by MEREDITH CHAMBERLAIN
If you asked anyone what I was doing during that long stretch of living that went on between the ages of 18 and 25 — between legal and actual adultism — they'd tell you that I was leaving.
The word "adult" doesn't really sit well with me. I find it to be pretty nasty, compared to its predecessor, but I have recently come to terms with its profanity. There are habits I have picked up in the past year that simply cannot be described as anything other than Adult Behavior. I cook all my food before it goes bad. The other night I made avocado mozzarella chicken with a side of brussels sprouts and pears. All of these groceries were about a day away from ugly, and I came home from work, turned on some music, and saved them. In my mind, that is the difference: the business of rescuing is way beyond the mind of a child.
I also get out of bed when my alarm goes off. I call people back, I clean things, and sometimes I even smile. I don't put things off anymore. I don't leave, for now, come back to it tomorrow. Because I never came back to it. Because there were so many exits floating around inside me, the draft from all the doors left ajar became unbearable. I was too cold, tired, I was never today, always tomorrow.
At the time, I didn't know that I was looking for anything. I was just leaving, running away. That phrase: Everywhere you go, there you are, I hated it, and I really hoped not. I really hoped that everywhere I went, there I wouldn't be. I figured I had to shed myself and throw her away, before I could be the person I envisioned I'd live the rest of my life as. I hoped I'd get off some plane and leave the old me sitting, slumped over that aisle seat, suffocating. I hoped my college self would stay and rot where she belonged, in her cramped $200-a-month bedroom, buried in piles of Sylvia Plath and Colt 45. I didn't realize that without her I'd just be some two-chord melody without any lyrics.
For seven years I left. For seven years, I was always leaving, hoping to find the girl I am today in Virginia, in Spain, in London, in Brooklyn, and when I went to those places and couldn't find her there I'd daydream about finding her in places I had no intention of going to: Paris, Hawaii, 1970s California, middle-of-nowhere Nebraska. Maybe the wise but young-at-heart, light yet grounded, confident as all hell version of me was hiding out with horses in barns, on beaches with braids in her hair, down cobblestone streets shouting oui oui oui. Because she certainly was not hanging out in the bed I'd been dreaming my life away in.
I'd return and my friends would ask: How was it? How did you like it there? Did you have a nice time? And they'd mean: I hope to God you've found her this time. Of course I thought I had. Because of course there was always a man in those places, those daydreams, I went to. And when I couldn't find her I'd often take shelter in him.
If I was your girlfriend during any of these years, I was at least adaptable in my absence. I was at least convenient in the depths of catastrophe. The battles that went on inside me sucked up all of my strength, left me listless, so when you challenged me to one of those selfish young adult duels — whose apartment will we sleep at tonight, whose friends will we see this weekend, whose house for the holidays, whose job is better, more meaningful, whose day is more deserving of that spot on couch and that show on the television — the answer was always: yours. I didn't fight for myself because I had no interest in spending any time with her, in going to any of the places she came from. I was a stark white flag. You could wave me, wrap me around you; I was fluid, shapeless. I could be stuffed into any box, bed, world, as long as you bunched me up and held me tight in your strong and certain hands.
If I wasn't your girlfriend during any of these years, if I was just passing through, if you were gracious enough to let me in for a few days, weeks, you got the better deal. Because this meant that I was truly on vacation. I packed all my nice outfits, I drank cocktails until my mind turned rosy, I kissed you, like it or not, in the most public of places. Because we would never be back there again, and this public wouldn't remember us. When you're a tourist, you're not only allowed but often encouraged to completely forget what you left behind. You can take a seat at the tiki bar and tell all kinds of lies to that man sitting next to you, and then you can listen to his with a rum-rimmed smile on your face. Because there is an entire ocean separating you from yourself, and that is a reason to celebrate. If I wasn't your girlfriend during any of these years, you got the honeymoon, and I hope you remember it well.
There's no cheap, one-way fare out of immaturity. It's more of a long, over-dramatized journey you take with several people you don't much care for, and much like the travelers in As I Lay Dying and National Lampoon's Vacation, you're often dragging a dead person along with you the whole way. You take it because you have to, because you have to get out of where you are before you can let anyone in. Because a child can't entertain. Can't splash the sad from her eyes, chignon her hair and throw open the door with a smile. She forgets to introduce you to her roommates, never offers a snack, and when you ask her what she'd like to do tonight, she shrugs, sits down, stares out the window. She waits for you to pick up her coat, put her inside of it, take her hand and lead her outside.
And so I went with you. I went wherever you took me. They weren't always the nicest places. In the back of my mind I knew that you weren't the best escape. Sometimes you were the Super 8 of escapes. But where do you go when you're running away from the back of your mind? You go to the first motel you come across, you say yes when he asks if you'd like to come in.
Walk into my world, for a second. I was going to make you dinner, this crossed my mind, but in the end, no. You won't be here long, I'm sorry you don't realize, there is no reason to eat. Please sit, make yourself comfortable in my world while I do my best to make you forget your own. Because I know, you'd rather be there. But I want you here, for one second, one hour, one night, that's all. I'm going to try very hard to make you forget why you're here in my world and then I'm going to send you right back to your own. Do me a favor and call it a dream.
"In Inner Air" - Ateleia (mp3)
"Threaded" - Ateleia (mp3)
"Nightly" - Ateleia (mp3)