Driving Down Beautiful Highway 1 with a Cheetah Named Baby in the Passenger Seat

I used to work for a company called Scream Sorbet. I’d get up at 5am in the morning, in Oakland, California, and fling my hungover self into a warehouse to collect hundreds of ounces of gourmet sorbet and shove it all–along with tents, tables, -10 ice packs that froze my fingers stiff, wash basins, etc.–into my Honda Civic HX, and I’d drive all of it to various farmers’ markets around the Bay Area to give samples and sell some shit. I had a great time at that job. I met some amazing people, and when I left, I was craving sorbet everyday. That was almost a year ago.

Now I’m moving to L.A. Well, actually, back to L.A. My friends Erin and Brion offered to drive over from Boise, Idaho, pick me up in Portland, Oregon, and lug my cat and my shit down Highway 1 to my new apartment. On the way down to L.A. is Oakland, California, so I asked if we could plan a layover for a night there, which got me thinking about Scream. When I left, they were in the process of opening up their storefront in Temescal. I googled them and found they had a pretty rocking Yelp site with a lot of user-added photos. I tend to have a lot of time on my hands when I’m on the internet before bed, so I took a look through and found the usual shots of people smiling, holding up their tiny cup of Chocolate Hazelnut and such, and then I started to see a few pictures of the store that looked pretty professional, with a young woman posing in various amounts of shadow and light. OK, that’s when I saw Baby. So let me back up.

 

A couple of years ago, I started dating my best friend. We should have stayed just best friends, but we didn’t know it at the time. He moved to the Bay Area, and we broke up for a while, then got back together long-distance. There were a few tumultuous months where we didn’t see one another and some heavy things had gone down for both of us, so when I flew in to SFO to see him and assess the city before my move, I was fucking excited and nervous. He was meeting me at the airport, and he had warned me that he had picked something up for me. I wondered why it was a “warning,” which can be scary, and not just a statement…Anyway, I didn’t have glasses then, (I actually just got glasses after several years of blind bliss.) so I couldn’t see a damn thing. In fact, I had to tell him to come and find me, because I wouldn’t see him from afar. At SFO airport, when you arrive, you’re pushed down from the top floor to the Arrivals on an escalator. It’s actually a pretty dramatic set-up, because your loved ones wait for you to descend upon them. My boyfriend was supposed to be waiting for me there, but as I came down, I couldn’t find any shapes that resembled his tall, thin figure. Except for one guy. But that guy was holding a big fucking leash to a big fucking dog, and I was starting to get pissed that someone would bring their giant dog into a goddamn airport. And then that guy started waving frantically at me, and I realized that was, in fact, my boyfriend. And when I got closer, I realized it wasn’t a giant dog on the other end of the leash, it was a waist-high statue of a cheetah with a gaping, snarling mouth. And it wasn’t a leash he was holding. It was a big fucking metal chain. But that was my boyfriend, and that was my cheetah statue, which he’d lovingly named Baby.

 

OK, so shit went awry, we broke up, I had a mental breakdown–for a hundred more reasons than just the breakup–and he moved into a place with his new girlfriend five blocks from my house. In all the breakup commotion, though, Baby somehow ended up living in the Scream Sorbet warehouse, because I did not want to be the one to reach out and give Baby back to the ex, and the ex was probably a lot afraid of me. So every morning, as I gathered up my sorbet and tents and shit, Baby would stand, perched on top of a cooler, snarling at me. I have to say that for a good month or so, I fought the urge to punch that cheetah in the face, and I would stare Baby down and say out loud to my coworkers, “I want to punch that fucking cheetah in the face.” Of course, it was probably the ex I wanted to punch in the face. That cheetah reminded me of every horrible fucking thing that had happened in the past two years, and while I couldn’t bear to return Baby to her father, I also couldn’t bear to give her up, so there she sat until I moved away from the Bay Area to the east coast. I asked my Scream family to keep her safe for me, and I’d return for her, but I didn’t know when. So let’s skip forward to this:

This woman is posing for a photo next to the remnants of my dead relationship. SMILE!!!

Apparently, Baby made it out of the warehouse, where she haunted my mornings, into the new Scream Sorbet store, where women in leopard-print shoes pose next to her with their frozen desserts. I saw this photo and had to hold back a few tears, actually, and it wasn’t something I was expecting. I wanted her back. And I don’t want you to take this as a metaphor for wanting my old relationship back, because I don’t. I’m in something really incredible now with an equally incredible person. But I saw this picture, and his face and him waving and Baby and the chain and the baseball games we went to and the hiking we did and the inside jokes and this incredible friendship I once had with this person who I wrongly dated was what I remembered. And that’s a good sign. But this person, whose friendship I miss, lives in Africa. That’s kind of far away from Portland.

Well, I contacted those Scream folks, and I said, “I wanna pick up my Baby,” and then I reminded them who I was, and all that. I told Erin that we have to make the stop to pick up this cheetah statue, but I haven’t told her how big it is, yet, and that it will probably have to sit passenger, while Brion and I sit in the back. It’ll just add to the magick of the trip. But here’s the other thing: I felt it necessary to ask permission from this ex if I could pick Baby up and bring her to my new L.A. home, so I emailed him. The next morning, I got the response that Baby could indeed be mine again for a while. Also, though, there is this: he will be taking his annual trip to the states soon and will be staying with one of our mutual friends in San Francisco at the exact same time I will be driving through to pick up Baby. And did I want to meet up? he asked. Did I? You know what? I think I do.

I don’t have tried and true methods for dealing with problems. I’m honestly not very good at it. And there’s a chance that this time I spend with my ex and friends in the Bay Area during my move may make me cry, and if you know me at all, you understand that I mean it will make me cry A LOT. But one thing I know is that I’m very ready to pick up this damn cheetah and drive down beautiful Highway 1 with the wind blowing through Baby’s ceramic hair. Sorry, Erin. Maybe we can strap him to the trunk?

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s