So Game of Thrones ended this week. That’s all I have to say about that.
But this has gotten me thinking about all the other things in my past that once came to an end: Tartufo, my solo tours of the U.S., and various friendships and relationships. Some endings were for the best: like my inability to comfortably smile in public until the age of 16; or my "goth" phase in middle school. Some outweigh others in gravity: like when I moved out of my parent’s house for college at 18; versus the time I moved away from the U.S. entirely.
All of those losses have added up to the person I have become. Losing my first piano teacher to her own bitterness and misplaced frustration led me to appreciate and take solace in my second teacher, a barefoot hippie lady that encouraged and nurtured my performance and songwriting.
I’ve lost trust in people many times, regretting, in the moment the truth finally surfaces, my mistake of not seeing their true identity sooner, or not having a strong enough intuition of what was really going on before it was far too late.
The first friend I made in Nashville was a girl slightly older than me, in her mid twenties, who had just moved into her own duplex nearby to me in the Green Hills neighborhood. I was amazed at how “with it” she seemed; she had a Pinterest-perfect apartment: a bowl of decorative wooden balls on top of her raised kitchen table, a collage of pictures of her and her sorority sisters, and an assortment of throw pillows on her couch that spelled out the word “BELIEVE”. Meeting her was the first time in my 19 years that I felt like things were really going somewhere--that I hadn’t made a tremendous miscalculation in leaving college and starting fresh in Music City. A girl could really succeed all on her own.
Up until then, the only four people I knew in town (besides my boyfriend at the time who was frequently away on the road, touring with different acts) were Andy, the smooth-talking music producer who my family met through a mutual friend; his toothless assistant (yes, no teeth); and the couple I was renting a room from in an expensive Green Hills two-bedroom condo: a major-league relief pitcher and his stereotypical, “I-just-spent-$600-on-a-pair-of-nude-colored-pumps-I-already-have, oh-well” wife. It was clear from the outset that the couple did not care for me, viewing me as more of a glorified house sitter than a roommate. They took a raised-eyebrow, quasi-disgusted stance at the solutions I came up with to conform with my own poverty: which involved tv dinners, and the aforementioned Smoothie King coupons and church potlucks. I take no issue with their having been wealthy; the only resentment I feel looking back is from one weekend when they returned to the apartment in off-season, inviting me and my identically gaunt boyfriend out to an expensive dinner, which was a place of their choosing, and then handing us our half of the bill; deriving a certain bemusement from the shock on our faces. The other instance was when enough was enough, and I went to the administration building listed on our lease agreement, only to discover that for the better part of a year I had been paying more in rent than them, despite having a laughably smaller room, no claim to the space in the living room or pantry, and a broken washer/dryer that they refused to properly fix.
When the couple learned that I had found out about the rent disparity, and that I would be leaving quite soon, they were set to return from pre-season training in two days. I knew the wife wasn’t happy, and I knew that there was something behind her corralled tone of voice on the phone that said bad things were to come.
I scoured craigslist, searching for something, anything, that I could afford. After a few sleepless nights, on the day that my roommates were set to return, I found a small, sunflower yellow three-bedroom on Wedgewood Avenue that only included some very vague pictures of the overgrown, brush-filled backyard, but I decided to make contact anyway. It was the only thing even remotely in my price range, with the little savings that I had left. Kind enough to ignore my somewhat frantic tone of voice, the author of the listing agreed to meet me within the next two hours, and gave me her address.
When I pulled onto the chalky gravel driveway, passing the high grass of the garden, the low branches of the black mission fig tree gently swiping the top of my red Xterra, I was greeted by the straight-laced, Montessori school receptionist who had answered my email; and a slender, compact Japanese man who worked in marketing and played the Laurel to her Hardy. They showed me the house: the common areas; the conscious lack of furniture which created a breathy, open space; and what would be my room, which had its own exit to the front porch, and lots of natural light pooling through the four windows on three of the four walls. Immediately I thought, I like this. I’m not sure about the people, but they don’t seem crazy…so I think this could work. I left, but told them I was very interested. If they would have me.
By the time I pulled into the parking lot of the Green Hills condo, I could see the couple’s giant SUV had been moved over to a different parking space. I looked up towards the apartment’s front door, which was on the second floor walkway, and I could see that it was cracked open. Already lined up against the wall, sitting in the dust and the pollen, were a few pairs of my cowboy boots, some books, and a stack of blue jeans: roughly a third of the contents of my closet at the time.
I walked calmly up the stairs; half wanting to charge ahead, but the other half knowing what was in store for me on the other side of that cracked door. She had snapped.
