When my roommate of five years called and told me she was moving back to New York, I started sobbing uncontrollably. It wasn’t the crying that bothered me, it was the fact that I was in a giant outdoor shopping mall in Los Angeles called The Grove while doing so. It was the upscale, tween-celebrity-rife version of Mall of America. Instead of an Old Navy there was a J. Crew. Instead of a Hooters there was The Farm. And instead of a rollercoaster there was a trolly. It was a foolish place to be in the first place, but crying there was both humiliating and gauche. Like being fired in your Halloween costume.
I tried to tuck away in a corner between L’Occitane and Barney’s Co-Op. The thought of anyone seeing me — nevermind anyone I knew — was unsettling to say the least.
“I’m so sorry,” she said. She was sobbing too now.
“It’s okay,” I got out.
What I didn’t tell her was that my tears weren’t necessarily for her future absence, but for the simple fact that my life was slowly unraveling, one aspect at a time. I was in between jobs, which is to say I was jobless. My boyfriend had just embarked on a three and a half month tour with his band. And I had rear-ended a Saab not but two days ago. Even though she went “back east” every summer, Jane had been the one constant in the shit storm that was my existence.
“I’ve been planning on going back some day, and now feels like the right time.”
Right time? I thought. Jane had a boyfriend. Of six months. How could that be the right time? I was confused by her decision and jealous of her brazenness. I could never do something that bold. At that point in time, the only thing I was capable of doing was clutching my cell phone, willing it to vibrate from my boyfriend’s dialing.
So now not only was I crying at the sham that was my life, but the gross imbalance of my and Jane’s decision making skills. When did I turn into this person I thought? When did I turn into a person who asks herself, When did I turn into this person?
I cut the conversation short, unable to hear anymore. Her decisiveness and “got get ‘er” attitude was only amplifying the paralysis I had grown accustomed to, but still wasn’t used to. The retail therapy that was originally my afternoon intent only made me nauseous now. The stores seemed bigger, more menacing, and the same for the people.
By the time I got into my car the tears drying on my cheeks represented sadness drying into rage. I whipped down Fairfax Avenue swerving in and out of traffic, glaring at drivers as if they themselves had convinced Jane to move. I was so mad at the Universe. Why did it hate me so fucking much? He or she or whatever demonic entity it was, was either testing me for prophet-dom or wanted me to just off myself. I felt like twirling around a suburban lawn screaming, “What are you waiting for, huh?!” like Jennifer Love Hewitt in “I Know What You Did Last Summer.” But that would be moronic.
I took out my cell phone to call my boyfriend, but then thought better of it. What if he didn’t answer? Then I’d be mad at him for not being there for me in my time of need and this would become all his fault. Or worse, what if he did and was in the middle of something fun (like usual)? Loud music and screaming was the customary cacophony when he was on the other end of the receiver. So I did what I always did -I called my mom.
“Hi, Nic,” she said. She was getting tired of the complaint-fests that had become my phone calls. And who could blame her? Everyday it was something new.
I regaled the saga of Jane and Mystery Move while she listened intently.
“Mmm-hmm… Right… Really?…” could be heard if you were in the room with her. She offered a few suggests and some advice, but we both knew there wasn’t anything that could be said that would make me feel better. I hung up, knowing my next phone call to her was probably a few hours away.
When I got home I sat on my couch with my cell phone on the coffee table in front of me. Plastic vibrated loudest on glass, so if I happened to look away for a moment I would still know if my boyfriend was calling me. Or less importantly, a job.
I walked over to Jane’s room and stood in the doorway. The impersonalness of her stuff had become so familiar to me. Even though we had lived there five years it was as if she never unpacked. The only thing on the wall was a small mirror. Her comforter and sheets were mismatched. There were even boxes on the floor filled with old Newsweeks and US News and World Reports, which are weekly magazines so there were a lot. Had she been plotting this all along?
I walked directly across the hall to my room, which inhabited foofy drapes, an Anthropologie duvet and pictures ad nauseum. It was a comic juxtaposition, our rooms. If someone broke into our house, he or she would surely think I was the happier roommate. I picked up a small Buddha figurine that sat on my dresser and thought about the day I bought it. The only reason I stumbled upon it was because my sister and I had just finished an hour long footslog in search of an Italian ice place I had once gone to. After we found it we shuffled aimlessly around SoHo eating cherry and chocolate frozen treats in silence. And even though the chunks of cherries were sweet and plump and whole, it still wasn’t as good as I had remembered. But it was perfect.
Then, like a buckshot, the idea of getting my own place seemed intriguing, exciting even. I had been living in a defacto one bedroom for quite sometime, and although I wasn’t happy per se, I was still… here. Perhaps a change of environment would revitalize me, mix it up a bit. I quickly decorated my imaginary apartment in my head. There were flowers on the windowsill, giving sort of a Parisian flair. And finally, I painted my walls blue. I was an independent woman and the world could suck it!
But, like most sentiments, it was fleeting.
Feeling crappy again, but like I had done something productive, I walked back into the living room to man my post next to the coffee table. I picked up my phone and realized that for the first time in months, I had a missed call.