My heart is broken and the only cure is two-steppin’ at the Creek Side Inn.
This may seem odd, but up to this point, I never truly had my heart broken.
I’d been sad when past relationships ended, but this one was different.
This one left a mark.
And now, here I sit with a sinking hole in my chest.
“This is the worst!” I confess to my friend Betina as I nurse a tallboy.
We’re at a bar called the Creek Side, bellied up.
Our usual sequence of events is a beer, maybe a shot of whiskey, then a boot-scoot boogie.
This was, of course, a whiskey night.
“I feel ya,” Bettina says, “You had a beautiful experience and now it’s over. It’s ok to be upset.”
She pauses, raises her pint glass, and murmurs in a playful, don’t-give-up-hope kind of voice, “But you never know…”
I shake my head, “Uh-uh, No way! I’ve got to just let him go and move forward,” I say, trying to convince myself it’ll be as easy as it sounds.
“Now, how the hell do I do that?”
Once Upon A Time
Here’s my love story in a nutshell: I had just moved into a new bachelorette pad in Carpinteria, CA, finally adjusted to a life of a single woman.
My previous relationship was an immature drug-fest (mostly him, but I wasn’t totally innocent) and left me wondering what the hell direction I was leading my life.
I decided to swear off relationships altogether.
I wanted to learn to be by myself and enjoy it.
So for five years, that’s what I did. I didn’t want a relationship to define me.
I was going to be happy alone if it was the last thing I did, dammit.
But as soon as I nestled into my sweet little two-car garage turned studio apartment less than one mile from the beach, enjoying the freedom of living alone and happiest I had ever been as a single woman, that’s when it happened – my meditation teachers introduced me to their much younger and super gorgeous son and so began my heart’s surrender.
He was eight years younger, majorly handsome, and leaving town in a little over a month.
Perfect for a fling but nothing more.
But I thought even a fling would cross a line – his parents were my spiritual mentors after all.
At first, I wouldn’t allow myself to “go there” and I did my best to be friendly yet detached when we hung out.
In truth, it was a night at the Creek Side that changed everything.
“Would you like to dance?”, he asked eagerly.
“Sure!,” I said, not thinking anything of it.
I don’t know if it was the glow of the string lights or the Alan Jackson song, but once we hit the dance floor something clicked.
He wrapped his arm around my waist, nestled his hand at the small of my back, and pulled me close.
He was confident with each touch and as he gazed into my eyes, my heart softened.
That was the moment I let my guard down.
The moment our brief but life-altering summer romance unfolded.
And I fell for him.
A mere five weeks later, it was over.
It ended with the young man boarding a plane to China to teach abroad for two years and, after a little effort of trying a long-distance relationship (I know, I know), the truth of the situation came to a head and we called it quits.
At the moment of impact (read: the actual moment we ended it), a variety of emotions came to a head.
First was sadness, hurt, and rejection – all at once and rolled into a giant gut punch.
Soon to follow was the feeling of familiarity. I was back to the single girl I once was.
I knew how to play this role and I actually liked it.
Next, was a feeling I least expected: relief. Relief from the struggle of trying to make our summer romance last.
A struggle I chose to ignore even though I felt my heart tug each time our WeChat texts and Skype sessions became more sporadic.
I felt pain, confusion, and excitement.
And as cheesy as it sounds, I felt more connected to humanity – like, now I get it.
Now understand true heartache.
Back In The Saddle Again
“All right, all right!” Bettina interrupts, snapping me back to reality. “It’s time to dance!”
We take our last sip of beer, tip the bartender, and walk to the dance floor.
A couple “West Coast Swings”, a “Cowboy Cha Cha”, and many classic two-steps later, I’m feeling a little bit like myself again.
It’s funny what a few laps around the dance floor can do for a girl.
The night rages on, but it’s time for us to go.
We say goodbye to our favorite dance partners and hop in an Uber to take us home.
As I gaze out the window, a faint smile resides on my face.
Everything was going to be okay.
I just needed a night at the Creek Side to remind me of that.