Sunday, October 18, 2009

It's My Party

I am standing in my kitchen, looking down through the second-story window to the driveway, where my Parisian boyfriend and a friend of his are wrestling with a gigantic cardboard box in an attempt to remove its contents. It's about the same length and height as a refrigerator box, but not as deep, and inside it is an equally gigantic tent. They are standing next to a Toyota Land Cruiser, the top of which the tent will eventually be screwed onto. The tent is to be my boyfriend's home for the next year, and he, the tent and the Land Cruiser will leave our driveway in a month and a half and drive around the world (except for places that are not navigable by car, like oceans, where he will ship his new life partner and fly to meet it).

Six months ago, La Moustache and I were spending our weekends visiting open houses. He had gone to the bank and gotten pre-approval for a loan for us to buy a brownstone together. My hopes and dreams for our future included such projects as traveling to Brazil, planting carrots in the garden behind our future brownstone, and dressing up as a Hasidic Jewish couple for Halloween (we live just south of the Hasidic section of Brooklyn, and I became inspired one day while watching a Hasidic couple cross the street). It did not include a record breakingly-early midlife crisis, or the portable shower and toilet that are now sitting in my hallway. Nor did it include La Moustache's' spending the money that was intended to be a downpayment on a house on a trip around the world.

The cherry on top of my predicament is that at the same time that La Moustache made this decision, I lost my job. I'm an elementary school teacher, so usually at this time of year I am so busy laminating labels, planning lessons, and organizing book bins that a boyfriend could leave me and I'd hardly notice. Not so this year. My job fell through at the very last minute, as I was in the process of putting the final touches on my classroom, leaving me with an abundance of time to sit on my couch and contemplate how I ended up living with a mentally unbalanced person for three years and never realized it.

Since then, my mood has been swinging around wildly like a ship's lantern in a storm, reminiscent of my adolescence. At times, my fury knows no limits, like when I ripped up postcards I sent to Moustache and threw them on his bed, or the day I intended to give him a kiss but without fully realizing what I was doing sunk my teeth into his cheek (hard enough to leave a mark, but I didn't break the skin). While he was outside working on his preparations one day, I snuck out of the house, hoping he would return to find me gone and be left wondering if I would ever come back; instead, I returned two hours later to find him still outside, hard at work. Other times, I cry pathetically, hoping against hope that he will comfort me and tell me it has all been a bad nightmare. There are moments when I am overwhelmed by desire to spend as much time with him as possible, and sit in the driveway keeping him company while he saws wood to make drawers for the Cruiser (which I've nicknamed the Monster). I spent an entire afternoon this way recently, pretending to read aloud the FAQ section of a Lonely Planet guide to circumnavigating the globe. Here is a sampling of what I “read”: 

Q: Is it safe to take a trip around the world?

A: No. If you decide to do this trip, be forewarned that you will almost certainly perish. If you are not done in by Dengue-fever-spreading mosquitoes in Africa, run into a deadly scorpion in South America, or get a fatal STD from a prostitute in Eastern Europe, you will surely commit suicide before the end of the year out of loneliness and desperation.

Q: Will it help or hurt my career to take this trip?

A: It will damage your career irreparably. Everyone will realize that you are insane, and no one will be willing to employ you again, ever.

Q: What kind of food can I expect to eat during my travels?

A: Be prepared to be extremely flexible in your diet. At times, particularly in remote parts of Asia, the only foods available to you will be insects such as moths and spiders. It is considered rude to squash them before consuming them, so you will have to eat them alive. It is also possible that you will need to traverse areas of South America where you will be forced to eat dog feces to survive.

Q: Is it better to undertake the trip alone, or with other people?

A: This is a tough question, and you will need to make a decision about what works best for you. On the one hand, traveling with friends over long periods of time and in close quarters can be extremely stressful. Sometimes people get into physical altercations with their traveling companions, and friendships rarely last beyond the final destination, if they last that far. (One young woman recounted to us that she was kicked out of the car in the middle of the Sahara Desert by her former best friend, and had to drink her own urine to survive 10 days before she was discovered by a group of Berber herdsmen.) On the other hand, as mentioned above, if you travel by yourself you are at an extremely high risk to commit suicide. Furthermore, guerillas and bandits often target lone travelers; people traveling this way have been known to be beheaded in remote locations, and their decapitated bodies were not found until over a decade later.

Q: What sorts of preparations do I need to do prior to my departure?

A: Take out an excellent life insurance policy. Other than that, there is really nothing you can do to prepare for such a dangerous, foolhardy trip.

Rather than trying to fight this resurfacing of a teenage mentality, I have decided to go with it. In fact, my new mantra is: I can do whatever I want to. Fate has dealt me a harsh hand, and given the circumstances, I have no obligations to anyone but myself. If I feel like eating chocolate for breakfast, sleeping on the couch with all the lights in the house on, or reaching into my pocket, pulling out my car keys and pretending to shoot La Moustache with them, I can. (Like biting, fake shooting is surprisingly satisfying. It gave me new insight into why my six-year-old students engaged incessantly in such battles.)

Is La Moustache crazy? Did I live for three years with someone who is profoundly self-centered, and not realize it? Has he always been this full of himself, or is this a side effect of his selfishness? Is it possible that I was correct in my feeling that he was a kind, loving boyfriend during our years together, and is now acting out of depression-induced desperation? These are the questions that run constantly through my mind, keeping me up at night and making me exhausted even when I've spent the entire day immobile on the couch. I'm trying to let go of them and accept that I can't know the answers now, and may never fully be able to answer them. In the meantime, I'm off to take my second bath of the day, accompanied by a big bowl of ice cream and only occasionally interrupted by the roar of La Moustache's saw intruding through the window.


  1. you sure do write well, lots of feeling without being too sentimental

  2. Your boyfriend had better watch out if he ever shows his face in JP!

  3. Girl, I'd add a martini along with that ice cream and bath. Maybe a double!

    Nicely written.