I think, sometimes, I am having a long-distance relationship with myself. 

I’ve been home all week this week; slept in my own bed for ten days straight–something that hasn’t happened since March.  It feels strange and disorienting.  I’m living alone, too, so it’s weird to get acquainted with the routine of not having anyone else in my space; not having to tell anyone else to leave me the hell alone.  To not have to work out my issues with intimacy on anyone else–to have all the time and space in the world to be a complete frigid bitch, as my ex-husband likes to say.

I jest.  Though he really did/does call me a frigid bitch.  Jury is still out on whether he was jesting.

I really am having a long-distance relationship here, though.  I fly in from parts unknown–the California coast; Washington; Copenhagen; the Caribbean; New England–and I spend a day at a time, maybe two days, taking care of things.  I make appointments for haircuts and dinners and manicures.  Sometimes a massage.  I take myself out; I make dates with friends.  I do those things that people do when they are seeing someone special.  But I am seeing myself. 

And then, I’m off again.

So it was a bit of an anti-climax being home.  No glamour.  A sink full of dishes to be done and no garbage disposal (a dismaying fact I learned after I’d already scraped a pile of oatmeal into the sink); laundry to be folded; and those annoying things to be purchased that everyone who has just moved needs to buy and wonders, “How they hell don’t I have these things?  I could swear I had them in my old place!”

I did, however, manage to go out with an old friend, with whom I have a shared closet full of skeletons and for whom I have a veritable container ship full of jumbled feelings: my high school sweetheart who ultimately decided he was gay.  There was nothing easy about that relationship; the legacy of it seems like it should be simple and should have been resolved–like I could have, and indeed should have, turned it into an anecdote of teen love gone terribly awry.

I suppose there is a kind of honesty in first love that is never recreated, can never be recaptured, and everyone wants to share it or experience with someone who is just…the person of his or her dreams.  This man was not the man I ever expected to first love or to experience such strong feelings about.  He was (and is…) this crazy, awkward redhaired musician; frenetic; passionate; dominant. 

I didn’t, and still don’t, like most things about him.  But he was the first person I ever met that I felt like I knew by heart and one cannot deny that feeling.

Our relationship over the years has been marred by having to survive traumas–together and apart–and the wounds had been inflicted by some very heavy personal things.  Forgiveness has been a choice, but one I am glad to have made.  I could not have survived the last 18 months without having chosen that path; without thinking, feeling that I could maybe be able to love that way again.  Which sounds so dramatic.  But true.

So it was our anniversary of many, many years on December 13.

“Happy Anniversary, baby,” he said.

“I’m getting divorced,” I said.  Which is what I say to everyone, these days.  Because it has been months and months and I haven’t told a soul, so I suppose, this far into the process, it’s time to start fessing up.

We went to see a terrible, terrible play in celebration, at a well-known off-Broadway theatre.  Said theatre is doing a reading of his show early next year.

“The girl is good,” I said, concilliatory, commenting on the female lead in the show.

“This is terrible,” he said, “They can’t sing.  Very…cinematic, though.  Like it was meant for film.”  He waved his hand.  Sterotypically. 

“Yes,” I said, “Too many scene changes.”

I had to take a conference call before the show ended.  It was something I never would have done under other circumstances, but this is my life and the play was awful.  I stood outside in the freezing New York night on the phone with places far away, listened and talked, the sounds of the city street in front of and behind me.

I love this place.  I love what I do.  I love the chaos and buzz and double-booking.

I finished the call as the show ended.

“How did the call go?” he asked.

“Poorly.  How did the show end?”

“Worse.”

I stared at him.  Neither of us had changed in a decade and a half, really, at the heart of things.  And I said so.

“Except for the fact that I spent two years in Africa and I’m African now; and you keep forgetting you’re not Chinese.”

“Oh yeah, there’s that.”

The African-white-redhaired-Jew from California and the blonde-Chinese-WASP-from-Pennsylvania stood in silence, frozen on the corner of 7th Ave for a moment.  It was a moment foretold.  If someone had asked 14 years earlier what we would have been doing at that very moment, we might have said we’d be standing on a street corner on a New York City night, coming out of a play together; that he’d be writing shows and having them read off-Broadway, working with the best theatre talent in the city; that I’d be an attorney.

No one could have predicted, though, the steps leading up to that moment.  But the moment had already been written.  Like the cinematic streetcorner kisses under the maple tree in my parents’ front yard; me wearing his letter jacket over leggings.  Like the cold wind blowing in off the Hudson River and the kiss on the cheek getting out of the taxi.

