The Writer at Starbucks -or- Thanks, Mom

I love my little town. It’s right on the line between DC and Maryland, the first stop on the Metro that’s an actual suburb. I live right between two Metro stops, one close enough I can walk if I am feeling industrious (it’s about a 30 minute walk). The other one is one is the first stop in DC, and the bus that takes me to it comes to my actual street, as close as the school bus stop when I was a child. Plus, there is a 7-Eleven at the Takoma stop that carries two things I desperately love- the gummy cola bottles for which I would walk 500 miles (I see what I did there), and tallboys of cherry Pepsi Max.

I do not understand why you cannot buy cherry Pepsi Max at the grocery store, but it’s probably better that I can’t. It has more caffeine than any other soda on the market, and I am the type person that drinks soda incessantly, although I am trying to cut down. Right now my soda obsession is diet grape. It is the soda with which dreams are made. This web site is fueled by diet grape soda and an insane amount of black tea.

My mother gave me a Starbucks gift certificate (for hosting her while she was here) so that I can further my tea addiction. There’s a Starbucks that literally sits at the bottom of the steps to the Silver Spring Metro station, so there are very few times that I can go to the Metro station without stopping in. You can’t take your drink on the Metro, so there have been plenty of times that I have ordered a double shot of espresso and drunk it like a Flaming Dr Pepper. The rest of the time, my order is iced black tea, no extra water, five Splenda, and half-n-half. It is delicious, and a cheap treat that makes me happy. It takes so little. I sit here for a long time when I have it to spare, and Larry, the manager (remember Larry?), only charges me 53 cents for a refill. I think he likes me. It’s good to have friends in high places. I mean, seriously. Who is a better friend for a writer than the manager at Starbucks?

This is the best move I have ever made. Ever. Finally, I made a life decision all on my own that’s paid off in spades. Sometimes I get lonely for my family, but when I lived in Houston, they were so busy that I hardly saw them, anyway. The best part about living in DC is that I might get to see my sister more often. She’s taken a job that has her traveling all over the place, and DC is one of the cities on her list. I am hoping that if she comes here, she can extend her trip to have a day off, because she wants to run on the Mall and I want to take her to my favorite spots, like Kramerbooks/Afterwords and Teaism. I am sure that she’ll want to do some touristy shit as well, but I want to show her MY DC, because she came to visit me the last time I lived here, but we only got one night to do things here. She flew into DCA because my mom was performing with her choir in Carnegie Hall, and Lindsay wanted to road trip with Kathleen & me from DC to NYC. That road trip was one of the most fun things I did when I was here last time, and believe it or not, I drove the whole time. The one that hates driving with a passion because she’s scared she’ll run into something drove in New York City. There’s a reason for that. Kathleen is one of those people that freaks out in unfamiliar situations, and I’m the type person that gets more calm and quiet the worse things get (I can break down later). So I drove in all the traffic and the beauty of cruising down the West Side Highway. It was heaven on earth, except for the cost of parking. Lindsay also left us a parting gift. Half a sandwich in the back seat of my car that took me six weeks to find because it was buried under the driver’s seat.

Which leads me to tell the story of Lanagan Lunchmeat Syndrome. We all have it, even Dana. She may not be a Lanagan anymore, but I assure you she still has Lanagan tendencies. It’s hard to get them back out once they’re ingrained. Sorry about that, D-money.

So, the first instance of LLS was that I needed to get out from under a car payment on my Saturn, so I shipped it to my stepsister, Caitlin. My dad felt sorry for me and sent me an old Mercedes (my favorite car ever and I still weep for it. I had to give it up when the repairs cost more than the car.). Kathleen and I rode around in it all the time, and we noticed a smell that seemed like something had died. We searched the car for at least two weeks before we found a pound of sliced turkey under the carpet in the trunk.

When I moved back to Houston in 2002, I got my Saturn back and drove it to Oregon. It took me forever to find a job, so again, I sent my Saturn back to Texas and rode the bus everywhere. Again, my dad felt sorry for me and sent me a cute little Ford Focus. When it arrived, there was half a hot dog in the center console.

I drove that car until the wheels fell off. It was so comfortable and zippy. Even Dana loved it. Long before we were dating, I made her drive me everywhere. It was easier than thinking I was going to crash her into something. Hey, she had 3-D vision. I had a nice car. It worked out well. I would drive up to Dana’s apartment complex, call her to come down, and I’d be sitting in the passenger seat. It would just make her crack up. I know my place in the car. It is running the radio and playing with my phone. Besides, I think I have said this before… when I drive, Dana becomes the football coach driving instructor you never wanted. It was a LONG three months when she got her DUI. Looooooooooong.

I traded in my Ford Focus for a Jeep Grand Cherokee, just absolutely loaded out. It was used, so I got the most beautiful Jeep in the whole world for a mere $297 a month. How did I do this? I threatened to walk away from the sale until I made the finance manager swear and call me a bitch. However, he wanted the sale so bad that he gave me what I wanted.

