Previously on Nayrotica…
And with that, we were off to the bus station, riding in silence. As we pulled up, I thanked her again and told her that I would be in touch this week with updates on the training, and grabbed my things out of the trunk before closing the passenger door. As I crossed back around to shut the door I noticed that she had rolled the window down. Slamming the door, I was about to say goodbye when she turned and looked at me through the open window, “Nathan? This isn’t over.” And with that threat, she sped off. I stood there, an imaginary pool of urine growing underneath me. I watched the car kick up dust and audibly sighed,
I dragged my bags behind me and made my way into the bus station. I checked in with the station agent and settled in on a cold, metal bench. I didn’t have to wait terribly long, but long enough that I knew I should take the time to rest before the next storm: the training. Additionally, I was in a sort of shock– a shock of relief. Not only did I manage to get out of harm’s way, but I convinced the wizard to bring me to my eventual escape. Wary of anyone with whom I came into contact, not knowing whether my drop-off was all in the wizard’s grand plan. I sat there, muted but hungry. My stomach betrayed my vow of silence, and so I purchased the packaged nuts from a nearby vending machine. Nibbling on the nuts until the bus arrived, I eventually boarded the tube on wheels, and made my way to Denver. It wasn’t a terribly long commute, but was long enough to take a brief nap.
On the bus, I slept better than I had for the previous couple of weeks. It wasn’t long before the bus came to a halt, and I was stepping off and into the underground garage at Union Station. I made my way up a series of staircases and escalators, finally feeling the sun shining on my face and the mountain air fill my lungs. I breathed it in, twirling on the asphalt like Maria von Trapp on a grassy mountain.
I looked ridiculous, but I didn’t care. I was free– at least for now. I sourced a proper meal at one of the cafés in Union Station and then made my way to the safe-house that took me in when my cover was blown in Denver. Unconditionally on several occasions, the son of my high school English teacher opened his spare bedroom to me, giving me keys and asking no questions. I knew that there, no one would find me, and I didn’t have to answer questions as to why I was on the run. I owe him… big time.
After finding the spare key that he left for me, I dropped my belongings in the spare room, showered, and had a brief laydown. I closed my eyes for a moment, feeling safe and out of harm’s way, slept through the afternoon and into the night.
When I awoke, it was dark outside, so I remained in the shadows and reached for my phone on the floor. As I searched and pawed at the barren floor, I couldn’t seem to find it. I knew I left it there. Finally, my hand brushed over the cord. Finally! I found it, I thought to myself. Pulling the cord through my fingers, I reached the end where the phone was attached and, much to my surprise, it wasn’t there.
“I told you,” a familiar and eerie voice from the corner resonated. It continued, “Looking for something?” I saw the glow of my phone screen floating with a few fingers clasped around it in the dark. “You’re just like the rest… thinking you could get away so easily.”
Still groggy from my long-overdue, restful slumber, I was not sure what was going on– who was that talking in the corner and why was my phone floating in the air? Was it the friend I was staying with? His roommate?
“Still don’t know who I am?” The voice taunted me. “I am the one you want to be with. I am the one who got away. I am the answer to all your questions. Need more?” I knew the voice… it was familiar. Was it the fella? It sounded different than before, but it must have been him. He followed me to Denver? How did he find me?!
“Turn on the light,” I pleaded. “PLEASE!”
The floating phone slowly crossed toward the wall where the light switch lived. I continued, “Hey… about how we left it in Berlin: I am sorry. I am really sorry. My mind wasn’t acting in its completely functional way, and I am back on my meds now– regular dose– and I just want to say sorry for everything. For sabotaging–”
The light switch flipped on and light flooded the room. My eyes took a moment to adjust, watering slightly from the stark shift. As everything came into focus, there standing next to the light switch with my phone in hand was…
I gasped, my eyes widening with every attempt at intake! Pulling for air through a trachea that seemed too small for my body and my heart pounded, practically jumping out of my chest! I sat up in bed, glancing around the dark room; the lights were off again. Why was I suddenly in the darkness? Where did she go?! I looked down and my phone was connected to the charger, glowing lightly in the darkness. I quickly crossed to the light switch, flipping it on, and surveying my surroundings through squinted eyes. She wasn’t there; not even a trace of her existed. I was reeling from what must have been a dream. Once again I was faced with the reality of not knowing how far back the dream had gone. I checked my phone, there was a text from her, “I hope you’re settled in Denver. Can we chat when you get a moment?” None of it was a dream… except for the wizard’s foray into breaking and entering– the rest of it had been real. Very real.