We parted ways–he was headed home then to the airport to pick up his boyfriend coming in from Los Angeles.  They were doing the long-distance thing.  And I was headed home to continue to get reacquainted with my life, after three-quarters of a year of doing the long-distance thing myself.

I got stuck in an elevator the other night. 

I’d left my DC office to go get a soda on the floor below the one my office is on; the door locked behind me, trapping me in the stairwell.  It was late; I was by myself.  I hadn’t taken anything with me (you see, I wasn’t anticipating being caught!)  So I was in running tights after coming back to the office from the gym, planning on a bit of a late night to get a document completed.  It was me, in my tights and a sweater, alone with my fistfull of dollar bills and nothing else.  No mobile phone; no wallet; no nothing.

After about half an hour of aimlessly wandering the stairwells–climbing, descending–I managed to jimmy open the door at the mezzanine level.

(This still isn’t an elevator story, you say.  I know.  I’m getting there.)

This left me with the ability to stare down on to the lobby; still stranded; without any way to a) get back into the stairwell; without any way to get back up to my office; without any way to contact any one.  So I did the logical thing: I pressed the elevator button.  At least in there, I reasoned, there would be an emergency phone.

Ah ha!  Indeed, there was.  The door opened, I stepped inside, and there the trouble began anew.

The door shut behind me and I was trapped.  Again.  Like a rat in a cage.

So I picked up the emergency phone, and asked for help.  “I’m trapped inside a building,” I tried to explain.

“Do you have your Kastle Kard?” the voice on the other end of the line asked.

“No, but I’m inside the building,” I said, “I’m inside the elevator.”

This went on for hours.

“I don’t think you’re understanding me, “I said, as we approached hour two, “I’m inside the elevator.  I’m already inside the building.”

“Do you know the number of a coworker we can call to verify your identity?”

“NO!  FOR THE LAST TIME!  I don’t have my mobile on me; I don’t know anyone’s phone numbers by heart.  I don’t know my Kastle Kard number by heart.  I don’t have my Kard on me.  I have NOTHING.  I don’t want you to let me out of the elevator to let me out of the building because I don’t have my keys; I don’t have my coat or my wallet or my bag.  I JUST WANT TO GO BACK UP TO MY OFFICE!”

“I’m sorry ma’am.  I can’t let you do that.”

“I’m a MISS NOT A MA’AM!”

That was when she hung up on me again.

That was when I lost it–the miss versus ma’am moment.  The newly miss-no-longer-ma’am.

They don’t tell you when you get married that your marriage might not last.  And they don’t give you a list of instructions on what to do if and when it doesn’t.  There’s no primer; no contact sheet for people to call when things don’t go the way you planned; when your parents have been together for 40 years and you feel they have these high expectations of what you’re supposed to do and be and when they were supposed to be grandparents and how you were supposed to turn out and show up at home for the holidays, all bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed, even when you know it is a lie that they, themselves, ever showed up bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed at their own parents’ homes. 

No one tells you what to do when you have to take the rings off and put them in the jewelry box, and cringe every time someone asks about your husband, and wince when you don’t know what last name to give people, and dread the prospect of giving away your wedding gown.  They don’t tell you where to donate that monstrosity, either.

And absolutely nobody, no person, not a soul…no one…tells you how to handle yourself at 2:30am in an elevator with some kid calling you ma’am when you are tired, jet-lagged, estranged, and down to your last nerve.

I called the operator back.

“I want to get out of this elevator…right now…or else I am going to call the fire department,” I said as calmly as I could muster.

“The fire department does not come out for non-emergencies,” the kid said, flippantly.

“I WILL MAKE THIS AN EMERGENCY!”

She hung up again.

I called back. 

“I want to speak to a supervisor,” I demanded, as if I were taking back a sweater, or asking for a rebate.

I waited for the supervisor.

After another 30 minutes of haggling, I managed to convince the supervisor that I was, indeed, inside the motherloving elevator and that I did, indeed, work in the building.  She finally activated the elevator again, and first deposited me at the lobby, which further infuriated me, and ultimately, took me to my office floor.  When I arrived at my floor, she had me read her the numbers off my Kastle Kard.

“That’s not your Kard,” she said.

“Um, okay.  I’ll get that fixed.  I’m only in this office..infrequently.” 

The next day, some of my friends said things to me like, “You should have called me!”  That angered me after the fact, but I smiled politely.

If I’d had a phone, I would have called the effing fire department; the police.  I was trapped in a goddamned elevator for three hours.  Did you think I wanted to chit-chat?  I wanted out.  It was THREE O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING.

