I arrived in New York in the early hours of the morning. I met Cazador and we walked along the streets of Manhattan at dawn. He looked different. His eyes weren’t those pools of young hope and spark. They were tired. His face was puffy. His brow was furrowed. He was only 25 but looked ten years older. How odd. What has aged him so? We did a few hours of site seeing and then packed the rest of his things and loaded up the Uhaul. We left for California and arrived four days later.
I greeted the boys happily on my return. They hugged and kissed me. Their love, unconditional.
But everything had changed. When I saw my family, something was different. Everyone seemed on edge. Some were avoiding me. Not wanting to talk or look at me. There was a rift. A rift in my family. And I felt like an outsider.
Once C came into my house, it became impossible to get him out. I tried to make him go home to his parents house at night.
“Babe it’s fine. I’ll just sleep here on the couch. You want me to get in an accident? Can’t you see how tired I am? Stop acting like a child.” Was I being a child? My insides quaked. Anxiety riddled and coursed through me. Why doesn’t this feel like the sweet romance I was promised?
It was still so engrained in me to take care of everyone. Keep quiet. Make everyone happy. Keep the peace. Avoid conflict. I was still scarred. It was so raw. I was trying to create the reality I wanted. I was trying to fill the void in my heart and my life.
I could see that Cazador had some pretty serious character flaws I was unaware of. He smoked marijuana regularly. He was a pretty heavy drinker. He seemed to have a fairly short fuse. This all became fairly evident in the first week or so. I needed time. I needed time to sort out what I thought of him. Time to figure out who he was and what to do.
Tensions grew as my parents were not happy with C and that he had pretty much moved into my house. He had not yet found a job. It all came to a head as emails began to circulate within the family. I don’t know exactly what they said. Everyone giving their opinion. Disapproval, approval. Drawing their lines in the sand. Taking sides. Slinging insults. I only read parts of them. My world was spinning. And I felt lost. And very misunderstood. A whirlwind of Anxiety and uncertainty. I wanted to be ok. I wanted to be happy. I wanted to do the right thing. I wanted to have fun. But all around me, problems formed and swarmed. The upheaval and chaos going on in my heart and mind made me incapable of facing conflict. Any turmoil without only heightened and strengthened the quakes and tremors within. Made the avalanche thunder louder. I could feel the crumbling snow hit the backs of my legs. Run. Run. Run. Hide. Run. Hide. Get away. Get safe.
I clung to C like a life raft. I had put all hope into this relationship. This was my happily ever after. This was my Promise Land. Why is it all unraveling? Why is it falling apart? I curled up against the wall and put my head in my hands. I can’t do this. I can’t do this. Why is everyone mad at me? I just want to be happy. I just want to have fun. I just want the nightmares to stop. The adrenalin coursing through my veins. Nauseous. I need some wine. I need some sleep. I don’t know what I need. I’m so tired. I don’t want to think about Dean. His frail body. His yellow face. His yellow eyes. His broken bones. I don’t want to think about it anymore. I just want to move on. I just want a normal life.
I couldn’t settle. Couldn’t find Peace. I begged for her. I begged her please come. Sit with me. Push Anxiety away. Tell insomnia to leave. But she evaded me. I grasped for her, but she was out of reach.
Things came to a head. My dad and C got in an argument. Their faces contorted with anger. The yelling. The awful yelling.
I couldn’t face it. Couldn’t cope with the conflict. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know how to fix it or make it better.
So I ran.
I packed a bag for me and one for the boys. We left the apartment my parents had set up for us. We went and stayed at a cheap hotel a couple of towns over. C came with us.
Peace. I want Peace.
“Fuck ‘em babe. They don’t want to support you or let you live your own life. That’s what family is supposed to do. We’ll get a place. You, me, the boys, and my parents. We’ll get a house together. You can live with me. It’ll be great. We’ll find a great school for the boys to go to. Don’t worry babe. It’s going to be fine.”
His words were supposed to be reassuring but all I felt was dread. It sounded nice. A house. A nice school. I could cook and clean. That’s what I knew how to do. I knew how to be a wife and a mom. I don’t know how to be a single, working mother. I don’t want that. I looked at C. If I just love him enough. If I show him what real love looks like, he’ll change. My family will eventually learn to like him, I’m sure. It’ll blow over. It’s just going to take some time.
I put a deposit on a nice four-bedroom, two-story rental not far from my parents’. The neighborhood had that sterile, track home, Stepford wives thing happening. Pretty but eerie. Lacking in character. Color. Warmth. There was a school a few blocks away. It lacked personality but had that fresh look of a newly built school. I thought of Australia with her turquoise sea and red dirt. A pang of sorrow followed.