Where was I?
The Eagles mocked me with ‘No More Cloudy Days’ during my cab ride home from the airport, on a decidedly cloudy day, ‘Harry Potter and Half-Blood Prince’ was waiting (rather unmagically dust-encrusted) to be read and there were several weeks worth of ‘Desperate Housewives’ episodes stored on my DVR. My houseplants were wilted, a colony of mold had set up residence in my refrigerator and I was distinctly unimpressed to be back home.
The general malaise I’d felt since the death of the two most important women in my life, temporarily burned off by the Aruban sun, returned with a vengeance and depression clouded my brain as quickly as my tan faded. I went back to work too soon, because I couldn’t stand rattling around my empty apartment alone, and soon began to pay the price for it in shoulder pain. My heart was still in Aruba but I trudged through life as best I could, living like Edna Krabapple from the Simpsons – soup for one, salad for one, wine for three. Phone calls to and from Aruba served as bittersweet (and shockingly expensive) reminders of possibilities I wasn’t quite ready to embrace.
The day I had to be rushed to the hospital because my right hand had doubled in size and I could no longer raise my arm, my boss put me on disability and forbade me to return to work until I was better. By this point, I was severely incapacitated, I could hardly do anything for myself (Thoracic Outlet Syndrome is no joke, people) and my misery was complete.
My father had been drifting back and forth between New Jersey and Aruba. He was in the final stages of selling my mother’s house and somehow managed to convince me to give up my apartment and move to a guest house in Seaside, NJ. He exploited my love of the ocean, my inability to safely drive a car and my desire to get a cat. The fact that I was zoned out of my mind on muscle relaxers didn’t hurt. At the time, it seemed like a great idea and my father was full of buoyant energy, excited by all his prospects in Aruba – it was contagious. Maybe I forgot about the dark side of dealing with my father – the mercenary way he went through life, playing it like a game, using people like pawns. More likely, I thought – being his daughter – I’d be spared his patented brand of narcissistic insanity. Ultimately, I wasn’t, but for a little while there, we had a helluva lotta fun.
Things happened quickly after I moved. After hard times in physical therapy, with iffy results, I still couldn’t get cleared for work. My right arm had no circulation when I raised it above my head and apparently proper circulation was suddenly a prerequisite for my employment. I wasn’t crazy about my job (at all) but work was all I’d known since I was in my early twenties. I was sooooo desperately bored and lonely. I was still talking to Ivo but less frequently since we’d long run out of things to chat about. As it turns out, several dates don’t build a strong enough foundation to support a long distance relationship. Whooda thunk it?
When urgent business popped up in Aruba and my father asked me to accompany him I jumped at the chance and thanked my lucky stars that I’d never replaced my houseplants or gotten around to adopting a cat. This time, I’d stay in Aruba for two months. By the time I got back to New Jersey it was summer, I’d quit my job and I was engaged. I told ya, things went fast.
Those two months in Aruba were intensely happy. I woke up every day looking forward instead of looking back, spent my days playing house at my father’s gorgeous condo, in the endless summer sun, and starlight evenings dreaming and dancing with Ivo. At times, tiny concerns popped up: It was the first time in my adult life that I didn’t have a job and it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to give up my health insurance while I was dealing with an injury. My father was hemorrhaging money at an alarming rate and I’d just gotten engaged to a man I barely knew…
These concerns, much like the pain in my shoulder, were easy to assuage with an Aruba Ariba and a dip in the azure sea. The day Ivo proposed to me we were on a catamaran and just after I’d laughingly said yes a double rainbow appeared in the sky. I knew it was a sign that I’d find my happily ever after in Aruba. I just didn’t realize I’d have to wade through hell to get there.
When my two months were up, I returned to Jersey for one last hurrah and to wrap up my affairs. My extended family and friends thought I’d gone mad. After years of predictable actions I’d basically upended my life and was on the cusp of running away to an island. Who the hell in their right mind does that? Outside the whirlwind of my island romance, in the face of stark reality, I was becoming increasingly anxious, day by day. My father was being incredibly reckless in his decisions. In moments of objectivity, I could see that he was building a house of cards instead of an actual life – but the ball was in motion. I’d already bought a wedding dress and severed my roots. I managed to convince myself that everything was going to be fine, I mean, after all, I DID see that double rainbow.
Ivo flew out to help me whittle my life into four suitcases and meet some of my friends and family. He was out of his element in New Jersey. By now, it was early autumn and he was freezing his coconuts off. On my own turf, I began to realize what incredibly different people we were. The thought may have occurred to me that two months isn’t any stronger a foundation for a marriage than two weeks is for a long distance relationship but I had an ace up my sleeve: the inordinate amount of mindless, romance novels I read in my adolescence. From which, I learned many dubious life lessons, eg: it’s perfectly reasonable for a woman to give up a six figure job in Manhattan and move upstate to help a struggling, widowed father raise his daughter and run his ailing B&B. True love conquers all, right?
Plus, Ivo and I had big plans. We were going to buy a boat and sail around the world. Ivo’s an avid fisherman, with salt water in his veins and the happiest days of my childhood were spent sailing. Ignoring all sorts of red flags, I set about finalizing my life. Everything went a smooth as glass.
Oh, come on! You should know better than that by now. I’m not sure I can pinpoint the exact moment that my nervous breakdown began. It might have been when I discovered that my father had a credit card in my name that I knew nothing about and we had a huge falling out or possibly when the roof of my rental collapsed during a particularly intense thunderstorm – destroying almost all of my mother’s artwork, decades worth of book I’d collected and a laptop full of my unsaved writing projects. By the time I boarded the plane, I was a shell of the person I’d once been. I wasn’t looking forward to going back to Aruba anymore – instead, I was questioning my sanity and desperately wishing that life came with a reset switch.
More to come…