What a fun week it’s been! I haven’t disliked a rollercoaster ride that much since early 2004, when, to avoid what would have been a relationship-ending fight, I got onto The Medusa at Six Flags, which turned out to have been something which is known as a Supercoaster, which seemed more like a suicide machine to me, but without the inherent fun of taking your own life. But unlike that experience, it seems that I cannot exit this ride, and steadfastly refuse to get onto another for the rest of my time here. Also, I’m not sure what kind of metaphor I can make from Dippin’ Dots, but I want to go on record as saying that they were an abomination which managed to lessen my love for frozen treats and tiny snacks of all types. That was a truly horrible day for me. Actually, to be fair, that entire time was one which I would almost rather forget entirely. It summed up everything that I disliked about my life during my twenties, and were it not for the lessons which were hammered into me, I would block out that time entirely from my mind. I haven’t really shared a lot of my relationship with La Diabla with all of you, and I guess that it’s probably the time.
First, a little backstory: I left Seattle in January of 2003, leaving behind my family on the invitation of my friend to come and live in California and see palm trees. It was a twenty-two hour train ride, and when I arrived in Emeryville, California, I was ready to put my past behind me. It took me about a month to find a job, but I wound up getting in at the new Fuddrucker’s in the local open-air mall. It was only six months between my hire date and my first promotion. I’d poured myself into the job, sacrificing a social life in search of the almighty dollar, pausing only to blow of steam with Fed by drowning our sorrows in a frightening quantity of booze (which I could now buy in almost any store, including the Pack N’ Save next door). But two guys, no matter how good of friends they may be, cannot share a one-bedroom apartment for six months without discovering that they hold within them the secret desire to destroy the other. That, and Fed’s mom was coming to visit, and she’d made it clear how much she disapproved of me.
So, faced with more money, but nowhere to live, I paid for a couple of weeks at the Extended Stay America down the road, and invited my new baker to share place when I wasn’t there. She also needed somewhere to hang her hat, and worked mornings, while I was the closing manager. I should have known better. I’d been working with her for a little while, and had seen that everyone in the restaurant was falling over themselves to try and get with her. I took one look at her, and then back down at my expanding waistline, and suddenly felt peace wash over me, as I realized that she was so far out of my league, that it wasn’t even worth my time to dream. Ironically, it is probably my lack of interest which put me on her radar. I was the only one who was truly able to play it cool, because I knew that we would never be together. Honestly, I didn’t even have an ulterior motive for offering to share a hotel room with her for a fortnight. I was just trying to help someone out, and lessen the financial impact upon myself. And so it might have been, had we not celebrated her “birthday” toward the end of our stay with one another.
We invited all of our coworkers with whom we were friendly over to our room, and drank a few bottles of some type of liquor or another, until it was time for everybody else to go home. Nami and I hadn’t really had a chance to speak with each other during our stay there, but we’d grown… accustomed to each other, and begun to feel comfortable together. The booze played a part, as did the meddling of our friends, but that night, after everyone else had gone, we sat down and spoke about our feelings. One thing led to another, and we decided that we’d stick it out together as a couple, which turned out to be a good thing, at least at first, as our time was up at the Extended Stay, and the only way that we could scrounge up the necessary cash to move into an apartment was to join forces and move in together. It also helped that I had a nasty habit of falling in love at the drop of a hat, and once hooked, that was it. For the first (and possibly only) time in my life, my apathy seemed to have scored results.
We were both young, and better at drinking and fighting than at common sense (much like a couple of kids I know quite well), and before long, we discovered that we were going to be parents. I took the news with all the composure of someone who has suddenly discovered that nothing he knew was what he had imagined it to be. By the time I got back from my walk to the liquor store, she had begun freaking out, and I was forced to do my best to put on a face of resigned serenity. I was going to be a dad. I began experiencing an existential crisis. It wasn’t that I was afraid of fatherhood, in the traditional sense. Rather, I was suddenly faced with impossibility of bowing out early. I looked into the future, a future where I still existed, and it terrified me. No matter where I tried to find my center, it seemed always just out of reach. So I did the one thing that I could think of, the one thing which I thought would fix the growing problems in our relationship, and calm the terror just beneath my skin: I proposed to her.
When I mentioned Nami’s “birthday” earlier, it was in presented as such because that summer date was not actually her date of birth. In reality, it was just a few days after mine. With hardly any cash, I went to The Diamond Exchange, and put the down payment on a set of wedding bands. On her birthday, I dropped down to one knee and proposed. She said yes, and I (stupidly) thought that I’d managed to solve our problems once and for all. That spring, we went up to Seattle so that she could meet my family. It was then that we discovered that we just couldn’t make it work. We’d been to Six Flags, where she’d tried to surprise me with a fun day out doing something which I’d never wanted to do, and since then we’d been walking on eggshells around one another. By the time we started fighting on The Island, I think that we were both out of ideas on how to fix the negativity between us.
When we got back to California, she made the decision to abort the baby. She insisted that we tell everyone it had been a miscarriage. True to my word, I never said otherwise until we finally broke up. The final straw in the drama which had become our lives, was when she brought her line cook over to our apartment and… Well, I think you get the idea. By this time, she was also physically violent with me, and in trying to restrain her arms so that she could not strike me (because I still thought that if I could just love her enough, I could fix everything), it left bruises on her arms. Her best friend, who didn’t care for me, was actually the one to stand up to her and tell her to quit saying that I was beating her. She’d been working in the San Francisco store for the past few months (where she found that line cook), and her boss over there decided that he was going to come and “beat my ass.” Due to mismanagement, the owners had to close that store, and I wound up having to incorporate their staff in with my own. Except Nami. She was where I drew the line.
I’m sorry this has been so rambling. I guess the wounds aren’t all as closed as I had believed. The point which I have so spectacularly failed to make is that my twenties, much like my late teens, were defined by my inability to accept the fact that I hadn’t died, and that I believed that unconditionally loving someone would fix everything. For almost the entire time that Nami and I were together, I’d been trying to figure out how I’d managed to snag someone so far out of my league. It wasn’t until I took into account the person who she was inside, that everything began to come together. I understood why her “friend” would kick her to the curb. And I began to understand that I was unquestionably attracted to women who were absolutely wrong for me. I lost a son who never drew a breath (though it was probably for the best that he was never born). I faced the failures of myself and things in which I so fervently believed. And, for the first time in my life, I looked at the repetitions in my life, and tried to learn something from them.
But I also managed to prove to myself that my ethics were more than just convenient lies I told myself to feel better while looking in the mirror. It should be obvious by now that she was here without permission (why she had both a work and personal birthday). My friends wanted to call in the big guns and have her forcibly removed from this country. I said no. The only person who her presence had hurt was me, and that wasn’t enough for me to criminalize her. I pushed aside my dreams of vengeance, and threw myself into a pattern of comfortably self-destructive behavior instead. But were it not for La Diabla, I doubt that I would have been aware enough to understand how much of a wonderful chance which my Wildflower would represent. I’d vowed to make my life everything that it hadn’t been when I had been with Nami. And really, that choice describes how I now look back upon my early twenties. I lost a decade before I found my wife, and I’m only now beginning to realize that it is not too late to try and give that loss some meaning.