In Between Lives


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Day 1


         I don’t want to learn in a classroom anymore. I want to travel and talk to people and learn that way. I want to learn as I go, gathering knowledge and not being rigorously tested on it. I don’t want to lose passion in the things I like because of the worry of exams. I want to fueled by snippets of knowledge I gain from people and be inquisitive. School has stolen my passion for the things I’m interested in and I hate it for that.

         Clara sat in her room on her bed contemplating the homework and studying and writing she had to do this weekend for homework.  Graduate school had just started and she was already as busy and deep in work as she had been during finals week just a year ago. 

         All of a sudden Clara heard a sharp knock on her door.  She startled and then laughed at herself. 

         “Yeah?  What’s up?”  She called in reply to the knocking.

         “Can you come downstairs for a second?”  Asked her roommate Katherine.  She sounded a little upset and like something was wrong.  Immediately Clara got up from her bed and went to her door.

         “Yeah, sure, are you okay?”  She asked looking at her friend and roommate with concern.  Katherine looked down at her feet; this was very unlike her.

         “You should probably just come downstairs.”  And then Katherine turned around and went straight down the stairs.  Something was wrong, and Clara was not sure she was excited to find out what it was.  Still in her pajamas; shorts, a big flannel shirt she stole from her dad, and thick wool socks she followed Katherine down to the living room to find Arie and Jeremy, the love of her life, standing before her. 

         “Jeremy!  I didn’t know you were here!”  She said happily.  Katherine was probably just trying to trick her.  She walked up to Jeremy and tried to give him a hug and kiss.  He stood frozen and moved his head away before she could get close enough.  She stepped back and took a look at him, he almost looked angry.  “Is everything okay?”  She asked trying to catch his eye.  She saw him inhale a deep breath like he was about to tell her but then Arie interrupted him.

         “You should sit down.”  Clara looked over at Arie and saw how serious she looked, it was like if she did not do as she said, it would make her even angrier, perhaps all of them even more angry. 

         “Okay.”  She said slowly before taking a seat on the couch.  She sat at on the very edge, feeling very nervous.  They were looking down at her as if she had done something very wrong.  “What’s going on?”  The three of them sighed, almost in unison, and then began talking at her.  All of them at the same time.  She could not understand a lot of what they were saying, but she heard you and other words like trouble annoying difficult boring emotional and other things that sounded as if they were just trying to insult her. 

“Wha – what are you saying?”  She asked staring at her best friends and her boyfriend, the closest people in her life.  Arie took a deep breath.

 “We’re saying we can’t live with you anymore.”  Clara’s body tensed and it felt like her heart had stopped beating.  “Here in this apartment or in our lives.  You are messy, irresponsible, needy, and emotional; and we can’t handle it.  Neither can Jeremy.”  She looked over at her boyfriend.  The one, she thought was eventually going to propose to her.  He looked just as grim as the other two.  Only Katherine looked slightly guilty.  She was always slightly more compassionate than Arie or Jeremy ever were.  

Clara took a moment to collect herself.  This was exactly what she was always afraid of, her insecurities getting the best of her and ruining everything.  All of her fears, those fears that none of her friends really cared for her, that she would end up alone, and she would never accomplish anything; were actually coming to light. 

This was not how the world was supposed to work.  She knew she didn’t have much time before her tears and sobs came to surface and these people would know they had gotten the best of her.  Obviously they were only having this meeting like this so that they could show her how different she was from them.  In this situation and according to them, they were strong and smart and beautiful and perfect.  She was the opposite.  

But she could be strong, if nothing else she could be strong. 

“So what would like you me to do?  Move out?”  She asked as smoothly as she could.  Her tone was angry and she looked at them cooly, as cool and cold as the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  She held her breath, biting her tongue, trying to keep herself from saying anything else.  Anyone who knew Clara knew that when she was nervous or didn’t know what to say, she would ramble and say meaningless things. 

“Well, yes.  We thought that would be best.”  Arie said sounding smug.  Clara looked at her old friend.  What on Earth had happened?  She had never sounded this mean to anyone before.  But here it was.  Something had happened that had changed everything.  Clara thought for a moment about what moving out meant.  All of those things that so many people take for granted such as a roof over their heads, food, water, love; all of these things were now about to be taken away from her.  Of course, she would call her family to figure out what she could do and she had other friends and a couple distant family members that lived nearby, she just never imagined something like this could happen. 

