Break Them, Lose Them, Leave Them

Lauren and I are decorating the tree.  We’re decorating the tree because it is December, because I’m a flexible Jew, and because Lauren is princessy enough to counteract all of my not caring about anything at all.  So we have a tree, and we’re putting pink tulle around it.  That’s how Lauren rolls.

I’m lucky to have her, and I’m glad she’s like this.  She gets me outside of myself sometimes, and I need that.  I pull out her snowmen, her angels and stars, and I smile.

“I almost got new ornaments this year,” I say, mostly to myself.

“Almost?”

“Well, yeah. I mean, I wanted to get some, but then I thought, why bother?”

“What?”

“I mean, I move.  I just, I always move.”

“But.. that doesn’t mean you can’t have nice things.”

“Yeah, I know… I know… it’s just how I am with nice things.  I either break them, lose them, or have to leave them behind when I go… and then I’m just… I’m so sad… so I just don’t really bother with things at all anymore.”

The second it comes out of my mouth, I realize how bad it sounds.  But I’m just being realistic.  I’ve moved so many times that anything I can buy more cheaply than ship gets thrown out.  Anything I have to worry about breaking is a huge liability, and anything I can forget has already been left somewhere between Fort Lauderdale and Finland.

I’m embracing myself, I say. I’m just admitting that I suck at this.

But it’s more than that, if I’m being honest.  It’s more than that.  I’ve lived here for a year without a dresser or blinds.  Without a phone that isn’t shattered or pillowcases my old roommate’s cat didn’t chew.  One day I woke up and realized that I wasn’t ready to settle in because I still hadn’t been able to admit I’d ended up here.  I haven’t moved on.  Not in theory, not in life.  Not at all.

*****

People forget, and I try to forget, but I can’t.

TOSHIBA TRANSFERS II 1709

The word “bride” made me itchy. I couldn’t wear it, it didn’t fit.  I was terrible at ogling place settings and invitations.

Every sales clerk at every bridal store had pitched it the same.

“He’s English!” They’d squeal.  “You’re going to live in Barcelona!” They’d shriek.

“It’s a fairytale!”

And I would nod, awkwardly, with a white dress 6 sizes too big clipped to me with the big orange bridal store clamps I’ve discovered they use to strap the samples on you.  The dresses never felt right, but I loved him fiercely, and he and I were going to build the life I’d always thought was out of reach.

The engagement was, truthfully, a dream come true.  Embracing everything I’d ever wanted with the man who always made me laugh and kissed me like the world was ending.  No fear, side by side, traveling, living in a foreign country again.  He would grin, sweeping me around in his arms, making plans.  The first place he wanted to take me was Italy.  We’d take weekend trips to Istanbul and buy produce from the farmer’s market by my language school.  We’d live in a shoe box apartment in the Gothic district of Barcelona and give bike tours to tourists, and these would be the years we would talk about for the rest of our lives.

I remember his speech when I brought home the pamphlet for the language school, sighing with longing.

“Why don’t you just go?  You go to school and I’ll work.  You never let anyone do anything for you.  You don’t trust anyone to love you enough.  Let me do this for you… with you.”

And suddenly all the feelings I was never sure I’d have for anyone hit me breathless.  I wanted to marry him, and I knew it.

Three weeks later on one knee, he pushed his grandmother’s ring onto my finger.  Everything I never knew I wanted, I had.

It’s been fifteen months since everything came crashing to the ground.

How do I ever explain how piece by piece, everything fell apart?  The mindfuck of loving a man like him was that his lifelong entitlement and privilege was so complete, he couldn’t even understand why anyone would be upset that all of his promises were empty, and all of his stories were lies.  Every failure he’d ever had he was bailed out of by his wealthy parents.  Everything he’d ever achieved had been purchased for him.  The concept of consequences, that people hurt, that people cared, was lost on him.

When I gave notice at my job he was lying about filing our marriage license.  When I was breaking my lease he was lying about getting a job in Spain to support us.  We had planned to sell his house to purchase a home in Barcelona when it turned out – the house didn’t belong to him.  His parents were bankrolling the charade.  He’d attempt to get off on technicalities and I would angrily force the truth – none of those games mattered.  We were adults.  Trust mattered.  Respect mattered.  Responsibility mattered.  He shrank from me, deflated in realizing his grandiose claims of taking care of us were just an empty boast.  He fell off the grid for a week.  He claimed he didn’t have a phone charger but posted on social media.  I told him I didn’t care where he’d been or what he’d done.  It didn’t matter.  He was nothing to make a husband of.  He was nothing at all.

My job was gone, my home was gone, I had sold my car and spent out my savings on the wedding.  Everything I had worked so hard for my entire life was broken, wasted on this useless man, who thought nothing of what he had cost me. I thought that love meant finally trusting someone with something important, and when finally I opened up to it, I was stripped of everything I had.

