I couldn’t have asked for a more gorgeous day off work. Sky so crisply blue it seemed tangible, clouds high and fluffy, temperature in the low seventies. A perfect North County day, as all the days seemed during that spring so many years ago. Right after the other girls in the house went to work cleaning cabins and raking leaves, I dressed, filled my water bottle, and set out on the two-mile walk to the train station.
On my various walks to the Target or the Stater Brothers or the bank, I would shuffle through the music my boyfriend had loaded on an iPod he gave me for Christmas. Sometimes the playlists grew stale through overuse, and I’d skip through the unfamiliar San Diego radio stations, from rock to pop to indie to country, the music keeping me company as I thought about nothing and everything. Walking produced good thinking. I hadn’t had time to think in years.
After a short wait, the train appeared and I climbed aboard. The girls told me how I could probably reuse my ticket from last week, that no one would notice, but that’s not how I wanted to start this new life. I had lied so much in my previous life, it felt like casting off a filthy cloak. Purchasing my ticket, I took a seat.
Watching the scenery pass by felt like an adventure, so I left my book untouched and stared at the hills, the trees, the shops, the cars.
Distances took on a different meaning here, and nothing was conveniently located, so I had to plan every trip with at least an hour for walking time. No access to a car in California forces you to slow way, way down, every outing becoming an obstacle course. No car in tandem with limited money reinforces that slowness, shoring it up into heroic stretches of time and limbering exercise. Time to think, to stretch muscles that had grown stiff with disuse. I felt healthier than I ever had in my entire life.
This particular trip would take the whole day. It felt like a luxurious vacation. When I changed trains at the Coaster, my spirit soared with empowerment. Just because I had nothing left didn’t mean life wasn’t worth living, that I wasn’t capable of doing new things in a new way.
I got off at Carlsbad, and set off to the miniature downtown area, one block of restaurants and shops. Window shopping felt strange, but I had some money set aside from my tax refund and I carefully apportioned a bit for today, a much-needed break from the monotony at rehab. Three books went into my bag after an hour at the used bookstore. A tart mango smoothie from the health food store went down like liquid paradise after five months in a place where fresh fruit was coveted like contraband.
You see things you wouldn’t ordinarily see when you travel on foot. My pace around the town had slowed to a stroll, and of course while in the chocolaterie I saw them in a bin by the register, my eyes drawn to them as if by tractor beam. Chocolate liqueurs.
Did they count? Surely they didn’t count. People cook with liquor all the time; coq au vin, rum cake…chocolate liqueurs. You can’t get drunk from chocolate liqueurs. Did I have to abstain from everything?
I spent way too long staring at them before I left the store empty-handed. Way too long thinking about them on the walk back. The long walk back.