Clara took a deep breath, gathered all of her courage, and looked her old friend straight in the eye.  “Very well, consider this my 30 day’s notice.  I’ll be out of here ASAP.”  Arie gave her a cruel smile.

“Good.  Well we’re leaving for the rest of the day to go to Disneyland, you should probably start packing.”  Clara felt her heart clench.  Of course.  They would go to Disneyland just to rub it in her face that they hated her.  They all knew how much Disneyland meant to her and how much she loved being there.  She had paid for an annual pass for three years just so she could go as often as she liked.  To her, and they knew this, Disneyland was an essential part of her life. 

The three of them left almost immediately after that and Clara was left alone.  She continued to stand frozen in place long after they had left unsure if she were still breathing or still alive at all.  In the span of ten minutes it seemed her whole life had changed.  She had no idea what she should do.  She had no idea how to feel.  Everything she counted on and the most important people in her life were gone.  And it had been their choice, what could she do now?

She looked around their apartment, somewhere she had felt at home for two years.  The three of them had gone through school together, experienced the joy of graduation together, the hardships and stress of finding a job and applying to graduate school, and figuring out what they wanted to do with the rest of their lives.

It was possible that they had not picked a worse time to dump all this onto her.  She had just begun her first semester of graduate school.  The first month had not even ended yet. 

But then there was James.  Her boyfriend.  They had been together almost four years.  She was sure that they had been closer to getting married then breaking up.  After all they had been through, the good and the bad, this is how it was going to end?  She didn’t even know what she had done wrong or had he simply found someone else?  She had no idea and she wasn’t sure if she wanted to know.  It was much easier to believe he did this just because he was a jerk and was just using her to fulfill his own selfish desires.  It was easier to assume that for Arie and Katherine as well. 

It was a long time before she felt she could move again but when she did she looked around the apartment and no longer felt at home.  Now she could only feel anger and determination to not spend anymore time than she had to in this place.  For a moment she almost wanted to thank them for excellent timing to dump the news on her, being a Saturday at least she had the whole day to pack and figure out what she was going to do next. 

She stood for only a moment more before practically running up the stairs to her room.  She pulled out every box, contained, and bag she owned and began stuffing everything that belonged to her in them.  All of her clothes went into suitcases that she had collected over her time in college, from so many trips and choir tours that she had such great memories of, books and her movies and school notebooks and journals went into backpacks whether they were falling apart from years of wear and tear to brand new that she was planning on using this year.  Knick-knacks and shower supplies went in various purses and wherever else she could fit them.  Her blankets and pillows and comforters and sheets were pulled violently off her bed and thrown in the hallway.  She then threw her bags and boxes out of the room and stared at the now blank and empty room. 

It looked just the way it did when they had first moved in.  There may have been a few more holes in the wall from pushpins and nails and she couldn’t move her bed and other furniture but besides the obvious it was completely bare.  It amazed her that she was able to pack up all of her things in such a quick time.  It had taken them days, even weeks to completely unpack.  Could that really be all of her belongings?  Of course, she hadn’t taken much time to organize and fold things and pack them nicely but still, it had only taken her an hour to teardown her room.  Perhaps it was time to take things out to her car.  Though the boxes and bags didn’t look like much in the hallway, she knew it would be a little more difficult to pack things away in her small car. 

She had always loved her car; the small orange convertible 1971 Super Beetle.  It had always done what she needed it to do.  Though it was old and there had been times she had had to take it in to get worked on and had spent more money than she would have liked, but she loved her car.  She would have to figure out how to fit everything sometime, why not start now. 

Slowly and with great effort she began taking all of her suitcases, boxes, bags, and containers out to her car.  In the process of taking everything out to her car she realized she probably still had things throughout the rest of their home… apartment.  She would not think of this place as home anymore.  She couldn’t.  Otherwise, she knew she would second guess herself and move everything back into her room and grovel to them.  Probably exactly what they wanted her to do.  She kept moving and concentrated on other things instead. 

