No more seeing myself through these eyes that always looked for Eve. I had to stop. It happened slowly.
Sometime between the first week of washing dishes and the time the security guard found me crawling out of the shop one morning, I let go.
The recklessness was there. The recklessness of being empty. Of fearing nothing. Of having little to lose and having little desire to gain. Lack of desire fuels such feelings.
I knew I could go. I knew I was ready to return to the city. I knew I didn’t have to be afraid of what was there any more.
What was it that brought me to that mindset? What steadied me in my madness? What could have made things better?
Distance. Distance always helps. We have to run away from who are sometimes, we have to leave those places which turn us into people that we do not want to be. Those places which make us forget. Those places where pain is a thick fog in the air because we are too close to it, breathing it in and out all the time.
I was far enough. I knew that there would be ways in which I would never quite be healed, and I knew that there were times when Eve would rush to the fore of my mind and refuse to leave. I was prepared for that.
But my eyes were clear. Months of standing over a sink, my hands shriveling in hot water and industrial strength soap, those mindless motions, gave me time to think. Time to reflect and time to slip out of hopelessness. It was not easy. It was not exactly a happy journey, either. Of course it wasn’t a happy journey.
One day, I decided to call the diner. It was spring again. New leaves sprouting. New grass popping up out of the dirt. The sun warming the earth. It was a time for growth. It was a time for spreading out.
Mel answered the phone. I was surprised to hear her voice.
“Mel, it’s me. Lara.” I paused, uncertain. “Maybe you don’t remember me–”
“Of course I remember you. Eve. Yes. Where did you go? Where have you been?” There was a sternness in her voice. Almost audibly upset. The backdrop of the clatter of dishes and the sound of the restaurant’s morning chatter was familiar. Oddly comforting.
“I’ve been in this town a few hours north. It’s been–” I didn’t go further. I wasn’t sure what to say that wouldn’t sound cliche or predictable. Sometimes, though, that is all you can say because the words are true. “I had to get away. After Eve– I just couldn’t– I just couldn’t be there. It was– you know how it was.”
I didn’t expect myself to stumble so much. I didn’t expect there to be so much emotion still in my throat to speak of it. It was silly to be surprised. It was natural. Only natural to feel the waves of pain along with the strangely soothing familiarity. I had always wanted to remember Eve. I was glad that I did. I was glad that I still felt pangs. They were pangs that I knew would not leave, that I hoped would not leave. That I was alright with. There was a kind of peace in it. I did not feel quite so mad.
“So. What’s going on?” She paused. “Do you want to come back?”
I did. I told her as much. It was difficult getting the words out. Everything was difficult. Everything is difficult when trying to rebuild from rubble and ashes. From broken glasses and cigarette butts.
“Come. When will you come? I’ll find a shift for you. Do you know where you’re going to stay? It doesn’t matter. Stay with me.”
“Are you sure? I don’t know… do you have space? What about your roommate? I’m not sure how much I can pay right now. I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to pay later, even. It’s okay, I can figure something out. You’re giving me a job again. That’s so much already.”
“Lara. Don’t be crazy. I’m your friend. Let me help you out. It’s alright. Jae moved a week ago. It’s just me right now.”
And so it was. It seemed like destiny. Things falling into place. I thought of Eve and how we found Mel so soon after arriving here. The serendipity of that. I sent a silent thanks into the ether where I knew she was dwelling, near me and impossibly far at once.
I packed my bags. I said my goodbyes to the restaurant. There would be many there to take my place. There were people in line for any kind of work. I would go just as so many before me. People move on. People find different lives. People look for different places to go, different lives to live, different means of existence.
I went back to the station on the edge of town. The grasses were still there, swaying. Greener than when I had arrived. The air was crisp and cool, with a warmth creeping in that would soon become hot.
The train rumbled in, horns blaring its arrival. Ticket in hand, I climbed into it. Passed the conductor and found a seat by the window so that I could watch the ocean as I left again.
I was going back. I wondered whether I was as ready as I thought I was. My hands trembled as I held them in my lap. I put my pack under my head, against the window, and tried to sleep.
I woke up as we pulled back into the city. I wished that I had been awake to watch our arrival. To watch us wind through the hills. To see the skyline slowly grow again. Instead, I awoke suddenly with our stop. I wiped saliva from my cheek, hoping it didn’t leave residue.
I had returned. It would be different, I knew. It had to be different.
I walked past the chair I had spent that night in, soaked in the rain. I looked through the windows. The sun was beginning to set, casting a golden light over the city as I knew it did every afternoon. I was ready to see it. I was ready to feel it again.