Yesterday I couldn’t feel my feet when I ran in the dirt around the reservoir. My legs were numb. Two miles in and nothing but helium in my skin. My brain hovered above me, watching. What’s different about today? I thought.
Did I eat sugar? Am I dehydrated? Am I hungry? In the nearby grass, a toddler carried a big red ball that was so enormous he could barely hold it and walk at the same time. He couldn’t see over the ball, and hobbled along then finally lost his balance. He wobbled and I thought he’d fall on his ass, but he didn’t. He carried the ball further until he reached his parent. That sums up the magnitude of love lost. Maybe we’re not supposed to get over it; maybe loss a big red ball we carry with us while forge ahead on shaky legs.
Most would agree that break ups are horrendous, but the one that changed me the most was Sean. Sean reeked of pot and donuts and had electric moss green eyes and deep brown skin and Angelina Jolie lips. He was in a band and rode motorcycles and had anger issues and Mom issues and ex-girlfriends who followed him around for years and he would occasionally fuck them, especially after we’d had a fight.
I moved from SF to LA even though everyone said, “never move to another city for a guy.” Initially, I broke it off. “I’m not moving to LA. I hate LA,” I’d said. Three months later I moved in with him into a shitty duplex apartment off Sunset Boulevard. It was lime green and looked like the scummy projects in the Mission in SF. We had to turn up the TV loud to drown out the sound of our Russian neighbors hocking loogies morning and night.
When I walked outside to go to across the street to the gas station for water and gum, I smiled at them. They glared at me from their stoop with lavender hair and clashing animal prints.
Our shitty building was packed full of skinny, beautiful models who left their extra small g-strings in the laundry room. I’d gotten fat and resented them so I stole their panties in retaliation.
Sean and I fought and broke up a lot. Not like my Mom and step dad with broken glasses and black eyes and police. Sean blocked the doorway one night when I tried to leave, but I ran out and slammed the door behind me-that was my scream.
I got in my 1978 brown Chevy disco Nova that looked like it was lifted out of a swamp with the paint peeling off and windows that didn’t open or close. It had no air conditioner and no FM radio. Only AM so I listened to country and evangelical talk shows while I drove around the corner and into the parking lot of the Trader Joe’s where we survived on watery $4.17 turkey meat for months. We were scary broke.
I don’t remember what we fought about-maybe that, but I was on my knees and hopeless; frustrated and entitled and sad. I’d been a rich stripper in SF for over ten years, had a BA and was not used to being told, “No.” I couldn’t find a job and no one gave a shit about my degree or my year of counseling experience. I wanted a job in Los Angeles that wasn’t stripping or doing bachelor parties but all my job leads were dry.
After a sleepless night of fighting with Sean, I said with a terrible clarity, “Marry me or let me go while I’m still cute.”
“I can’t do this,” he said looking at the computer, with his back to me.
Outside the rain shot down like a horse pissing on a rock. I drove away and sat in a parking lot of a gym. Go Home, I thought. Drive back to SF. The phone rang. “Can you come in for an interview today?” I’d forgotten my friend Jen mentioned a receptionist gig at her law firm. “Yes.”
With somewhere to go, I got on the ten freeway. The rain beat down on the windows and my windshield wipers squeaked. The rain never let up. I missed stripping; standing before strangers naked, performing on stage and making over $700 a night. I had a handful of quarters and about two friends. I felt fat, invisible and ugly.
I left my bed and the cat and plants and stayed with my friend Rose until I had to go back to the shitty apartment to pack my U-Haul.
“I didn’t know what else to do.” Sean said. “You were so unhappy here.”
I packed the U-haul with the same things I moved from SF, plus a cat and the plants and my bed. On the ride to Silverlake the cat howled like it was being murdered, and I sobbed like I had murdered the cat. Sleeping in my bed without Sean felt like waking up in a foreign country. Time and space slid around my feet and I held a big red ball of loss and tried to see the road ahead through tears, stumbled and fell, then found my footing again.