I am sitting in my apartment in the mostly-dark on a Saturday afternoon. I’ve been knitting, and Raven is down with a migraine. I am savoring the quiet, but there is a part of me that is on incredibly high alert. The same part of me that watched my siblings while our mom had migraines, the same part of me that has never figured out exactly how to relax and stop paying attention to the quiet noises, the subtle moments.
Still, as I’m knitting, my thoughts have time to spread out, oozing into the ridges and cracks in my brain, and I find myself tasting the flavors of the various lives I have led.
I am thinking of bright, good days in Los Angeles, of driving to Santa Monica and walking near the beach, of stopping in Westwood for cheap ice cream sandwiches at Diddy Riese. Those chocolate chip cookies, with their crisp edges and soft centers, filled with mint-chip ice cream that always melted almost as fast as a person could eat it. I am thinking of hiking up near the observatory, my shoes filled with dust and sand while the wind whipped at my clothes, trousers inappropriate for hiking but I barely knew any better then.
I am thinking of dark days in Los Angeles, too, dark days when I lived in the pink house with my sister and my niece and I kept my possessions in boxes and slept on a futon with no sheets. Nights when I drank myself to sleep to shut out all of the misery, nights when I didn’t and all of the misery came in. The days and months and years that I lived in that ridiculous little studio apartment with a man who refused to be my boyfriend but also wouldn’t let me go, who told me how awful I was at everything while also telling me I could be so much more. I remember my days working at the architecture firm more vividly than I have in a long time, remember the faces I never grew to care for and the strange tasks I was asked to do. The utter uselessness of the position combined with the constant terror of doing something wrong.
I am thinking of evenings in bars in Chinatown, listening to bands play that I didn’t particularly care for, fueling myself with vodka and frozen yogurt, diet coke and cigarettes, always running until I crashed, and then picking myself up to run again. So many losses – wallets and keys and social security cards and clothes and love and direction and friendships and time.
I remember evenings when my sister was out of the house, figuring out what to make for dinner for my niece while she refused to eat anything that I offered. She always eventually ate macaroni and cheese, and I vowed to never let my own someday-children live on chicken fingers and macaroni.
I remember the fierce heat of Los Angeles days that invigorated, rather than drained. The heat of New York summers is a completely different beast, less hot but much more ferocious. I remember walking for miles along Wilshire because I couldn’t bear to wait for the bus and I was letting the man who refused to be my boyfriend but who couldn’t let me go use my car for some oh-so-important purpose – an unpaid gig, a practice session with a band, a meetup with one of his girlfriends.
And then I pulled up my roots and left my beloved niece (nieces, by that time) and sister and moved across the country to a place I have hated from the first month I lived here, a city of noise and despair and chaos and importance and endless, endless, endless sadness. And in this city, I have worked through the darkest moments and my life has had such different flavors – subtler, laden with molasses instead of citrus, salty with tears and surprisingly crisp around the edges. I have walked through things I swore I would never walk through, and on the other side I’ve realized – I could do that again if I had to. I’d prefer not to have to, but I certainly could.
I have grown and expanded my thoughts and capabilities. I have found a job I love, where the things I am asked to do are not ridiculous but rather, completely appropriate. I have time to sit in a dim room on a Saturday and write about all of the things I have felt in the past that I don’t feel any longer – I am grateful for this time. I am grateful for the time to come.