I was having some difficulty keeping track of the rules of quidditch. JK Rowling had concocted a rather complicated game and, paired with my ever-present unwanted ruminations, grasping the fast-paced action of the unfamiliar fictitious match wasn’t proving easy. It was past midnight and I was drinking hot chocolate in the lobby of the very upscale Shutters on the Beach Hotel in Los Angeles and nearly half done with the first book of the Harry Potter series. As it was a beach hotel, the lobby wasn’t grandiose or intimidatingly ornate. Rather it had a cozy beach cottage feel to it and I was sitting close to the large, wood-burning fireplace which afforded just the kind of soothing placation I needed. It had been a very rough, emotional day and I needed this sense of posh solitude to assuage my nerves.
I have always had an affinity for passing time in high-end hotel lobbies as a form of relaxation. It’s great for people-watching, which I could do for hours. I imagine the lobby is the salon of my house, as I mentally edit the things that don’t quite suit my taste and redecorate with items that do. I was trying to imagine myself in an upscale life. I was thinking in flowery diction to describe my thoughts so as to feel removed. I was in a tasteful lobby of a five star hotel, drinking hot chocolate out of fine china, and reading a thick, hard-cover book in front of a large fireplace, all to get myself to that elevated state of being. I wasn’t hoping to evoke anything Zen or esoteric, but superficial elevation as in financially, where such an aristocratic way of living was my actual life. I needed a respite, however brief, from my real life. A patrician life was the escape I really needed at that moment. An escape is what I had done earlier as well, but that kind of escapism was literal, stressful, and born out of hurt. My day earlier had been awful, even in the context of my already unpleasant life.
It was Thanksgiving, usually my favorite holiday, but this Thanksgiving turned out terribly. So much so that I had to run away. As an adult, I was a runaway. That’s as pathetic as it sounds. My sister was in town for the holiday and staying at my mom’s, which is where I was living. I love my sister dearly but she’s a no nonsense type who is very protective of our mom, and to her my OCD felt like a lot of nonsense that was taxing on our mom. She was definitely right about the latter part. Seeing me deteriorate and placing demands on her that she observe certain habits due to my OCD was very trying on my mom. But I was her son whom she loved dearly, so she tolerated me….until that Thanksgiving day. My sister is also very headstrong and demanding. Again, mostly to protect her family, but her demands this past visit had been upon my mom to quit coddling my behavior in any way. My sister meant well. She wanted me to get better, but she wasn’t good at empathy so her endeavor to help yielded what I felt to be just a lot of shaming and cruelty. The tension in the house the past few days leading up to Thanksgiving was high and on Thanksgiving Day it all came to a head.
My dad played a large role in this too. My gentle dad, who had tolerated my behavior because he too loved me and, well, because he was so gentle, was also being pressured by my sister not to conform to my OCD rules. She felt I was taking advantage of our parents. I was. I hated myself for it but couldn’t do anything any differently. Certainly not then. It was a time during which my OCD was wholly in control of my thoughts and behavior, but my sister wouldn’t enable it and tried to prevent my parents from doing so any longer. I hated my sister for stirring the pot, but in retrospect, she was right. Her approach wasn’t right and felt mean-spirited, but the ultimate reasoning behind it wasn’t malicious. Anyway, the tension with my family was growing. And when my dad arrived for our Thanksgiving dinner at my mom’s, one of the first things he did was ask me to give the spare keys to his house back to him. My sister felt I was taking advantage by using it to come and go to his place as I pleased, mostly to do a lot of laundry, take showers, and crash when I didn’t feel clean at my mom’s, all of which was not only disruptive to his living situation, but disagreeable for him to witness. Again, she was right.
