A Destructive Love Of Meaningless Things

September 28, 2009
By , Tucson, AZ
I am not from around here. In fact, I am so not from around here, you can almost smell the stink of “outsider” on me. I am absolutely nowhere near to being a desert-girl. My name is Jenny, and I am a city-girl from Los Angeles, CA. A year ago, I moved to Tucson because of a stupid mistake. A mistake, I alone, made. If you were to ask me, more than a year ago, if I would ever move to Tucson, I’d respond with a hell no and laugh at the absurdity of leaving my precious city to move to East Jesus Nowhere. Yet, despite all that I am here.

I once was a high school screw-up/slime-ball. That was more than a year ago, when I was at Granada Hills Charter High School, sitting in my counselor’s office, discovering that do to my constant ditching and mediocre grades, I’d have to repeat the 10th grade. That was what I like to call, “the mistake.”

“You screwed up, Jen,” sighed in a what-a-shame way, my ex-counselor, Captain Obvious. And although I knew I had made a big mess of things, her words echoed in my head like some weird episode of the Twilight Zone. After that, the remainder of the day was a blur. It’s like I blinked and was on the school bus home, stuck in bumper to bumper traffic on the notorious 405 freeway. My friend Lorena, who sat right behind me, said “We’re in such trouble; we’re never going to get out of it.” All I remember was thinking how am I going to get out of this? I began to count off my options: (A) I could run away. Nah, too dramatic. (B) I could plea insanity. Ha! Like they don’t know already. (C) Considering the fact that I might get murdered when I get home, why not beat Dad to the punch and commit suicide? Now that’s a laugh. I’m way too chicken to even think it, I say in my head. So, what were my options?

“Move in with me!” my oldest sister, Marlyn, chirps. A week before, I had broken the news to Dad, and he had been super mad at me. I couldn’t take it anymore, so I called the only adult in my life who actually gives me advice without giving me grief, whom moved to Tucson when she was 19.

“I don’t know…,” I respond, uneasily. I try to imagine myself waiting for the school bus in the middle of nowhere, with nothing around but saguaros, rocks, and shrubs. I smile because in my mini-attempt to foreshadow, a tumble weed rolls by.

“Look, I know LA is your home and you love it there, but it is a major distraction for you! Isn’t it why you ditch?”

“Well…,” I really don’t want to answer that, but she answered it for me.

“You want to go and immerse yourself in it. Explore it. Feel it. Be one with the city, if you will.” Damn. She answered it right.

“Out here,” she continues, “there is absolutely nothing to distract you!”

“Well that sounds like fun,” I tease.

“Shut up! Hey, and you can finally get away from Dad! We’ll see who he takes advantage of then.” Now, I know how this makes my dad sound. He isn’t the best dad in the world (as in, I wouldn’t get him a mug stating it), nor is he the most horrid. I love him, it’s just…he’s also got his priorities mixed up. Not to mention he’s a pain to clean up after, and never thanks me for it. Then, my thoughts shoot to my mother. Ever since she got sick and divorced dad, the house has been so empty. Dad’s always at work to avoid it. Nancy, my middle sis, is away at school or work every day. And my brother Charlie, always seemed to be behind locked doors those days. It was just me, all by my lonesome, in that house. My only escape was that concrete jungle that I always seem to lose myself in. It was all I had. I think it over in like, 30 seconds, until finally…


“Okay what, Jen?”

“Okay, I’ll do it.”

A few weeks after that, it’s New Years! My life saver, Marlyn, is at our house for a “visit.” WE have our fun family-time, but in the back of all our minds, except Dad’s, we’re trying to figure out when’s the right time to tell him about the master plan. I was so nervous around him, I was so sure that there was a giant neon sign invisible to my eyes, over my head, with the words “something’s going on,” flashing. The days melted away like ice cubes in my ramen noodles, until it was finally the day for Marlyn’s visit to end. I found myself crowded in my and Nancy’s bedroom, crowded with Nancy, Marlyn and her kids, Wito and Stephanie, still waiting. Should we all go? Or, maybe we should wait a bit longer. You could hear the crickets sounding off each second.

“Okay, I’m going! I can’t stand this waiting! It’s Stupid! Just sitting here, waiting for the right time is ridiculous! I’m making it the right time, dammit, and that time is NOW!” I stand there a second to look about the room. Four pairs of wide eyes are directed at my explosion. I quickly look at myself in the mirror and I swear, my reflection was surprised as well.

“Okay then. I’m going now.” I pivot my body towards the door. Just take 5 steps, and you’re out, I say. Deep Breath. One, two, three, four, five.

I talked to him. I talked to him for 3 hours straight. He knew that if I went, I’d have a chance. I saw it in his face, regardless of his pushing for me to stay. This face that I’ve never seen before. His old one looked fierce, yet weary, with such assertiveness. But this new one looked vulnerable, broken. Like he had been forewarned of this, but thought nothing of it. I kept telling him I’d come back. I kept promising him that I’d apply myself and comeback a better person. He just looked up at me with such abandonment. His youngest. She’s leaving. He told me he understood. And with that, he stood up and caught his little girl in an embrace. It was as if he wanted to hold me before I didn’t fit in his arms anymore. I almost didn’t leave because of it.

I packed EVERYTHING. I mean, my whole side of what is now Nancy’s room was empty. All that was left was a bed with a bare mattress. I even took my Scooby-Doo baking pan that first sparked my love of cooking, and all the spices I used every day. There was a lengthy goodbye between Marlyn, the kids, me and Dad, and Nancy. Even my Aunt Martina, and my 2 cousins, Cindy and Wendy came out of their apartment from across the street to wish us a farewell. It’s funny. I never actually said goodbye to any of them. Even when I stuck my head out our over-stuffed SUV to take one last look to what will become my old life, I didn’t wave back.

The drive to my new home transformed me. At first I felt morose leaving the shining scales of the limitless buildings. Abandoning those serious businessmen, dozing off while standing in the North Hollywood subway. Discontinuing that feeling of adrenaline rush one gets when jaywalking across incoming Downtown traffic. All of those meaningless things, I love. Then I thought about my dreams and aspirations. Those I can carry it on with me, but the rest, I can’t. There will always be a Los Angeles, CA. But there won’t always be a me.

“ Hey there. You okay?” Marlyn asks with a worried look on her face.

“ Huh? Oh, yeah. I’ll be just fine.”

Now, I’m sitting here, a year later, knowing. Just knowing and nothing more. That this sacrifice, this risk I took was the right one to make. I’m caught up now. I’ll be graduating class of 2010, not 2011. I did it. And I’ve found so much of myself here, than wandering the streets of my hometown. I’ve grown from that lonely, misguided girl with a obscure future, to this ambitious young woman, with responsibility and worries. Sure I still have plenty of room to grow in this shell of mine, but at least now, I don’t feel so empty anymore. At least now I know who I am, and who I want to become.

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