I didn’t want to speak with her– I didn’t want “to chat.” I was, however, stuck with the odd dilemma of being in her employ and not in a position of luxury where I could easily walk away from a paycheck. And so, I chatted with her. She wanted to “clear the air,” but I wanted to do nothing more than move past any conversation of the workshop and wanted to do my job– a job I was good at and required a great deal of attention, therefore I didn’t need or want the added distraction of fending off the advances of a wizard. However, once again, I was faced with the reality that life is difficult and you cannot just step away from something so easily… to keep the metaphorical bridges intact, you must keep lines of communication open. Well, at least until you get paid. And at least until you find the gumption to walk away altogether.
I slayed the training that week– and I communicated like a beast. And with some regret, I rarely saw my gracious host who took me in during my hour of need. Four days later, I was on my way to San Francisco where I would officiate the wedding of one of my best friends and her betrothed.
On my way to the airport on that Thursday evening, I reached out to the happy couple one more time– knowing that their wedding was the next evening, I was still hoping to get their input as to what they wanted in their ceremony. While they provided me a little guidance along the way, they were mostly absent with their wishes for what a perfect ceremony would be for them.
After making my way through yet another security line at the airport, I began to think about my relationship with the bride. We had known each other since I was in the first grade; her dad was the principle of our elementary school; we were friendly growing up, but didn’t become friends until high school when we were both making desperate attempts to carve out our paths in life and she convinced me to buy a bad-boy leather jacket; we listened to the first Britney album on repeat in the basement of her parent’s house during her senior year (my junior year); we worked at the same grocery store. Somewhere between a shared childhood, shopping, Britney Spears, and work war stories we became friends. Once we were both in college, we took a spring break trip together– and on that trip, we drove each other insane! Picking up on whatever weakness the other had (hers was the absolute disdain for the way I sang Shania Twain’s Man, I Feel Like a Woman), we picked at each other for a week in Los Angeles. That trip finalized the foundation on which our relationship was built: a loving antagonism that forever resulted in spars, laughs, and hugs. I would do anything for her– but it was very difficult to write the wedding ceremony for one of your best friends when they refused to give you anything concrete with which to work. After reflecting on our shared history while sitting at the airport gate, I began to write. Of course, her wedding was supposed to be a little more organic than others I have written. Of course, she trusted me to give her a unique and loving tribute. Of course, she chose to focus on other aspects of her wedding– like buying crystals for the wedding party. And so, on that flight to San Francisco during sunset, I wrote the wedding that I had always wanted to write… one that didn’t speak of death and submission and unity candles. Instead, I wrote a ceremony that celebrated life, personal growth, and the union of two powerful individuals.
After taking the time to begin processing my own marriage, one that I was still in the throes of, I wondered what would come of my life with the fella. It hadn’t been so long since we discussed spending a month at our beach home on an island off the coast of Venezuela… I so longed for that month. I would have loved to spend that time getting to know my husband more, but the tone of our relationship was now suited for a more dismal island, perhaps Riker’s or Alcatraz.
It was easy to fall down the rabbit hole of marriage’s loaded history, and so in that moment, I chose to focus on the relationship in front of me that was full of hope, not the one that was likely behind me, full of pitfalls and barbs. My dear friend was getting married to a lovely man, and I wanted to be present and grounded in their happiness.