And then Dana left a Subway sandwich in the center of my console and she, too, made me a victim of LLS. As you can see, it has become a thing- but at least it was still wrapped. I was not that lucky with Lindsay.

It’s hard for me to think about Dana and the funny things that have happened over the years, because I just miss her so much that I cannot even. She’s my heart. She’s part of my soul. She’s the million dollar package that you only get once in a lifetime if you’re lucky, but at the same time, our relationship had run its course and I just couldn’t deal anymore. I didn’t have the right emotional tools to deal with both of our depressions at once. I would be lying if I said I didn’t hope that we found each other again later in life, but it is probably a dream dried up. I can’t imagine with all I put her through that she can see hugging and kissing me like she means it. Our time apart has just reinforced how much I need to be single and focus on myself so that I am worthy of any million dollar package, much less her.

And thinking of all I put Dana through inevitably leads to Argo and the enormous love I feel for her in a friend sort of way, because I let go of the part of myself that thought I needed to be with her to enjoy her for all of who she is. Friendship can and does that, but in my past, nothing told me that was true. I have given up the one person in my life who makes me greater than I could ever be on my own, because when I do dumb shit, she’s the one person in my life that will actually say, “Leslie, you’re doing some dumb shit.” When I told her I was starting a church, she said she didn’t do church or organized religion. I said, “I don’t need you for that. I need you to be the one that when I start talking to God, I don’t start to believe I am one.” She said, “I can do that.”

Yes. Yes, she can. I told her I didn’t think it would be a problem in the slightest. Everyone needs that friend who can knock your ego down a peg or two when you clearly need it. When I think of losing that part of our friendship, I go back to kicking myself mightily for the way I handled the end of our relationship. I was so naive. I was such a teenager. But inside, that’s what I am. My development was arrested into a fourteen year old girl in a 37 year old’s body. It is only now that I am “aging up,” in no small measure because of her. When I opened up to her, my stranger on a train, she helped me kill the monster under my bed. She didn’t do anything but listen and point out the flaws in my reasoning. The best thing she ever could have done was to keep repeating, “it wasn’t your fault.” It was a Matt Damon/Robin Williams moment. Do you see how stupid I was? I will beat myself up over the end of this relationship for all time, because I made a great big miscalculation. She said in the beginning that there was nothing I could do that would make her love me any less, and I thought that if I got my act together, we could fix this. That she wouldn’t leave for good because she could see that I wouldn’t always be the asshole I was being at the time. I was strung out for a number of reasons, and getting my act together, unfortunately, needed to be leaving everything I knew and starting over in a place where I could thrive instead of just survive.

Houston makes me go into the smallest version of myself, and I think that’s why Dana was so successful there and I just wasn’t. Houston is the place where all of my abuse took place. I have talked about this before, but for Dana, it was moving to a new city and starting over. For me, it was really fucking creepy. I have tried to move back to Houston several times since my abuse, and every time, it’s lasted two years. Apparently, that’s how long I can stay before all my old memories start to eat me alive. And now that Argo and I have had all of our talks, the memories I have of Diane are even creepier and it hurts me even more, because I don’t have all the love attached I used to. I only have the memory of an adult using a child.

Perhaps she doesn’t believe that her abuse was sexual, but at the same time, you don’t use a child to deal with adult situations. I believe it was sexual because of the journal she handed me with poetry about her sex life at college. Maybe she thought she was just giving me a glimpse of who I’d become as an adult. But let’s skip that. I was 14 when she told me her roommate was an alcoholic. I was 14 when she told me her roommate was a drug dealer. I was 15 when she told me that her roommate was actually her partner, and my heart dropped into my stomach because I thought we were going to become a thing. I wanted to protect her beyond all measure, and I couldn’t think of other women without believing that I was cheating on her. Our boundaries were not clear until after she gave me her journal, and perhaps this was because our relationship was starting to show to everyone at her job (she was a scholarship singer at my church) that it was getting serious and inappropriate. Who knows what would have happened if our relationship had managed to be on the downlow the whole time? But I can’t what-if. What happened was what happened, and what happened was enough. There were so many layers of lies that I couldn’t keep track of them all, and I should never have had to participate in them in the first place. But that’s what happens with emotional abuse. You get hooked, and there’s nothing that can separate you after that. It’s seductive, even if it isn’t sexual. I wanted that relationship, because it made me feel older than I was.

It didn’t show until everyone else was older than me.

This is why I miss Argo like I miss no one else. She showed me that I was capable of handling so much more than I was. She showed me that I had an incredible wealth of emotional tools that I just wasn’t using. She was also one of the first people that believed in this web site, and if you know me at all, you know that the sweetest thing Argo has ever said to me is, “you must have custom fonts.”

It would be the joy of my life to thank her for these things in person, but I feel that thanking her for them here will at least put them in the pensieve so that if she’s curious down the road, she can see for herself what I really think of her and just how much she means to me. It’s also for me- I never want to forget this time in my life, no matter how painful it has been on all three of us.

But if I had the chance, I’d share my gummy cola bottles with her. I’d also be careful not to leave lunchmeat in her car.


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