I got lost in Sausalito tonight, on the shoulder of the road.
I don’t know Sausalito at all. The bus driver told me that I was at the right stop and waved me off with a smile, but once I was off the bus, it was clear to me that I was not in the right place. I was supposed to meet up with my friend Sara at the Spencer Avenue Bus Pad, which is a transit hub. Then we were going to drive somewhere — I’m not even sure where, actually — to watch the fireworks.
I got off the bus, and I was not at a transit hub, not at all. I was standing on a spot on the side of the highway, surrounded by tall green trees creeping up tall green hills. I’m sure in the daytime it’s beautiful, but it was past 9 o’clock, dark, and it all started to feel pretty creepy and ominous pretty fast. There were no people on foot or bike in sight, no parking lot, no other busses, not even a sidewalk to walk on. Just the side of the road and random cars whizzing by. By the time I registered that I was very much in the wrong place, my bus had pulled away and I couldn’t flag it down again.
To top it all off, my cell phone had died on the bus over to Sausalito, so I couldn’t call Sara. I panicked hardcore for a good five minutes — heart racing, muttering fuckfuckfuck to myself, trying to breathe and figure out a plan. I tried to wave down the occasional cars that drove by, to get a ride to the Spencer Avenue Bus Pad. As time passed, that turned into looking for a ride over to the other side of the highway, so I could at least get a bus back into San Francisco. Meeting up with Sara became a lost cause. I’d just get back into the city, charge my phone, and call her to let her know I was okay once I got home.
Of all the cars I tried to flag down, only one woman actually stopped for me. She wouldn’t give me a ride — she said it was because she didn’t know the area well enough — but she also kept her window up very high the whole time we were talking. I understand being guarded with total strangers, especially at night, especially while driving, but it honestly felt very… Marin, you know? In that snooty, class-related way. She directed me to walk under a random highway bridge to the busses that would take me back to the city. I wasn’t sure if I could actually walk under the bridge, but at that point, anything was worth a shot. I thanked her, and she pulled away. I fought back tears of frustration and started walking.
I could hear the fireworks bursting in the air as I walked, but I couldn’t really see them through all the trees — just a glint of green or purple or white here and there behind the leaves. But I reached a clearing to my left, and the fireworks, the thing I’d come to Sausalito to see in the first place, suddenly they were going full blast, and they were beautiful. The first thing I saw was an exploding pink heart surrounded by shimmering white. I was in awe, honestly — fireworks get me every time. Then I felt myself feeling bitter around the edges, resentful, because it was an exploding heart. Then I had to laugh at myself for being so heartbroken that I was actually getting resentful over a fucking fireworks show.
My very recent ex-boyfriend loved Fourth of July. Loves, I mean, present-tense — it’s not like homeboy’s dead, we’re just not talking right now, the idea being that space and time apart will make the eventual transition into friendship easier. Which is smart and caring and compassionate and adult and which also really sucks, because of course all I want right now is to be talking to him. This is the longest we’ve ever gone without talking since we met. It hurts like hell. It is miserable and sad. I’ve been gnashing my teeth and punching pillows and not sleeping and not eating. And I know this is the right thing, still.
We had a really sweet picnic watching the fireworks this time last year, with lots of making out and Dark & Stormies and Italian food and strawberry jam courtesy of my grandmother, who I’d just been to visit that day, who took it upon herself to pack me and my “new friend” a dinner. Sitting in that park watching the fireworks with that boy — who I wasn’t even calling my lover yet, but I think we both knew it was heading there already — it was downright romantical. Says me, the girl who thought she didn’t like romance. He definitely changed that about me.
This whole not-even-two-weeks since he’s broken up with me has been a minefield of “This time last year, I was falling in love…” memories. I really wanted to be around friends and distracted tonight, because I knew July 4th would be especially hard, the same way Pride (which was our anniversary, and which is also when he broke up with me) was a total emotional rollercoaster.
I spent Pride curled up on the couch of two beloved friends, who kept me very stoned on hash and drunk on fancy booze and who fed me three different kinds of chocolate cake, and gave me klonopin when even the hash and the alcohol weren’t knocking me out, so I would sleep instead of just lying in bed sobbing. We watched movies — some bad, some pretty good — and listened to Black Sabbath (a first for me).
But tonight, I ended up alone, on accident.
I’m spiritual, or religious, or whatever you wanna call it. But that part of me is also very private, and very old-school, and actually, very Catholic, which some people get, and some people don’t, and I don’t feel compelled to explain it too hard. And yes, I’m Southern Italian, and yes, much of my spiritual practice is about connection to ethnicity and culture and family and class. But it is also, genuinely, about faith in things I can’t see or understand. I’m much better at, say, talking about sex explicitly than I am at illuminating my spiritual beliefs. In part because I was raised and schooled by an old-world Calabrese magic practitioner who would never in a million years actually call herself a strega. “No, Gina, we’re Catholic!” is the line Nana has always thrown back at me when I try to push her. And she’s right, in a lot of ways, but she also isn’t. And what some Paisanos call omertà isn’t just a mafioso thing, either, even though that is where the word most gets used. Omertà is not just about the secrets of bullies with guns — it’s also about not running your mouth off about how you worship, because that shit’s private. Precious. So whenever people talk about things like “God moments,” like, I’m sorry. I am a DEEPLY EARNEST person and I am honestly down with whatever the hell people wanna believe that helps them through their days. But I also laugh up my sleeve a little bit at hokey new-agey spiritual talk. “God moment” just sounds too close to “Amateur Hour” in my head.
And all that said: There I was, standing at the side of the road, at this gorgeous clearing with a perfect view of the perfect fireworks, feeling totally alone, freaking out, wishing I could just call my friend on my cell phone, wishing one of these fucking Marin bitches would actually stop for me and help me get somewhere safe, wishing I just had my boyfriend back, my boyfriend who I miss more than anything right now. Shit, wishing I had any kind of lover, and hadn’t had what feels like a year of break-up after break-up, this break-up by far being the worst and most devastating, and this break-up leaving me not just without a primary partner, but completely and totally single for the first time in years.
And this little voice crept in amidst the sad, scrambling wishes. It was me, but it wasn’t me. Or it was the me who’s far wiser than I give myself credit for being. As long as you’re here? Enjoy the fireworks. Enjoy how beautiful this is, this moment, right now. You’ll get yourself home. You know how to handle things on your own. You always have. Going it alone doesn’t have to be a punishment or penance or purgatory.
I listened. I watched the fireworks.
And I did get myself home. It involved flagging down a highway patrol officer, and taking a backtracking winding walk to a weird little parking lot off the side of the road, and a salty dog old-school Sausalito cabbie who called me “dear” in the least sexist, most endearing old man way, who talked to his wife on his cell phone about their neurotic dog who was freaked out by the fireworks. He only charged me $35 for what was easily a $50 or $60 cab ride back home to The Mission.
This isn’t the end of my grieving process. If anything, a lot of the harder stuff starts now. But I’m defrosting my red sauce — my recipe, but influenced by my Nana — because I finally have an appetite again. I’m going to bed soon, because I finally feel tired again. Something in me broke open tonight, and that breaking, that opening? I needed that. I finally feel like I have some of my spine back.
Going it alone is not purgatory. It’s not punishment. It’s not penance. I of all people should know that — I’ve spent many more years of my adult life single, or at least un-partnered, than I have partnered up. And my heart is resilient. And brave.