My sister was right about a lot, but that didn’t mean I would acknowledge her astuteness. Instead my responses to her words and actions were reactive and emotionally charged. I was both hurt and angered by her harsh treatment and, because much of what she prescribed to my parents in dealing with me was in conflict to my OCD, I was also panicked by her. Wanting our parents to stop enabling me was a good thing in theory, but in practice it meant my having to deal with fears I wasn’t ready or able yet to handle without a lot of ritualizing. She also didn’t want them to cease enabling me primarily for my benefit, but more to lessen the inconvenience to them. Again, my sister is my parents’ guardian. Sometimes she guards them too aggressively but always out of love. As I loved my parents tremendously as well, I couldn’t fault her or even privately disagree with her. I hated what I was asking my parents to conform to and endure for the sake of my OCD. I hated it and myself for it (I can’t state this enough), but the OCD was an even greater force than my love for them. It ruled me and everything I did. I fought against my sister with verbal harshness to lessen her claims of my behavior being as abnormal as she made them out to be (despite knowing they were very much so) and pulled my parents into the choose-her-or-me battle.
It was all unfair to all of us, but that’s what OCD is, very unfair. So when my dad asked for his house keys back after continued coercion from my sister, I broke. I had a fit. It was the first thing my dad asked for when he came in the door and I kind of felt that my usually gentle dad was being uncharacteristically impertinent by suddenly being adamant in his demands. Of course I knew it was my sister’s forceful influence at play, but I was furious he would forsake me and just acquiesce to her, despite its being the right choice. So when he asked for his keys, my anger and frustration got the best of me and I threw the keys at him, yelled something at the general direction of the rest of my family and stormed out the door. I was insolent and throwing a tantrum like a child, or a Real Housewife. I walked toward my car, got in, revved it up loudly so as to make my exit as dramatic as possible and drove off. To where I wasn’t yet sure. I just started driving down Beverly Boulevard toward La Cienega Boulevard.
I drove down La Cienega Boulevard for a while. Thanksgiving Day traffic was light. My anger grew while driving. I had stormed out on my favorite holiday. I loved my mom’s cooking and was extra excited for the Thanksgiving feast. I hadn’t really eaten all day in order to leave room to gorge myself on Thanksgiving dinner. The thought of what I would be missing was killing me! I could feel my stomach rumble as I thought about the turkey with gravy, the perfectly seasoned and savory stuffing, the pumpkin pie. I fucking love pumpkin pie. Ugh! I had to not think about it. I would just get dinner somewhere else. I would get something delicious at somewhere nice. I couldn’t think of where exactly, but as I approached the 10 freeway, I decided to head toward Santa Monica. Being ocean-side, Santa Monica felt open. The streets were wider, the architecture was newer or restored art-deco, the ocean breeze and vast skyline that connected to the ocean’s horizon all contributed to a sense of lightness. I needed to feel less burdened, if only as temporary pretense. LA was stuffy, constricting, and claustrophobic; my state of mind was angry and resentful; I had just had a family blowout on Thanksgiving Day – I needed some air.
After I exited, I knew I was heading to the Hotel Del Mar. It felt very airy and open. It was also a historic structure and I needed that too to counter stuffy LA’s abundance of cracked stucco and lingering late-1970’s multi-family housing developments that dated the city like a stained motel. As my anger grew, I came up with an extreme idea. I could drive to LAX, buy a ticket to Germany, where my cousin lived, and stay with him for a week or so. That would let my family know I wasn’t afraid to break away if I needed to, and it would allow me to escape. I was getting a stronger urge to head to the airport the more I thought about it. Living at home had allowed me to build a decent amount of savings and I could afford a last minute ticket to Germany. “I can do this!” I thought. But I didn’t. I could still do it tomorrow if I wanted. I didn’t need to be that brash. So I continued to Santa Monica.
I found parking amid LA’s impossible-to-decipher, hyper-regulated parking schedule matrix that was printed in almost illegible font on the difficult-to-spot parking sign and hoped (but didn’t really care) not to get a ticket. Hotel Del Mar was right on the beach, so parking in the vicinity was scarce. I had found an open spot and I took it; the legality was secondary. Oddly, in my anger, I was being firm in my decisions for a change. I walked into the hotel lobby, smiled toward the check-in counter employees and kept walking toward the bar lounge.
