The Absurd and Amazing Adventures of Cafe Girl: Summer

July 1, 2008


I love summer. It is my favorite season of the year. At heart, I am a warm weather kind of girl. My body is made for the tropics and I do best when there is sunshine, heat and yes, even humidity.

Life gets a little less hectic in the summer. It stays light out longer so that when I get off work I can still look at blue skies and sunshine. Groups that meet throughout the year take a Summer break so that my evenings are free for long walks, Happy Hour and poker games. I get to wear cotton sun dresses and flip-flops. I get to develop a tan.

Summer always feels like a happy time. In Chicago, Summer is the reward for having lived through nine months of Winter. At the first hint of Summer, no matter how fleeting, the shorts and tank-tops come out. It’s as if by dressing like it’s Summer, Summer will suddenly decide to show up, for good.

Last Summer was my final Summer living in Chicago. I spent those months packing my apartment and selling my furniture. I had the impossible task of selecting items from ten years of a life and squeezing them into seven boxes that I would ship to my new apartment in Los Angeles.

I also spent the Summer going to places in the city I loved and knew I would miss. I said goodbye to friends. My Someone and I held hands and explored the city. We took long walks, sat by the lake, went to dinners in the city. We talked, we laughed, we shared our lives as best as we knew how.

To the world, it looked like I was handling everything with calm and precision. What only my closest and dearest friends knew was that I was really just in functioning mode. Underlying all the packing, the partying and the goodbyes were questions I didn’t dare articulate. What would happen to my life when I got to Los Angeles? Would people like me? Would I find friends? What would happen to my Someone and I? How would we continue to grow our relationship when we were 2,000 miles and a time-zone apart? Would he decide that this was too hard and end things? Would I? What if he met someone else while I was gone? What if I did?

Early that Summer, I had what I termed as a The Great Meltdown. The realization that I was moving to a new city, far from everything that was safe, far from everyone that I loved, far from the man I was trying to build a relationship with, suddenly hit me one afternoon. The questions came flooding in, one after another. The fear was staggering; the grief overwhelming. I wept, loudly and uncontrollably for hours. And in that time I was unable to utter a single one of those fears.

The Great Meltdown was the first time I’d shown my Someone a side that was vulnerable, fragile and breakable. That in itself was also frightening. It’s one thing to recognize your own vulnerability, it’s a completely different thing to let someone come along side you in it.

That afternoon, my Someone held me as I cried, he said all the right things, encouraged me and reassured me. He showed strength. And, for that moment, I let myself lean into his strength.

My Someone asked me how I was the next day. Truth was, I was more than a little embarrassed. I knew that if I looked him in the eye, I would start bawling again. I didn’t want to start bawling again. There was nothing he could actually do that he hadn’t done already. In my head, there was nothing that would change my fear and my sadness. I’d already had one great cry, the second cry would do nothing to take away the fear. And so, I chose to shrug off the meltdown as something that happened. It would be fine, I assured him, I’ll be fine.

There was a part of me that half-expected him to not believe me, see that I was still struggling and push in. I’m not sure why I expected that, since I was so adamant that everything would turn out fine. He didn’t push in. And so we never quite spoke of The Great Meltdown again.

There are times in life where just sucking it up, gritting your teeth and doing what you don’t want to do is the only solution in getting to the other side. I did that, and as with everything that Summer, I did it well. Along with my earthly possessions, I put away the fear and grief into a box that I would unpack when I got to Los Angeles.

I didn't know it then, but from that point on, everything began to change.

I think the hardest part of that Summer was that there were so many things I was so afraid to say, too many questions I was afraid to ask. I thought I had time to say and to ask. I wanted to bottle that feeling of summer -- unhurried and leisurely. I wanted to linger slowly and deliciously in the moment.

This Summer, the Someone is now my No Longer. I live in Los Angeles, where Summer is less of a gift as it is a given. I battle both vivid and fading memories of The Last Summer in Chicago.

Vivid, because each marker of Summer --Memorial Day or Fourth of July, reminds me of what I was doing at the same time last Summer.

Fading, because each new memory I make in a new city, with new friends, with potential Next Ones, makes Chicago seem just that little bit further away.

I am half-way through the Summer already. Fourth of July looms this weekend and I am back in Chicago for a week-long visit. The city feels familiar but no longer like home. Meanwhile, I am getting e-mails from my community in Los Angeles letting me know of plans for the long holiday weekend. I have to admit, I feel a small sense of loss that I am not there with them.

I suppose this is what is known as Moving On.

1 comment:

Emily said...

I heard on Sunday that you were back in town. :-) I’m sorry that we won’t be able to see each other while you are in Chicago. (I’m headed to Cincinnati for the weekend, but from talking to Deb, Amanda, and Elizabeth it sounds like your schedule is pretty full anyway.)

Your entry reminded me of how I felt when I moved to Chicago. I wasn’t quite at home Chicago, but I wasn’t at home in Cincinnati or Bloomington either. I remember thinking that I was homeless. I hope that if you go through that emotional stage it is brief and that the community you’ve found in LA continues to grow!