After the boisterous whirlwind of Christmas was through, nine of us headed up to Anwar’s cabin on Deep Creek Lake where we continued the holiday binge for five days straight. We celebrated the New Year (and my twenty-sixth birthday) in raucous style at the relatively secluded cabin. Anwar, Faye, and the teddy bear spun fire poi atop the tables on the porch, burning fervent trails against the stark darkness of the frozen lake, the lake from which the boys fashioned a home-made ice luge. We even had a ball drop. The party was happy, and sloppy, and bingy just as any proper New Year should be. Though as the first minute of the new decade rolled in, and I was a year older, I couldn’t help but feel that silent sting of December slowly return as the poet remained out of touch. Despite this, I hid the last remnants of my longing well, and devoted the entirety of my energy to the teddy bear, and enjoying the constant entertainment that my tight-knit group of friends never fails to offer. On the first night of the new decade we ate the last of the chocolates I had brought with me from Charlotte and the Autumn of Mushrooms officially came to an end. We watched the Princess Bride, we danced to Sam Cooke around the living room, we read fairy tales, and we laughed in careless enjoyment of the company we kept. Through bottle after bottle of booze and meal after delicious homemade meal we continued the streak of the best holiday season we had ever had.

Ridiculous Bloody Marys

The Midnight Ball Drop

Homemade Ice Luge

Cozied up watching The Princess Bride

Black Light Fairy Tale Night Cap

By the time we got back from the cabin, two-thousand-and-ten was already underway and though my original plan was to start looking for a job in the new year, I thought it would be infinitely more fun to take a little unemployment romp over to the Left Coast. I had recently discovered that two good friends of mine, one who was my fuck-buddy in undergrad, and one who I met randomly through my sister in Newport News some six years ago, somehow found each other in San Francisco and moved in together. The surfer was a blonde-haired, blue-eyed dream boat with an impeccable body; a relaxed and easy man who knew his charms too well. Though he tended to fuck three or four girls at a time (without their knowledge, of course) he and I had always had a unique relationship as the girl that knew about his boundless ways, and usually every few years we would find each other for a weekend of booze and meaningless sex. Great meaningless sex, but meaningless nonetheless. This was not one of those weekends, but I was glad for it with the number of boys I felt had been occupying my mind of late. The skater I had met only a handful of times, but we had stayed in touch sporadically over the years. He was shy and sweet, and his demeanor belied his towering stature. He was a nice guy who stayed true to his stereotype and always finished last. The second time I met him we made out like high schoolers in a warm summer downpour, perched on the edge of his balcony, but that was as far as it ever went. Despite the fact that both boys were former queue members, they were my friends, and I decided to ignore whatever latent sexual tensions there might be and booked a ticket for a five day weekend to the City by the Bay. Not a day or two after I booked this ticket, Nate, a close friend and big brother figure, who would kill someone for looking at me the wrong way, asked me to come to Seattle, where he had just moved from Charlotte. Nate had been in prison for two years for habitual DUI until just a few weeks before I moved away, and as he was one of my closest friends (despite the violent and belligerent tendencies I have always tried to calm in him), I was upset that I couldn’t afford to go. And then he changed the game. He offered to pay for my ticket from San Francisco to Seattle and back home. Of course my peripatetic mind started churning out ideas at the mention of complimentary airfare. The teddy bear lived in Santa Fe and had been asking me to come see him. Though the flame I felt for him settled to embers as quickly as it sparked, I still believed I wanted to go. Or maybe I just wanted to get somewhere new (something for which I have been known to have a weakness). I could fly from San Francisco to Seattle, then to Santa Fe, and then back home, and all I would have to pay for was the one-way ticket back. I could spend three weeks out west catching up and bumming around with some of my favorite boys, come back to DC, and worry about getting a job then! It was perfect. Of course, as every story regarding travel in my life goes, it didn’t work out as planned.