In the wake of everything I lost, I collapsed in on myself.  I turned off my facebook, I didn’t return calls.  I cut out everyone who looked at me cross eyed or said an unkind word.  Nothing but a bundle of frayed threads, terrified that if you touch me, I’ll all but come unraveled.

I cried when I saw pictures of old friends together, and I burned the contract for my wedding venue.  I vowed never to lose so much to anyone, ever, ever again.

My dream of traveling the world with someone I loved was just that, a dream.  And looking behind at the wreckage of my life I feel that I can’t take on a single thing if I have to worry that it will be taken away from me, because I just don’t have the strength to watch another thing I love fall apart.  How could finally giving my trust, the best of myself, leave everything in pieces?

Everything I ever wanted broken, lost, and left behind.

***

A year later, after reassembling my life, my heart is still reeling from my losses.  I’ve been wandering through life in some sort of aimless haze, somehow all stuck together on the outside – I got a job, a car, and an apartment again – but hollow on the inside.  Cracked and empty.  I have trouble feeling anything.  These little activities with Lauren make me feel more human.  It’s Christmas, so we’re going to buy a tree topper.  It’s the thing to do.

Lauren and I are strolling aimlessly through the Culver City Target, picking out wrapping paper and buying trash bags.  We talk about the holiday and her latest job interview.  She turns to the wreaths and bows, and I, restless, veer off into the clearance ornaments that no one in the past month felt were worth $6.95.

My eyes feeling glassy, half in and half out of head, I pause to gather myself.  And that’s when I see it.  A little glittery globe.  A shiny promise of the planet.  I pick up the ornament and feel my heart warm with love and desire.  Enticed and enchanted, I hold it for a moment, and walk to the front of the store.

A discount ornament with flecks of dried hot glue, a ball of cheap glitter all over my clothes, and yet… it’s something.  I decide that I want something for the first time in a long time.  Suddenly strong enough to risk another loss.  In the flick of a heartbeat, something in me wakes up.  I am not whole yet, but I am healing.

I clutch the globe to my chest, intent on making it mine.  And though I promise myself to do my best not to break it, lose it, or leave it, I know that if my best leaves it shattered to pieces, or stranded in a suitcase in Belgium, my heart will learn to love something once again.

And in the mean time, I’ve got the world on a string.

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Complex

I was in Costa Rica with Michelle for 10 days.

In ten days you talk.

A day of frothy rum drinks and too much sun leads to the tumbling of secrets as we dig our toes into the sand and lean across our beachfront table towards each other. We talk about how I stood on a short board, the potency of her anger at her absent father, how even I don’t approve of the guy I’ve been seeing.

We talk about my desire to be loved. About my relationship with my mother.

“You’re… complex.”  She said.

I’m glad she said complex instead of complicated. I’m only complicated if you’re trying to solve me. Undo me and put me into neat little piles. If you want to know me – to swivel, pull, lick, grab, beg, and wonder… then I am complex. A messy past and a hopeful future.  A mismatched barricade hobbled together out of thrift store furniture. A Cubist painting with a sideways smile you could never appreciate unless you’re up close and in person.

I don’t need to be simple. I am what I am. I just don’t want a lack of simplicity to be treated as an error that needs correcting.

I am what I am.

And I am, it seems, complex.

Run

Airports.

They’re all well and good and exciting until you’ve got a four hour delay ahead of you.  Stuck elbows deep in poorly made frappacinos and rumpled US Weekly’s… I am waiting for the plane to touch down.

I’m on the phone, arguing with the latest entry in a long line of mistakes.  My fingers turning cold from nervously running around the rim of a tall iced tea for the better part of an hour; the strangers pressing, forcing forward against the black tape that separates them from their loved ones, holding off for touchdown.  From back near the Starbucks they look like an impatient ocean.  Swelling in ebbs and flows.  Waiting.

Everyone is tired, hungry, bored, and probably writhing in anticipation.  We’ve been waiting all day on an international flight.  We have agendas with old loved ones and near strangers, and I am peeling the whites from my fingernails.

I hang up the phone.

There’s a previous flight that touches down, full of someones from somewhere.  The ocean bursts forward in an explosion.  It’s chaos.  People are screaming out in languages I don’t recognize.  The flight attendants are shoving people back behind the lines, a man with an accent is being dragged towards the door by the police, but in the midst of it it… there’s this girl.

The girl in the red shoes.

She can’t be more than twenty.  She’s probably not even eighteen.  And her arms are hung tight around a boy, face pressed into his chest.  His head is down, nose in her hair, and the bags at their feet, the noise, the crowd…. they’re forgotten.  I can see her body heave a sigh that carries out with it all the time she’d been waiting.

