Alone on a beach is where she liked to be best. There was something illicit about it in that the universe was entrusting her not to drown herself. Testing her resilience to life in the face of no one being able to monitor her potential death. She teased the universe by going in just a little too far and lingering a little too long–forcing it to wonder: would she finally go through with it this time? Adelaide, always goading, never doing. That’s the reputation she had cultivated by now, at thirty. She was supposed to have changed course before then, but at the moment, she recognized it was too late for such an attempt. She was who she was: hopeless. Without love or the ambition that might aid in procuring her any enjoyment of so-called earthly delights. What was it to be Adelaide? Lonely and unsatisfying. And though she was dimly aware that other people must occasionally feel what she did all the time, she also knew that they did not experience it as intensely.
For her thoughts of death were not fleeting but omnipresent. In the forefront of her mind while putting in a food order at the Venice diner where she worked and thinking about sticking her head in the frier; while shaving her legs and resisting the urge to slash her wrists instead; while driving to the grocery and contemplating swerving into the oncoming traffic in the opposite lane. It was just there all the time: the urge to die. The desire to punch out early and avoid anymore disappointment, any further burdens of sheer existence. If she had to link the pervasiveness of these thoughts to any one event, she supposed it would be to the year when she was twenty-four. The year that Sean blazed into her life like an ostensible force of nature. Beneath that surface though, there was a man-boy far more calculated than that. A person who contrived to be “free-spirited” and “unsure of any specific future.”
She could see in the present, however, that he knew exactly what he was doing, was measured in his movements. Advancing toward her from across the room to fulfill his notion that she would serve as a girlfriendic representation of “a particular phase in his life.” One that ultimately proved he was not ready for the prospect of a word so archaic as “forever.” What he could handle, to be sure, was some light experimentation in domesticity with Adelaide. Silly, overly trusting Adelaide–so quick to jump into a relationship simply because someone expressed an ardent enough interest in her. She was a fool to think that ephemeral interest equated to everlasting love. And Sean was an incubus for so cavalierly preying upon her vulnerability. In fact, it took no time at all for him to penetrate her. She let her guard down after about two weeks, surrendering to the then charming drunk texts and voicemails. The ones catering to her easily bolstered ego (for those with low self-esteem have one that is as such). She decided to succumb to his oh so proper invitation of a date at Shun Lee Cafe, a rumored to be beloved by Martin Scorsese Chinese restaurant on the Upper West Side.
She couldn’t remember the last time someone took her out in such a way. Maybe it was as far back as high school, when dinners at Macaroni Grill were the height of “going steady.” Her only boyfriend before Sean, somewhat strangely, had been the similarly named Shane. Innocent, uncomplicated Shane, whose heart she perhaps shouldn’t have broken before leaving for school in New York, informing him they might as well end things before her departure instead of dragging them out while he remained in Washington to go to the city college. He had patently refused to apply for school in New York, calling it a blatant ripoff and an overpriced piece of paper. This was, in part, what prompted Adelaide to cut ties. She found his comments regarding her enthusiasm for “the prom king of the U.S.” to be demoralizing, and she didn’t need anyone else (including her parents) to piss on the parade she had worked diligently for four years to be a part of.
Yet when she said the words to Shane that would effectively alter the course of both their lives, she regretted it, seeing something in his eyes go dead once she completed her kiss-off. Later, she wondered if maybe Sean was her karma for the way she treated Shane, that is to say, so disposably in the end. But no, he couldn’t be, for the imbalance of treatment was too great. She knew that, apart from the breakup itself, she had handled Shane with care. But then again, doesn’t a breakup nullify all that “during” business anyway? For people don’t remember the way they felt while the pieces were still together, so much as the sentiment that occurred when it all fell apart. It was the very sentiment that had stuck with Adelaide since the instant Sean disappeared from her life. She had just settled for the job at the diner when it happened. She had experienced a particular low that month after being denied yet another position in her chosen profession of animation, having exhausted every viable company from Dreamworks to Zoetrope (F.F. Coppola apparently wanted to invest more money into an animation division after seeing the “artistic value” wrought from Fantastic Mr. Fox). That’s when she got it in her head to give up and become a waitress like Diane in Mulholland Drive.
She confessed this to Sean, who seemed more highly motivated than ever to pursue the cryptocurrency avenue, inferring a desire to leave L.A.–the place where they met after Adelaide found New York to be even worse for pretending not to be as hollow and devoid of intellectualism as the City of Angels. Yet she ignored his “hints” (made glaring in statements like, “San Francisco’s really not all that expensive if you get in the same league as the Silicon Valley bros”) by wrapping herself in a fortified sheath of despondency that likely gave Sean the further push he needed to abandon her. But she was world-weary, suddenly aware that all the time she had funneled into an aspiration would likely be for nought and that she would have to settle for being an ordinary like everyone else, the people who surrendered to the professions that meant nothing to them other than a paycheck.
Sean had no sympathy for this, and how she was grappling to accept it–and at a time when she needed his emotional support the most. Alas, to need is to be met with revulsion. Which is precisely what Sean exhibited toward her when she informed him she was going to try her hand at waitressing for a while in order to pay their rent, a share of which he had no issue contributing to thanks to a fresh inheritance from his affluent grandmother.
The cosmos evidently saw fit to offer Sean a get out of jail free card in that her mental dip transpired just around the time they only had two months left on the lease. Naturally, he never clued her in on his intentions to bail before signing on to another year of indentured emotional servitude. He had his fill of her over their two-year run together. She had completed her purpose in this phase of his life and he now knew more than ever what he did and did not want in a girlfriend. If only Adeliade had known that she ought have been taking notes as well, for she assumed Sean would be it. Somehow, she blamed Audrey Hepburn for this.
For Paul Varjak wouldn’t have abandoned Holly Golightly. Nor would Joe Bradley do such a thing to Princess Anne. Plausibly, Adelaide was more abandonable that any of these waifish and “adorable” characters. No, she was just “too much” in the fashion that couldn’t be made romanticizable to Sean, who perhaps thought she was a good idea for her “tragic figure” propensities. But this was assuming he could easily remake the tragic figure into something both neatly digestible and fuckable. Adelaide did her best to cater to this for a bit, but it was only a matter of time before she couldn’t hide the dark monster hovering over her back (Abe Lincoln would know what she meant by this).
Although she knew she wasn’t the “most palatable” lately, she never saw it coming. Returning home one night after a late shift to find that the only things left in the apartment were hers–which meant that all the furniture had been picked clean. And even the fridge had been stripped of the food Sean had recently bought at Trader Joe’s. It was sloppily surgical in terms of extracting all traces of himself from her life. And that was the framed portrait she kept in her mind of the last period in which she could even bother to attempt holding it together. For she carelessly returned to customers’ tables with mascara smeared down her eyes from crying out back by the dumpster while smoking a cigarette. She was like Tonya Harding without the fairy godmother of an ice skating coach to come pluck her back out of obscurity for the 1994 Olympics. Thoughts of the Pacific Northwest made her recall Shane. She wondered if he ever left Washington. If he was some form of happy.
This was the latest round of contemplation that befell her during her almost daily walks to this deserted beach. It was so nice to pull the sea up over her like a blanket. A cocoon to Ziploc her cadre of depressive emotions. But still, she didn’t breach the universe’s trust in her to not simply let the waves choke her to the point of expiry. This silent accord she had with the universe not to die was, in truth, the thing that was actually killing her.