Both Sides Now
I feel a bit frantic as I try to get my key to work and unlock the door to my apartment. It feels like my heart will close in on itself if I don’t get inside soon and I’m growing so impatient until finally, I open the door to step inside. I immediately feel a sense of relief overcoming me because I’m finally home and I can experience this for a little while longer. I notice the apartment looks like it’s getting emptied because the big brown packing boxes are sitting in front of the dining table, but being there in that space and in that moment is enough for me. I walk past the living room and towards my bedroom where everything is intact still, just the way I left it before leaving. Where did I go? I went out to enjoy the day and ran errands, because I’m dressed up and I can feel the makeup on my face. Happiness is what I am experiencing for I realize that there is still some time left to enjoy it all, but suddenly I get so upset to the point that I might cry and melt into a puddle of emotions. I head back towards the front door with my arms wrapped around me, holding myself intact to keep from falling apart as everything starts to fade away. I wake up, open my eyes, and realize that it was all just a dream.
Today would have been my two year anniversary of living in LA.
I’d like to think that today I would have woken up in that room with the four white walls, as the sun’s brightness would enclose me in warmth. I’d get up to wash my face, brush my teeth, and finally make my bed before moving on to make breakfast. I would have made an açai bowl, because it’s what I made whenever I wanted a morning filled with sweetness. I would have watched a show while enjoying this treat, before moving on to get ready to go out and enjoy this landmark of a day. I probably would have driven to my favorite spot, the spot I was shown and later declared my spot shortly thereafter. I would have sat there in silence enjoying the view of the city’s skyline, until I got antsy because I could never get bored of being there, but I would get restless. I would have driven away after to explore new locations and probably would have ended up at my favorite beach to enjoy the sunset as my last destination, before buying some takeout and heading back home to enjoy the rest of the night in.
Instead I’m back home. The home I grew up in.
The day is gray as usual. I wake up with lavender purple walls surrounding me and the warmth I feel is not from the weather, but from my linen sheets. It is just another Wednesday filled with ambivalence towards my current life’s trajectory. So this is my life now, filled with school and work and commitments and assignments and everyday existential tasks that take up my daily routine. Life no longer feels like a fantasy.
It’s a bit weird honestly, to be back in the space you wanted to move away from, have the same job you had before leaving, and be surrounded by the same people you left behind. Sometimes I question whether those two years of living in a different city actually happened because I’m back at square one. It feels as though I’ve regressed from whatever progress I had made in life and yet I know this to be untrue, because I was in fact, gone for two years and grew so much that when I look back I do not recognize my 20 year old self. However I am back home in the place I grew up in, but now I am 23 years old and I am me. I am still who I was when I lived in LA, it’s just that I am not there anymore. “Wherever you go there you are,” no truer words have ever been said, and yet I feel that I am better when I am there. Happier. More free.
My last day felt so strange for it was so uneventful and yet, I was about to undergo the biggest readjustment of my life the very next day. It was a grayish blue sky filled Friday, and I absolutely did nothing but drove around one last time to enjoy it all. I can’t even remember how the morning went, for all I can recount is how I spent two hours getting ready and felt a bit numb throughout the rest of the day. I did not go to my spot, because I knew if I did a lump in my throat would form and my weight would drop to my feet and I would never want to go back to the apartment. I was supposed to go watch a movie but last minute I decided to ultimately not go, because I did not want to make the drive and sit in traffic during rush hour from Santa Monica to Griffith Park. So I decided I would fill up my car with gas in order to prepare for the next day, and head to Culver City to get some ice cream before going home.
I remember how two years before I had even officially moved to LA, I spent two days in the city to attend some interviews I had scheduled. I had lied about where I was located on my resume and put the address of my new apartment in order to secure some call backs. During my first night, I walked to the nearest ice cream shop and embarrassed myself so much that I made a mental note to never go to that place again. So on my last night in LA after I picked up my ice cream and started to walk back to my car, I realized I was having a full circle moment.