Slowly the ocean of travelers calms.  The girl in the red mary janes picks up one of the boy’s bags and smiles.  The airport is as it was and the people come and go.  I am still waiting for VS107.

I can feel the weight of her happiness lingering in the room – that particular joy, that youthful brand of crazy – and suddenly I wonder if anyone saw her but me, and if anybody cared.  I stare back at anxious crowd and wonder why it’s so rare to see anyone much older that she is running forward, falling into someone’s arms with tears or excitement or passion.  Maybe really, truthfully, I’m not wondering about the state anybody’s in but me.  I’d like to believe it’s still inside me.  The excitement, the abandonment.  To F* all the world when you see what you want.  To rush towards it with open arms and let yourself rest in it.  Emptied out and safe.  I’d like to think it’s still there.

I toss the last of my drink and join the ocean.  Forty-five minutes later my toes are giving out for standing high on them to see over the crowd, and I’m wondering if I should just give up and wait outside.  I’m too small to see over the swell.  The crowd is pressing forward and the airline employees start to rush against the tide.  I bite my lip, near resignation, edging towards the door…

Until I get the smallest glimpse of the person I’m waiting for, and my feet can’t carry me fast enough… the world starts sliding past me, as I break into a run.

Shots.

The shot glass from France was stolen along with my passport. Also with all of my makeup, and my favorite dress. The shot glass from London was mostly dissolved when a well meaning college roommate soaked it in boiling hot water along with the rest of the crusty dishes in the common room. Even my adventures are beginning to eat themselves alive.

My shot glass from Jamaica, like many of my shot glasses, isn’t a glass at all. This one is a wooden carving, whittled by hand into a deep green well with a small bird and the word J-A-M-A-I-C-A spelled out ever so carefully on the side in a scrawl that looks like it belongs to a child.

Today I open the kitchen cabinet to find that my shot glass from Jamaica has been turned nearly to dust by some sort of wood boring insect. It’s split down the middle right to the base and sitting in a dusty pile of it’s former self.

How fitting.

Each and every adventure, actually. How fitting.

I scoop the thing up, not having any desire to unleash a bug that can eat 100 times it’s body weight into my apartment, but also feverishly searching for a way to preserve my memory before it eats me out of house and home.

These shot glasses, these silly little dollar things, are all that I take back with me from whence I came. No trinkets or toys, no postcards, no jewelry. Just one bitter-sweet dose of lightheadedness from each and every place.

Because I’m American, and because I am foolish, I believe that most problems can be solved with strong bleach and water brought to a boil. So I pour too much Clorox into a pot I never want to see again, and submerge my piece of the island into a disinfectant baptismal.

“How hot,” I yell to my roommate, “Do you think tree bark would have to be to kill a termite?”

She cocks her head to the side like I’m nuts.

I’m probably nuts.

The truth is that I could go back to Jamaica eventually. I could mail order a new shot glass, even if it wouldn’t be the same. It wouldn’t be cheating. I went there, I earned it, and I can’t help it if my memory was devoured. But I don’t want the article, however genuine, if it’s off of Ebay. I guess I just want to take the long way to the things I love. It’s the only way I feel like it means something. And I have no desire to go back to Jamaica.

I have a confession to make. No matter how much fun I have in a place, I never want to go back. It will never be quite right or just so again, and I know it. So I pick up a shot glass, drink to the memory, spin the globe and let my fingers do the walking. I can’t really explain it, but no matter how much I’ve loved (and sometimes, I have truly, deeply loved) a place, I just can’t find it within myself to go back.

I always want something else. Not necessarily something better. Just a flavor I haven’t tasted yet.

I remember England. The purple flowers pushing through the snow on the ground and the boy I loved standing in them, throwing rocks at my window.

I remember Thailand. The heat of the night sticking to my skin and slithering down my back. I remember the strangers who gave us the ride home. I remember clinging to a crying friend in the streets of Chang-Mai while his secrets tumbled out to me – and thinking nothing could be more tragic, or beautiful, or complicated than what was happening to me that very minute.

My wheels are always turning. Take me to Israel, I say. Better to burn in a bombing than rot in a cubicle. Turn me into something on fire.

Still, my mind is a jumble. When you never stop moving you have to ask yourself why it is exactly that you can’t stand still. And I can’t rid myself of the pounding, persistent thought…

“You are not the first 27 year old to want to devour the planet”.

It’s true. And I know it. And yet here I am, playing out the planet like some sort of twisted drinking game. Consume, consume, consume.

What am I thinking? Are snowballs in Sweden changing my life? Getting my passport stolen in Paris certainly didn’t. Was it really that different getting high in Amsterdam then in the back of my boyfriend’s garage?

Garbage in, garbage out. Consume, consume, consume…

I’ve walked barefoot on temples in Thailand, and touched a golden Buddha the size of a building. I’ve danced along with the St. Patrick’s day parade in Ireland.

