If you’re looking for the quickest route to sure-fire depression, allow me to recommend November in Toronto. Every year, fall is gorgeous for 45 seconds (this is generous), and it’s over literally as soon as the wind blows. The sun sets at 4:30 in the afternoon, if it comes out at all. It’s incredibly, reliably awful.
During November several years ago, I was in the midst of a messy and humiliating “situationship” breakup. The darkest days of the year were made somehow even darker.
I needed to get out. I needed to find the sun, the light. My light. I needed to go to California.
In the most basic bitch way, I had dreamed of California, specifically Los Angeles, my entire life. I planned my trip to start with a few days by myself in San Francisco. I also signed up for a seven-day guided group tour that would take me and several others to Yosemite, Death Valley, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon before ending in Los Angeles, where I would stay for another week alone. It’s pretty embarrassing to book a travel tour to take you around such an accessible part of the world, but I was hopeful I would make new friends on the tour. Maybe even meet someone.
Arriving in San Francisco, I was emotionally raw. I got a private room at the hostel because I wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone. Then, in a very on-the-nose type of irony, I got laryngitis. After spending a few very quiet days wandering Alcatraz and the Mission District, it was time to meet everyone for the tour. Only I couldn’t say a word.
There were 13 people on my tour, which was made up of two sets of couples, eight single women and exactly one single dude named Brett. He was from New Zealand and on a three-month excursion around the U.S. I thought nothing of him at first. All I could think about was what a psycho I must have seemed like to the group by having no voice. I wondered if anyone would sit beside me on the bus and if maybe I should just go home.
On the first day, we went to Yosemite, which was breathtaking. The next day we went to Sequoia National Park. My first real impression of Brett came from him singing “Sequoia, Sequoia” in the way that “Hips Don’t Lie” has the catchy phrasing of “Shakira, Shakira,” and frankly it worked for me. The next day we saw Death Valley. Then the Grand Canyon. We got there at sunset, and I felt a part of me come back to life. We took a helicopter ride through the canyon the next day, and I started to feel on top of the world while being deep within it. We had a silly 24 hours in Vegas, where Brett watched me dance with 1,000 other men, but he still hadn’t shot his shot.
Our last night of the tour was in L.A. We all went out and pretended it was Brett’s birthday. Finally, Brett and I danced together, and as is my usual hookup strategy, I told him my deepest family traumas. We had sex. He smelled like cigarettes and was covered in tattoos of the Wu-Tang Clan and his late mother.
In the morning, he asked if I wanted him to stay in L.A. with me instead of him getting on his flight to New Orleans. If I’m sad enough, I can fall in love with almost anyone. But this time, I said no. I went to get my rental car from Los Angeles International Airport, and by the time I got to Urth Caffé in Beverly Hills, two women from the tour said I had just missed Brett. There would be no goodbye.
I went to my Venice Airbnb, which was a trailer in a backyard with no bathroom. It was cold, and I felt alone. I went out with those two women from the tour a few times. Over drinks at Pink Taco, they both told me not to forgive my ex.
I drove Los Angeles from end to end, listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and feeling on a visceral level that L.A. both scared me and would be my future home. I made some desperate attempts at sexting Brett, which he said made him uncomfortable. It was a special kind of humiliation for me.
When I got back to Toronto, I did eventually get back together with my ex. We slowly started talking, and we got less heated and more honest with each other. By the new year, we had decided to give it another shot. I got over the betrayal I had felt, and the trip had given me the distance to do so.
Brett started dating a woman he met in Chicago shortly after he met me. We look alike. Online, I can see she moved to New Zealand to be with him. A ghost-ship life, maybe.
I got over Brett easily enough. But I never got over L.A. Years later, I filed and have been approved for green cards for myself and my ex, Joe, who’s now my husband. We’re moving with our 2-year-old daughter soon. With any luck, before this November.
The author was the co-showrunner, executive producer and writer on the Netflix comedy series “Workin’ Moms,” created by Catherine Reitman. Her essays have been published by HuffPost, Cosmopolitan and Glamour. All things considered, she’s pretty good for being a Karen. She’s on Instagram: @karenkicak
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