It is two months in D.C. and the fiery propulsion that launched me from Charlotte somehow flashes in desublimation to solid stone. The boy I loved, the car I loved, and the job I loved, burned to cinder in the heat of whatever it was that drove me here without a destination. I have four thousand dollars left. I am a shadow of myself again.
I do the only thing I know how to when I feel lost: get on kayak and look up flights. I book the cheapest ticket I can to California. The urgency to leave D.C. rises in me as unrelenting as the need to leave Charlotte did, but this time, for all the wrong reasons. For a boy, for a sorrow, for an escape. I preach about letting the universe give you the right path, about letting it come as it should. Yet each step I force forward is on another land mine.
I sit on the plane to San Francisco and think of nothing but the poet. Of the reasons why I am flying to this city, his city, knowing he is here now. To my friends I say I just need to get out. I just need a break. It’s not him, don’t worry, I just want to explore California. I’ve never been to San Francisco. Of course I’m not going to text him. Exploring the city alone I am walking in his shadow.
It is now eighteen months later, and I reread the words I wrote in the midst of that hurricane. But the blithe winds of my free spirit were all a show. Who was it for? I was stupid to still love him, but more so to pretend I didn’t, to feign insoucient and willfully ignore the decaying stench of what we were. I built a fortress of lace and and prayed my bleary eyes not belie my carefully crafted facade. I was so sure that everything in D.C. was what I was supposed to have that I couldn’t let go. There wasn’t any other way. I had nothing else to hold on to. It had to be him, it had to be there. All of my friends, my freedom, everything I coveted in one small city, yet none of it made sense.
The time I spend trying to forget about the poet with my fuck buddy in San Francisco is precarious and awkward as I poorly play my lighthearted part. He sees through every delicately conceived action and I become an almost empty glass. Nothing stirring around me but a few diluted memories of what used to burn inside. I take what energy I can from a city I quickly grow to love, but will never withstand the vacuum collapsing me in upon myself. Each brick and spark of personality and spirit I ever had was born from a confidence I could never explain. It came as effortlessly to me as everything else in my life, and left just the same. With that gone, with the whole structure crumbling upon my tiny feet, I am seventeen again. Desperate and insecure.
I have nothing left to lose, nothing left to look forward to, except New Zealand. When Janine calls to tell me the trip is cancelled, I manage to spit out one struggled sentence,”I’m sorry love, I gotta go.” I let the tears overwhelm me in Alamo Square.
And in that moment, my fortress is razed. I’m not fooling anyone and the universe was never buying it anyway. Nothing is right, this isn’t what I need no matter how much I want it to be, and it is time to listen to something other than my own misguided desires. For the first time since left Charlotte, I am honest with myself. In these moments when you think you have the least is when you always find the most.
When I get back to Danny’s that evening I prepare the same smile I had waiting for him before, but the pretense that had been exhausting me has dissolved. I confess the chaotic calamity of everything I wanted turning to dust. Eliding the fact that it was suffocating me, I admit in earnest I have no fucking idea what I am doing. And as if the universe had been watching, and waiting, for my inevitable confession, everything falls into place.
“Who cares if your friends can’t go. Why don’t you just move to New Zealand?”
With that statement, like a bridge that materializes with each step taken forward, the world opens itself up to me without a hurdle or a second thought. And in turn, the woman I once knew myself to be effloresces from the shriveled bud to which I had withered. With tickets bought and visas approved in less than a day there is not a shred of doubt that what I am doing is what I am meant to be doing. The feeling is inextricable from me. I am at once bound to it and free because of it. I can never ignore it again.
Some may say I was running away the day I bought that one way ticket, fleeing my debt, my country, and my heartbreak on a whim without a plan or a purpose. But knowing everything I know now, with that feeling still flowering in me each step I take, I know it is what I will always be running towards.