I had a conversation with a friend the other night about my deep, dismal sadness and why it seem so overwhelmingly untouchable. As I cried to him, I said " I don't have an identity" Then I said it again. "I don't have an identity anymore." My friend asked when the last time I had an identity was. This is the story I told him:
I showed up in Bellingham, WA on August 8th, 1998. I got there after ten days of travel. It was ten days that should have been four. I flew from Philadelphia to LAX. There was a layover in Phoenix. When I got to LA, I took a shuttle from LAX to my dad's home in Ventura. Slept until 6:AM for the first time in eight weeks. Walked to the corner, picked up 5 bacon, egg, cheese and potato burritos from Gutierrez Drive In on the Avenue. When Rosie saw me, she came outside the window. She rarely did that. She was very comfortable on the other side of the screen, taking orders and making the salsa. But that morning, she came out. I kissed her as she congratulated me for "growing up"and offered the burritos for free. "Take these for the road," she said. I smiled and left $20 dollars on the counter. I heard her yelling at me as I crossed the Avenue and made my way up Warner Street. "Angie!!! VEN AQUI! COME BACK HERE!!!" I just kept walking. And I laughed as I felt her smile piercing my the back of my head.
Rosie was a part of my growing up. She always knew when I was sad and would always make sure that there was more cheese and guacamole on my burritos. She would wink at me, with a knowing grin, when I was happy, and give me extra salsa. If she hadn't seen me in months, she would say "I have been asking David, pido tu padre, how you are. He says you are OK, Como estava, Mija? You are OK?" She had been feeding me since I was seven years old, so she always knew what was on my mind when I showed up at her window. I was on a schedule, but I had to stop and see her. I wanted Rosie to see that I was OK. I also had to get some breakfast burritos. Got in the Karmann Ghia and made my way north.
I keep thinking about how strange it is that the last time I really felt like I had an identity was the last time I walked away from Rosie. I have spent years building community. But I haven't built an identity. The last time I had an identity, I was walking away with breakfast burritos.