Thursday, May 3, 2012

Breaking Points

Last August I went to Seattle to attend PNWA, and it was one of the highlights of my life. Every day at the conference was amazing, my friend who housed me, rocked.

Daylight in rain, just sun
But the second morning there, Jen walked me to the bus stop and asked if I'd be okay getting home that night because she would be at a friend's function. "Yep!" I said with full confidence, "I'll be fine!" (Famous last words, right?)

The panels were great, and dinner was yummy, but a full day of sessions started wearing on me, and I felt the way I do when I stay up writing til 3am and just need to sleep. Right now. I texted Jen to tell her I was on my way home and walked out of the keynote speaker I'd been waiting for.

When I got off the bus, it was about 9pm. It was dark. When I'd walked here this morning, it was bright enough to merit sunglasses. Now in the darkness, nothing looked familiar, and so I had to trust my instincts. (For those of you who don't know me, my instincts are wrong, 99% of the time....thus begins our story.)

I took a left, and started walking on what I thought was a somewhat familiar bike path. Jen said she was still with some friends, and I told her I thought I knew where I was going. Then came a fork in the path. I didn't recognize it at all. I looked left, didn't recognize the walk. I looked right, and nothing looked right, either. I started walking anyway.

Then my phone beeped to tell me my battery was dying. Time was rapidly becoming a factor. I needed to get home, now.

It gets so dark there!
I walked, and walked. Each step caused my one strap messenger bag to weigh more and more. I constantly transferred the bag from one shoulder to the other in the hopes I'd even out the back pain, but it didn't work.  It was the first time I asked myself, Why the hell did I buy so many books today?

I continued on the path. Everything was looking more and more foreign. I started questioning if I'd even gotten off at the correct bus stop. I called Jen when I reached a sign that mentioned some sort of a park. "I don't recognize that name at all," she told me. A sinking feeling took hold, but I refused to cry.  I can do this, I just have to keep walking.

She suggested getting off the path and walking on the road so I could at least read road signs. My battery light flashed at me, time was running out. "I'll try to start looking for you," she said, and gave up going to her friend's function because I was an idiot and bad with directions.

The high heels I'd been wearing
(Don't worry, I was wearing
dress clothes for the conference)
I got off the bike path and onto the road, and called Patrick who was in California at the time. Whenever I've been in a jam, or gotten lost before, he'd always bailed me out. He said he'd map quest me some directions, and there was a ray of hope.

I took off my high heels and we found a cross intersection. My heels now felt like a pummeled pumpkin, but I continued on after he told me which way to go.  Low and behold, the next street sign matched up to what he was seeing. He'd found me!

It was so dark outside and lamposts were few and far between. The neighborhood looked like I was going to get jumped at any time. Because I'm a writer, I imagined every worst case scenario possible, but reassured myself that it would make for a good memoir.

"I don't get it," Patrick said. "The road you're looking for should be right there."

"There's just what looks like an elementary school!" I cried into the phone. Just as Jen's phone number flashed across my screen, my phone gave one last valiant vibration and went black. I was cut off from the world.

Now, completely alone, and walking in the wrong direction, I checked my watch. It was 11:30pm, I'd been walking for 2.5 hours. I was lost, cranky, tired, and sore. My arthritic knees hated me and begged to stop moving. They were ready to give out at any moment, and so walking was rapidly becoming a factor now. I wanted to cuddle Baxter, to be home, to be at Jen's and drink some soy milk. Instead, I continued walking the same stupid streets I'd passed sixteen other times.

I passed an older looking man, dressed completely in black in this ghetto neighborhood, and asked, "Do you know where (name a street) is?" He pointed in the direction I'd just come from, "Are you walking honey?" Me, "Yes." "It's about ten blocks that way. About two miles...." he looked apologetic, and I wanted to scream.

Please no, I prayed. Please just let me be home. 

Jen, my lovely host, and wonderful friend
Instead, when the man was out of sight, I sat on the curb and cried. I stopped caring if I was going to get raped or murdered. I didn't care if I got shot. I was lost, Jen would never be able to find me. And the worst part was that I was going to miss the rest of the conference.

I'd reached the breaking point.

Out of some run down driveway, a small pure white cat emerged and crawled onto my lap. It wasn't Baxter, but I still spoke to it anyway. "Hello little friend," I sobbed. "I'm so lost, and I don't know where I am, and I hate this stupid city and buses." I whined to the cat for a long while while my aching feet and knees rested. Finally, I told my small friend I had to leave, and that I couldn't take it home, and resumed walking, taking sketchy streets with bars on windows, and found an open door.

Still hysterical, I stumbled in and rambled, "I'm lost, and I don't know where I'm going, and my phone died..."

The man behind the counter looked at me, and said, "Ma'am, I can't understand you. Take a seat, calm down, and we'll try to help you."

I sat in a seat, and cried more. An old man who smelled like he hadn't showered for the last few years sat beside me and asked, "You lost little girl?" and I cried harder and nodded my head. When the tears started to subside and I could breathe again, I looked around me. The man appeared to be missing some teeth and I wasn't sure that you could even consider what he was wearing to be clothing anymore. Meanwhile I was in a new dress I'd bought the day I'd arrived, and my new shoes. I'd even gotten ambitious and put make up on, which was now probably smeared all over my face.

To my right was what resembled a soup kitchen or pantry, at least the way they look on TV shows. To the left were stairs and empty chairs.

I'm in a shelter, I concluded.

Finally, I approached the desk, and explained the situation. They asked me if I knew of anywhere, and I didn't. Did I know Jen's phone number? No, and my phone was dead. Was I alone and on foot? Yes. Did you know it's not safe for a girl to be lost around here? I had a feeling, which has been solidified, thank you.

It took me a solid five minutes before I could even remember the name of the road where Jen lived. They informed me that I was on the other side of town, and the bus stop where I'd been dropped off at has a split where the roads all match each other. I should have crossed the road to get on the other bike path.

Just as I'd started to cry again, one of the men offered to give me a ride. Because I was still in the mindset of not caring whether or not I died, I took a risk and got in his small car.

Soon enough, I got to Jen's found the spare key, and went in. I dug out my phone charger, and called her to tell her to come home, I was safe. It was now after midnight. I called Patrick, who had left me several worried voicemails, and let him know I was alive.

When Jen came into the apartment, we both burst into tears and hugged. "I'm so glad you're safe!" she told me.
Eventually, I was reunited with my little man :)

So, why am I telling this story?

Because, this kind of thing happens to me a lot. That moment where you reach the breaking point and have to live in a friend's basement because you got fucked over on your living situation, or getting lost in Seattle, on foot, with no cell phone.

Submissions are a lot like this. Query letters, partial requests. All of those things are like this. We get rejected. We all reach the point where we sit on the curb and cry, and are completely ready to get shot in the face and die. (A little dramatic, but you know what I mean :) ). But then there's a little white kitten who crawls into our laps and whispers, Keep writing, keep editing, keep going. And so we get up, brush ourselves off, and stumble into something we never knew existed.

I believe that things work out. I also believe that things can get hard beyond belief. But if you reach your breaking point, keep pushing. You may still make it home.


  1. I think I've looked up directions for you more times than I have for myself.

  2. Hang in there! And don't get in anyone else's query...I mean car! LOL! Things will work out. They always do. ;)


Please know that if you comment and I don't respond, it's not because I don't love you. It's because I don't have wifi, but I do have a bad memory.

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