In ten years, I moved eight times. All of them were within the same state, but all involved packing, unpacking, crying at some juncture about one thing or another, and a pervasive sense of rootlessness. I came to no longer care about a sense of place. As Joe observed on our trip west, in a non-assholish moment, “Every place is different. But every place is the same.”
If I had to give a Worst Move award, one easily springs to mind, with another running a close second.
The runner-up worst move was a “dissolution of relationship” move, from the townhouse I owned with my ex to my own apartment. So many things were wrong with this day. I was leaving my best friend and heading to a place where I would be sleeping in a twin bed and using a moving box for a coffee table. The weather was bitingly cold and unusually windy for November. But the truck was the part that put me over the edge. I had little money, and instead of renting a U-Haul, had procured a Chevy truck from the maintenance guy at my school. I had seen the truck in the parking lot, but had never realized exactly how huge this thing was. “Is that it?” my mom asked, as I drove up to the beast.
“Yes,” I croaked.
“Oh, Jesus,” my mother swore. “Well, I’m driving it.”
“No you’re not. I am.”
“Abby, you don’t know what you’re saying,” my mom returned, sizing up the truck. “You’ve never driven anything like this. I’m driving it.” She paused. “What is THAT?”
She was pointing to something shiny, secured to the front bumper with rope.
I examined it closely. “Uh, it appears to be an NRA trophy.”
“Hmm. Classy. I hope there’s not a dead deer in the back. OK, give me the keys.” I was annoyed that she insisted on driving, but felt too cold, broken-hearted, and defeated to argue. So my 5-foot-4 mother hoisted herself into the driver’s seat. Her feet didn’t even reach the pedals.
“Ow!” I exclaimed. “What the hell?” I had tripped and fallen into the passenger seat, and began clearing the items that were piled on the floor. “Oh my god. I just fell over a chainsaw.”
My mother struggled to move the seat forward.
“I think he has some kind of tree-trimming business on the side,” I said weakly, as explanation. I placed my feet awkwardly next to the chainsaw, as I was unwilling to move it. Mom started the red behemoth up and grunted with effort as she turned the steering wheel. She gave me a look that intimated, “You owe me for this one.”
But the worst move was yet to come, when I moved out of that apartment two years later, a temporary move into Ray and Tim’s house, just before Joe and I went out west. I had the U-Haul lined up. I was packed. Mostly. Then, the friendly bastards at U-Haul informed me that they did not have a truck for me, nor did they have a truck for me at any of their other locations within a fifty-mile radius. I spent the entire day crying; eventually, my parents brought their small pickup to move a few of the larger items. I would have to rent a truck by the hour from the nearest Lowe’s to haul the rest of the stuff the following day. The first load was secured to the pickup by a system of bungee cords and ratchets that looked like it has been rigged by a team of monkeys. On the ride to Ray’s house, my mother didn’t have her cell phone turned on, therefore missing my frantic messages of, “Tell Dad he needs to speed up. He’s going FORTY on the INTERSTATE.”
We finally arrived and got the load in. “I know what we should do,” Joe suggested. “Now that we’ve solved this problem, why don’t we all go for a nice dinner and have a couple of drinks?” My mother raised her eyebrow and shot Joe a look that intimated, “I hate your guts, and if you try to marry my daughter, I will take her away to a remote location. Then I will castrate you.”
To me, with her eyes, she said, “You owe me for this one.”
Joe helped me get settled by drinking the cheap cooking wine out of Ray and Tim’s refrigerator and initiating a conversation about our general lack of compatibility and unsatisfying sex life. He had a knack for doing this. He had initiated the last “We’re not having enough sex” conversation while we were trying to navigate a canoe through an alligator-filled swamp in the Everglades.
That night, back at my apartment, I tried to decompress from the day of exhaustive crying. “This place is almost totally empty,” Joe observed. “We should be having sex right now. Why aren’t we having sex right now?”
I ended up staying at Ray and Tim’s for more than a year. We lived with an aquarium full of sea creatures, three geckos, several pygmy chameleons, a tortoise, two chihuahuas, and a Siamese fighting fish named Rumpleteaser. Sometimes living with Ray was kind of fun, although I often bemoaned my lack of privacy and hated having to abide by his endless rules and regulations regarding how Tupperware products were to be used, cleaned, and stored. And in addition to being unduly critical of me and brutal to my boyfriends, he was appallingly tone deaf.
“Gizarella, Gizarella!” Ray would burst out in a high-pitched, toneless song, calling the elder dog.
“Ray, that was not enjoyable for anyone,” Tim would admonish him.
“OK, Lover Tim,” Ray would answer sweetly.
When Joe and I finally broke up, Ray and Tim were there to help me cope—which they did chiefly by maligning Joe, getting me high on the most potent shit I ever smoked, and forcing me to watch all six seasons of Sex and the City. So that I didn’t have to be alone on the day of our breakup, they also let me accompany them on a holy and noble quest to create the perfect organizational system for their bedroom closet. Joe and I broke up in the morning, and I spent afternoon at The Container Store, sniffling through aisles and aisles of a staggering variety of containers.
At one point, Ray gently suggested that I give him space so he could concentrate on securing adequate shoe storage.
I admit, I had been hanging onto his arm. Unfortunately for both of us, it wouldn’t be the last time.
To be continued next Memoir Monday.