Maybe just wanting more is enough. Maybe wanting to see outside of yourself is enough. Maybe discover and desire is enough.

I rinse the shot glass out to find the wood has swollen shut, and there no longer appears to be a split down the middle. I turn it over in my hand, wondering if there’s a creature I don’t know of that could have survived 45 minutes of an unannounced two hundred degree hot spring. Slowly… doubting… against everything I know to be wise, I rise on tip toe and place the shot glass back on the second self from the top.

Quick. Somebody save me from myself.

Things I Learned When I was 21

A few weeks before my twenty second birthday, I decided to write a list of the things I had learned in the previous year.  Year after year I look back to this list, and laugh not only at how true it remains, but how reflective it is of being precisely twenty one years old.  It was a time of discovery and stupidity.  I had a lot of both.  I like to re-post this each year to remind myself of where I was, and where I’m going.

THINGS I LEARNED WHEN I WAS TWENTY-ONE

Wherever I go, there I am. Disappointing, but true.

The best way to get free ANYTHING is to go out dressed as a naughty nurse.

Working full time and simultaneously attending school full time is the death of everything you hold dear. Only do that if you enjoy watching all of your health, sanity, and relationships deteriorate.

Travel. Travel travel travel. There is so much world out there and you can’t die knowing that you didn’t bother with most of it. Go get you some.

Drinking a third of a bottle of Jäger in a bathroom stall will not necessarily make you vomit, but downing a Guinness immediately afterwards will probably put you over the edge.

Hot tubs, S’mores, margaritas, high heels, bikinis, and my girls are the stuff dreams are made of.

It isn’t worth seeing the greatest sights in the world with people who don’t care about you, it’s a wasted opportunity for a grand adventure.   Experience life with those who love you, otherwise it’s not worth living.

Mono sucks. I mean really really really sucks.

Love is in the touch of a friend.

If you see your ex’s parents, be super nice to them. What goes around comes around.

Garages can be comfy places to live. Better than cars anyway. Make friends with spiders.

Double Decker busses, like everything else in life, will only get old if you let them.

My mom is an all-seeing, all knowing being.

It shouldn’t be too scary being who you really are, because those that love you best, love you no matter what you do, say, believe, or don’t believe.

Europe really is everything it’s cracked up to be.

Body boarding might rip your nose ring out, but it’s still totally worth it.

Every good relationship should have a million inside jokes, including but not limited to barn animal names, salty nut sundaes, Scrumsquatullating, “Space chair”, putting Johnny Depp in Princess Sophia for a little ride, and bumpin’ knees with nacho cheese.

Change is inevitable, and often painful. Buck up. Run into it with fists flying and make it suit you. Embrace that which you don’t understand because it still happens to be what you’ve got. If all else fails, buy a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, get your cat, call a friend, and watch a movie with explosions instead of a romance.

Nothing compares to a lazy day spent laughing over old family guy episodes while drinking beer and eating pizza with your favorite British person.

Tanning beds give you cancer, but even your parents will tell you that you look great.

Catching bouquets at weddings should be avoided at all costs. Even if they hit you in the chest.

It turns out the best thing my momma ever taught me was that you can get upgraded tires with a delicate mixture of tears and cleavage. Thanks mom.

Don’t kiss everyone you know on New Years just because it’s New Years. January 2nd, things might feel awkward.

College has a four year way of neatly wrapping itself up. Bands break up, friends get married, and everyone starts packing.

Mistakes are just that. Mistakes. Tattoos on the other hand, are permanent etchings on your body.

Your ex-boyfriends are your EX-boyfriends for a reason.

You will get hurt, badly, playing football in a hallway.

It’s bad to make the same mistake over and over expecting that it will work out well this time.

Family is the best thing to ever happen to me.

Mayonnaise on french fries actually isn’t all that bad.

The dorms are all fun and games until you’ve been living there for four years. Free rent can only get you so far.

Politicians, the guy who fixes my tires, and the ring finger on my right hand are crooked. There are some things we all just have to learn how to live with.

Everyone should find a person who will have adventures with them and cling to that person for the rest of their life. The mundane is a slow and painful death. Creativity is like a sunrise every second.

Nobody should ever have to live anywhere without access to, or the ability to make a little music.

It’s a bad idea to admit what you’re thinking most of the time. It’s only going to get you into trouble.

School is just not that important.

Laughing loud enough to get kicked out of somewhere is a GOOD thing.

Always live somewhere that has a bathroom.

Butt charades is an effective means of communication.

Plastic purses can effectively carry all the sand you might ever want from the beach to your dorm room.

Studio apartments =   

Long distance relationships =   :<

No bar in America truly knows how to make a snakebite.

Fanny means vagina in England.

The best things in life are free, but it costs a lot in gas money and airplane tickets to get to those things.  😉