She knew that she had personally supplied many of the kitchen supplies and had more things hidden in a closet under the stairs, which they had fondly called the Harry Potter closet.  Once she finished getting everything from her room to her car, she would come back for everything else.  She would not leave anything that she brought in for her old roommates to use.  Even if it meant throwing some of her things away, she would not give anything up to them. 

After a couple more trips up to her room and then out to her car she began tightly packing everything away.  It took quite a bit of time and many frustrations on her part to get everything packed away while giving enough space to drive and also for anything else she would end up finding elsewhere in the apartment.  Along the way, she found herself unpacking some boxes and bags and throwing away quite a few things including nearly empty bottles of shampoo and conditioner and other things she knew she would be able to replace easily.  She also threw away other things such as old essays and clothes she knew she never wore, things that were completely worn down that she was only keeping because she felt she should.  Some of these included old birthday cards and music concert programs and tickets she had collected as well as posters she had kept. 

After doing this she was able to condense tremendously, as hard as it had been.  She never considered herself as a packrat exactly but now looking at how much space she had made by just getting rid of some old useless things, made her question this.  Well, might as well change another part of her life, if there was ever a time to change, this would be it.  Why not?  Everything in her life was changing, what was one more part of her?  Perhaps, this would be a good time to make the changes she always wanted to but never had the determination or really the time to do so. 

Clara went back inside the apartment to see what else belonged to her.  First she went to the communal bookshelf.  In all honesty, most of the books there belonged to her.  Books that included her dictionary, thesaurus, and textbooks, as well as the many books she collected over the years ranging in subjects from psychology, literature, philosophy, novels of course, poetry books, plays, and cookbooks.  Once she had all her books off the books shelf on in piles on the floor by the door, she once again had to think about condensing.  Would she be able to get rid of any of her books?  Perhaps there was still room somewhere in her car, maybe behind the back seat.  There was a small space behind the backseat.  A few books at a time, as many as she could hold at a time, she carried out to her car. It took some time to navigate herself around her other boxes and bags already in her car but she finally did find some room behind that backseat and dumped, as carefully as she could, all the books, a few at a time, back there until there was no room no matter how much crammed everything in. 

After that it took a while to fit pots and pans and dishes and cups and mugs and even silverware and various kitchen supplies between different things and pillows and blankets.  She stuffed them in nooks and crannies hoping it would prevent things from sliding and breaking the more valuable and breakable things. 

Then, it was over.  She was completely packed.  Everything that she owned, besides furniture, was out of the apartment and in her car ready to be moved.  The only question was to where.  Sure, it was great that now nothing was holding her back to that apartment, she was completely moved out and now she could go somewhere else and live there.  Start over perhaps, but where would she go? 

First things first, she should go home to her dad.  He should probably know what happened.  Considering he is paying for her school and helping her with bills and other things she needed to pay for, including rent for a now nonexistent apartment, he should probably know.  Of course, she supposed she should probably call him, but where was her phone?  She looked around her in the car, checked her pockets and tried to move a couple things around to see if she could find it.  He always appreciated when she called first but considering everything that had happened, and the fact that she would probably have to unpack every box and bag in her car to find her phone, he would forgive her. 

Keys, luckily, already in the ignition she revved up her car, after a couple tries and was out of the parking lot and heading down the road.  She stopped at the stop sign just outside the apartment building and looked back. 

This was it.  There was no going back.  She still could not understand what had changed her roommates and her boyfriend so suddenly and cause them to seem to hate her but it broke her heart.  Her heart in her chest literally felt broke and heavy and she was not sure how she had been able to spend the morning packing up her apartment without breaking down and losing all control.  She did not even know for sure what would happen and what she would do if did let herself break down and losing all control.  She did not even know for sure what would happen and what she would do if did let herself break down and completely fall apart.  She stayed at that stop sign for longer than normal, the quiet street allowing her to do this without inconveniencing anyone. 

