Monday, April 7, 2014

I want to go home.

Photo attribution here

My parents divorced when I was eight. My mom took my siblings and I out of school early one day after they separated and we left on a "vacation" never to return. We stayed in California for a bit with family, then moved to Utah for a year or two. After that, the siblings that hadn't chosen to move back to my dad's house, my mom, my step dad and new little brother along with two of my five step sisters moved back to California into a place where there are three types of people. 1. The law. (Cops who don't want to raise their kids in LA so they make the 2 hours commute daily) 2. Those hiding from their past or the law. (Can't tell you how many kids from my high school there have died of an overdose. So sad.) and 3. Members of the witness protection program. I wish that was a joke, but it's not. Rural and isolated don't even begin to describe the bizarre universe that was my home for seven years.

By the time I hit my late teens I decided I would be better off living with my dad again. On my 17th birthday I packed up and transferred schools in the middle of my junior year of high school. It was not a smooth transition. I kept telling myself that I was just going to leave for college soon anyway, so I didn't want or need to make any connections there. After that phase there has been ten years of bouncing from one idea, one place, one school, one beach to another. 

Being quite unlike most Mormons I know, but loving the gospel with gusto, I have always felt an intense longing for my people. This coupled with my transient past made for an intense desire to find my place in the world. The long story short of that saga culminated (or so I thought) in my marriage to The Mr. and moving into our apartment in Long Beach, CA. I had finally, finally, finally found my place in the world. For a short time I lived this moment where I was satisfied with the life I'd created. I had found my home. 

Part of grieving my divorce is reconciling the loss of that brief moment of my place in the universe being found. I spent last summer in California with Sassy McLadyBoots and, after my first day of work as a nanny for the summer, felt this intense urge to drive "home" as I had hundreds of times after my nanny job in the neighboring city during my married life. I braved the traffic and spent the 45 minutes in the commute I made daily as a wife. I pulled up and parked next to the apartment complex I left my heart in and sat for a time. I then spent an afternoon walking the streets of the abandoned foundation of my marriage. After that, I wrote this:

July First, Twenty Thirteen
I am in love with the city of Long Beach

This one time I was married to a man who couldn’t see me. I’m tall and bright and was standing right there, so by all accounts it doesn’t add up. When we married we settled in Long Beach, California. To him it was rough enough around the edges and equidistant from our places of employment. To me it was everything that’s right with the world. The third day of house hunting he told me to make up my mind already. God picked me up that day after work and set me down on the corner of 3rd and Junipero and in that moment, I knew.

Constructed in the 1920s, Spanish tile roof with hardwood floors, crystal doorknobs and quirky neighbors. When I brought him to it that night in spastic adoration the courtyard was lit with twinkle lights and inhabited by lovely lesbians sipping a red wine over cigarettes.

After moving in I at first mistook my enthusiasm for the city as just another element of the blissful sneaker wave of matrimony crashing down around me and turning everything upside down. This satiated longing in my gypsy soul explains at least partially why it took me so long to notice and accept that in the beginning he was just “tired”, then distant, then angry, then mean. He moved back to his neck of the woods, and in an ultimately self-sacrificial demonstration I pulled myself, kicking and screaming from the only place I could ever, in truth, call home.

Today I walk the streets heartsick and sobered, but inescapably on the verge of an orgasm of the soul at the sheer perfection that is my city. Ocean waves, calm and gentle lapping at the shore; kiss after kiss after caress the sea makes endless love to my city. Latin lovers have salsaed themselves into tree nymphs. Her leafy hair still holds the blossom. His skin on the branches that suspend her in perpetual elegance is smooth like glass. Stained glass in the windows of the churches of every denomination.  Tibetan Christians, Lutherans, Muslims. Thick air settles in your car, your hair, your skin – sticky, like a memory you just can’t shake.

The buildings are corporate and creaking, stable and filthy, artful and average, because here in my kingdom by the sea, you can be anything you want to be. Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles and yoga in the park, open to the public and interrupted by a pickup game of soccer. A sexy, sweaty, stinky group of dark eyed Latinos at home scoring goals in my city.

The birds of paradise and palm trees are jazzercising in fluorescent purple, green and orange; sweating it out with the rest of us. The air is dirty and the cars are clean and glistening in the sun – or they’re not. The food is unapologetic in its -love me or leave me- essence and the freeways mock your impatience and lazily roar curses in stereotypically colorful language. Even the garbage cans lining streets are purple.

And everywhere I go in this town, so starkly juxtaposed, I see him and me. That endlessly awkward night at dinner. The time he slept in the car. The long walk I took down the pier when he started to change, desperate to clear my head of early signs of warning. The alley where we both giggled and kissed for the engagement shoot, and loaded up the moving van. The place I stared while we sat in our car and he told me he couldn’t love me if I couldn’t start being happy.

These memories, these blackened, charcoal, cancer coated moments growing stale in a dying corner of my mind—these are the only things I do not love about my city. These are the only things I would change.

I was married only a moment compared to the average divorcee, but I understand at least a taste of the sense of loss of place. I went to a support group once where a woman talked about the hours she'd spent driving around in her car, not wanting to return to her disrupted home and life. That's an element of this road we walk. Will I ever return to Long Beach to build my life again? 


Or maybe not.

So much there I love and so much there I can't recover. I'll tell you what though, wherever I end up, however it goes, I'll make a life worth loving. I'll find my hardwood floors and crystal doorknobs in a brand new city full of streets I haven't walked, food I've never tasted, challenges yet to be discovered, miracles I have not yet fathomed, dust that's never settled over my not-yet-discovered vintage treasures, and people I have not yet had a chance to love, but I will love them. I'm going to keep loving, looking for and building the good and the best. Because despite the way I've been hurt, that's still who I am. That's who I choose to be.  



    1. I'm sorry, did you say something about loving? I wasn't really clear on that... : p
      Love you too, lady face!