25 November 2009

Recuerdos de la Alhambra

The house is beginning to fill with the smell of baking. I always make my pies the night before Thanksgiving.

For some reason, my mind keeps straying to the year I spent T-Day alone. I should be clear that my solitude was a matter of choice: I'd politely declined at least 4 invitations to spend the day with friends or colleagues. But that year, much like this, I was so physically and mentally exhausted, I couldn't even conceive of how I might be able to function at a social event. The idea of being completely on my own was sheer relief.

I was just a year out of college, and had been fortunate in getting a new job that paid much better than the work I'd been able to cobble together right after I graduated. What was unfortunate was that the new job required I commute 4 hours round trip every day, by city bus. I got up at 4:30 each morning and was on the road by 5:30, transferring in downtown Los Angeles and arriving at my destination with just enough time to walk to the building where I worked and get myself settled for the day. I started the trip home a little after 5 and arrived back at the inexpensive apartment that I shared with a friend around 7:45. Watching the reflection of my fellow passengers in the darkened bus window every night, I reminded myself that this wouldn't last forever, that I'd be able to save up to find another apartment closer to the university.

(The bus ride alone is quite a tale, and one I'll save for another time. It's easier to play it for comedy--even with two attempted assaults over the course of six months. Of course, it helps that I slugged one would-be assailant with a pipe wrench hidden in the bottom of my bag.)

I'd been at it for four months when Thanksgiving rolled around. My cousin called a few weeks before the holiday, and said he and his wife were going out of town that week, would I be willing to house sit and watch their cat for the time they were gone? Since they lived in Studio City and my job was in Westwood, I said yes, with tremendous gratitude.

I told no one that I planned to spend the holiday alone, but instead let them all believe I was spending it with one of the kind people who'd invited me to dinner. I bought a small turkey, and cranberries and an orange, stuff to make pies, a few potatoes, and on the Thursday, assembled a small feast for the cat and I. I rented a vast selection of movies I'd wanted to see, and together the cat and I ate our meal, watching movies, both of us nearly purring with contentment. I packaged up some of the leftovers for my cousins so they'd return to some home cooked food, and the cat and I ate our way through the remainder during the weekend. I slept like I hadn't slept in months, and when he had enough of my boringness, the cat would bounce on me and gently remind me that breakfast was rapidly turning into lunch. I'd brought music with me, and while I cooked and cleaned, and fed the cat and read, I listened to a few of my favorite albums, over and over, never tiring of dissecting them.

So the days passed, and on the weekend, I ventured out and walked about the area, thinking about how much easier it was to get to work from this place than where I was currently living. I returned to my apartment in east Pasadena refreshed, and hopeful. I'd seen the future and it seemed to be the San Fernando Valley. It was a few more months before I had enough for first and last and security deposit, and I found a place I could afford that was close enough so that I could easily get to work, and safe.

And I was grateful.

Go listen to some good music: "Recuerdos de la Alhambra" by Francisco Tarrega from the album Essential Guitar. I haven't quite worked out who performed the actual piece on the record.

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