Clara took a deep breath and looked at the road in front of her, and gave a short smile.  What a perfect metaphor.  The road was familiar to her but it was showing her to a completely new way of life, everything around her was the same but it was also completely different.  She would not longer be driving down this road leaving a home, she was not just leaving an apartment where she used to live.  She was no longer leaving her home to go to school and then come back and she was not leaving with anyone nor expecting to come back to anyone.  It was impossible to tell what would happen down the road, as driving could always be dangerous but she knew where she wanted to go and she knew how to get there. 

She supposed that was the only real difference with the road and her metaphor.  In reality, though she had graduated college and was now in the midst of graduate school, she still was not sure what she wanted to do.  Well, of course she had dreams, and she always had dreamed about changing the world and making it a better place but how she would go about doing that was still a mystery to her. 

She was stalling.  She should leave now before she went back into that apartment and tried to beg to them to take her back.  That was probably what they had been expecting her to do but she was too prideful and she knew that it would be the wrong decision to make.  This event, though a terrible one, was also an opportunity.  Somewhere in her hurt heart and mind a small voice, her conscious or God, was telling her to be brave and keep on going.

With one last quick glance in the rear view mirror, out of which she found she could not actually see anything, she took a deep breath and started moving again.  While driving away, she couldn’t help but wonder if this would be the last time she would be at this place, a place she used to call home with people she loved as dearly, if not more, than her family.  She tried to focus on other things, that would not make her want to die out of depression and heartbreak. 

She could look forward to visiting her dad.  She did not see him very often.  They were both always very busy, she with her school work, homework, trying to make money with odd jobs and through friends, while he was busy with his work, women, and looking cool with his wine and personal philosophies.  However, he always like to try and help her by spending a long time explaining and describing why he believed what he did and how she could live a better life than he did if she learned it now instead of later.  Being a good daughter, knowing causing and scene and acting sarcastic and nonchalant as many children and young adults her age did today, she listened to what he had to say and tried to take it to heart.  However, when most of it was just repeating the same things over and over and over again in just different ways, she tended to let her mind wander a little bit.  Though always paying him a little attention so she knew when to nod and agree with something he said. 

The good thing was that he lived right next to the beach.  She could spend some time on the beach and figure out what she should do next, graduate school was obviously a priority considering she was already in it and had paid for the books and made a commitment so she could not spend too much time dwelling on unrealistic possibilities such as traveling or just not doing anything.  If only things were that easy.  If only she could take a long break and breathe and get back to reality when she was ready to. 

Even as she thought that she knew it was a bad idea.  Being ready for something was like an urban legend.  No matter how much time someone has for something, anything whether it's a test, audition, or event; they will never be as ready as they want to be.  They will never be as prepared as they think they can or should be.  It's better to just jump into it and learn on the way. 

She learned that first-hand.  After her mom left, she only had about a month to mourn until she had to go back to school and move on with her life.  This was unlike her dad.  Her dad worked from home or if he wasn't at the time, she couldn't remember, was only in elementary school, he was hopping around jobs and businesses and brilliant business ventures.  But he had all the time in the world to dwell on why she had gone and left the two of them.  Clara struggled to remember if she had been closer to her dad or mom before she had left.  It was painful to her to remember that she had barely any memories of her childhood.  It was as if her mom had left and everything in her life had changed and it was a new beginning, to the point where she could not remember what her old life was like.  Now that was pain. 

She groaned in her car.  This is not what she wanted to be thinking about.  Why was it she could only think of the most depressing things right now?  Was she really that helpless?  She willed herself to think of something happy.  Anything cheerful.  How about that time her story was in the school newspaper.  Or when a silly poem she wrote had impressed a publisher that had visited the school once and he almost published it.  while it had been sad that he did not publish it, he told her that he would remember her name and anything she sent his way he would not ignore.  She thought about the library she spent so much time in and how she had met some people there and once had a great adventure in the middle of the night her freshmen year that revolved around tacos, roller blades, and almost getting arrested (at least that was what she was afraid of, looking back on it now they probably wouldn't have actually gotten arrested).  She thought about her favorite classes in school and some of the different concerts she went to.  Having been friends with music majors (do not dwell on them do not dwell on them) she was dragged to many impressive concerts that they were required to go to.  She remembered being kissed on the hand by the son of Mel Torme, getting a hug and a couple winks from the sexiest trumpet player in the world (according to his friends anyway, but she definitely did not disagree), and singing Mozart's Requiem in the choir after being convinced to join the choir that had not actually been worth any units. 

