In the winter of 2008 I lived a boxed life. The apartment I shared in West LA with my husband (then boyfriend) was a white cube just under five hundred square feet. I left that cube every morning just after 7 to hop the red brick 704 bus into Century City. I then exchanged that red brick for a glass and concrete slab off Century Park East that, 5 floors up, housed my little cubicle where I helped people fill out boxes on forms that might, one day, help them become American citizens. Then at 6pm every evening, I packed myself up and took my series of boxes home.
Every day for two years, I lived my little boxed life. It’s hard to overstate how incredibly important this was to me. I actively worked to be average. I wanted, more than anything, a safe, stable existence. I thought this was the only way to be good, the only right way to…be. I had no other model for how to live a respectable life.
But none of it was ever going to work out, because I could never quite cram myself into that perfect, little box.
There were hints. As February rolled around my boyfriend and I made reservations for a nice Italian place up off Westwood Boulevard. Because isn’t that what you’re supposed to do for Valentine’s Day? Dinner and drinks at an upscale restaurant?
Night of we hopped in the car, dress in rumpled, work-worn faces and our best clothes, and began the ascent up Wilshire.
After an hour of exhaust fumes and honking we’d made it three blocks (I don’t ever miss you LA), and I…a little bit…lost it.
I knew I was supposed to want the fancy dinner with the white table cloth and the single red rose, but for the life of me I couldn’t understand why. This was not a box that was making me happy. What I really wanted was jeans and flip flops and what I could see just out the window: Fatburger.
So I cried, raged a little at the traffic (I know, SO DRAMATIC), and then stepped out of my carefully crafted box to tell my boyfriend what I really wanted. Today, it seems so sad to remember how hard that moment was, how difficult it was to realize that, in that moment, I was no longer going to be able to hold down or hide my difference. My catastrophic brain thought that if I let it out, my boyfriend might no longer want me, that I might prove myself to be what I had always feared: weird and unworthy of love.
But all that happened was that we turned around and parked the car. We walked the three blocks back to Fatburger, holding hands on a cracked sidewalk lined with pots of pansies so I could prop my feet up on a plastic chair and cover my hands in grease. And you better believe that burger was goddamned heaven.
The little box of our apartment lasted just five more months. The job? Just one more year. And in the ten years since, I’ve had to over and over again learn the lesson that just because something comes in an average, safe, pretty little box, that doesn’t make it the right choice for me.
Because not all of us are roses and white table cloths. Some of us are cracked sidewalks and potted pansies. And all of it is, truly, fine.
Want to make your own mustachioed pansy? Find my free Proper Percy the Pansy pattern here.