August 9, 2013

The Summer of Jesus Versus Buddha. (Part 4)

Happily distracted by my interfaith summer romance with Christopher, I stupidly allowed myself to lose control of my finances.

See, I had been substitute teaching, but when the school year ended and there was no more substitute teaching to be had, my income source was gone. And then, I landed a temp job through Kelly Services, as an ESL teacher. I would be paid well, and I would have a full-time job for six weeks.

And then, Kelly Services reneged. They belatedly realized that I did not have a teaching certificate, and therefore fired me after one day on the job. I filed a suit via the local small-claims court, and I lost.

Unfortunately, God doesn’t pay the bills.

I was sinking further and further into debt, which is all too easy to do in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I had to surrender my fancy-free, entrepreneurial, yoga lifestyle for a salaried post. Thanks to the miracle that is craigslist, I landed a full-time, salaried gig at a small media firm in Potrero Hill, San Francisco. I was house-sitting for a friend in Mountain View at the time, which meant commuting for at least an hour each way each day on the 101 in rush hour traffic.

After my fourth day on the job, I stopped at Safeway on the way home and bought an eighth of vodka, a Baby Ruth, a bottle of Dr. Pepper, and a box of over-the-counter sleeping pills.

I didn’t really want to die; I was just so lost that I didn’t know what else to do.

I drove to Stanford University, parked in a vacant lot and walked around a soccer field. I sat down on the grass. Professors and students emerged from distant buildings. Couples strolled arm-in-arm. Life went on all around me.

I rose to my feet abruptly and drove home.

Only it wasn’t my home. Since my lease had ended a month prior, I’d been couchsurfing. Unrooted. Now, I was house-sitting for my friend Julie who was traveling in Argentina. I deliberately left my phone in the car. If I stopped too long to think about how my family or friends would react, I would be overcome with guilt. I didn’t want to hurt them. I did not relish in the fact that they would mourn me.

I turned on the bathtub faucet and stripped down to my bra and underwear. I swallowed twelve sleeping pills with big gulps of vodka and Dr. Pepper. I sunk into the steamy bath and ate the candy bar.

My empty brown eyes did excrete some tear-like liquid, but my sobs were weak and silent. I hoped death would happen painlessly, like drifting off to sleep.

I woke up, face up, in a pool of tepid bathwater, chunks of vomit floating around me. I was alive—and drunk. I staggered to my feet.

It was four o’clock in the morning. I peeled my bra and underwear off, drained the tub, stepped back into the shower, rinsed myself with hot water, soap and shampoo, wrapped my body in a white towel and crawled into bed with my sopping hair.

I fell back asleep, facedown, until seven a.m. Still dazed and groggy from the pills, I somehow dressed myself and got in the car to go to work.

I looked at my phone. Seven missed calls, all from my mom. She’d uncharacteristically left three voicemails. I started the car but didn’t shift into gear. I called my mom and, between gasps and sobs, was able to form one sentence: “I need to come home.”

I had survived my weak attempt to end it all. But unbeknownst to me, I was barreling toward destruction upon my return to Austin.

I woke up one morning to find myself living in my childhood bedroom in my parents’ home in Round Rock, Texas and even more dismayed to see a “Re-elect George W. Bush” sign stuck in their front lawn. I marched right outside in my pajamas to remove and destroy it.

But national politics were the least of my problems. I had no job, no money, no love, no God and no peace. I had lost touch with Yoga Schmoga. I had so adored my existence in California, so believed that it was my own manifest destiny. Being back in Texas, every day felt like severe punishment, reminding me of my failure to sustain my West Coast lifestyle.

I quickly, almost effortlessly landed a marketing job with a good salary and benefits in a gray office building with a gray cubicle. I reentered the social scene with renewed appreciation for beer drinking, pot smoking, casual sex and cursing, all of which I had given up for Saint Christopher.

I decided to distract my depression with debauchery, and I partied with a vengeance.

Christopher responded to my various attempts to reestablish communication with a tidy email.

[Subject line: Hello and Goodbye]

Dear Michelle,

I just received your beautiful card yesterday, and it was another gracious reminder to me that I haven’t done such a great job at letting you know where I’m at with our frindship, much less the rest of my life.

First, I apologize to you for not doing the least of what my good intentions were when we parted ways…and that is to not just disappear. It was difficult to end such a close relationship with you, since you blessed me and my family in so many ways.  Michelle, I am forever indebted to you for all that you taught me about beliefs, committments, faith, and hope.

Now, however, I am grateful for how it turned out. Even though we became quite close, I know it would never have been the best for either one of us to continue the relationship. I wanted to respect your beliefs while not compromising my own, and it became increasingly more difficult, then impossible, to do either very well. Thus, I am glad we parted ways, and I’m also glad for the amicable way in which we did part. Thank you for being so understanding.

I am glad to hear that things have both settled down for you and picked up at the same time. I have prayed for you on several occasions, and so I am glad to hear you are doing well.

I, too, am doing well. My job, as stepping-stone a position as it is, is going well, and I’ve found I do well in sales.

The best part of my life now is the reintroduction to Elissa, a girl I had known as a teller at my bank. She now works as a Leasing Specialist at an apartment complex, and we’ve found mutual attraction and friendship with close compatibility. I really think this is the girl I’ll spend the rest of my life with, and I’m so very happy.

I know that you will understand that this also changes the nature of our relationnship, Michelle. As close as we were, it wouldn’t be fair to either of us to continue correspondence of any kind in the forseeable future. I do sincerely wish you well, however, and I do hope that the next time our paths cross I’ll hear that you and your cowboy are teaching yoga on horseback… or something like that.

Please whish your family well for me, and convey my gratefulness for letting me into their lives.

Thanks again, Michelle, for being my friend when I needed you most, and also for understanding the way things need to be from here.


I did not understand the way things needed to be. I longed for the love and purity I had felt with Christopher.

Knowing he wouldn’t answer the phone if he knew it was me, I called him at work one day pretending to be a customer. I revealed my identity and he revealed the fact that his new girlfriend and soon-to-be fiancé was, in fact, a Catholic.

Well, that did it! In my deranged mind, I wanted to visually proclaim myself as Catholic, too. Which I did, by driving to south Austin in a frantic haze and getting a large tattoo of the Blessed Mother in her Mexican form—la virgen de Guadalupe—on my left shoulder.

It didn’t make any sense at all, but somehow the tattoo was going to make me win Christopher back.

To be continued…


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Ed: Sara Crolick

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