(Published in Illuminación Writing Program Journal, 2016)
The mountain air was crisp and cool, the sun was mild against my skin. The forecast called for rain and the dark clouds, though far off on the horizon, were eager to oblige. We walked along the pebbly coast of the lake. He, dog, and I. We stopped at a clearing where tall evergreens surrounded a small, craggy beach. Tufts of soft, wild grass flourished in the shade of the trees. He took off his shoes, rolled up his blue Dickies, and stood ankle-deep in the warm shallow of the lake.
"You've got to feel this."
Not wanting to trudge back to the cabin in wet socks and shoes, I plunged my hands into the clear water, letting the tiny pebbles that enshrouded the bottom of the lake sift through my fingers.
The next morning was cold, the sky bright and gray. A thin layer of clouds veiled the sky, softening the sun's light. We drank black coffee and ate bacon, eggs, and toast off paper plates while we watched the stillness of the lake from barstools behind glass doors. I turned to him in between sips of coffee.
"I think today would be the best day to do it," I said, "once the rain comes in it might not let up," he nodded.
We donned sneakers and walked down the precariously worn stairs to the lake shore, the dog alongside us. We stood at a small beach behind the cabin. The dog played in the sand while I cautiously approached the shore and produced a small, plastic bag from my jacket pocket. It still shocked me that ten and a half years of life and so many memories could be reduced to a handful ash and bone that fit into such a small bag.
Suddenly I wasn't sure if I was ready to let go. Hesitating, I opened the bag and slowly poured the former body of my beloved childhood companion into the glassy water of the lake. With every lap of the tide, ash and bone amalgamated with the lake floor. She became one with the earth, and she was no longer mine.
"Warranty for a Broken Heart"
I remember when my dad stopped coming home for dinner. My mom would always tell me he was out late was because he was working hard to give me all the things he never had growing up.
“I don’t want things,” I remember saying, “I want him to come home.”
I remember when I looked forward to family dinners, when I would roller skate on the cracked pavement in the driveway that was marked with sidewalk chalk among rows of tract homes that looked just like ours. I would skate in circles until the sun went down, waiting for my dad to come home. Most people avoid lingering outside in Chino Hills in the warmer days due to the intense smell of cows that worsens with rising temperatures.
Outside in the driveway, I felt like I might be the last person alive, save for the occasional passing car or elderly lady on a walk. I would play outside in this strange, post-apocalyptic land where only a handful of people were still left.
I remember a day when my dad came home early, the pavement still warm as the sun began to set. A lone car turned the corner and pulled into the driveway, and I leapt forward in my pink Barbie roller skates and collided into the side of the vehicle, leaving greasy smudges in the thin layer of dust on the driver’s side door. In my excitement, I didn't notice the cow smell hanging in the air.
“I didn’t know you were coming!” I cheered before clumsily skating inside and alerting my mom that my dad was home, “Did you know he was coming?”
I don’t know if my memories are colored by what I know now about the decline of my parent’s marriage, but when I think back on that moment, my mom has a certain look of sadness, like she already saw the path her marriage was on and felt powerless to stop it.
I think that often times we try to soothe our anxiety by creating one sole solution that will cause everything to fall into place like an intricate arrangement of dominos. In many ways, I am guilty of this. In the years that my parent’s marriage and the cohesiveness of our family began to degrade, I developed the idea in my head that I could fix this by having the kind of home I’ve always wanted when I was on my own.
People are often capricious and, sometimes selfish in the way that animals are inclined to be. My young mind formed the conclusion that even though you can’t control people, you can control things. If I could just curate the perfect collection of things, I would create the environment where I could heal. If I could just recreate the life I always imagined when I was a kid, it would magically fix everything.
I put my faith into D.I.Y. mason jar kitchen storage and sleek immersion blenders I would use to make seasonal bisques. I swore that if I could fill my shelves with assortment of home goods, that I could somehow undo the years of missed school plays and soggy school lunches that marked my formidable years. If I could learn to master the art of matching my throw pillows to my home decor, I would be happy.
In kindergarten, I loved dollhouses and the tiny furniture. I didn't play with the dolls, but I was obsessed with creating the perfect home where my little dolls could thrive. When I was ten, I began archiving a vast collection of Real Simple magazines the way my friends did with Teen Vogue or whatever it is that I was supposed to be interested in at the time. I coveted merino wool throws and pin-tuck duvet covers and KitchenAid heavy mixers with the pasta maker attachments. These things would become the foundation for my redemption; the solution to my unhappiness would be found in the perfect bakeware collection and a full linen closet, I just knew it.
Years of therapy have taught me that my obsessive collecting tendencies come from a lack of faith in people. To some extent, this doesn’t really stop the way this pattern plays out in my everyday life. You can return things if they don't live up to your expectations. I often delude myself into thinking that the problems that arise in my relationships can be resolved by filling my shelves with the perfect dinnerware and matching serving dishes. If I immerse myself in the quest to collect every kitchen utensil and tool that OXO makes, I don’t have to face the uncertainty that people and relationships hold.
If I buy an appliance and it breaks after a year and a half, I have a two year warranty that will replace it at no cost to me, the consumer.
There is no warranty for a broken heart.