Eleven Miles from Home, Part 2

 

Rachel

Confession #1

 

To be honest, I don’t know what I was thinking. I just wanted to spend a nice day on the lake—to take a deep breath and clear my head. One could probably call me a recreational dependent for all the deep breaths I’ve needed. But I don’t know; maybe I wouldn’t call myself that. Maybe I’d call myself a hopeless mess. It was the appropriate label for me back then, and I think it’s still the case now.

Forgive me for sounding pessimistic, but I have no other way to describe it. I was depressed over the continual disappointments I’d faced each day—disappointments of losing my simple hopes in life, like finding jobs that didn’t involve waiting on cheapskates or finding parking spots close to my building, for example. It was like trying to climb the Himalayas with an ice pick and a jogging suit. Sometimes I’d ask myself if I was aiming too high, but I realized that asking the mailman to be punctual was aiming too high.

For two years I gave up on life’s simple things and cried every chance I got, no longer expecting the obvious.

My therapist used to tell me that life was just life, and that there was nothing unusual about mine. And I guess to some extent that was true. But the reality was that my therapist had problems of his own. Like, there was one day he came in with a cup of coffee in hand and bags under his red eyes. I asked him if everything was okay, and he just sort of nodded and sipped his coffee. He then countered by asking how I was doing. That’s when I cried again.

I wish I could accurately describe how I was before the crisis began, but I was so foggy then that I really can’t remember all the details. I do remember the smiles were present at times and that I’d occasionally look forward to the next day of existence, but somewhere along the line all that faded. Sometimes I believe it was my blatant irresponsibility that had brought me to my low point, but deep down I think it had something to do with my heart shattering after I’d found out the guy I loved was married with three pets or kids or some discovered trio that left me too stunned to actually listen to his confession. I’d gotten as far as “And my wife and my three…” before I shutdown and collapsed into myself. So much has happened since then that narrowing it down to a singular event might be counterproductive to the truth, but I’m pretty sure that’s how the spiral started.

When my therapist once asked how the whole attraction to the wrong man began, I described it as having happened by chance. The events that brought me down that path should never have happened, but they did because it was my time to start living in pain. My answer garnered a look that branded me as insane.

Realistically, the question should’ve been a simple one, involving the recall of a historical moment that had occurred not long ago. But every time I dwelled on it, it brought me nothing but sorrow. Maybe I’m a crybaby at heart, but I think any girl in my situation would’ve reacted similarly. After all, that was the day I hit my gutter—the day when I dropped my standards to the floor and swept them under the rug. Granted, I didn’t know it back then, but it sure became obvious to me as time moved on. I had fallen so hard from perpetual loneliness that I was ready to invite anything into my heart to quench it. It was at that point that Harry entered the picture.

Harry was the kind of guy who could flash a lawyer’s smile, even if his teeth were smoke-stained and his lips were cracked. His tastes for appearance involved mock Italian suits from Walmart and cheap scented colognes from the local drug store. To his credit, he had a way of playing them up. I never would’ve considered him strikingly handsome, but he had that gentle touch that caressed my skin with excitement. And that was enough to enrapture me. Looking back, I can see I was desperate to be caught—the sad face sporting the invitation from the fool. But when that slick phony found me crying by a park bench that fateful day, he found the right buttons to push.

Just to clarify things, I cried in public where families walking their dogs could openly see. My heart was that beaten. I forget what triggered the drama, but I remember it had to do with the ongoing loneliness I’d felt since college.

When I was a freshman, I flunked out of my classes for partying too hard too often. I either attended class inebriated or flat out didn’t attend at all. Even though my friends supported my lifestyle, my instructors were less than understanding. After a spell, my math teacher advised the dean to kick me out because I was “wasting the campus’s resources.” When the dean summoned me to his office to make it clear that I either shaped up or shipped out, I laughed at him, puked on his chair and flashed him my headlights. I think in my head I was trying to reveal my attributes to appease his disappointment in me, but in my heart I was just trying to salvage what little future I had left. Either way, it was a bad decision. When the dust cleared, my reaction stunned him for a minute; then he closed his eyes and pointed to the door.

I cleaned out my dormitory the following day.

The disparaging loneliness set in a few months later when I realized my friends weren’t coming to rescue me. They had their own lives to live—far away I might add—and the fun we used to share died away. I continued to go to bars and clubs, because that’s what I knew, but the thrill weakened when I realized going anywhere by myself really sucked. Then one night, as I sat under a strobe light with a bottle of Zima in hand, I stared at all the animated dancers slowly pulsating with their eyes glazed over, wondering what their lives were like before dark. Somehow I concluded they had spent their sunlit hours thinking about coming to the club, which was exactly what I did each day while I waited on the diner’s lunch crowd to leave. At that point, my heart broke and I questioned where my life was going. When I realized I had no idea, I set the Zima on the floor and walked out of the club forever.

Needless to say, I was ready to change my life from head to toe and actually pursue some honest ambition. But doing that meant changing everything about me.

So I returned to college—a campus a little closer to home—and tried out for a future again, this time without the parties, or the drinking or anything that didn’t revolve around studying. In fact, anything that sounded remotely like fun had to get the big red “X” because I wasn’t about to get kicked out of college again.

