You Could Never Live Without Me
“You could never live without me.”
I woke up that Saturday morning, three weeks before I was supposed to leave for Israel, with a message from my group leader. I realized forgot to pay the $28 that I owed her for the extended flight for my trip, and I needed to send a check.
The sweat from all the blankets I was curled up in and the frenzy of forgetting dripped across my head. I looked through the stack of white papers on my black dresser, wondering where my checkbook was. That mat of tangles on my head flew by my face as I ran through my room, stacked with clothes, books and papers, not knowing where half of my things were, eyeing the last stages of the cold that I had that past week.
Eventually, I found my checkbook and an black pen. As I scrawled across the paper in my chicken scratch, there was that mental reminder of what he used to say to me whenever I would forget something or make a mistake. “You could never live without me.”
It had been over two years since it was said to me in one form or another, one of the most famous put-downs from a bully who should have been my partner but made it his job to be my keeper. I slipped on skinny jeans and a pair of flip flops and marched out to the mailbox.
The sky was slightly gray in Los Angeles but lined with the lovely fireworks of the palm tree fronds on my street. The feeling of the pavement dotted with black marks underneath my feet was comforting. It was my home now, a blissful thought.
I thought about my former keeper; I rarely yet all the time do, because without him I would have never had this life. It is not an easy one. The skinny jeans that I pulled from my closet, which were once in the back with dreams of wearing them when I got thinner, were now baggy and a size too big due to hunger. When my stomach grumbled as I crossed the street, I remembered that morning when I was so poor I had to go to a food pantry in Inglewood, and that feeling of relief at my very core from simply eating a pretzel roll with bacon bits baked right in. My mind drifted to everything and everyone I lost in those two years, from my beautiful home to one of my closest friends, the only man I ever loved. They were all ghosts now, haunting me alongside those words from that insecure boy: “You could never live without me.”
The wind whipped my hair by the halal market where I buy my produce and the sweet checker always greets me with his bright smile and startlingly beautiful olive green eyes. The sleek UCLA apartments, where I had a cup of tea and a twisted but fun one-night stand with a Ph.D candidate, caught my sight briefly. I walked by all the people roaming down the sidewalk, who just like me were trying to make their way in this city of angels.
I still had a tremendous stack of debt I was trying to get out of. I was forgetful and struggling to survive. Although I was now getting back on my feet with freelance work, I was living life on a dream of a new career path and a prayer that one day things would be better. That was always my dream. I yearned for better as my keeper shrugged his shoulders and carried on with mediocrity. He expected me to do the same, and would push me down to realize this if he had to.
As I arrived at the mailbox, checking the time for the pickup and then dropping the envelope in, I thought about where that $28 of absentmindedness was going. In three weeks, I would be going to Israel. Since before him, it was my heart’s truest longing. He always made promises, but they were always balanced with, “We can’t.” He pushed down dreams while I sought to obtain them, just like this one that was about to come true. Just like how he always saw my writing, saying “It’s good, but…” then followed by criticism of the mundane placing of commas. It almost stopped me from writing, from putting my fingers to the keys and composing the song that my mind was singing. Almost.
The truth was nothing could stop that symphony, not to mention my life from moving forward. My heart had been beating for more than 800 days without him, and it was still thumping its lovely one-of-a-kind drumbeat, pumping blood into my veins and allowing me to be free. Sure, I had suffered, but I knew that my struggles past two years would probably have killed him. In his attempted control of me, he was weak. I proved my strength by greeting each day the best I could as an independent individual.
Sure, life isn’t easy, but it’s mine. It’s filled with broken hearts and one-night stands, struggles with the hot water in my shower and the stacks of paper that one day I will organize and sort through (one day). But it’s an adventure, and sometimes with that there is uncertainty and risk, not to mention prices to be paid. I never know what tomorrow will bring, and that’s the best feeling. I breathe deep and understand the miracle of that action alone.
“You could never live without me.” On the contrary. I’m actually quite alive, thank you very much.