It was sparsely populated and initially I was bothered by the idea that the only patrons to frequent a hotel bar at this hour on Thanksgiving holiday may be lonely miscreants and high-end escorts (per usual, my thoughts and judgment were through the much distorted perspective of an OCD lens). Some of the patrons seemed to fit that bill, but my hesitation to stay was assuaged when I noticed a family (parents trying to control their young kids) also in the lounge area. Then I noticed other more seemingly “normal” patrons, mostly foreign, which further alleviated my trepidation. That most were foreign made sense, as Thanksgiving is an American holiday. These folks were on vacation, visiting the States, so they weren’t necessarily undesirables that had been cast out by their families. However, that thought led to unkind self-reflection. I was an American. I observed Thanksgiving tradition with my family every year. I looked forward to it every year. Except here I was, in a hotel lounge on the other side of town from where the rest of my family was celebrating the holiday together. I was an outcast. I suddenly went from feeling angry to feeling very lonely. What would I tell my friends when they asked me how my holiday went? I would lie. I would say that I got into an argument with my family so it wasn’t great, but I wouldn’t divulge the details. I felt enough shame about my behavior and didn’t want to endure my friends’ silent judgment on this latest incident.
I sat at the bar of the hotel lounge, where I ate my Waldorf salad. It wasn’t the best thing I had tasted, but it did the job. It was way overpriced, but that’s what one pays at nice hotels, so I ordered it knowing it wouldn’t yield a favorable cost/benefit. I also was famished and just needed food. Thankfully the bread and butter they brought before the salad was very delicious and I ate plenty of it, so I wasn’t ravenous by the time salad came, and was okay with it being mediocre despite the price. After I paid, I walked over to the lounge area where the club chairs were and, after about twenty minutes’ worth of examination of the surface of each available chair, I chose the one that seemed the newest and cleanest. There wasn’t much variance, but even minute discrepancies could make a large difference in assurance. I sat on the chair for a while, just people-watching. That was all I could do. In my outburst and flurried escape, I had left my phone at home, so I had no prop with which to pretend I was checking email, or reading a text, etc. So when it felt awkward to be just sitting there any longer without purpose, I decided to change locations.
Fortunately, Shutters on The Beach, another posh hotel, was just down the street. Before heading to Shutters I went to my car to retrieve my Harry Potter book. I not only needed a prop to look less conspicuous but was actually in the mood to read. Walking from my car, I noticed it was getting dark and chilly. Upon entering the lobby in Shutters, I was welcomed by a doorman and the crackling fire in their lit fireplace. I had picked the right place to read and be distracted. There was an oversized, sand-colored lounge chair with brushed cotton upholstery that had a glass top coffee table in front of it. The space was calling my name. The chair and table were located in the center of the lobby sitting area and the fireplace was off to the right of where I would be seated. I looked over the cushions of the lounge chair as covertly as possible and then took a seat on one. I opened my book, found where I had last left off and started reading.
A few minutes later, a waiter came over and asked if there was anything he could get me for the evening. I thought a hot chocolate would be nice and conducive to my sense of posh coziness. I started reading more about the quidditch match in my Harry Potter book but wasn’t able to concentrate properly. I knew I was still distracted from the family fight earlier in the day. When the waiter came back with my hot chocolate, he carefully placed it in front of me and then asked, “Are you reading that for the first time?”
“Yes I am,” I said.
“It’s really good. I’ve read the entire series and some of them I had to read again,” he said.
“Yeah, I’m really liking it so far,” I said with a smile.
“Where are you in it?” he asked.
“I’m just starting the part with the quidditch match,” I said.
“Oh that’s so good!” he said. “I wanted to play quidditch after reading that! I’m John, by the way.”
I liked John’s confidence. I suppose it came easy to him. He was young and very good-looking.
“I’m Ben. It’s nice to meet you, John,” I said. “Are you working the late shift here tonight?”
“Ha, yup! My schedule here changes but I’m on until one a.m. tonight….or morning, I guess,” he said. “I’m studying for the LSAT, so the flexibility allows me to attend prep courses and study.”