But as irony had it, my lack of a job led me to financial disaster and I had to drop out of school anyway. And though I was sober, I left without making any friends.

And I think that’s ultimately what led me to the park bench that introduced me to Harry.

Harry didn’t seem like the wrong guy at first. In fact, I found him quite charming. His presence made my heart light, which was great considering he made my tears vanish. He took me to dinner, bought me the usual romantic stuff, and touched me in the usual romantic ways—hair, thigh, hair, lips, repeat where appropriate. The whole bloody package felt wonderful for five straight months.

But one night, when we were planning our first exotic adventure to the Bahamas together, his wedding ring fell out of his pocket.

I spent the next few days and nights crying on a different park bench, occasionally returning to my dingy apartment to erase my phone messages. Somewhere in that block of time I’d hoped that maybe another prince would come and rescue me from that random hideaway, but I gave up when I concluded that all the charming ones had something gold and circular buried in their pockets.

So, that was the time I decided to go for total losers.

Admittedly, I was nervous about the thought of dating guys with beer breath and greasy armpits. Nevertheless, deep down I was too numb to care anymore. They weren’t attractive, and they certainly weren’t respectful, but they weren’t married, either, so I tolerated it. Of course they all broke me eventually, to which I had to go off and look for yet another. But in the long run I never had to worry about loneliness. That was the one thing they were good for. They always hung around. Even when I wasn’t home, they’d hang around…eating my food, putting their grungy flip-flops on my couch, putting their huge, filthy dogs on my bed, putting their used utensils back in the drawer…and I was okay with it because…because I was afraid to be alone….

I was afraid to be alone.

Truthfully, I hated my life. I hated every moment of it because I couldn’t be alone. I wanted to be alone—believe me, I couldn’t stand any of those drunken scrubby guys that kept coming around, bringing six-packs of beer into my apartment, drinking up a storm…pissing all over the seat. I wanted to get them out of my life once and for all. But I couldn’t because then I wouldn’t have anyone. And that was something I just couldn’t handle.

So I kept inviting them over because I knew they wouldn’t leave, even when I asked them to. They’d insist on staying day after day, night after night, headache after headache, and I’d be grudgingly thankful because there was another body to keep me company. Sometimes there would be two guys overlapping shifts. That usually broke into a fight, of course; while one guy claimed dominion over me, the other called the police claiming assault. But the new guy would always win and I’d have to put up with him until the next one entered my life. And I would never be alone—yet I would pray for the day I could handle the solitude.

And now I suppose would be a good time to mention the Jet Ski.

Shortly before Harry dropped his big revelation on me, he had bought me a special gift. He knew I loved the outdoors; the problem was I never had the right equipment to take with me. Even though I’d spend my studying phase in open courtyards and under trees at the park, my resources beyond the books were limited. So, he thought I’d enjoy a little outdoor action. That’s when he covered my eyes and walked me outside to reveal to me a lump of tarp in my parking lot.

When he shed the mystery device’s covering, out popped a sexy little white two-person Jet Ski with the Kawasaki brand name and a racing stripe emblazoned on the side. It had a flower insignia and my initials inscribed underneath on the front.

I fell in love with the watercraft the moment Harry taught me how to use it. The thrill of the speed, the splash of lake water against my face—it was a bit nasty, but oh so exhilarating. Immediately, it became my second love. Each day I’d go out and hop a few waves before breakfast. Then, I’d go out again after coming home from my useless job until night fell and Harry came over with flowers and a movie.

But when the night fell that Harry shed his scales, he managed to take my love for the watercraft with him. Though the thrill of hopping water lingered, I no longer had the heart to put his machine between my legs. After two weeks passed, I wanted freedom from the reminder, so I put a FOR SALE sign across the handlebars.

I stuffed the money I’d made from the sale into my bank account so I’d have something to go back to college with. But as time passed and deadbeat men came and went, I started to think that my return to school wasn’t meant to happen in my lifetime. The income trickled in too slowly, the guys cleaned me out of resources, and I still had bills to pay. Eventually, I had to put my academic pipe dreams to bed. So, with my ambition for a degree vanished forever, I decided to spend my money on something else.

Since my love for the lake had never wavered, I decided to invest in my own personal watercraft—free from Harry’s wallet.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t sell my old Jet Ski for the full price that Harry had probably spent on it, so a new sport model large enough for two people was out of the question. I looked through the classifieds for a nice used watercraft, but realized the prices offered were too low for comfort (some people advertise hot items, and I can’t bring myself to buy something stolen), so I decided to invest in a new solo. And sure, it was expensive enough to break me, but it was still comparatively cheaper than my first. My only real concern was that I had been accustomed to ride sitting down and this one required me to stand.

I’ll admit that the two-person sport was easier to ride, but the solo offered unparalleled freedom. It was like skipping a motor scooter across the water. The experience carried all the benefits that my old one had provided, but added a new thrill with the whole butt-suspension thing. Needless to say, I felt free to love again.

And that’s what finally made me happy. I had my own Jet Ski, bought with my own cash, ridden on my own passion, unattached to any man. No one could steal it from me. This was my true love. No greasy stranger would intercept my heart now that it was spoken for.

But then came the event that relapsed me into my newest oblivion. Richard entered my life.

 

Read Part 3

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The stuff that keeps me awake at night.

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