California, how do I begin to thank you? I needed to escape Boston in a desperate kind of way-the grey, rain, and cold was too much for me. I needed vitamin D, the breeze in my hair, and a change of scenery. The best part of traveling is that you can be whoever you want, because nobody knows who you really are. It’s a chance to start over, even if only for a short while, so I pretended to be a happy girl from Boston scouting out neighborhoods to move to when the time is right. I fit right in to Santa Monica-the vibe and the people were my speed and I apparently look like a local; tourists asked me for directions. Little did they know that I was a tourist, too. “You look like you’re from here,” an older woman said. I dog-eared the compliment.
Being out here was not only an escape, but a great way to get over B. While the relationship had been over long before it ended, I’d been performing CPR on it for months, hoping with every chest compression that I could bring it back to life. Every breath I forced into its chest was air I was losing. I was finally able to catch my breath in California. In a strange way, I guess I could thank him for doing what he did; I was ready to move to New Jersey to be with him and now I can leave-no more feeling torn between two dreams-being with someone I love and being somewhere I love. Thanks. Not for breaking my heart, but for setting me free.
People talk to each other here and make eye contact. I felt rude walking around with headphones on, so I didn’t. I felt safe here. Knowing that a place like this exists gives me hope, a feeling so foreign to me that I want to both hold it as close to my heart as possible and treat it like I’m nervously taking a piping hot lasagna with cheese and sauce bubbling over the sides out of the oven with dollar store pot holders. I’ve never had so many strangers chat me up before.
“I love your shoes”
“I love your tattoos”
“I love that book you’re reading”
“You look so cute in your sunglasses”
“You look really pretty today”
A place like this exists?
My experience with the men (though brief and not at all involved) in California was great-they were polite, chivalrous, and direct. If they think you’re cute, they’re going to ask for your number and ask you out to dinner. This is not the Missed Connections crowd. I don’t know if it’s because LA is such a competitive culture or if that’s just the way it is in California, but I’ll take it.
I made some great contacts here and found places that feel like home to me, which is rare. I don’t attach myself to people, places, or things. I’m noun-aphobic, if you will, but no matter how hard I try, I’m going to miss California. When I dropped off my rental car, I took one last stroll down Abbot Kinney, passed through the beach, and onto Main Street in Santa Monica with a heaviness in my heart the whole time. Even now, I feel homesick for it, the way I did when I went to sleepaway camp for the first time. I remember the first night vividly. I was in my bed and I cried myself to sleep, longing for the smell of home and my own bed. As an adult, I’ve uprooted and moved enough times to be calloused-places are just places, things are just things. The only thing I ever take with me are friends and memories. I never leave those behind. This time feels different. My suitcase is packed and I’ve checked-in for my flight. In less than 24 hours, I’ll be landing in Boston, leaving behind the only place that’s ever felt like home to my heart.
See you soon.