“Oh nice. I almost went to law school,” I said.
“Yeah, I had planned on it. I was a Law & Society major in college and thought I would do law school next, but actually preparing for the LSAT changed my mind,” I said.
“Oh really? How come?” John asked.
“Well, I mean I really love the history and philosophy of law. I love studying what inherent rights we have versus societal restrictions and things such as that, but studying for the LSAT made me realize that practice isn’t really about any of that theory. It’s just mainly a lot of paperwork and following codes, so I decided against law school,” I said.
“Yeah, I get that,” John said. “I mean, I don’t know what kind of law I want to practice yet, I’m thinking perhaps environmental law, but who knows, I may end up hating it, but it’s the plan for now.”
“Well, it’s a great plan. Really. I wish I had the inclination for law school, but I just didn’t want to invest the time. I mean, you can still really do anything with a law degree. You don’t have to just practice. You can teach or do something completely different. I guess I just thought I could invest the three years better working toward something else since I didn’t want to practice.” After that statement, I wanted to quickly move on from talking about myself as the thought of having wasted those three years instead of having actually invested them better bothered me.
“Where are you planning to apply to?” I asked.
“Mostly California schools. I actually really would like to get in to Pepperdine. They have a good environmental law program there and that way I can stay in LA,” John said.
“Yeah, they do have a really good program there, but it could be good to get out of LA too. It’s just three years,” I said, but I wasn’t sure who I was saying that part to.
“Yeah that’s true,” said John.
I was intrigued by John but had run out of small talk material so thought it best to let him get back to whatever it was he needed to do. So I smiled and said, “Well thank you for the hot chocolate.”
“Oh you’re welcome. Let me know if you need anything else,” said John and walked away.
I’m glad he didn’t ask me about my Thanksgiving. He may have assumed I had my Thanksgiving dinner earlier and was just doing some late night reading, which would have been fine. I didn’t want people to know I skipped out on Thanksgiving and felt unwanted. I didn’t want pity and judgment. I read some more of Harry Potter’s adventures and sipped my hot chocolate, which was lukewarm now. I started reading Harry Potter not because of the hype and the sense that I just had to, but because I was impressed by author JK Rowling’s story – her personal story. I always found rags to riches life turn-arounds compelling. Rags to riches where the riches amounted to billions of dollars was even more aspirational. I had spent so much of my own life daydreaming about having the high life that saying I lived in a fantasy world, at least part time, was a completely accurate accusation. I write “accusation” because unlike those who work toward achieving those lives, I just dream about them. That’s a huge fault. Perhaps even one of my worst character flaws. I have so many ideas and visions but don’t do the work to see them come to fruition. I don’t do the work. I work like a slave but it’s not ever for my own benefit.
It was past midnight when I closed up Harry Potter. I didn’t know where John was but I thought it better if I just left without bidding him goodbye and good luck. I walked out of the lobby and into a very chilly night. I didn’t have a jacket or sweater. My long-sleeve dress shirt was feeling very thin at that moment (something I appreciated during the daytime heat but was a liability at night in the desert climate). When I got to my car, I turned on the heat and felt better. I was feeling very sleepy now. I knew I wouldn’t head home. I wanted to make a statement. But I was really worn out and yearned for the comfort of a bed. Any bed. But I wouldn’t relent. I was excellent at being stubborn. I had to make a statement.
I drove around the city aimlessly for a while. Santa Monica at night, or early morning now rather, wasn’t spectacular and I shouldn’t have been on the road in my drowsy state. I badly had to pee, so I drove back to Casa Del Mar and used the facilities there. I contemplated staying parked by the hotel overnight, but I felt exposed and unsafe. My dad’s place was nearby at the border where Malibu met the Pacific Palisades, so I drove towards his place. When I got to his street, I found a spot near his driveway that felt safe enough but far enough to prevent him from spotting my car. I reclined my chair as far back as I could and kept the radio on. I remember fading out of consciousness to the song “Lightning Crashes,” by the band Live.