The day before I was to leave for San Francisco, Nate informed me he had to travel to Georgia for work and wouldn’t be able to fly me out there. Now the one-hundred dollar one-way ticket home turned into a three-hundred dollar multi-city fare and I had to find an alternative city to visit between San Francisco and Santa Fe. Of course I could have just stuck with my original five day San Francisco trip and skipped Santa Fe, but once my little head got used to the idea of a three week romp around the West Coast, there was no turning back. I decided to stop in Venice Beach for a few days to see Iva before I made my way to Santa Fe, and I would be back in DC by the twenty-seventh. As you may or may not know, In addition to this little excursion, Faye, Anwar and I had been planning a trip to New Zealand. We bought guide books and had been excitedly talking for weeks until, on my second day in San Francisco, Anwar broke the news that he couldn’t get the time off work. Knowing that going to New Zealand and spending the last of the money I had to bum around with was wildly irresponsible wasn’t enough to overwhelm the knowledge that I probably wouldn’t have the money to do it ever again. Rambling to the surfer about my travel plans gone awry he uttered a few simple words that proceeded to change my life: “Why don’t you just move there?” It was so simple. I had no job, no car, no lease, and nothing but the people I love keeping me in DC. I had a few grand that I was using to bum around the District, why not use it to bum around New Zealand? As the next few days passed and I found myself exploring San Francisco, a city with which I instantly fell in love, and slowly trying to find reasons stopping me from moving to New Zealand. I couldn’t. Within three days I applied for a twelve month working holiday visa, and by the time I got to LA it was already approved. There is a certain feeling that accompanies making decisions you know are right, and a way that they come easy to your soul. And my latest decision, probably the biggest I have ever made in my life, still overflows me daily with that very feeling.

San Francisco was amazing (I will post those tales, I promise, I left my possessions irresponsibly strewn down the coast of California and one of those possessions was my journal of the trip) and I made my way to LA with nothing but New Zealand on my mind, spending the large majority of my trip lounging at Iva’s place making plans. While we had wanted to explore the city, my curious luck with Los Angeles weather continued, and cold winter rain fell on each of my six days there. Regardless, we ate well, got drunk, and enjoyed the rare company you find with old friends you don’t often see. I was to fly out of LAX to Santa Fe on Thursday and as the day approached my stomach turned for the teddy bear. Knowing that my feelings for him had waned, and understanding what he was expecting from me when I arrived, my guts boiled searching to find the right answer. Finally, on the day I was to depart, I couldn’t ignore the uneasiness that had plagued me for days and I made the decision not to go. I knew he was going to be crushed, and letting my cowardliness overwhelm my sense of obligation to his heart, I waited until the last minute to tell him so. To my surprise, he took the news in stride. He agreed that he would not have wanted me there if I couldn’t have shown him the same affection as before, and he may not have known that my heart and body have never been capable, nor willing, of faking it. We talked about life and heartache for a while, about the endless cycle of hurting and being hurt that we all continually endure for that chance at happiness and agreed that the time we had together was still worth the shit that inevitably follows. When we got off the phone I felt I had done right by him, and reminded myself why honesty has always been the one thing I hold in the highest regard.

As it was, I stayed in LA an extra few days, dropped another hundred and ten bucks on a third ticket, and wasted two more flights in the process. While in LA I purchased a one-way ticket from DC back to LA, another one-way ticket from LA to Fiji, and a third from Fiji to New Zealand. All-in-all I had dropped more than two grand on tickets in less than a month. Even I felt idiotically reckless, what’s done could not be undone. Departing from Washington on the sixteenth I gave myself three weeks to get my totaled car out of the impound, sell it, give away the large majority of the last of my belongings, pack a bag and head westward. Way westward.

As I sit here tonight, unsatisfied with the words I am about to post, I know they must be said. For in less than two weeks the page will turn and the next door will open and I will have a new story to tell. I have just five days left in DC and though I will miss the familiar comfort of close friends, the rush of endless possibility that courses through my arms and eyes every time I think of what the next year holds is as much of a drug to me as the myriad other addictions I possess. Wish me luck.