Despite a rocky start, the last couple of weeks in San Francisco ended up being blissful. As we prepared to leave San Francisco and drive across the country though, I had a topic on my mind that I didn’t immediately broach.
My boyfriend and I were about to fly out from San Francisco to Arizona to begin our road adventure before getting back to New York, when I suddenly asked, “Are we still going to do an open relationship when we move back to New York?”
Previously, he’d told me that we would, despite the debacle that happened in the earlier months, and despite that we were monogamous in San Francisco.
His reply was, “If that’s what you want”. I thought his answer was decidedly non-committal. I then asked, “What if I don’t want to anymore?” He then replied, “I would be fine with that,” before kissing me on the head. Based on what he’d said, I had a feeling that he was happy being monogamous. An open relationship had been a failed experiment for us.
Things in the last month between us had changed rapidly and significantly in San Francisco. From bickering over little things, I suddenly woke up one day and realized I had a wonderful person in my life who I had never really fully appreciated. I looked on the relationship with a new found vigor that I never had before.
We left San Francisco, and had a wonderful 10 day road adventure across the US. We then got back to New York, and went apartment hunting. We found an apartment that both of us loved, and signed a lease. I was ready to depart for Canada in 2 days to visit my best friend, when M accompanied me to the airport. During the ride to the airport, one of my friends back home was texting me about the relationship situation, asking, “Are you still going to be monogamous in NYC?”
I replied that we were going to go back to how things had been before, and M, reading over my shoulder, asked, “Are we?” as I just finished typing.
So there we were, in an Uber to the airport, having an uncomfortable conversation, just as we’d had many times before. M said because of an incident that took place earlier in the year, he no longer felt comfortable having an open relationship, but was open to me dating women. However, there were time constraints on how much I could date per week. He said he wasn’t comfortable doing a fully open relationship anymore, and that we would probably have to break up if that was something I needed. With my just blossoming romantic feelings for M, and my realization that I’d never find someone like him, I wasn’t prepared to give up the relationship, so while we were at Newark Airport, we agreed to semi-monogamy, and said goodbye temporarily.
I flew to Canada and had a relaxing two week getaway with my best friend in British Columbia, then returned to New York, where M was waiting for me in our new apartment. We had a perfect first week back, and in the following weeks, I settled back in. I was never so happy to be back in New York, and M was happy to be back, together. I settled back in, and this time, I tried harder to do everything that I had the first time around. I got a job. I got back on Bumble BFF and started making new friends.
Basically, I got my shit together. And when I least expected it, happiness crept into my life and settled there.
It was a Sunday afternoon, and I was having a Bumble BFF date with three girls at a wine bar in East Village (if you don’t know what Bumble BFF is, get with the times). One of the girls posed a question to the group: “What was the worst breakup you ever had?”
We went around the group, and everyone had their horror stories. Then, my turn came, and I said awkwardly, that the worst breakups I’d had were probably worse for the other person, because I was a terrible breaker upper and broke up with people by text most of the time. We then started talking about ‘ghosting’, a form of bad dating etiquette that has so commonly been picked up by members of our generation. We talked about all the disappointments that were accompanied by ghosting, and how we were also guilty of it ourselves on occasion, and suddenly, I was reminded of a painful memory.
I had glossed over the “worst breakup I’d ever had”, because at the time, I truthfully couldn’t think of any times I’d had a terrible break up. Then, while we were talking about ghosting, it hit me like a ton of bricks.
The worst breakup I’d ever had wasn’t really a breakup, because it never happened.
Two years ago, when I was in my last year of university and holding on the vestiges of my innocence, I was ambivalently dating on Tinder. Due to a few horror stories, I hadn’t really met anyone in awhile, but out of the blue, I noticed someone that I thought might be worthwhile– let’s call him S. He had model worthy good looks, with one noticeable caveat being that he was two years younger than me. Nevertheless, good looks trumped potential lack of maturity, so I swiped right, and we matched.