Those were all amazing wonderful times, and what about the joy and elation she felt when she had been accepted into the prestigious graduate program of her dreams!  She had almost jumped off a building in excitement.  Seems a little counter-intuitive?  Well, she thought for a moment that she had such happiness she would be able to fly.  Luckily for her there were no tall buildings around her at the time that she could jump off of. 

She never liked this drive.  The traffic always took way too long.  Right through the middle of downtown of course, he just had to live in one of the most inhabited cities in the world.  She loved where she had lived because it was like she lived in a small town.  While it was not exactly a small town, it seemed like it; the small town on the outskirts of the big city.  Why didn’t everyone want to live here?  It was perfect and beautiful and much more quiet than where he lived.  But she supposed if everyone lived where she had lived it would not be considered a small town anymore and it would lose the small town feel and the quiet and peacefulness. 

Though now she supposed it didn’t really matter considering she didn’t live there anymore.  What was she going to do about that?  It was not like she could commute from her dad’s place everyday.  He lived almost an hour away, with no traffic.  In the morning on a weekday, she did not want to think about how bad the traffic would be and how long it would take her to drive through it. 

It took her longer than she would have liked to finally get through the dense part of traffic and through downtown to the other side of town where the traffic seemed like lighten to her liking and she was able to go faster and get to her destination quicker.  Of course, her car, being older and not as powerful as some of the other cars on the market nowadays, was not the fastest car on the freeway, but she had already taken this into consideration and was willing to take the extra time to let her car take her time (yes she considered her car to be a girl) and get their safely.  When she finally made it to her dad’s home, she let out a sigh of relief and just sat in the driveway for a moment.  She did not want to get too emotional quite yet, it was not time for that, but she knew the time was coming and she needed to be in a safe environment so that she could let her emotions loose. 

She opened the door and only grabbed the essentials from her car, her purse, in which she found her phone, unsurprisingly, threw her keys, and her wallet, and a couple other things that she always had in her purse like a small notebook, a pen and a pencil (.5 lead only), a half-full pack of spearmint gum, a small bottle of water, and her ipod and headphones.  She almost always had to use a large purse to fit everything she wanted to carry around with her. 

There was that pack-rat part of her that she did not know about speaking again. 

She stepped up to the front door, Dad had been redecorating his front yard again, redecorating and renovating his place, probably trying to impress some woman, a new neighbor most likely.  She hoped he was home, having not called ahead of time she did not even know if he was here.  She knew the deal with him, he always liked to be prepared but today, she hoped this situation would be a different considering the circumstances she had to endure today.  Although, even if he wasn’t here, she would still be able to stay and get in, obviously she still had a key from when he had first moved here.  Anyway, this time she would knock on the door, that would be the polite thing to do now that she didn’t exactly live there anymore.  Did that mean she was technically homeless? 

No, technically she had given her roommates a thirty days notice, that meant she could still technically live there.  She just did not want to have to deal with the drama and the pain that would come from that.  Especially since it seemed that they had wanted to go out of their way to make this event as painful and diffictlt for her as humanly possible. 

She knocked on the door and heard the footsteps come towards the door.  When it opened and her dad was standing in the doorway looking at her with surprise in his normal uniform of jeans and a button down shirt that was unbuttoned down almost to his bellybutton.  It was seeing this familiar sight, the only thing that would be unchanging for her at the moment, that finally made her tears and feelings and heartache catch up with her and she immediately broke down.  Her dad, not always the best at handling feelings and emotions of girls was stunned for a moment, most likely from her showing up unexpectedly and also from bursting into tears the moment he opened the door, and then took her into a hug and slowly lead her inside. 

She dropped her purse on the floor of his house and merely allowed herself to be held for a little while.  It had been so hard, so hard to force herself to keep going and not give into her emotions until she absolutely had to, but she could not keep everything inside her forever, that was a recipe for disaster.  She knew that.  Look at what happened with her dad, can you say mid-life crisis? 

Knowing that her dad was still in the dark about what she was even doing at his house, through broken sobs and while taking in gasps for breath she told him of the situation she was. 

