So we went to Paris.
To celebrate love, and all that.
It was so fucking Parisian, you would not even believe.
It was literally all bonbons and baguettes, walks on the Seine holding hands, delicious food and even better sweets,
farmer’s markets with amazing produce,
and endless rambling while talking about existentialism, love, culture, how to live, how to dress, how to be alive.
The women were heartbreakingly striking, the men all had ludicrous cheekbones and well-cut jackets.
I wore lipstick every day.
It was too much.
I spoke French everywhere, without fear, with glee even in my million mistakes when ordering falafel, buying pâtes de fruits, inquiring if the coconut sorbetto had dairy or not.
It was perfect.
I was so happy.
When I came back the Easter rush was in full swing. Work was TOUGH.
Everyone was grumpy because they’d been working like dogs to make up for Jacob and I being gone (when Jacob’s not on tour, he works pretty much full time in the shop—why yes, I am the luckiest girl in the entire world. My boyfriend works for free doing whatever I don’t want to do, as much as he can. COME ON.). Eight hours after our plane touched down we were in that kitchen, and we didn’t come up for a breath until weeks later.
When that pressure was just letting up, I got a phone call. It was from a neighbor of my grandmother’s, who has been taking care of her while she slowly dies of emphysema, alcoholism, and assorted other diseases related to hard living. The neighbor told me my grandmother is subsisting on morphine and has six months to live, and her friends are having a party for her (she called it “a wake,” which I’m not sure was the best choice of words), and she wanted to invite me.
I sat down, and took a deep breath, and told her that I really appreciated her taking care of her, and for throwing a party, and that I couldn’t go. I told her that I just hated my father so much (he lives with my grandmother, in classic fuckup fashion), I couldn’t do it. She told me she understood, that she’d dated him for a while, and dropped a couple terrifying facts that let me know that—despite several other family members’ insistences—as I always suspected, he is the same violent and terrifying person he’s always been.
This situation—a past I’ve worked for 16 years to erase tugging at my heart and trying to lure me back—threw me into a vortex of sleepless nights and meltdowns. I love my grandmother, and we’ve talked fairly often over the years, and she knows that her son (who she had when she was 16) is a person best avoided. I felt pretty square with her, but I know she’d like me to come visit.
My quick urge was to do my typical thing—hang up the phone and step forward into a future that does not include the news I’d just heard. Each step forward creating a new present that would erase the unpleasant past.
But it messed me up, and friends started gently suggesting that maybe going to Arizona wasn’t the worst thing that could happen. I put up a good face for a few days, pretending that was possible.
I said big things like “why let him have power over me? I’m strong enough now that nothing he can do will affect me.” and “I refuse to be the person I was as a child. I won’t let him hurt me.” I’ve told my father—in responses to letters he had to send as part of 12-step programs when he was in prison, on the phone once or twice, and, mostly, through 16 years of stony silence—that I will never have a relationship with him because of what his rage did to my childhood, to my mother, and to my brother. But I knew if I went to Arizona I’d have to tell him all over again.
And so I, Lagusta, who will work 15 hour days and love the feeling of pushing her body and mind as hard as possible, who will tell assorted meat-eaters and ne’er-do-wells what she thinks of their crap without a second’s hesitation—strong, strong me—I got really scared. I had nightmares, I kept having breakdowns and near-breakdowns at work, I wasn’t sleeping, I was sleeping too much, my rage episodes grew in intensity and started to truly scare those around me.
One day I was walking to work (I had had a rage outburst that morning and knew walking the 1.5 miles to work was my only chance to salvage the day) and thought a spring skunk cabbage on the side of the swampy creek I was passing was a nopale cactus. Even though it was 20 feet away, I jumped. I was so out of my mind that for a second I thought my obsessive worrying about Arizona had literally transported me there, to that inhospitable and cruel climate. I was losing it.
After a week of this, I took a day off and didn’t get out of bed until 2 PM. I cried it all out. I cried staring at the ceiling until my ears were squeaky with tears. Somehow I’d decided that, because friends of mine kept telling me that I could (and, implicitly: should) go to Arizona, the fact that I knew in my soul that I could never go meant that I wasn’t a strong person and was actually, in fact, when it came down to it, a failure at everything I’d ever done. I cried for seven hours, wailing that I was a complete failure unless I could stand up to my father in person, which I absolutely definitely positively could not.
Seeing my horrible mental state, the same friends who’d tried to convince me I should go helped pull me out of the hole I’d clawed myself into: they convinced me that just because I couldn’t have some awful confrontation with my father, I’d still built a wonderful life for myself here, all these thousands of miles away from him. They reassured me that if I didn’t go—as everyone now saw that I couldn’t—I’d still be awesome.
I felt like the worst kind of loser for having to depend on my friends so much, and Jacob said the most amazing thing to me about it: “When you were a kid, you couldn’t depend on anyone. You literally raised yourself. You didn’t confide in anyone, you only had yourself. Now, you’ve worked really hard to create a healthy life for yourself, and part of that includes good friends. So now, when you really need to depend on someone, you don’t always need to depend on yourself. When you can’t count on yourself to help you out, you can count on the community you’ve created—and we’ll always be here for you.”
At that point, I stopped crying tears of fear, the rage started to dissolve, and I picked myself up and cleaned out my squeaky ears. I went back to work.
Work was calmer. I worked a bunch of late quiet nights, listening to audiobooks, fucking around on Facebook and Twitter with my friends, and making beautiful things in my beautiful shop in my beautiful town in the quiet, quiet spring nighttime stillness.
My beautiful, beautiful life.
Everything calmed down, and I let myself just work, which has always been what grounds me and makes me calmest.
I called my grandmother, holding my breath as I always do in case my father answers, but the machine came on. I left a message saying we should talk every week if she was able to, that I’d call her every Sunday, and that I love her.