Our conversation at first was idle chatter about what we were doing, before we exchanged numbers. S shortly texted me asking if I was free to talk on the phone that night. I replied saying that I was free, but I’d prefer to text. S managed to persuade me to chat over the phone though, and I anticipated his phone call that night with trepidation. That night when he called me though, I was pleasantly surprised by the ease of our conversation, and his eloquence and charm.
We ended the phone call after an hour and a half, and he texted me straight after saying, “That wasn’t so bad, was it?” We continued to text every day and talk on the phone intermittently for a couple of weeks. I began to like him more and more as we got to know each other better.
After a couple of weeks of texting every day, and weekly phone calls though, I began to think that he only wanted to be virtual friends. Just as I was thinking this though, he asked me if I wanted to meet up in the near future. In my mind, I was saying a resounding yes.
We met up for the first time the following week, and when we met, I liked him even more. Things went well, and we continued going on weekly dates, and talking every day. We always did a lot of walking on the dates, and it felt kind of like that overly talky movie franchise, ‘Before Sunrise’. Around this time, I was still planning to move to Japan after graduating, and every time we went out, S continuously asked me if I was still planning to move. My answer at this time was usually something like, it depends on the circumstances at the time. My real answer was, I’d stay if I was in a significant relationship, but I didn’t want to seem needy or overly interested.
Things went on like that for about a month, dating at a steady pace of about once a week. After the fourth date, I went overseas for a month, and we continued chatting every day while I was away. Despite only having been on four dates so far, I felt like I knew him so well, and I really missed him while I was away. During this time, I also casually asked him if he’d met anyone else from Tinder while I’d been away, and he replied that he’d deleted because he didn’t have enough time to date, and he’d met me. I came back to Sydney a month later, and we met again a couple of days after I got back.
I was glad to see him, but I noticed there was a palpable distance between us that I couldn’t cross. We were discussing plans for the coming weekend, and after first asking me if I was free to come to an event, S then said he thought he’d double booked, and that he’d confirm with me later. I got the feeling then, that there would be an end to all the dates and phone calls, and that it would be soon. He kissed me goodbye that night without lingering, and I felt pitfalls in my stomach all the way home.
He texted me later that night, saying to message him when I got home, and we exchanged cute texts like we usually did, but I couldn’t shake the sinking feeling that it was over. The next day, he texted me saying not to try and take off work on the weekend, because he’d double booked. I texted something back, saying that I was disappointed that I wouldn’t get to see him. Never before had I come so close to admitting how I felt about him. In response, he sent a “me too”, with a couple of crying face emojis. As expected, our communication dropped off for two days, which previously had never happened before.
I didn’t want to text him first, but after a couple of days, I was dying to hear from him. This resulted in me messaging him on Facebook messenger one night, the lowest ranking in the pillar of communication. I asked him pathetically how his week had been, when really I meant, ‘why haven’t you contacted me for the past couple of days?’ S replied, rattling off all the things that were keeping him busy, and it just seemed like he was making excuses. I obviously knew what he was trying to say to me, but I kept digging for some concrete answer. I replied that my week had been strange, because I hadn’t heard from him, and he gave a non-committal answer saying, “I haven’t really been speaking to anyone”, before again stating all the things that were keeping him so busy.
He then abruptly ended the conversation and said goodnight. It was clear that he was blowing me off. What was unexpected though, was that I actually felt really bad. For the next couple of days, I was kind of heartbroken.
The most painful thing about it to me, was that he hadn’t even deemed me worthy of a breakup text. From other breakups, I’d gotten a clear sense of closure, but I’d never gotten it in this situation, which only made the sting worse.
On a Friday, Michael and I packed up and left San Francisco to fly to Arizona. The apartment was getting progressively emptier, as we had sold two pieces of furniture, in preparation for the move back to New York, and it felt strangely surreal to leave the apartment with less furniture. I was undoubtedly glad to leave San Francisco, but it felt surreal leaving that day, knowing that I wouldn’t be back for a long time.
Michael and I had planned for a couple months’ to do a big road trip across America, ending in New York, where we would spend a couple of days apartment hunting. The first stop on our trip was Arizona, where Michael’s mother lived.
