I bought a microwave once. Was naively and falsely confident in thinking that my relationship would last well beyond the time when such an appliance would no longer be viable. As it transpired, the microwave would be just one of many domestic accoutrements that I would have to get rid of. The stand mixer, the food processor, the coffee grinder, the slow cooker and the toaster were also casualties of my failure to keep a man. I created a nest that was doomed to go up in flames. And ever since, I’ve been a bird in constant migration.
Maybe that’s why it felt so nice to stop and rest in one city for a while. Even if it wasn’t a home of my own. It was a small studio apartment on Los Feliz Boulevard near Brunswick Avenue that I sublet from a French woman who worked as a director of photography on numerous European films I hadn’t heard of, and so often needed to travel for her job. It was also right by the Glendale Amtrak, to add a certain John Hughes heroine feel to the entire narrative that had become my life in that brief period. I never wanted to go to Los Angeles. Unlike most of the rest of the world. There were no dreams to be fulfilled there, only nightmares. I already knew that ever since I read the story of Peg Entwistle. In fact, I read her biography, Peg Entwistle and the Hollywood Sign Suicide, around the time I had bought that microwave actually. I could recall nights in the kitchen waiting for a pot of water to boil so I could make him pasta or some other such nourishment, reading with horror the pain that yearning of any kind will invariably cause, whether driven by an ambition or a person. And one night, while pouring in just the right amount of penne for two, one line in particular jumped out from the page at me: “Keeping a stiff upper lip was not the medicine Peg Entwistle needed.” What was the medicine I needed? Or more arcanely, what was the medicine he needed in order to stay?
In the next few days, the one I loved was starting to seem more distant to me. There was nothing markedly different, per se, it was just a feeling. Oh how I hate when you can’t categorize your reasoning for something with anything other than a feeling. But I was right to grow uneasy, less secure in believing that he was in it for the long haul with me. The type of long haul that would warrant purchasing a microwave. For as commonplace of an appliance as it is, you still can’t find a quality one for less than $75. That’s my price point and I’m sticking to it. Since he didn’t believe in spending money on such frivolities, I took it upon myself to outfit our kitchen with all the domestic essentials that would allow me to attempt proving the rather foul but still timeless straight person’s adage that the the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. And it was true for a steady block of time there–almost a full year–before his skittishness was palpable in a manner that seemed like it would ricochet back and forth against our plaster molded walls until he could finally escape. Are all men predestined to hate the woman that ultimately comes to represent their mother?
It happened just like the way they said it did in the mid-twentieth century. When you would come home to find a person you had attempted to build your life with had totally vanished. No trace, no explanation–not even that old line about going out for a pack of cigarettes. I could intuit something awful was lurking behind the door when I shoved my key into the lock that night, returned from a long and thankless day in a cubicle. Back when I had consented to surrendering my mind to such a scam in the realm of moneymaking. Largely for him. I wanted to be able to lavish our space with all the things that would appeal to staying in one place. Not becoming a victim of the wanderlust gene known as DRD4-7R. But he did. And I helped trigger it. Somehow, my attempts at making everything just right made it all wrong. So he was gone.
At the end of the month, I hadn’t been able to sell the microwave, though everything else managed to have adequate cachet for re-selling. The landlord didn’t want me to leave anything behind, had expressly told me to ensure that the space was completely vacant. So the microwave was this albatross I couldn’t shake. A glaring reminder of my bungled relationship. I could have just put it out on the street, or taken it to a dumpster, sure. But I felt responsible for it, as though it was I who had forced it into this world, and was therefore beholden to it, like a mother to her child.
I had no plans for where to go next. With no rent to pay, it freed up my wallet quite considerably–plus there was that dough from all of the appliances I had sold–but mainly my cashed out 401(k). It was with these dollars that I bought a used car, put the microwave in the backseat and set out with no destination headed west. That’s what everyone searching for meaning in their existential crisis appears to do. So it’s what I did.
It was fine for a brief period. Seeing parts of America that one imagined only existed on postcards from the 1960s. Santa Fe, Taos, Denver, Boulder, Marfa, Austin. Just some of the places on the map of the U.S. that warmed my vacant chest. But, as I said before, traveling around aimlessly all the time started to wear on my already thin nerves, and didn’t do as sufficient of a job as I expected in distracting me from the immensity of what had occurred, the unfathomable affront of this abandonment.
Thus, when I reached the furthermost part of the west, as far as anyone classifying civilization was concerned, I decided to stop. To camp out for a bit and determine what it was I had to do next. I got a job as a cashier at Gelson’s on Hyperion Avenue, close enough for me to walk there, even though the lyrics from the infamous Missing Persons song will always ring true: “only a nobody walks in L.A.” But I was a nobody. Because you’re nobody until somebody loves you, and no one was ever going to–hence this permanent cipher status of mine.
At nights, after my shift was over, I would find myself at The Griffin. It was a bar as cavernous as the chasm in my heart. Maybe that’s why I was drawn to it. How I found myself rambling with particular contempt one evening, declaring to no one, “I bought a microwave once. A lot of good it did me. If only that shit could re-heat the love a person once had for you. Now undefrostable.”
A middle-aged man who wasn’t interested in me, so much as sympathetic to my plight offered, “You’re pretty poetic for a drunk.”
“What the fuck are you talking about? All drunks are poetic,” I snapped.
His body visibly recoiled from me. “Well, not around these parts.”
These parts. How quaint. I’m wondering where all the parts of me will disappear to when I finally go completely crazy. And then, accepting that I had nothing to say to him–was perfectly fine muttering to myself–he went back to quietly sipping his beer, now knowing better than to engage with someone as far gone in her bitterness as I was. Am.