When I awoke about forty minutes later, I was extremely cold. The night climate had dropped even further. Spending the night so close to the Pacific Ocean was proving an awful idea. I turned off the radio and thought about how I could get warmer. I turned on the heat for a while but knew I couldn’t fall asleep with the heat on, so after I felt somewhat warmed I turned off the heat and tried to sleep again. It was an extremely uncomfortable night with very little sleep to be had. I was awake before the sunrise and stayed up to see the sky turn bright and hear the cacophony of chirping from the waking birds. As it grew brighter, the chirps subsided. I eventually got out of the car and stepped into the sun. I was so glad it was bright out. My restless night was over and soon the Starbucks across the street would open. I needed a warm coffee and pastry. I walked around for about an hour and then got back into my car and headed to Starbucks. Surprisingly, I wasn’t the first patron there.
I downed the egg and cheese sandwich and then tried to eat my muffin more leisurely, but gobbled that up too. I didn’t have anywhere to be, so I sat there and sipped on my coffee for as long as I could. When I left, it was warm and very sunny out. I drove to the Palisades Village, a quaint area of Pacific Palisades where the cafes, diners, and coffee shops evoke a sense of 1950’s America. Upper-class moms were buying their stylishly dressed young children ice-cream cones. A group of teenage boys in a Land Rover were pulling in the parking lot of the local hardware store. Dogs ran about and inspected each other in the small park area in the village center where a large water fountain dominated one’s visual scope. This was west coast Americana at its best. I parked and walked to the local bookstore to do some browsing. I killed time there until I felt hungry, and then went to a nearby café. I had a great sandwich and iced coffee. I lingered there for a while and read some more Harry Potter. When it felt impolite to be taking up the table without ordering anything else, I walked over to the juice place and ordered a smoothie. As the day faded, I started feeling self-conscious because I hadn’t showered or brushed my teeth since yesterday morning and my clothes were looking rumpled. Luckily I had deodorant in the “safe-box” in the trunk of my car, which I applied liberally this morning. I felt like a preppy recent runaway. Well-dressed, but disheveled and living out of my car.
When it became dark out, I drove to the local gourmet market and bought some prepared food from the deli section. After a lot of inspection of the tables outside the market and of the patrons who were sitting at some of them, I picked one farthest from any people that wasn’t on the end sections. I surmised that the tables at the end sections were probably used by the homeless as they were further away from the main entrance and therefore less obtrusive. I had my Harry Potter with me, so after I had the last of my Vietnamese style, turkey meatball, I read. My arms felt tired from reading the book holding it up, so I looked down at the table surface to check for any stains I may have missed upon my initial inspection. I didn’t find any, so I placed the book on the table with my fingers atop the pages (instead of touching the table) to hold down the pages.
When it was too dark to read, I got in my car and drove toward Malibu on the Pacific Coast Highway. I liked driving this stretch of the PCH at night. The long curves of the wide road and vastness of the moonlit ocean were very calming and exhilarating at the same time. Eventually I turned around and did the drive back towards the freeway. I liked the open feel of Malibu but didn’t want to spend another night in my car here. It got way too frigid past midnight and I couldn’t bear another long night of shivering in my car. I got on the 10 which connected to the 405 freeway. There weren’t many cars so traffic moved fast. I exited back on to La Cienega Blvd. I drove back toward my mother’s neighborhood but wasn’t planning on heading home. It then occurred to me that my sister and brother-in-law had left sometime today and were back in Oregon now. I was suddenly mad at my sister again that I didn’t get to spend as much time with my nephew before he left as I had wanted. I wondered what my family was thinking about my absence. I hadn’t contacted them or any of my friends for almost two days straight. I was glad I had the discipline to stay away. I wanted to make a statement and dropping off the grid after storming out would do it.