We flew out of San Francisco on Friday night, and arrived in Phoenix at around 9pm. Our arrival in Phoenix was marked by hot weather, even during that time of the night. We got an Uber to Michael’s mother’s condo in Scottsdale, and after a catch up, settled in for the night.
The next morning, the Arizona heat could be felt even in the apartment. The three of us got ready and drove to downtown Scottsdale for brunch. The temperature was around 40 degrees Celsius that day, and it would quickly become unbearable to stay outdoors for too long.
We had brunch at a Scottsdale cafe, that was neither good nor bad. Upon entering the cafe though, I was confronted with a version of America I’d heard about. The stereotypes of hordes of large, white people came to life as we entered the cafe. It was notable that I was the only colored person in the room.
After brunch, Michael, his mother and I strolled around by the waterfront in Scottsdale. The heat only permitted us to stroll for perhaps 20 minutes, before we got tired of the heat and overbearing sun, and went back to the car. Pauline then drove us to Hertz, where we picked up our rental car, and then went back to her condo to organize our things.
Due to the short time we spent in Scottsdale and Phoenix, the place kind of failed to make an impression on me, either negative or positive. Michael was eager to begin our road adventure, and said we’d have plenty of time to visit Arizona again in the future.
With that, we began our road journey on a Saturday afternoon. Our first stop was New Mexico.
The first month in San Francisco was rough. It was difficult for me to adjust to the city, and to begin living with someone I’d only been dating for a few months.
Since we only planned to be in the city for about 2 months, I didn’t bother looking for work. Instead, I picked up writing the novel again, engaged in all my leisure activities, and started volunteering at a food service for homeless citizens.
Upon a critical self-evaluation, I realized what my problem was, in moving overseas to change myself for the better. I was still looking to an external source to change myself, whereas what I should have been doing, looking to myself for change (sounding sickly spiritual and preachy there, I know). So, I decided to stop looking to places, people, situations, to change me, and to develop myself on my own. I planned that when I got back to New York, I would pick up the job hunt again properly, and seek new experiences to get out of my comfort zone.
The second month in San Francisco wasn’t exactly blissful, but my boyfriend and I stopped arguing, and things gradually got better. There were many things about the city that I still didn’t like, such as the plethora of crazy homeless people, the hills, the inconvenience of having little convenience stores, opening and closing times of stores, the windy weather. But I made do.
The last day in San Francisco, as I was packing up the apartment, having sold off some of my boyfriend’s furniture, and sitting on a mattress on the floor, clothes strewn on the floor, I felt something odd. I thought about how many times it had been since I got to America, that I’d packed up all my things, and left, to start again afresh. That morning, I had nothing but pleasant feelings on leaving the city I so disliked, but as I packed up and left, I felt grateful to be given the opportunity to begin again.
So, shit happened in New York, and I moved to San Francisco, where I never really wanted to be. The incident that occurred in New York left me feeling troubled over my life decisions and judgment, but I had my best friend in New York with me to help me (mostly) forget that uncomfortable fact.
The day after she left New York, my boyfriend and I packed up all my belongings from my Brooklyn apartment, bound for San Francisco. In a number of months in the US, I had quickly gotten good at writing goodbye notes on pretty paper, and packing up and leaving.
Moving to San Francisco so abruptly after Candy left seemed like a good idea at the time, as I was reeling from the recent incident, and thought it would be good to get away from the city, recharge, and get my bearings right. Instead, the move resulted in a further shock to the system. I was still emotionally processing the events of the last several weeks, and being in a new environment (especially one that I wasn’t fond of), and moving in with my long distance boyfriend, who I’d had a tumultuous relationship with, left me volatile, irritable, and somewhat miserable.
In the first couple of weeks of our cohabitation, we bickered like children. I wondered nearly every day, if I’d made the wrong decision in moving to San Francisco. All the while, I dreamed of going back to New York. My boyfriend promised me we’d be back in no time, but it couldn’t be soon enough. If things weren’t already complicated, my boyfriend stated that we should close our relationship temporarily, and be monogamous during the time that we’d be living together in San Francisco.