Later that day, on absolutely no sleep, I was talking to F as I drove home from a meeting. 

“That was the first jam I’ve ever been in where I was actually afraid that I wasn’t going to get out; that I was afraid my colleagues and the people in the building were going to come in at 7am and find me in ratty old running tights, asleep in the elevator.  I just felt completely alone; exposed; vulnerable.  Panicked.”

“I was in Albany today,” he offered, “I got my ass handed to me by the Labor Commissioner…”

“No, seriously.  It’s infuriating to me that people a) think I’m so stupid that I didn’t call out if I did have a phone, and b) they think I would have called them if I did have a phone.”

“I think you’re over thinking this.”

Both our words echoed on the line, knowing intimately what the other meant.  Work; travel; the mundane; the heavy; the history of how we’d gotten to that moment.  The stuff and things of our personal-professional lives bouncing back and forth from satellite to cell tower to chips and bits.   All of it, shaken apart into nothing; into letters and numbers and pictures and pinks and purples and oranges as the sun was setting over the eastern seabord.  The week was ending.

The heavy things in pieces, we sat in silence for one less-lonely moment, separate and together on the New Jersey Turnpike and the Hudson River line.

I’ve realized that it’s not just me–it’s something in my blood that makes me do this; that drives this wanderlust.

Long story short…my brother and I drove back from Yosemite together so I could go to a party on Saturday night.  I think there’s a bit of anticipation to see what I might say about the event (though perhaps I’m flattering myself here)…but I’ve learned my lesson well, and will let that dog sleep.

All told, my trip to California involved driving from San Francisco to Yosemite; from Yosemite to Fresno and back; from Yosemite to Los Angeles; then flying from Los Angeles to New York.

Which is where the story begins.

I arrived in New York at 1am on Monday morning–a 4pm flight from LAX.  I had realized, halfway through the flight, that my wardrobe boxes (containing all my work clothes) were still with Andrew, as he had not been able to deliver them on Monday when he had moved.  I was due to be in Washington mid-morning.  Not good, as the only clothes I had in my new place were sport clothes.  Not the gymclothes kind.  Like, climbing clothes; ski clothes; run-a-marathon clothes.

Luckily, my flight had been a Virgin America flight and I had worked out a deal via email by which Andrew would leave clothes for me and I would simply take the car filled with clothes and leave upon arriving back in New York.  Simple (albeit miserable) enough, right?  (I should mention here that every shuttle flight and morning train that would have gotten me into DC by mid-morning was booked with holiday weekend stragglers).

I arrived home to find that he had instead left the clothes with my doorman, which was logical enough, but I don’t have a 24-hour doorman–he leaves at midnight.  The clothes were locked in the bell closet with no way for me to retrieve them until after 6am–too late to leave.

I wound up having to wake Andrew, go to his apartment, retrieve more clothes, and hit the road.  In case you were wondering, the New Jersey Turnpike is not as desolate as expected at 3am.  Guidos in their suped up Camrys reclining too far in the driver’s seat, highway lights reflecting off of their tans; truckers bound for South of the Border by dawn racing at speeds too fast for comfort; assholes in luxury cars testing out the paddle shifters; etc. etc. etc. — same as you’d get any other time of the day, but fewer of all types.

I arrived in the Greater Washington Area at dawn; went to the gym; went to work; carried on with my day.  Nothing special, except for the fact that I had just undertaken this gargantuan travel task, tinged in martyrdom and misery.

I saw my aunt and uncle that night, as I hinged on 36 hours of travel, being awake.

They began to tell me about my cousin Dan, who was planning a trip with his wife for after the holidays.

“He was worried he wouldn’t have enough points for upgrades,” Auntie M said, “Then I asked if he was going to be home on Saturday because I needed to drop something off at his house.  He said he wouldn’t be home Saturday, but we could come over any time on Sunday.  At first, we didn’t think anything of it.  Until we found him very sleepy on Sunday…”

As it turned out, Dan had been bumped from a flight about a month before and had received a $200 voucher.  To allay his fears and confirm he had enough points for the trip, he’d taken the voucher, paid an extra $30, and booked a ridiculous cross-country flight that had taken him from Dulles, to Denver, to San Jose, to LAX, back to Dulles: $230; 23 hours.

“Clearly, it’s in the family,” my uncle smiled.  (Though I am sure he will deny having said that upon reading this…)

I laughed and laughed.  But realized, maybe it is.  My father is a management consultant; has traveled the world since I’ve been alive.  His cousins and siblings are all wanderlusters–have been missionaries in parts unknown; have lived in Europe and Asia; have traveled and seen and done and been to parts that many families only dream of visiting, let alone living there.