On the brief flight, I knocked out a solid first draft that would need some tweaks upon landing, but could not step away from it for long as the ceremony was set to take place less than 24 hours later. The flight descended, we deplaned, and I was soon being picked up by another best friend who helped me out and took me under his wing when I needed it. And like my bestie in New York, he was the West Coast answer to her hospitality. (If you haven’t noticed, I am someone who needs saving quite often– there’s a Midwest person of this stature, as well… but we just haven’t gotten to her yet.) My West Coast savior picked me up and soon after we were breaking artisanal toasts and sipping sparkling spring water. We caught up and reflected on the past months– I was still reeling from my marriage and the cult, but could be semi-present. After dinner, we retired to his place where the couch was waiting for me. I decided to table the ceremony adjustments until the morning.
Night passed and I slept like a baby: colicky and in fits of 2 to 3 hours, needing to be fed and have my diaper changed at least once. Upon sunrise, I was awake and silently gathered the essentials (phone, keys, wallet) and my computer so that I could escape to a café and make the edits for the wedding ceremony that would be taking place approximately 10 hours later. I wrote, revised, and shed a few tears in the process, possibly due to being over-caffeinated having consumed 10 to 12 shots of espresso. Yes. 10 to 12 shots. I just kept ordering! I was ready to shake and shimmy back to the amazing loft crash pad where my belongings were stowed and where my West Coast hero was likely sipping on a coffee and wondering where I was. As I walked through the door he greeted me, “Good morning. Were you out having sex?”
Aghast, I dropped my jaw and replied, “Who me?! Never.” We shared a chuckle and I continued, “No!” My mock indignation still glowing. “I was getting coffee and finishing the ceremony.”
“Mmmmhmmm. Sure, Gina. Is that what we are calling it these days?” He countered.
Redoubling my efforts, “I’m serious! I swear. I was not having sex. Not that I am or would be ashamed if I were, but I was honestly working on the ceremony. Do you know how fun/difficult it is to write a ceremony when the bride and groom give you very little to work with??”
“How does the expression go… Methinks the lady doth protest too much?”
I played along, “You’re right. You got me. I was at a gang bang at 7am on a Friday morning.” We laughed more heartily this time. I continued, changing the subject, “So what time do we need to leave to get to the wedding on time?”
The ceremony was taking place at an inn north of the city, across the Golden Gate bridge. We set an early afternoon departure time and puttered around a bit, prepping our day-bags for the journey. On the drive to the inn, we listened to lots of Madonna and he pointed out Danielle Steel’s house, among others. We stopped at the observation landing on the other side of the bridge and looked at the city, the water, and the fog.
It was gorgeous.
As gal pals do, we stopped for lunch at Panda Express, consumed some MSG and were soon again on our way. The roads winded through the cliffs and we had to go all the way up, only to go all the way down the other side of the mountain, towards the water. I white-knuckled the entire drive as the roads were narrow and the shoulders were nearly non-existent. Finally, we saw a clearing ahead and I slowed the car, uncertain if it was our stop. We were unsure, at least, until we saw a woman in white with a veil scamper across the road. That woman, my friend, was not a runaway bride… she was a woman attempting to make it to her wedding photo shoot. Soon, she was on her way and down a path in the forest (or somewhere) and out of sight. We parked the car in a gravel lot that was adjacent to the Inn, and got out for a stretch. There, we were greeted by a bevy of dapper men in well-tailored suits. YES, PLEASE! Alas, most of them were attached, and if they weren’t attached, they weren’t confirmed bachelors, and therefore they would be more work than your average trick. From beyond the sea of bespoke gentlemen, emerged a goddess in a backless, black Tom Ford dress– the other best friend who was a part of a trio with the bride and me. Done up to the nines, she was radiant. As she approached, we hugged with raptor arms as people in formalwear are wont to do, and then I said, “OMG! Turn! That is an amazing dress!” My fanciness fell out of my mouth like a Versace print in a sea of generic beige. As she spun, “WAIT! WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?!” I exclaimed. “YOUR BACK!” There on the backless wonder were tan lines more stark than any I have ever seen– and having grown up in the land of farmer’s tans, this is saying something. I don’t mention the tan lines because I aim to be cruel, but I mention them because people still talk about them more than a year later. However, nothing can stop her from looking like a top model– she exuded confidence. After the initial shock of seeing the lines on her back faded, I forgot about them for the rest of the day, even if they live on in the imagination of those whom were in attendance that day.