I drove around the city for a while until it was very late. Molly’s apartment was near my mom’s house so I drove to Molly’s place, but I wasn’t heading there for a visit. I parked on her street, out of view from her house, and stayed in my car. I read more of Harry Potter. I was nearly done with the book. Sometime after midnight, I pulled my car into Molly’s driveway. The lights in her duplex building were now all off except for the building’s exterior lights. I parked in the driveway and reclined my seat as far back as I could. I passed out from extreme drowsiness, but awoke about an hour later. It was very cold, but still less so than near Malibu. I felt exposed in Molly’s driveway. I didn’t feel safe. The exterior light was bright enough to reveal that I was in my car and, should some armed marauder happen by, I would be a sitting, well, laying target. I also was stressed about the possibilities that Molly or her roommates or downstairs neighbors would awake very early morning to leave and see me there – passed out in my car in their driveway. I didn’t feel like conjuring up the story needed for damage control should I be found. I decided to find a different sleeping spot.
I started my car and drove toward my mom’s house. I parked in her driveway, which was quite dark. Other than a light emitting from a nearby street lamp and a moonlit sky, I was well hidden. I passed out about an hour later. A combination of poor sleep, cold, and subconscious fear of being found by my mom, effectively woke me up shortly after daybreak. When I started my car, the clock read 5:17am. I drove away and toward an all-night diner called Swingers. The patrons inside Swingers looked like they could use more sleep. This wasn’t the fuel-up-for-a-morning-run crowd by any stretch. While Swingers used to be a default for late-night munchies, post-clubbing, partying, and like activities from my youth, it felt gross being here at the start of the day and very sober. I left for a Starbucks further down on Beverly Boulevard. Aside from a homeless man walking by the periphery; this did have the “go get ’em” morning crowd. I ordered my mocha, a breakfast sandwich, and a blueberry scone. I thought it would be nice to eat at one of the outside tables, but then remembered the homeless man walking past and thought he could have been sitting at one of the tables shortly before I arrived, so sitting outside wasn’t an option.
I tried to walk around casually in order to inspect the tables inside while my coffee was prepared (which isn’t easy when you’re one of three customers). I located a table and placed some Starbucks napkins on it and my Harry Potter book atop the napkins so as to hold my spot. As I was sipping on my coffee I remembered that Jess’s birthday dinner was later today! We were to meet at 6pm at the hipster Indian restaurant, Electric Lotus, in Los Feliz. I needed to be there. If I didn’t go, not only would Jess be hurt but my other friends would feel alarmed that I had disappeared since Thanksgiving and failed to be at Jess’s birthday dinner. I needed to shower and change, so I had to head back to my mom’s today.
At 3pm I went to my mom’s to get ready for Jess’s birthday dinner. When I walked in, she was on the phone. She glanced up in my direction and then looked back down. She had been crying. Her voice was cracked as she quietly said into the phone, “Yeah, it’s him. Yeah, okay, I will. I will call you back later. Okay, honey, bye,” I knew right away she was on a call with my sister. After she hung up, she wiped away tears and started adjusting a pad of paper on the table next to her. I knew she was waiting for me leave the area so she could call my dad and let him know I was home and okay. I went upstairs to shower and dress. I felt awful. Seeing my mom crying because of something I had done was very hard. I had wanted to make a statement with my disappearing act, out of spite and anger of the moment, but didn’t think it through entirely. I wanted a reaction, but hurt and pain of this sort wasn’t it. My mom and dad had been very troubled by my worsening behavior for some time, but my sister’s encouragement of exercising tough love as a change of tactic didn’t yield the result they wanted. I made sure of that. To punish my sister for her aggressive interference, I ended up hurting my parents and worrying my mother more.
After getting ready, I grabbed my phone and went to my car. I had forty-six missed calls and a few messages. I didn’t feel like reviewing the messages at the moment, so I drove to the restaurant in Los Feliz. I didn’t want to valet because, per usual, I feared the valet attendant would touch areas in my car that were very off-limits and then touch the “safe” areas, so I drove around until I came upon parking. I walked about two blocks and then saw the large mural of the Indian elephant goddess, Ganesha, painted on the side of a building with the sign, Electric Lotus above. I walked in and immediately spotted Molly at the maître d’ station.
“Hey!” I said.
“Your party is this way if you just want to follow me,” said the maître d’.