I slowly swung the door forward with my right hand, instinctively bracing my torso with it as I eased through the entrance. There I came face to face with the wife, carrying more of my stuff, stunned to see me returning earlier than she had expected. In her head, I’m sure, she had planned to have moved all of my things out within the next two hours, and changed the locks by the next morning. Instead, she had been caught in the act: she had been discovered not only trying to kick a dirt poor 19-year-old girl out onto the street, but for rent-gouging that 19-year-old out of a lion’s share of her savings for 8 months.
She dropped the pile of my clothes she was carrying at her feet, and her Botoxed face pulled back with seething rage; her eyes wild and flickering. She was a full head shorter than me. I was lanky and underfed, but I still towered over her. But I was terrified.
She pointed her finger as she screamed at me:
“You spoiled BRAT!”
Her husband, the over six-foot professional baseball player (who was just as scared of her as I was) walked up behind her, as if prepared to hold her back by the shoulders if (and when) she inevitably launched at me. He was just watching the entire scene unfold, vaguely knowledgeable of the fact that he was equally guilty in all of this, yet still drawing the line at trying to use his size to scare me into acquiescence, which I appreciate. His wife, on the other hand, was a ferocious snapping Pomeranian, with just enough meat on her jowls to put me on my back foot.
When she stormed off to the kitchen, I took the opening to bee-line for my room, locking the door behind me and texting my boyfriend. He said it would take him an hour to get to me, and so for that time I waited, piling up my stuff and trying to contact Laurel and Hardy without sounding like an absolute lunatic. When Hardy finally picked up, she seemed understandably wary.
“Hi...I’m so sorry to be contacting you like this. I know how this must seem. But I’m in a really dire situation at the moment…”
“Well, we like you, and you seem nice…”
“Is there any way you would let me come live with you? I know we just met two hours ago, but I pay my rent on time, I’m clean, I keep to myself, and the truth is--I really don't have anywhere else I can go.”
“Oh my God…thank you…thank you so much!" --I was breathless-- “Is there any way I could move in..tomorrow?”
I heard my boyfriend come in through the open front door, passing my stuff crumpled up next to the welcome mat, and moving wordlessly, unobstructed, to my closed bedroom. I was tearfully organizing my stuff on the bed. He gave me a quick hug, but didn’t bother discussing anything in that moment.
With my new 6-foot backup, the wife only weakly growled at my back during the last few passes from my bedroom to our cars. The one thing that had given me the most pause was my weighted-key Roland stage piano, which had thankfully gone untouched during this entire ordeal. It and its case weighed 3/4 of the wife’s entire weight, so if she had happened to shimmy it off its stand, there would have been no catching it.
I knew she saw the weakness in me; that’s why she acted the way she did that night, taking it so far. When humans cower, they look like the rubber that they were always taught to emulate. A soft mass is much easier to strike, verbally or physically, than a hardened edge.
The night had fallen when we both pulled out of the parking lot, never to return. As she slammed the front door, I knew that the wife was hoping that she had shamed me enough to deter me from taking any further action in retaliation to her deception. She had.
I wore my boyfriend’s sweatshirt as a makeshift security blanket as we ate in silence at a Red Lobster in Mount Juliet, Tennessee. Makeup busted, tear streams stained on flush, humiliated cheeks, I was a vision in homelessness, however brief or undeserved.
My friend, the girl whose house I had marveled at just five or six months prior to these events, had at one time during the early days come to pick me up for a country music function to which she had been given an extra ticket. As I went to my closet for my coat and to pick out my shoes, the seldom-at-home wife had poured my friend a glass of wine and had struck up a conversation with her. I was surprised to hear them laughing in the living room; it was even slightly difficult to get us to leave, even though my friend had taken pains to remind me over the phone that we needed to be on time for the event. I didn’t think much of any of it.
But I later learned they had begun to hang out, without her mentioning it to me, shortly after that glass of wine. The only indication I ever received that something was amiss with our friendship was the increasingly infrequent and unreliable responses to my texts and voicemails, until one day I realized she had blocked me on all social media, something I had never experienced, and to my knowledge, I never have since.
The end of anything can come anytime. It can be planned or intentionally free-form; it can be agreed upon or be forcefully terminated. Depending on the day, one can focus on either the beginnings or the endings in their past, and more and more I lose the ability to see one as being worse than the other.
Obviously, beginnings spell hope; they spell life; and resilience. But the endings, the losses, the defeats: I don’t necessarily see them positively, but maybe seeing my stuff cast carelessly aside taught me to be less concerned with my material possessions. Maybe having that snarling chupacabra scream in my face reminded me of how defensive rage can be, and how it can be wielded on the weak to exact dominance, and to cover up flaws.
Maybe the losses made me better. I can’t say for sure. But they made me. And as trepidatious as I am at the thought of more losses in the future, I can never discount them as I look back, especially now.
Yeah, I got kicked out of an apartment.
But now I live in the one of my dreams.
Yeah, I lost a friend.
But next Monday, I'll be marrying the best one I've ever had.