Updated: Sep 8, 2018
About a week and a half ago I went to a unique event in San Francisco.
High on existential orgasms and such, I punched the hotel address into two different map apps and promptly got lost on my way to the hotel afterward. This was after dreamily wandering around a parking garage on my own, trying to figure out which floor my car was on and if I was even in the correct parking garage... sketchy stuff, even for an elder like myself.
Oh, San Francisco. You can be a little creepy!
Now that I am newly single, late night solo adventure scenarios are new again. Though I spent the first half of my twenties on my own living in big cities, and though I had a sexual assault attempted on me in one of those big cities and came out the victor, I was still feeling sketched out the other night.
Something seemed a little off. Unsafe.
You know that feeling... prickly. Highly unsettling. You want to skedaddle, and quick!
So, I was creepy-scared but also still high on the Jason Silva event, still in awe of the incredible human brain and our intrinsic desire for wonder and growth despite knowing deep down our certain demise is coming at us no matter what. Deep stuff. I was paradoxically overjoyed at the possibilities for existential bliss and utterly destroyed by the knowledge I'd be dead soon. As would everyone else I knew.
But, San Francisco.
Twisty streets teaming with Uber employees and ticked off taxi drivers and transients in the midst of psychotic episodes; the newly released from jail homeless people who've had enough of this shit; the bus lanes we can or cannot drive in; the wandering teenagers, tourists, and cable cars... flipping cable cars.
I prefer New York City. For me, San Francisco blows when you aren't all that familiar with it and you're driving alone late at night trying to follow your apps and not crash into cars while not hitting pedestrians... it's a tricky business, not hitting everything in your path while attempting to wrestle with directions on your hand held phone (highly illegal, by the way) when the car volume won't work with the GPS app. I am technologically challenged and the cars I drive can be too.
Back to the night. It suddenly took a new twist.
Feeling eyes on me, I realized I was actively being chased by some guy in his pimped-out ride who rode up right along side me (his car was hugging mine, spooning mine, grinding mine, if you will...). He aggressively pulled up next to me and stared at me with intent. Light after light. Stop sign after stop sign. Yep, he was looking at me alright but not in a sweet looking to buy me an ice cream and ask me about my hopes and dreams kind of way. No. He was menacing and seemed pretty pissed. I was not liking his vibe at all and really wanted him to be gone each time I looked to my right (trying hard not to move my head, just the eyes, the eyes!!), but for a good three minutes (a long time when you feel scared shitless) this guy, the kind of guy you do not want to meet up with in an alley or a closet or anywhere, ever, stuck right by me. Up in my grill. Each light. There he was. Staring. Seething.
I drove fast and crazy and when I dared to look at my phone the apps frantically showed rerouting alerts.
Those were sweaty, crazy minutes of racing around the streets of San Fran at night, solo, but I did finally get rid of him. Or maybe he began to chase another woman. Oh man...
Anyway. By that time I was even more lost. And the neighborhood I was in now made the menacing guy look kind of tame. I was in the fucking Tenderloin.
It was late. Really? The fucking Tenderloin?
So I did what most people in my position would naturally do: I began to cry.
I crumpled. Face, shoulders and heart accordioned themselves - crumple crumple crumple - down, and out popped all the messy feelings. Hot, wet, messy tears full of fears. Big feels. Hard feels. They all came flowing out right there in the Tenderloin.
But, I kept driving.
And I kept feeling.
And I felt pretty lost in my lostness and decided to just accept the fact that lost was lost was lost.
Being lost comes with feelings of being vulnerable; which in turn brings forth the feeling that you are utterly alone on the planet and your rawness will always sting. Ouch.
I was once vulnerable and alone years and years and years ago. I have always been vulnerable and alone, of course, just as you are and always have been, but like most people I preferred not to see it until it hit me in the face, and when I ignored that it knocked me on the back of the head, and when I ignored that I found myself lost...
...lost in the Tenderloin and wondering:
What have I done? Who am I without my partner? I am only
1/2 of me? Where is my other half?
Do I need him?
Do I need him?
Where is he?
You know the kind of thoughts. I was having those kind, the kind that feel like the ocean's pull on your ankles as the tide recedes. The sucking you empty kind of thoughts that become a senseless argument with the self. About what you are uncertain. On a loop.
That was where my mind went. While panicked. Being chased.
Was this how life would be for me from now on? Dreadful? Lonely? Dreadfully lonely?
I was tired.
It was late.
I'd been pondering the Existential Bummer.
The tears came down and I called my husband who is now going to be my ex-husband but who will always be my family.
Not the best move, but I did what my scared self for the past 21 years and two months knew to do on auto-pilot.
Of course it didn't help. You knew that already though, didn't you?
He is a wonderful man. Patient. Kind. Willing to help me. But it did not help and I instantly knew this the minute I heard his voice on the other end of the line. It will not help. This habit is one you must give up. No longer. You figure it out. Calm down and figure it out. Oh, and be safe! You are definitely in a dangerous area, late at night, alone, and female.
My adult caring self stepped in and let me know that the role of him being my go-to, my dirty-work fixer, my handler...that role was no longer in existence. I was to care for myself from now on. I was to be my own handler.
As I should have been all along.
So, I stopped attempting to get help from the man I love very much and who will always be family to me, but who I don't need like I used to think I did. I hung up with him and called the hotel. A nice employee kept me on the line, sensing my distress, possibly even my existential dilemma, I don't know, and this kind man talked me all the way to the hotel and told me the map apps never work and it was crazy hard and to NOT go down this one scary, particularly dangerous alley no matter what (I already had... that's when I really started bawling!). And, step by step, with his patient, calm voice on the other end of the line guiding me, I finally, safely, made it to the hotel. I met the angel who led me to the front doors of the hotel with his confident, compassionate directions, and he put me into a lovely room and told me where the bar was - on my floor.
The bar was closed but they made an exception and poured me a glass of red. It was over $30. I spilled none on the way back to my room and phoned my ex to thank him. There was an enormous kidney shaped bathtub that took forever to fill, but I sipped my wine, one of the last glasses of wine I'd drink for some time, and I felt myself calm down. After a long bath in that big tub, I crawled into the empty king-sized bed that beckoned with its deceptively clean-looking pure white sheets, snuggled face-down into the nest of pillows, and slept the honest sleep of a woman who is both fierce and beautifully vulnerable.
It was a paradoxical night.
It is a paradoxical life.
And I am thrilled to be witnessing all of it.
Beautifully, painfully, most gratefully, alive.