It was one thing to be living with someone and to have to get used to all their quirks, but it had been a number of years since I’d been in a live-in monogamous relationship, and it just added to the list of the things I had to quickly get accustomed to.
In the period after Candy left, I daydreamed about returning home more than ever. There was a yearnful longing that she’d awakened in me, a longing to be with my dearest friends and family once again. Where I’d once longed to be away, now, I desired more fervently than ever to be back in the place where I’d once wanted so badly to get away from.
In these lonely moments, I often recalled lyrics to one of my favourite songs: ‘Home is where I want to be/ Pick me up and turn me round/ Numb, born with a weak heart/I guess I must be having fun’. I felt like a fool, chasing a ghost of a shadow I had found three years in Tokyo. I thought the move overseas would change me for the better, but instead, I was just drifting through life again, effectively in limbo. The dream had ended.
Boston was not a city I had a strong urge to visit, nevertheless, I ended up there for one night in June, spontaneously and unexpectedly. My then-boyfriend had meetings there, and suggested I come, despite that I’d have to see the sights on my own. He described the city as “small and quaint”, with not much to boast for, except good seafood, which was enough to sell me on visiting.
On a Wednesday morning, I was scheduled to take an Amtrak train from 34th Street Penn Station, to Boston South Station. The return trip from New York to Boston on Amtrak, with one business class seat, and one coach seat, set me back around USD300. I was excited as it was my first time catching an Amtrak train, and I went to Penn Station at the time I was advised to come. Unfortunately, due to “police activity” on the train route, my train to Boston was delayed at first by an hour, which kept increasing little by little. All passengers were finally allowed to board at 1:55pm, just over three hours after the initial scheduled boarding time.
The specific train I was on, was an Acela Express, so the travel time was slightly shorter than if I had caught another Amtrak service to Boston. The trip was scenic in some parts, and we passed Stamford, New Haven, and Providence before arriving in Boston. I got there around 4:30pm and was starving, so my agenda was to get some food as quickly as possible.
I got an Uber to a lobster roll place in Boston North End. The lobster place, called Pauli’s Northend, was highly reviewed on Yelp, but looked like a fairly casual eatery, and didn’t include table service, with customers picking up their food at the counter once it was ready. I opted for a hot lobster roll with butter. The price was around USD22, and the roll was fairly small, about the same size as a lobster roll from Luke’s Lobster. The roll had everything good about a traditional lobster roll- soft bread, warm pieces of lobster, soaked in a rich butter. My only complaint was that the lobster roll was too small. I was finished in two bites, and decided to appease my seemingly insatiable appetite, by a second course of dinner.
With that, I walked nearby to Union Oyster House. The restaurant claimed to be “America’s oldest restaurant” and was established in 1846.
While walking to the restaurant, I passed by Old North Church, and decided to stop in and have a look. Old North Church, as with a majority of the historic churches in Boston, was free to enter.
Though it was early for dinner time when I arrived, around 5:30pm, the hostess informed me that it would be over an hour wait for a table in the restaurant section, but that I could be seated at a booth immediately if I desired. With that, I took a seat at a booth, and was brought a copy of the menu immediately. Booth seating, while there is no wait, or a limited wait, compared to the restaurant, also features a limited menu, comprising of appetizers and oysters or mussels, which suited me fine as I’d just eaten.
I opted for a bowl of the clam chowder, and mussels, cooked in a white wine sauce, with garlic, and served with a crusty garlic bread. The clam chowder was creamy, rich, and flavoursome, with the accompanying sauce that came with the mussels accordingly so. I also enjoyed the complementary corn bread that came on the side.
After my excessive dinner, I decided to stroll around the nearby area, and passed Massachusetts State House, the building that housed the seat of government for Massachusetts. Massachusetts State House is located just up the street from Boston Common, so I strolled down to the park after that.
