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Taxing my nerves

Governmental bureaucracy strikes fear in the heart

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I was wondering why I have no lips left, and then I remembered I did my taxes last night. That explains it. I chew my lips when I'm nervous, almost in a kind of cannibal way. It's horrible. I really have to find another fetish, because there is nothing like your lips to anchor your damn face, and when they're all gnawed off, that does not make a good first impression.

And there are people I might be needing to impress, like the IRS audit guy. That is if he summons me, and damn if I don't live in fear of being summoned. I start seeing myself destitute after a government auction, barefoot and stringy-haired, collecting tin cans with callused hands that have yellow fingernails as thick as nickels. Scabs are envisioned as well, though I don't know why or what from, but I am definitely scabby in these portents, probably from sleeping on concrete.

It doesn't take much to set this fear in high gear, either. For example, I once got turned down for credit at one of those big, blow-ass department stores that goes out and recruits future credit-card holders by having sales people shove applications through your car window as you're driving past the mall. I was curious as to why they turned me down, seeing as how my credit history is quasi sterling now that I've mended the last remnants of that post-college period during which I lived like a soap-opera actress on the income of a part-time receptionist. And I know they're not that picky, this department store, having extended a huge reservoir of credit to my crusty friend Lary, who lives in an alley. So what's with the rejection? I thought, and popped Equifax a request for my credit report.

Upon inspection of said credit report, I discovered a mysterious lien filed against me in the state court of my hometown San Diego. Somebody sued me, won, and I knew nothing about it. Given my fugue-like fear of bureaucracy, my first instinct was to move to the hills and live under a lean-to fashioned from sticks and a pair of piss-stained homeless man's pants. ("They'll never find me here," I'd cackle while spearing rodents with my foot-long, tobacco-colored toenails.) But then some molecular piece of me that rebels against the dominant, walking-apology part of my personality stopped and said, Hey, maybe the lien is a mistake.

So, after letters to both Equifax and the San Diego court system resulted in a big, huge, cavernous basket of NOTHING, I actually flew to San Diego, rented a car and spent a day doing a fire drill of every municipal building in the city until I tracked down the demon lien. It had been awarded to the franchise tax board of California, which issued the case because so partial were they to my presence in their territory, they mistakenly continued to assess California taxes against me after I became a resident of Georgia. The sum total -- with fees, penalties and various other drippings the bureaucratic quagmire loves to attach to crap like this -- was more than I could afford even if I spent the rest of my life peddling premium blowjobs to Japanese businessmen.

So I quelled my fear as best I could and went straight to the state tax office. I was sure they'd slap the cuffs on me the second I came through the door, but instead a tax technician graciously decided to help me. I know she was gracious because she told me so. "I like to help people, so you're lucky you got me," she said as she set about eradicating the false tax assessments. So, after having my credit fucked up and having to fly across the country because of a falsehood her office generated, I thought to myself, "Boy, am I lucky," and I genuflected as I backed out of the door.

But the panic attacks persist. The ones in which I foresee myself living under a freeway overpass are nothing new to me. I've been having them for ... well, ever. We were renters, my family, and my entire life we moved around like a pack of traveling circus-sideshow barkers. We moved every single year, since my parents were notoriously cheap and refused to renew a lease that called for an increase in rent. We were never actually homeless ... or perhaps that's all we ever were. Christ.

So I guess I should get comfortable with it. I remember one night years ago in New Orleans when my mother, sisters and I were homeless because the Le Richeleau hotel got our reservations mixed up, having clocked our arrival at noon the following afternoon instead of midnight that night. The other hotels were booked solid and the Le Richeleau was unsympathetic to our situation, kicking our asses into the street in the middle of the night.

"Well, it's not the end of the world," my mother sighed, and we set out to wander the French Quarter until sunrise. At 3 a.m. we encountered an off-duty waitress on her way home from work. She took us in and we slept on the floor of her living room. This is why I love that city to this day. The next morning she wouldn't even let us buy her breakfast. That night, though, we requested her section at her restaurant, and my mother tipped her $125, which is almost unheard of from a homeless person, especially a notoriously cheap one.

hollis.gillespie@creativeloafing.com

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