchy, I was three seats ahead of her. She threw things, she poetically rhymed insults with my first name, my last name, insulted my ability to give hand jobs, blow jobs, and even alluded to the fact (though falsely) that I didn’t know how to tie my own shoes.
I took my abuse in silence, confused and hurt, with my introvert freshman band friends silent in solidarity by my side. My response, after finding safety in the passenger seat of my mom’s Plymouth Fury, wasn’t to flip her the bird or give the Italian salute. Nope. Instead….I stuck out my tongue. In my defense I was barely 13 and had never dealt with anything like this before. I was completely ill equipped to respond with any super cool way that could offer me any type of adult pride or redemption.
I learned approximately 3 days later that Mike did NOT turn her down. That he allowed her to suck his dick between some parked school buses and when she insisted he break up with me, he insulted her and refused.
Pandemic Jen. Cowgirl Jen. Cow-touching Jen. Color Guard Jen.
I fucked over a Jen in a past life, or maybe multiple past lives.
I’ll own it, ask for forgiveness, and try to round out this fucked karmic cycle.
Though… there were over 70,000 girls given the name Jen in 1978 alone and the reasons for these betrayals may be way more fucking complicated than a past life grudge…
Are we good?