The next day was moving day, and it was even stranger. It was a Saturday and my morning consisted of going up and down the elevator in my apartment with my personal belongings in hand. I can actually recall waking up that day and not wanting for the events to unfold. I wanted to wrap myself up in those white sheets and fall asleep again, for I hoped that I would wake up in a different life: one where things would end up staying the same. Instead I decided to start my day with music and went on ahead as best as I could, beginning with packing up any remaining things and discarding anything I would not be bringing back with me. As I began to slowly fill my car up with insignifiancies, I realized that with each step I took I was closer to leaving it all behind. Whatever life I had formed here would cease to exist. I would no longer park inside the garage of this building, go to the nearby grocery stores and stock up the pantry, cook on the severely outdated stove, walk on the brown carpet that I absolutely hated but grew to love, lay on the couch to watch The Wire, and sleep in the space I got comfortable with calling my room. I would be leaving my home.
I did not cry on that day like I thought I would. I think I was just tired of being in my head for so long, that I decided to dissociate and enjoy the six hour drive I was about endure. So I tied up my hair, put on sunglasses, and stuck my hand out the car window one last time to feel the sunny weather while I drove on the 405. As soon as I got out of LA and into the San Fernando Valley, I turned up the A/C along with my music and sang along to my favorite songs as I sped towards interstate 5. It was 90 degrees that day and the only song I can remember playing is, “Love Me Two Times” from The Doors.
Love me two time, babe
Love me twice today
Love me two time, babe
’Cause I’m goin’ away
It’s hard to believe that someone else will eventually inhabit the same apartment, and I don’t want think about it either. I’d like to imagine that it’s empty and hollow and feels my absence, for I feel the same way within my heart. I’d like to think that it’s been reserved for me and me only but I realize how silly this desire is, because I know that one day I will return to LA from this unwanted move and I’ll look at apartments that have hardwood floors and the city lights will surround me at night, giving way to the illusion of living inside the milky way. However, that apartment with all its imperfections and outdatedness will forever mean so much to me. It was my first apartment where I grew to love who I am and figured out who I want to be in life. I still have the keys to my place and I’ll never get rid of them.
There are days where I wake up and wish to be back in that space, where the first thing I’d see is a clear blue sky from the wide window on the left side of my room. If I close my eyes and really focus on it all, I can transport myself back to that place and be in it. Stay in it… for just a while longer. I can go over the intricacies of the apartment and feel the edges of each door and their silver door knobs, the white bathroom counters, the chalkiness of cheaply painted white walls, the brown granite kitchen counters, the firmness of the carpet beneath my feet, the softness of the gray couch in the living room, the coolness of water running from the faucet, and finally the warmth that surrounded me in the enclosed space that became my sanctuary.
It’s a beautiful illusion I’ll forever hold onto.
Today marks the date of my two year anniversary of living in LA, so here’s a list of things I knew I’d end up missing:
- Eating açai bowls for breakfast.
- Dancing at any given time but especially on my bed, and jumping on it at night while I stare out my window.
- Singing out loud with no one around to listen.
- Falling asleep to the sound of crickets/grasshoppers singing at night.
- Summer nights that are warm but have a slight breeze.
- Being able to say “my place”.
- Getting high whenever I want to unrestrictedly.
- Being able to lay out on the couch and watch whatever I want with no interruptions.
- Having my own room but especially bathroom.
- Hearing doves sing in the evening during sundown.
- Driving down Sunset and Mulholland especially at night.
- Being able to lay out at the beach during hot sunny days.
- Speeding on the 405.
- Falling asleep to music.
- Seeing the moon and stars while airplanes pass by at night as I try to sleep.
- Being anonymous in a city full of strangers.
- Having moments where I realize I live in LA.
- Experiencing moments of pure contentment (which may have actually been happiness).
- Being able to visit home and feel gratitude and fulfillment.
- Having two places I can call “home”.
- Feeling like I’m living in a dream.