Maybe, I’m genetically programmed to this lifestyle.  Maybe, I couldn’t avoid driving the Turnpike at 3am, even if I tried.

I went up to bed to find a message from a friend who had, earlier in the day, told me he was en route to LAX for the first time in his life.

But I’d just sent him a postcard of Los Angeles, in which LAX featured prominently, an hour before he’d told me he was going to LAX.  I didn’t tell him I’d sent it, so I was convinced he was messing with my head when he told me he was headed to LA.  Funny.

“How is it?” I asked, “Tell me everything.  Tell me if you can smell the petroleum over sea breeze smell of the Westside.  Tell me where you’re staying; tell me it all.”

“Some Marriott.”

“The wavy one?  The one that looks like it should have balconies but doesn’t?”

“The wavy one.”

We talked about travel for a few moments; talked about life on the road; talked about settling into life; about surviving LA.

He sent me a photo taken through his hotel window, facing out the back of the hotel towards the tarmac–electric green neon of the lights on the hotel nextdoor; shadows of palm trees and 747s bound for Asia visible in the distance.  I could almost hear the roar of the engines; the hiss of traffic on Lincoln Boulevard behind and Century Boulevard in front.

I am sitting on the floor of my new apartment–a gut rennovated unit in a classic art deco building. Bauhaus flourishes on the interior of the building itself. My apartment is 800 square feet. A perfect, polished parquet. Wrought iron railings into a sunken living room; marble bath with modern fixtures. The kitchen, however, is space-aged…but still honors the spirit of the space.

I am an incredibly environmentally sensitive person, and one only need step one foot into this apartment to feel the positive energy; the ambient Meredithness of the place.

I am uniquely capable of feeling at home in the myriad places I’ve traveled over the last 18 months; I had come to rest comfortably the last 75 days, or so, in Northern California. But this place, for once, is all mine.

It’s a weird feeling, you know, to meet youself in the places you don’t expect to find you. To have spent your entire adult life in committed relationships, and then to come, the Friday before Thanksgiving, to a starkly empty apartment that is all your own…and find you have, for once, truly come home.

When I got home last night, I navigated the maze of boxes to go out to walk the dogs.

I’m moving tomorrow.  From downtown, to the Upper East Side.  I’ll be an uptown girl…like my blonde waspiness always foretold.

Tights and a sweatshirt donned post-flight, I reached into the hall closet to cover up with a jacket.  The thing I always reach for this time of year–Andrew’s fleece and a scarf.  Automatic, reflexive; blue-grey fleece on tights the way I used to wear my high school boyfriends’ letter jackets when I was a teenager.  The way I could play the all-American girl.  The way, in some ways, I am the all-American girl, even if the role doesn’t fit seemlessly.

All American girls are all-American…a bit of a tautology, but it works.  There’s no avoiding it.  It is what it is.  By virtue of being American, you’re all-American; one can suit any cookie cutter of American culture by virtue of being raised here…the first-generation American born or raised of immigrant parents; the waspy blonde raised with everything who battles her own demons; the corn-fed midwesterner; the hard-bitten city girl…modern literature has taken anything American and made it unavoidably complete.

I digress.

Despite the legality of it all having happened a long time ago, after tomorrow, there won’t be a man’s jacket in my hall closet.  There won’t be a husband’s coat there; no fleece to grab to walk the dog; no dog to walk–at least in the short term.  I’ll be a different kind of American girl.  American woman.

What of that?  What of choosing to walk away from the dark, clubby furniture; of choosing to walk from the life where I was constantly being accused of the things I wasn’t doing?

I like men.  I like the smell of men’s coats; I like wearing men’s sweaters; I like the company of gentlemen and brutes.  I like sports; I like men’s straightforwardness.  I’m not the kind of woman (any more) who will tell you she hates women; hates working with women; can’t have real relationships with women.  I’m not that person.  But I really like men.

I’ve come to grips with being a statistic; or maybe even an “I told you so.”  I’ve made peace with all those things.

Last night though, as I walked along the river with the dogs, wearing the fleece for ostensibly the last time, it struck me that this is real.  That I tried; that we tried; that we didn’t make it and that this is perhaps the only thing I’ve ever really failed at in my entire life.

I’m watching as my friends have babies and buy houses; as other friends raise their school-age children and transition their lives through the same things I’ve just begun.  This is a different kind of travel–a kind I didn’t anticipate; a kind I didn’t really want to undertake.

And a kind for which I find myself needing a new overcoat.