Boston Common was a lovely park with pristine and unkempt lawns, but its size in no way rivalled that of New York’s Central Park, or San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
I’d walked the park in about 15 or 20 minutes, and then decided to go to back to the hotel to retire for the evening.
The next morning, I said goodbye to my then-boyfriend at the hotel, who had another full day of meetings, and shortly after, set out to get breakfast and then go about my day.
While walking through the city, I stumbled upon a Japanese coffee chain, Ogawa Coffee, and decided to breakfast there. Though my train back to New York was scheduled for around 1ish that afternoon, I intended to see as many of the sights as I could. Boston’s city center enabled me to do this, as it is small and the entirety is easily walkable within a couple of hours.
Following breakfast, I went for a stroll around Boston Harbour.
The weather in Boston was fine that day, around 25 degrees Celsius, and not humid. After walking Boston Harbour, I walked back over the bridge and into the main city area, which didn’t take more than 20 minutes.
From there, I walked to Old State House, and paid the $5 entry fee. Old State House is a historic building which previously housed the seat of state government and operated as Boston’s City Hall. The building now operates as a history museum.
Following my visit to Old State House, I walked leisurely down the street, and stopped to admire Boston’s Old City Hall.
After stopping at Old City Hall, I walked past Granary Burying Ground, Boston’s third oldest cemetery, founded in 1660.
The environs of the burying ground were lush, green, and leafy, with tall trees that created lots of pockets of shade. As such, it had a calming effect on the walker, and made one forget that they were in a cemetery.
From Granary Burying Ground, I walked through Boston Common to Old South Church, which took me around 20 minutes. On the way there, I passed another historic church, Trinity Church.
Old South Church was very pretty to behold, with its dark wooden interior, and stained glass windows.
Following my visit to Old South Church, I crossed the street and walked over to Boston Public Library, established in 1848. Boston Public Library is the third largest library in the United States, following New York Public Library, and the Library of Congress.
The library’s architecture was beautiful, and impressive. I enjoyed exploring the large halls and rooms. There were a number of people studying, while tourists, like myself, gawked and took photos.
After looking around Boston Library, it was nearly 12, and time to head to Boston South Station to catch the Amtrak train back to New York. Before going to the station, I stopped to get a quick lunch at James Hook and Co, an eatery serving lobster rolls and various seafood dishes.
After getting lunch, I went to the station and sampled some food items at a market just across from Boston South. When I got to the station, the train was already on the platform, but was somewhat delayed again, due to the same reason as the day prior.
All in all, I was content with my solo adventures in Boston for the day and prior afternoon. The city was small, but charming, and I had managed to tick off a majority of the major sights, in addition to enjoying good food.
After nearly three and a half months in New York, a fiasco occurred in my personal life, so ridiculous it could have formed the basis for a plot in a Woody Allen movie. And the worst thing was, both myself and all my friends had seen all the warning signs. I’d been heavily cautioned otherwise, but as I was wont to do, I threw caution to the wind, and did as I pleased. The sudden turn of events left me mortified and traumatized.
Consequently, I decided to pack up and leave New York briefly, and run away to San Francisco to be with my on again, off again San Francisco boyfriend, who was so willing to accept me despite my flaws, and the emotional roller-coaster we had been through in the past several months. I was down in the dumps, but I really had nobody to blame but myself for the way things had turned out, and I had been prepared to accept the consequences of my actions once I went down that path. However, I was grateful that the circumstances hadn’t been worse.
In hindsight, I thought I would use the move to challenge myself in different ways and grow as a person, but looking back on the past several months, I had really only used it so far to engage in hedonistic pursuits. And while it was fun for awhile, it wasn’t really challenging or fulfilling to live in that way.
It was with these reflections in mind that I packed up my belongings from my Brooklyn apartment, and said goodbye to the city that I’d had a tumultuous relationship with, for the past three and a half months.
The next day, I arrived in San Francisco thinking about how I’d left only 4 weeks earlier, and that I had left intending never to come back this year. Ironically, I was now back to live, temporarily.