Nineteen years ago I was still living in Pittsburgh. I was working as the receptionist at an invention company (you know, the ones that advertise on late night TV and scam eccentric insomniac suckers out of money they don't have, all the while promising untold riches from their crackpot ideas).
I was still living with The Dead End Guy despite the fact that we had broken up.
My parents had moved to Southern California the summer before. I had not been to visit them yet. I had to work the day after Thanksgiving, so going away for the holiday was out of the question. It was going to be a tough holiday (my favorite) without my family.
The Dead End Guy's mother insisted that I join them for Thanksgiving. Believe me, I tried like hell to get out of it.
The Dead End Guy is a huge coward and had failed to inform his family that we were no longer a couple.
So off I went on the trolley to their house south of the city to pretend that I was still The Dead End Girlfriend. Not my first choice.
I don't remember anything about the dinner except wishing I could run out of that house. And that was before The Dead End Guy's mother started trying to make Christmas plans.
I sat at that huge table with these people I had known for ten years and wanted to scream and cry. I wanted my family. I wanted to go home.
I ended up sleeping on the pull-out sofa in the sub-zero family room. I felt humiliated and ashamed for lying so that The Dead End Guy could save face. He did not deserve that from me.
I didn't sleep at all. I stayed up crying that night.
Before dawn I got dressed, stripped the bed and folded the sheets and blankets on the couch and snuck out of the house, under the cover of darkness, long before anyone else woke up.
I walked down the steep hill to the trolley stop that would take me away from that house forever. It was really cold, but it felt good. It felt good to know that I would not have to go back there again. I was free of it. Free of the ongoing drama of an abusive relationship that had limped along for over nine years.
I knew that day that I would be fine. That being in that relationship was so much worse than being alone could ever be.
I rode the trolley and listened to U2 on my Walkman, loud. I think I was the only passenger, but after so many years I can't really remember.
I do know I was alone the entire day in the office. I pulled two chairs together and slept on my little improvised bed. I needed it. I only had to answer two phone calls the entire day (8:00 am to 5:00 pm). One from my asshole boss who called to make sure I showed up for work and one from my brother making sure I had survived my Thanksgiving with The Dead End Family.
Nineteen years later I am happily married to a man more wonderful than I ever could have dreamed up with two vibrant, beautiful children. I am thankful each and every day, not just once a year.
I like things this way. I am glad I can look back at that young woman now and see that she made the right decision.