He then, of course, began on another of his long-winded lectures and did not stop talking for a long time.  She didn’t really listen to what he was saying, she knew there were words coming out of his mouth that strung into sentances and that they made sense in his eyes and were supposed to make her feel better, but she wasn’t paying attention to that.  All she could hear was the sound of his voice and the fact that he was there and maybe not the perfect dad he was supposed to be, he was there and he wasn’t hating her for some unknown reason. 

It was a long time before she was able to stop crying but when she did her dad led her to her room and told her to get some rest.  A huge event such as this one would surely take a lot out of someone, and besides that it was nearly time for dinner and he was not expecting to make dinner for more than one.  He would have to think of something he could make that he had all the ingredients for. 

He then left her alone, thinking she might sleep and went to go explore his kitchen to find food for the two of them.  Meanwhile, Clara lied in the bed staring up at the ceiling waiting for something like sleep to come to her.  It had been such an emotional and difficult day it was amazing she was not asleep.  It was just all so confusing.  Just yesterday everyone was happy and perfectly normal.  She and Jeremy had dinner together and watched a couple episodes of their favorite tv show.  Something had happened last night, after she went to bed that changed everything. 

I am so tired.  I wish I could just fall asleep for a long time and not think about all of this.  It’s too confusing, too difficult, too painful for me to dwell on right now. 

Clara closed her eyes willing herself to go to sleep.  She knew it wouldn’t happen by just wanting to sleep but her head was pounding from crying and also working so hard all day and then also from the long drive over here.  And, she realized, she hadn’t eaten all day.  Thank goodness her dad was now doing his dinner ritual.  She could hear him banging pots and pans around and knew he must have found something for the two of them to eat for dinner.  She wanted to distract herself and not have to think about the events that happened today but she had every right to be miserable, she just was not sure what to do about it. 

Dinner would not be ready for a while, she knew her dad and how he liked to take his time and experiment with food; and while it nearly always turned out well, he had a natural sense for what would taste good – probably thanks to his mother – it always seemed to take longer than necessary.  She knew that if she were cooking the same dish it would take half the time.  However when she asked him about it he always had some brilliant reason why he needed to wait.  He had the gift of gab, her mother used to say. 

She tried not to think about that.  She had to get her mind off of all of these thoughts that were just bringing her whole mind and all of her thoughts into a low place, a place she had always tried to swear off.  However, with her in this mood and everything that was happening around, happening around her, it was hard to keep herself away from those painful thoughts.

Her eyes were feeling heavy and she oculdn’t help but smile a little bit.  Perhaps she was finally allowing herself to go to sleep.  Of course, she could not jinx it now.  She thought of happy things, she began imagining a beautiful dress, adding colors and bows and flowers and pearls and tulle to make it the most extravagant and – perhaps ridiculous – dress she could think.  She then imagined the ball at which she would wear it.  She listened to beautiful unnamed music and waltzed with men with no faces, or at least she did not pay attention to their faces; she did not know them nor did she care to know who they were.  She drank champagne and had a wonderful time not thinking about anything sad and only concentrated on having a good time. 

After about an hour of rest and light sleep, her dad came to wake her up to eat.  She got up groggily, her head pounding and nose completely stuffed.  The two of them ate dinner quietly the only time they really talked was when her dad mentioned to her that he had been planning on packing up some old things from his mother and father at their old house.  His sister was trying to clean out her backhouse, in case she could find anyone who wanted to live back there, but first it had to be cleaned out, organized, rebuilt basically, and then everything that had been organized had to be reorganized somewhere else. 

He asked her if she wanted to go with him to help her clean out her place and she replied that she would be willing to.  He then told her that half the reason why she had cleaned out that back house was to see if she ever wanted to stay there.  Of course, she never would have known that something like this could have happened but she had been only trying to save Clara money since the rent and utilities costs would probably be pretty minimal. 

After that the rest of the night passed quickly.  She went to bed praying that she would be able to fall asleep quickly.  Tomorrow was a new day and she knew that it had to be better than this one.  No matter what happened tomorrow it had to be better than today.  Perhaps she would even wake up tomorrow to find that none of this had even happened, that it was all just a bad dream. 


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