The Desert

I am writing this after the fact.

It is the end of June, and I am not in New York, rather in California, on a girls’ weekend in Palm Springs with my best friend from UCLA, Tink.  We are staying at The Parker, and it is so perfectly mid-century modern, in the style of All That Is Palm Springs.

The last time I was in Palm Springs was in 2007, for Tink’s Bachelorette Party, when I was still sick, and still married, and hung up on a Whole Bunch of Things.  The world hadn’t yet ended, but it was hanging by a thread.  I’d flown on a stormy night to Ontario, CA, on the last JetBlue flight from JFK, then I drove through the dark desert in a rental car blasting Air Supply, Lost in Love.

We are having a fabulous time.  It is 120F in the morning, and nearly 130F at high noon, and we spend 2 days in the pool and drinking vodka drinks, and going to the spa, where the masseuse says: So the husbands are staying home with the kids?  She says it conspiratorially, as if we are all in on some great joke out here in the desert.

To spare myself having to go into the whole story of husbands and kids and lack there of, I simply say, Yes.  Yes, they are.  Because this is just a mirage, right?

Later, Tink and I sit by the pool, and marvel at how our bodies are better now in our thirties than they were on graduation day, over a decade ago.

**********************

It is Monday, now.

We left Palm Springs on Sunday afternoon, and today, I wake up in my parents’ house, in the room that used to be mine, in a twin bed acquired sometime during my university days.  I get out of bed and prepare for a run.  Because I have to.  Because it is marathon season; because I don’t know anything else.

I go for a run in my parents’ town; down the streets I tried to run as a girl, as a chubby teenager when the Santa Anas would leave me winded.

I don’t remember the Santa Anas now — the hot desert winds.  When I arrived on Friday, and we made our way East, there were hot winds blowing, and the feeling was foreign on my pale skin.  I had forgotten how this place could sear.

I am running.

I have run 12 marathons.

I have been married and divorced since I left this place.

I have long, blonde hair, plaited and hanging in two sweaty braids from under the hat I wear.

I wear a hat because I am afraid of wrinkles.

I wear European sunscreens because American brands are inferior; they are missing three key ingredients.

I am a yuppie asshole.

I am at Mile 4, and I am running past my old high school.  The gate is open; the fences are high.  It seems like it would be easier to get through airport security than into or out of the school we used to sneak out of at will.

It is so different.

I had been a student there around the time of the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, when much of the campus had been damaged or leveled. There were fences; cracks; debris.  We didn’t even have a gymnasium until my senior year.  Now, it is a pristine, foreign land.  I am a stranger.

It is so different, and so am I.  But I am frozen in the Quad; frozen in time:  the girl with a frizzy-red bob, and a Prince racquet, and a serious stare.

Then I notice it, the “F” Building.  It bears Mr. Pew’s name.

IMG_1711

Pete Pew is dead.

He was the reason I became a lawyer.  Not that I didn’t always have the inkling, but he taught me how to take notes like a college student; taught me proper analytical thinking; gave me a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution.  When I was a sophomore at UCLA, the fact of owning such a thing led me to a first date with George, which led me to pick the law school in the city in which we were both admitted to good law schools, which was what caused me to pick Georgetown over to the University of Michigan.

By virtue of being at Georgetown, I met Andrew and married him, which brought me to New York.

So that’s really how I made my way home to New York — a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution.

And what I am saying is this: onceuponatime, I was a little girl with strawberry blonde hair, standing in the middle of a broken place, in the high desert, holding a tennis racquet, dreaming very big dreams.  And not very long ago, I was a twentysomething woman, driving through the desert, on the cusp of things falling apart.

And now, after all this time, I am a big girl, and a grown woman.  And I can no longer hold a tennis racquet, and I no longer have a car.  But I have long blonde hair, and I live in New York City, and thanks to a lot of incredible people along this journey, I think I am doing okay.

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