“Hey,” said Molly as we followed the maître d’ through the busy restaurant toward a back room area. “Ben, where the hell have you been?” I just knowingly smiled but was thinking how best to reply. Molly continued, “Seriously, where were you? Your mom called me all worried, asking if I knew where you were, and I was like, ‘I have no idea’ and she sounded like she was crying, Ben. I felt so bad for her. You wouldn’t answer your phone or reply to my text. I asked all our friends and no one had any clue where the fuck you were,” said Molly with a grave look. Just as I was about to answer with some kind of lie, we reached the back room.
“Here’s the rest of your party. Enjoy,” said the maître d’. We walked into the room where all our friends were already seated on floor cushions around a low table. A bunch of “Hey!”s were exchanged and Molly and I moved to the vacant area. As soon as we sat, Aliza looked at me with a “Where the hell have you been?” expression and asked, “Ben. Where have you been?” and then looked at Molly to see if she had received an explanation already.
“I had kind of a big family argument that involved my sister, so I just needed to get away. It’s all fine now,” I said.
“Are you sure?” asked Aliza. “Ben, your poor mom called me and she was crying, worried sick. She said she was really worried because she hadn’t ever seen you this upset before so she felt this time was different and was scared you would do something to yourself.”
“I know. I feel bad, but she was just being over sensitive,” I said. But I didn’t know. What Aliza just said really bothered me. I had actually scared my mom. I wanted to make a statement; I didn’t want to hurt my mom. At least not any more than I already had. I was feeling awkward. I wanted the line of questioning to stop so I offered, “I will talk about it all later. I don’t want to ruin Jess’s birthday dinner.”
“Fine, but we are talking about it later, Ben,” Aliza said.
“Yeah, you better explain what the fuck went down, because you can’t just do that,” Molly added less sympathetically than Aliza.
“Yes, I know. I will, I will. It’s really fine now. I will talk about it all with you guys later,” I said, hoping to move on.
“Okay,” Aliza said, with the implication that this conversation wasn’t over.
I had to think of how best to downplay the past 48 hours so that it played out more like a small family squabble than a failed family semi-intervention meant to tackle my worsening OCD and now very low-depth quality of life; which was consequently pulling down the mental stability and quality of life of my loved ones down as well. I had to craft a story and relay it somewhat passively so as to dilute the gravity and make the concern of others seem unnecessary and alarmist.
When we wrapped up Jess’s birthday dinner, my friends were sufficiently distracted by the festivities we had and warm goodbyes to forget reminding me about my pending explanation owed them. I was relieved. I drove home to my mom’s house and when I walked inside, she was making some dinner.
“Have you eaten anything?” she asked.
“I was just at Jess’s birthday dinner and ate a lot of Indian food,” I replied.
“Okay,” she said.
That was about the extent of our exchange upon returning. Partially because both my mom and I aren’t great with emotion or communicating our feelings, and so my mom doesn’t like to talk to others when she’s been crying. She’s always been very private in her pain and I had learned in such moments to just let her be. But I wanted to run up to her and hug her as tight as I could and let her know how sorry I was to have hurt her and how much I loved her and how much I wanted to stop being this way and how desperately I wanted become normal again. Instead I went upstairs and got ready for bed, which took a while because of OCD. I was tired, but very little of that fatigue was from the poor sleep of the last two days. I got into bed with my Harry Potter. I needed an escape.
After I read the last page of the book, I pondered whether JK Rowling knew that the phenomenon of the fantasy world she had written would provide the kind of escape someone like me needed. Given Rowling’s life while she wrote it, I wanted to believe she knew the story of Harry Potter would serve as more than just an engaging and pleasurable distraction for impish youth with active imaginations who would eventually read it en masse. Perhaps she knew that, much as it had been for her, this story she had concocted would be an escape over the course of two days from a desperate, tormented reality for an adult man consumed with irrational thoughts. Perhaps she did. Perhaps she just wanted to sell a lot of books. Whatever the motive, I was thankful she wrote the story.