I was walking in Central Park last spring with my friend from college, not talking much, because I had nothing to say.
As we were walking I heard this incredible music playing – the kind of music that gives you chills and makes you feel as though you’re the axis that the world is turning on.
We walked over to the trio of twenty-something boys playing their instrumental-only, alt-rock, flamenco-inspired melodies and sat on the steps with a large crowd that was gathering, in awe of the fact that this music was free, right here in Central Park.
They were too good to be playing an impromptu park show, but the fact that they were doing just that made me love them more.
Little did I know that City of the Sun would become the soundtrack to the next year of my life.
As I sat there on the brick steps watching them, I felt a familiar breeze brush against my cheek and I remembered what it felt like to feel. I could sense the winds changing and the Earth pulling at me to come back, and somewhere inside I knew something was about to happen… I just didn’t know what.
When you ask me what I mean when I say I was in “a bad place,” I don’t really know what to say. That place was nothingness, but it was everything, and everyday was just another day.
For years I wandered aimlessly into the darkness of my mind, and happiness was more painful than pain itself because happiness felt fake.
After he left, after the drugs and the sleepless nights and the begging him to stay, I died a little inside. And I died a little more that terrifying night I woke up with someone I didn’t want ontop of me.
I moved into a studio apartment in Portland and I got an awesome, yet horrendously frustrating job, and I lived day to day doing everything I could not to think about the person I had lost inside of me. But as hard as I tried, some nights I’d still end up by the windowsill alone and drunk smoking cigarettes thinking about him and about my dad’s black eye.
Things got better, and then they got worse, and then they got just okay, and all the days were all the same.
Until they weren’t.
Those winds of change I felt in Central Park were right: something was going to happen.
That something was me.
I got back from New York City last spring and my house caught fire. I moved suddenly and tried to start over new.
A bunch of my co-workers gave me money and food and flowers. All of it was incredibly thoughtful, and I was overwhelmed.
The next day at work I was getting ready to leave and was making multiple trips between my car and the fridge, packing up food and beer and other donated sundries from people who didn’t even know me.
As I was walking back from one of the trips to my car I saw this man I worked with and asked him for help. As we walked down the hall together to the kitchen I felt a butterfly in my stomach and I might have blushed noticeably.
A few weeks later I went for a walk in the park by my new house. I weaved absent-mindedly through the rose garden, coming to rest on a bench near the fountain.
The laughter of children playing in a splash pad, the barking of dogs, the conversation of a couple walking down the pathway under the sequoia trees, and the sweet smell of roses struck me in the most profound way.
“This is life,” I thought to myself. “This is love, this is happiness, this is simplicity, and for some fucked up reason I won’t let myself have it.”
“Six months. In six months I want to wake up with a clear head and look in the mirror and smile at myself and go to a park and walk and hold hands with someone and be okay with that, and only that,” I thought to myself. And for a minute, I thought of the buttery in my stomach.
And I thought of you.
Spring turned into summer and I swam and I ran and I ate well and I grew my hair and I bought new clothes and I planned a vacation to Amsterdam.
There were more days last summer that I woke up with a clear head and a smile on my face than there had been in the past three years.
At the end of the summer my dad picked up a bottle again and I thought of the black eye. I went down to Los Angeles to get him and I drove him back to Portland to get him sober.
I drove sixteen hours in one day, white-knuckling the steering wheel with anger as he lay dozing off on Zanax in the seat next to me. And god damn did that anger feel fucking good.
I pressed on the gas a little bit harder.
As to be expected, my efforts to fix him were unsuccessful and as soon as he was back to LA he was back to the drinking. I cut off all contact for a while, including my 24th birthday in Amsterdam.
And god damn did that anger feel fucking good.
I turned up the music and danced around my room to City of the Sun.
The months from then till now have been a beautiful, chaotic blur.
I went to Amsterdam and ran wild through the midnight city all alone and laughing.
I came back to Portland and finally went out with that man from work who gave me butterflies. We kissed in the rain under a full moon on our first date. I kissed him first.
We kissed many more times and saw each other many more times and I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that I have him.
Now, I’ve been on many walks in the park with someone.
During the past few months, Donald Trump was also elected President and shit hit the fan, and my full-time job in news turned into a fuller time job in News.
Portland had its worst snow storm in more than a decade, and after many late nights of weather coverage I put on my tire chains and drove to your house.
A building exploded and bad things happened and I talked to my dad and it’s still not totally okay.
I’m still not totally okay. No one is. But I’m alive again.
So I put on City of the Sun, and I dance.
Tonight, March 23, 2017, nearly a year after I found that incredible music in Central Park, I’m standing before that same trio of boys playing on a stage in Portland.
Alone, I’m dancing. My eyes are closed but I can still see the lights flashing and all I can think about is how in love I am with my life.
The other night I was telling you about the “bad place” I was in for a while, and you told me that it couldn’t be that bad if it got me to where I am now.
You’re right. It was bad, but I wouldn’t trade this for anything.
Dancing under the lights to City of the Sun, every inch of me is on fire.
I’ve made peace with the nothingness, and I feel everything.