Time was passing swiftly and before long, it would be time for the wedding ceremony to begin, so my West Coast savior and I decided to ready ourselves for the evening. We were wearing shorts and tee-shirts so, at the very least, we would need to don something more formal and festive. Luckily, we brought those items with us and were soon transformed from commoners eating at Panda Express into gentlefolk who were about to attend the wedding of the year at an English inn (replica), albeit in Marin County.
As we prepared for the nuptials, I began to feel a weight pressing down on me– the gravity of my summer was catching up with me. After a handful of flights and constant motion forward, I was caught standing still with only my thoughts. Luckily, I also had a network or support around me that day, so I could survive on their glow.
It was time for the ceremony to begin– I took my place in front of those gathered, a place I feel most like myself and could finally relax. No longer was I solitarily left with my mind, I was ready to experience all my emotions publicly. Once the bride and groom were in place and the ceremony had begun, I was speaking the words I had written and was simultaneously coming to the realization that my marriage was over (and perhaps had never begun).
The ceremony was beautiful and I held it together, even as the one reader selected opted to read an archaic selection about the submissive wife to which there was no follow-up possible other than, “Well, those were words put together in sentences,” which I did not say. It was beyond inappropriate, but things would have been much more dramatic had I known what was to be read ahead of time– there would have been histrionics followed by a pleading to change the reading, which would have led to hurt feelings. Not mine, but the feelings of those who dared muddy the ceremony I put together would have been demolished. The reading was impossible to work into the ceremony, and so I offered nothing more than, “Thank you?” And with that, I moved on to the next bit.
A distinct and stinging melancholy jabbed at my innards repeatedly, juxtaposed by the joy I felt for the couple standing before me. My eyes betrayed me on a few separate occasions, threatening to tear up at the exchange of vows unfolding before me. It started at the ceremony, the grieving inside of me, and continued for the next countless fortnights. I missed him and I was happy for them. Beyond happy… ecstatic. But I did. I missed him.
The ceremony led to dinner. And dinner led to dancing. Dancing led me back to San Francisco with the West Coast Savior. And San Francisco led to men. Pulled out of a Jean Genet novel, I embarked on my personal quest to numb and eradicate heartache in the streets of the city. The nameless, faceless, warm, hairy bodies made for temporary security blankets. Their names didn’t matter and their hearts mattered less. I was broken and I was reeling. I was a record on repeat, stuck on a track, until finally I asked, “so, what is your name?”
The man of the hour looked at me, laughing, and said, “John.”
I laughed, too. “Of course it is.”
Jumping out of his bed, I gathered my clothes while he giggled again, “My name is actually John.” I smiled and got dressed. “What’s your deal?” His tone wasn’t accusatory, but inquisitive.
I looked back at him, pants not yet on my body, “What do you mean?”
“I mean… you act tough, but you’re not really that person,” he saw through me. “Would you be interested in hanging out again?”
I looked at him sternly, “no.”
“Wow. That was quick,” he said.
I sighed, “I don’t live here. Sorry– you’re great. Really.” I stood off the edge of the bed, pulling my pants up.
“You don’t have to do that,” he suddenly sounded calloused.
“You don’t have to pretend this could be more or that you’re not an asshole–” he was about to continue, but I cut him off.
“– I am not pretending. I… am married. At least I think I’m married. I don’t know what I am. I got married… last month. And it went to shit. Quickly. And I have no idea what’s happening– I just officiated my best friend’s wedding and it was amazing. It made me think of what amazing people can do together. They’re so amazing! They are great people! And they should have each other… but I am not amazing! And according to you, I am an asshole. I think I met– no, I THOUGHT I met someone amazing, but I don’t even know what the fuck happened! So, I am sorry. I shouldn’t be here… I am sorry!” I got teary-eyed again.
He looked at me. Was it shock on his face? Or was it disbelief of everything I just said… or was it simply disinterest? I wanted him to console me. I wanted someone to hold me, but I knew if he touched me, I would lose it altogether. He continued looking at me and finally uttered, “You should go.”
Knocking the wind out of me, I chuckled and sneered at him a bit,
“You are so right. John. I should go.”
To be continued.