Back in May, I blogged about potentially moving to LA. It was nothing set in stone. Just an idea.* But after I wrote that post, I got an email from a girl named Kate. She said she lived in LA, watched my sitcom, read my blog, and was not a creeper (she promised!). She asked if we could be friends when I got to California. I was excited to find that, if anything, I had One Fan in the world. That alone prompted me to respond to Kate with, Of course we’ll be friends.
And then I promptly forgot about her.
But then it was July, and I thought maybe it was about time to actually figure out some LA logistics. Like…work. And housing. So I contacted all my Wheaton friends out here, asking if they knew of anyone who needed a roommate. Somehow I remembered Kate, and I sent the email to her, too. She told me she didn’t know of anyone who needed a roommate, but I was welcome to stay with her, rent-free, until I found a place of my own.
Two thousand miles away from Kate, in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, I read this email and cried at the generosity.** I wrote back and thanked her extensively. From that point on, I also kept up the emails.
I got to Kate’s apartment on September 3rd, four months ago today. It was a Monday. On Wednesday, Kate called off her wedding. She had been engaged to a youth pastor named Alex and was supposed to be married in October, but they had serious problems in their relationship that she hadn’t been admitting to anyone, including herself (which is, as they say, quite problematic).
I felt like I’d walked into a soap opera. Actually, I had walked into a soap opera. As weeks went by, Kate allowed more and more of the story to be exposed. The truth came out, gradually, each piece bitter and unsightly. Kate was ashamed of herself, of the mess she was causing, of the pain she was inflicting on her friends and family.
I was a neutral, objective, third-party observer, though. I hadn’t known Kate before all the shit went down. So I was unaffected.*** But then I realized that Kate had been lying to me, too. I hadn’t thought she’d have anything to lose by telling me the truth, but she believed she did, and so she’d lied. When it came out, I tried to understand. Because she thought the lies would protect her, would protect our friendship, would keep things from getting complicated or sad or awkward. But I said, “How am I supposed to love you if I don’t know who you are?” Kate said she wasn’t used to being who she truly was. Which blew my mind, because I am utterly incapable of not being who I am, sometimes to a fault.****
After the breaking off of her engagement and the unveiling of lies, Kate started going to counseling. Her parents went with her to counseling. And eventually her ex-fiance went with her to counseling.
Yes. Kate and her ex-fiance got back together. She told me this in her second apartment, the one she was supposed to share with him but ended up sharing with me. We had made plans to go out and get drinks and do something fun that night, but we sat in her living room, surrounded by boxes, and she explained the shift in their relationship and the peace she felt and the truth she was finally able to hold with a little clarity. I was hesitant to give my blessing to this, but I also felt I lacked the authority to say much of anything about the situation. I had known Kate for five weeks at this point. She said she had a hard time articulating all of it, and that she processed in her head way more than she did out loud, and it was difficult for her to share that processing with people (something else very foreign to my own way of being). But I listened and I tried to understand, and I was grateful for Kate’s willingness to share. When we were done talking, the whole room had gone dark with night, and I was only able to see the vague outline of Kate’s face. I hadn’t noticed the waning light until then.
A few weeks ago, Kate texted me while she was at work and told me she was going to propose to her ex-fiance the next day, and that she wanted them to get married in January. I was pissed. I couldn’t believe she was 1. telling me via text and 2. telling me the day before. Why hadn’t I know sooner?***** And then she got mad that I was mad, because it wasn’t about me – what did I think of them? I said it clearly didn’t matter what I thought because she was going to propose the next day regardless. And that was what hurt.
I had very few wary remarks to give to Kate about proposing to the man she had broken up with three months prior. Again, I am not an expert on their relationship and I am certainly not an expert on marriage. I said, “If your counselor and your parents are fine with it, and you both think you’re ready, then whatever, go for it.” I didn’t see a need for rushing. But I also didn’t see a need for not-rushing. And I think low-key, thrown-together weddings are rather refreshing. My issue was that Kate had been thinking about all of this for a long time, and I hadn’t been let in for it.
“Why didn’t you process any of this with me?” I asked her. “I’m not used to having friends who care to know that much about me,” she said. “If we’re going to be friends, we’re not doing friendship half-assed,” I told her. And she said okay.
Kate is getting married in a couple weeks. There will be 19 guests at the wedding, and I will be one of them. I am honored to be invited, to be a person who matters in Kate’s life, and I am honored to have been able to see the unfolding and re-folding of her crazy but unmistakably beautiful relationship with Alex.
Part of the reason why they are getting married so soon is that Alex has a job lined up in Kansas City, and it starts in February. I have almost cried about this at least three times, and the only reason why no actual tears have yet been shed is because I know there will be enough of them shed later on, as the day approaches. California is not where Kate wants to be or should be, but Kate has been intrinsic to my California experience.
I lived with Kate for five or six weeks. Before I found a job, I’d make us oatmeal and tea in the morning before she went to work. We talked about how she wasn’t getting married. We talked about how she had become a person who lies. We read a Christian fiction romance novel out loud. We moved her from one apartment to another and listened to only Relient K for an entire afternoon. I went to her family’s house for Thanksgiving, and her grandpa became my grandpa. She drove me to LAX at 4am. She picked me up at LAX at midnight. She went thrifting with me for dressers and bookshelves. She helped me fit my new bicycle into the car and was there for the twenty minutes it took getting the bicycle out of the car. She was my date to a Christmas party I didn’t really want to go to, and she sang Kesha with me in the car on the way there.
On my road trip out here, I stopped in Denver and stayed with some of my closest Wheaton friends. They offered me the extra room in their house, and it didn’t take much for me to envision a very lovely existence there. It would be a grown-up version of Wheaton, which was basically all I wanted in life.****** And I really considered staying. But I didn’t for two reasons. 1. I didn’t want to flake on the LA plan I’d been telling everyone about, and 2. Kate was expecting me. I told that to Hilary as she tried to persuade me to stay in Denver. “But what about Kate?” Hilary rolled her eyes. “You don’t have an apartment. You haven’t signed a lease. And you don’t even know Kate!” But I felt tied. Kate had been so generous in offering her home and her friendship to me, I thought staying in Denver would be a big fuck-you to her, God, fate, or whoever orchestrated our meeting (perhaps only the internet).
So go ahead and enjoy the Midwest, Kate. We will still be friends forever.___________
*One that I started entertaining more seriously after I didn’t get that teaching job I’d wanted in Chicago…suckers.
**Though I was also a little shocked with Kate’s willingness to share her home with a relative stranger. When I bring this up to her now, she says, “But you weren’t a stranger! I watched all of Rachel Dates, remember?”
***In fact, I pretty much just took it in, grateful for the drama that distracted me from my unemployment.
****Like on dates.
*****In the month of December, I kept Kate tiresomely informed of the incredibly trivial details about my relationship with some guy in New York whom I didn’t know but was emailing, and meanwhile she planned a proposal. When I asked what was new in her life, she’d shrug. Oh, the juxtaposition.
******Not really. But sort of.