When it’s not the Car that Breaks Down.

-Episode 7-

Photo credit: Leanne Penny

Every good story has a climax, and in this story, last week’s full moon rising was it. But, alas, every climax is followed by a fall. This week is all about the breakdown on the road.

It took 4 years, more or less, but finally, after ignoring it as long as I could have, everything that had been brewing inside of me, everything that had been building up to this complete mental breakdown, was let out of the box, all at once.

What set it off?

Well I’d now driven close to 4,000 miles from New Jersey to Flagstaff AZ, through the cold and dreary shades of a desolate mid-west in the late fall. I’d thrown everything up in the air and I was waiting for the dust to settle. I had no idea what the next step was, but I had set a plan in motion, a plan that yet had to reveal itself to me. In the meantime,  I was moving to fight inertia, I was moving hoping to bump into what I was looking for, I was moving as a meditation practice, I was moving to avoid what I was running away from. I was moving, because movement is life, and stagnation is death.

But then I hit a concrete wall.

It didn’t come on so suddenly, it was a sort of one-two punch. Left Jab, right cross, TKO.

I’d visited the Grand Canyon and was amazed by the absolute grandeur of nature. I’m not going to waste my breath trying to explain the Grand Canyon. No words or images will ever do it justice. Unless you find yourself standing atop a rock, and the ground below you on three sides is about a mile down, give or take a few hundred feet, you will not be able to comprehend the immense void that fills your heart in that moment.

I had wanted to spend more time in the Grand Canyon, but at the low-low cost of $80 a night, it was pricey to say the least. What’s more, even though I had been waiting for my Canadian Citizenship to come through for about a year, I had finally left anyway deciding I couldn’t hold my trip any longer. As luck would have it, now, 3 weeks after leaving the country, I had just received notice from the government saying I had to get back to Montreal to get sworn in, IN A WEEK.

I had a week to get back, 3 to actually drive, two extra days in case anything went wrong, and two to spend somewhere close.  I wasn’t going to be able to make it to San Francisco to see my brother, I was so close, and yet still so far :(

So I did what anyone would do under these circumstances:
I headed to Vegas.

Vegas has cheap hotel rooms. They want you to spend all your money at the slots. I didn’t like the idea of Vegas per-se, but you have to see everything before you judge it, right?

Vegas was a hard blow for me. Coming from the magnificence of nature, almost devoid of human life, to land in a bustling metropolis of superficiality and vice really made me question my place in society.

I felt lonely. I moved through the crowds like a baffled ghosts, taking pictures of the lights just to explain my presence. I was so out of place. I didn’t understand how all of these people chose the smoke and mirrors over the real thing. I didn’t understand how all these people spent their hard earned cash on THIS. It was ridiculous to me.

So I did what anyone would do under these circumstances:
I rented an AK-47.

No I didn’t go Columbine on the strip. I went to The Gun Store.

It’s a shooting range where you can literally shoot any gun known to man. I think. I don’t know anything about guns.

I’m actually scared of guns, but part of this trip was all about doing things I’m afraid of. I’d already walked up and down the strip twice There was nothing left for me in this town, and I’d promised myself to shoot a gun if the situation was ridiculous enough.

So when I turned over the hotel’s catalogue to a full page ad of The Gun Store, I thought, heck, this is probably as ridiculous as it gets, let’s shoot some guns!

As it turns out though, I’m not a bad shot. I thought the AK was going to be tough, but it was actually the Glock-19 that tried to clock me in the face every time I shot it that was hardest to shoot. Shooting guns wasn’t that bad. I actually got to release some negative energy, but Vegas was still taking a toll on my mental well-being, and the guy in line behind me, who was actually prepping for a zombie apocalypse, hadn’t helped my state.

Punch one, Left Jab.

I left Vegas exhausted, and only made it as far as flagstaff on my first leg of my 3-leg trip back to Montreal. I got there late, found a shitty little motel, took a half hour to figure out how the damn key opened the raggedy old doorknob, missed all open restaurants in the near vicinity and settled for a crappy Wendy’s late night, then got back to my hotel room to an email from my best friend at the time saying it’d be better if we didn’t see each other when I went back through NY.

Punch two, Right hook. Complete and total knock out.

The wind had been knocked out of me. To be honest, it wasn’t so unexpected. I’d stayed on her couch for a week before heading off on this trip and I could tell that my presence had been less than a positive experience on her life at that moment in time, though I hadn’t managed to figure out exactly which part.

Maybe it was just the general high-strung wavelength I was on, maybe it was my plunging myself into the Occupy Wallstreet movement (although initially by mere accident,) maybe it was that I had just left my whole life and hers wasn’t quite everything she wanted at the time, and my presence was just too much, maybe it was that I wasn’t living up to her expectations of what she thought the encounter would be. Whatever it was, I could feel we were less like two best friends and more like grinding gears on an old transmission, awkwardly trying to find the next latch.

No, to be honest the biggest pain wasn’t the actual email, it was the realization that followed: I’m in flagstaff, in the middle of nowhere, I’ve been driving for 3 weeks, it’s 2 o’clock in the morning, I need someone to talk to, I have no one to call.

That same feeling I got at the Grand Canyon came back, but in reverse. I’d landed from the cloud I’d been floating on, the dust settled all at once and the immenseness of the universe was immediately clear to me, and it was completely filled by my sorrow.

I racked my brain for a good hour trying to figure out who’d listen to me expressing the grave epiphany that I’d just realized, summed up to mere 3 words, “I am lost,” at 2 o’clock on a Saturday night.  My last real tie to society had been her. She was the one I’d call in this situation, but here I’d alienated even her.

So I did what anyone would do under these circumstances:
I called my ex-boyfriend.

Oh yes, there are a lot of moments I’m proud of in my life, and this one moment of shame out-does all of them, on the negative scale, at least 10-fold.

I’d just left him, I told him I didn’t need him, I was better off without him, he was better off without me, were were dragging each other down, I’d hauled him through an entire year of misery while we lived in the same house, and slept in the same bed, with an expiration date on our relationship, I’d sold the house he’d just started calling his home, just to name some of the not-so-bad things I’d done, and here, 3 weeks later, I had put my tail between my legs, sucked up my shame, and admitted I needed someone to talk to. Admitted that I needed him.

So I dialed.

It rang forever.

But he answered. I could hear the music in the background and my heart melted a little bit at the thought of him seeing my name on the caller ID and stepping out of the bar to take the call.

He took time out of his Saturday night celebrations to answer. And he was civil. And he was nice. And he listened. And he didn’t tell me to go to hell. Bless his new girlfriend, she’s got a good man.

And I was, and still am, ever so grateful.

But everything changed that night. I realized that, although I was a strong independent woman, I could still crumble, and I wasn’t without my flaws, and it was time to start owning up to them, or suffer the consequences of a terribly lonely life…


That’s all for today kids, but comeback next week for more.

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Episode 6 
Episode 8 (out same time next week)



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