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A Cathartic Drive
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A. D. Odom

A Cathartic Drive


My plan last evening was to see a play a co-worker was performing in at the West Angeles Theater for Performing Arts.  Going also meant I would be in Christine’s old neighborhood for the first time in months.  This was something I had been avoiding for a very long time and I tried very hard to talk myself out of doing this last night.  But, I felt I needed to address my fears and concerns and do it thus, I forced myself to dress – lavishly, I might add – put on makeup, layered my scents and prepared myself for the journey.  I felt if I my interior self was not feeling its best, at least my exterior self would appear stunningly chic and hopefully would mask what I felt inside.


For months I avoided the 10 Freeway, LaBrea, Park LaBrea, the museums on Wilshire, The Ralph's on 3rd, The Farmer's Market, and anything on or near Crenshaw.  In fact, I have tried to avoid anything in that area for a very long time.  Last year, I attended a couple of NBLC meetings at the ATB offices and was emotionally shaken when I exited the freeway at LaBrea realizing I would never again make that right-hand turn onto LaBrea heading to Christine’s house.  The second and last meeting I attended was so emotionally trying for me I vowed to never return and broke speed laws just to get away.   I was sad, but I did not want to be sad; I was hurt, but I did not want to be hurt; I was grief stricken, but I did not want to be grief stricken; I was angry, but I did not want to be angry – it is difficult for one body to handle so many emotions at one time while simultaneously trying not to appear insane to those who may not know what you’re going through.


Last night, I had to face those fears while girding up my loins, if you will, in preparation for a possible break down should it occur.  I prepared myself with copious tissues just in case I found myself crying not only for the plight of a character in the play, but my own plight and sense of loss as well.  I mentally prepared myself to take an aisle seat just in case I needed to bolt from the theater, and as I drove along, I also tried to prepare myself for any feelings I might encounter as I exited the 10 onto Crenshaw. 


Funny, with all of the preparation and mental gymnastics I took myself through, I overshot the Crenshaw exit anyway and, as if on automatic pilot, exited the freeway at LaBrea.  I mentally came to at the foot of the exit ramp at LaBrea in the right-hand turn lane.  I decided to go with it and turned right onto LaBrea and then took another right at 21st street, and another right onto Longwood.  As I slowly passed the house where Christine once lived, I immediately noticed it had changed considerably.  Gone were the two beautiful Chinese Elms she so loved, the house looked plain and drab.  At one point I stopped to make sure it was the same house and looked for the large antenna on top and yes, it was there and yes, this was the same house but it looked so small to me – her large presence no longer occupied the space.  I drove a little ways past Serigio’s house and it too had changed.  It was apparent the two beautiful people I once knew who lived on that street were gone and so too their presence. 


I made the block like I, or she and I, would normally do and returned to the street to take one last look at the house.  Yes, she was gone and I could now move on.  The awful foreboding feelings I once had about visiting the neighborhood was gone and I was very glad I made the trip to her house.  As I sat there, I took in the rain and the high contrast of the streets, the trees, and the reflections and I then thought how apropos, the rain has provided a sort of cleansing for the soul. 
I pulled off and decided to take the same route she and I took from her house to my old apartment on Stanley and Beverly.  I drove down LaBrea, passed the old office where the Black Lesbian and Gay Leadership Forum used to be and turned onto San Vicente and then right onto Curson where I was met with another shock – can’t drive through Park LaBrea like we once did.  I had not been in the area for so long I did not know there was a new complex and too, the community is now gated.  I turned around and headed towards Fairfax where I was shocked again to find the new stores, buildings, apartments, etc. – a lot had changed.  As I turned onto Fairfax, I immediately saw Samy’s Camera.  I never knew where they had moved after leaving LaBrea and there they were. 
CBS appeared unchanged and so too my old apartment building, Broadcast Center.  I turned onto Stanley from Beverly to find Stanley, which was once a little choppy and used to dead end at the park, was now a paved, through street complete with parking structures, more stores and more apartment buildings.  As I headed towards 3rd Street, I decided to continue on towards our favorite Ralph’s – this was the last place she and I went shopping together.  We both loved that particular Ralph’s because they had better produce and we could also head across the street to Trader Joe’s afterward.
I continued on past the Ralph’s on 3rd and headed toward Highland to our favorite Sizzler’s Steak House before heading home.  As I drove along Highland, I noticed a Calumet Photo.  This was a store I pretty much camped out in when I lived in Chicago along with Helix and Darkroom Aids.  I did not know there was a Calumet Photo in Los Angeles.  Shortly after passing Calumet Photo, I was caught in gridlock near the Sizzler’s restaurant and there I sat looking at the restaurant reminiscing about the days she and I sat there looking out at traffic and talking.  She and I solved all of the world’s problems from a window seat in that restaurant. 
The traffic in Hollywood gave me time for pause to think about what I had just accomplished.  I met with my fears and learned I was okay.  I did get teary-eyed at one point near Park LaBrea and searched my car for tissue before realizing Christine was the one responsible for grabbing napkins from various restaurants and filling my car with them.  I had none in the car, but I did have tissue in my purse, which was pretty much how things were before we met – I never carried tissue or napkins, for that matter, in my car.  I realized then how life is constantly changing – the me became we, and when the we was no longer, life slowly changed back to me.  Her house has changed, the community where I once lived has changed and I too must change.  Additionally, along with my cathartic journey, I noticed two photo stores I once frequented before meeting Christine.  After meeting Christine, I lost touch with photography sans perhaps carrying my cameras as props from time to time.
Life is constantly evolving into new things, new ideas, and new experiences.  I needed this cathartic journey of discovery into the new me and my new life.  Will I date again?  I don’t know, probably not, but this too is how I felt prior to meeting Christine.  At that time I was not too terribly interested in meeting or dating anyone.  I can at least say I found love in and for someone.  The love I felt for her was the kind of love that made me want to die with her but, after last night, I now realize death is not meant for me now.  Just as I told her the last time we could talk, “at least I had one golden nugget in my life.”   If I should never date or involve myself with anyone else, I live now with the knowledge and the memory of having completely loved someone once in my life. 
A true Taurean, change for me is not an easy pill to swallow, but life moves on.  Her house is not the same and that was my fear.  I wanted to hold onto what was, I did not want to focus on the end.  I think I did myself an injustice by thinking only of my sense of duty when I helped clear her house.  I should have given myself time, while in her house, to say goodbye.  But alas, knowing me, even if I had allowed myself the opportunity I probably would not have done anything that would have me accept the end.  Now, I must. 
A few years ago I left a job that paid me beautiful money and I had a great deal of responsibility.  I could not understand, particularly after blowing off a headhunter who came back to me with the same offer, why I had or needed to go to another firm making less money with even less responsibility.  In addition, two months before Christine’s diagnosis, which I could never have anticipated, I was quite adamant about stepping down from the little position I did have.  I did not know why I had to do this and attributed the reason to many things, but now I know why it all had to happen as it did.  God has a way of preparing us for what we must go through and I didn’t need those responsibilities. 
Now everything harkens for me to move on.  Like those beautiful buildings that have replaced the old park; like the fancy new stores that replaced the old ones, I too must move on and rebuild, just like them and shine just like the neon sign outside my old apartment building that tells every passer-by this is “Broadcast Center.”   I don’t recall ever seeing that sigh when I lived there and I believe it must be new, but I noticed it last night.  Yes, I need to broadcast my center, my core, my being, my spirit and move on.  I spent $18.00 to see a play last night.  I did not make it to the one I paid for but I certainly got a bang for my 18 bucks.

FemmeNoir (c) 2004