Split Decision

I'm splitting and not a moment too soon.

I moved to Memphis, TN last July. I left the small Virginia town I'd grown up in and bounced back to many times over the last decade. I was thirty-two years old and believed I was as lost and broken as a person could possibly be. I thought the move would fix things.

Fix things it didn't. Shortly before moving my boyfriend broke up with me. I had planned on his support, long-distance as it might be, and couldn't imagine doing it without him. As the movers packed my stuff into a truck, I sat on the front porch, sunglasses pulled tight over my face, crying. I should have been focused on the fact that the movers were drunk and seemed to be unaware of the drop-off date. The minute they pulled away I knew that I might not see my possessions again. Two days later, the police verified that hunch. The movers were scam artists.

So I arrived in Memphis with nothing but a lawyer and panting dog who was allergic to the Memphis heat. All I could do was wait for my things to appear. The moving company wouldn't return my calls, and my lawyer began breaking it to me gently: "I think it's a lost cause." I made a coffee table out a box, a bed out of an air mattress, and I hoarded plastic utensils like they were rare silver. I contemplated Buddhism, terrorism, suicide, and getting on a plane to anywhere but Memphis, TN.

It took me one month and all my sanity, but my stuff was finally delivered. The movers, different ones from the pick-up, threw the furniture on my lawn late one night. Most of it was gone. What was left was broken. I spent the next twenty-four hours moving it into my house on my own. My neighbors didn't offer help, but sat on their lawns with six-packs of beer to watch.

I tried to make it work. I threw scarves over broken table legs, and decoupaged old movie photos over my scratched antique wood furniture. I burned sage and hundreds of packs of American Spirits. When grad school started I told myself I could put all of my energy into being a good student. I wanted my pain to be a footnote in this story. It is, instead, an entire chapter.

This chapter, called "The Worst Year of My Life (so far)," is coming to an end. The road to Memphis was paved with good intentions, but none of that matters now. I lost my entire CD collection, the man I loved, trust, hope. The more I write about it, the more it seems like a damn good story. The kind of story you read and think, "thank God that wasn't me." It was me, but as I contemplate my next move I cling to the possibility that it doesn't always have to be. I've considered staying in Memphis and working it out. Have I given it a chance or judged it unfairly because of the way things began? No and yes. I've always been a mover, though. The sound of packing tape on cardboard is like church bells to me. I'm sick of trying to be fair. I've chosen to be free.

Truth is, I'm splitting and not a moment too soon. After a season of floods and tornadoes, I'm done with you Memphis. May God keep you safe but keep me safer. I leave you my cigarette butts and a river of tears to match the Mississippi.


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