Abilene, Texas. That is where I decided I needed to go to college, in the desert in Texas. It has a great many gems (including some fantastic steakhouses and some hole in the wall BBQ places that are decent for Texas) and it is a unique city, but in Abilene, I discovered the maze of my brain, and I dug down deep, saw the abyss for the first time, never recovered. The four years I spent in college (1998-2002) were exciting and tumultuous and the world changed forever for everyone. I made new friends and strengthened my bonds with old friends. I opened the door. I didn't look back.
- I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis after a miserable few months of pain, panic attacks, embarrassing tests, magic muscle relaxers, and steroids that eventually led me to contract Mononucleosis from the cesspool of germs that is a college campus….for Christmas 1999. During Finals week I remember thinking, “If I die this week, at least I won’t have to feel like this.” Because of my diagnosis, I would not be able to buy health insurance for myself until I was 34 years old. Ulcerative Colitis is too expensive to treat. So I haven't.
- I fell in love for the first time, with a boy. I could write you our story, and maybe one day I will, but it would take too much time. I feel, after more than ten years, that today, I remember why I loved him, and the time we had, and it doesn’t hurt. He broke my heart, and I am certain I broke his. I was more graceful about it, although he would argue. My tongue was always too sharp. He did things in secret. A sharp tongue stings, but betrayal is like taking a gutting knife and stabbing it into the side of my waist and not ripping it out right away, just kind of tugging it and watching that hook blade thing on the other side of my flesh while I ask, pleadingly, what I can do to make him stay with me. You never forget pain like that. I still have the wedding dress because you can’t return a wedding dress.
- Early one September morning, my senior year in college, after Biology, my only 8 a.m. class my entire college career, I walked towards my Strength Training class to discover that a plane had hit one of the twin towers in New York. I spent the rest of the day sitting in rooms with people I knew and saying nothing.
- I left Abilene, and I lived in an apartment that I painted Kermit Green in Lakewood, Dallas, TX, to remain somewhat close to my boyfriend. I had always imagined I would go to North Carolina, my birthplace, and pursue a life there, in the Blue Ridge mountains. In Dallas, I waited tables at a dinner theater called “The Pocket Sandwich Theater” in which “melodramas” were performed and popcorn was served to throw at the bad guys. I taught Junior High School in south Dallas for a year, worked as a cocktail server at the original Dave and Buster’s and performed improv with Comedy Sportz in Plano, TX. Then, I gave it all up to move back to Abilene in an attempt to save an engagement that didn’t want to be saved, so that when I realized I had to let it go, I also discovered that I had nothing else to hold onto. My mother drove me from Abilene back to Memphis, and I started over. Completely.
- My parents separated. My unit, my family cut our ropes and went floating out into space in different directions. This, three months after the end of my engagement.
- I moved into an adorable apartment in Midtown Memphis, pre-gentrification, paid about $475 for a one bedroom with a little balcony, bought myself a queen size comfy bed because an old friend of mine told me, one night, whilst in each other’s embrace, that his father taught him a good night’s sleep is always a good investment. I dated the charming and ever steadfast lead singer of a metal band and waited tables at the Outback Steakhouse. I made friends that I still cherish to this day. I blended in. Kind of. I was still spinning from the fallout. So....
- I bought a Kelty backpack and took it to Europe along with a Euro-Rail pass, and some various sundries. I got wasted in a pub crawl in Berlin, cried alone in a hotel room in Switzerland while I ate an entire jar of Nutella with my fingers, saw the last installment of the Star Wars prequels at an English theater in Austria, ate Gelato twice a day in Italy, cried alone in a “cabin” at a family campground outside of Rome while a German family played some sort of talkative sport outside my window, nursed a hangover on the isle of Capris, and wandered the streets of Pompeii on my own. I stayed in a Best Western for one night in Paris and took a bath (it was awesome), fell down in a conga line in a cozy little pub in Brugge and later offered to have a threesome with a couple after we smoked a joint under a bridge in some misty night scene from a movie, but in the end, I just went back to my hostel and farted in the echo-y bathroom with another girl until we hurt from laughing.