A couple of months after the ex and I started dating, we went on a week-end trip to Santa Cruz. I was still living at home and told my parents that I was spending the night at my girlfriend’s house. He had a motorcycle, so I rode on the back with my arms around his waist as we zipped around the corners through the mountain on Highway 17. It was the first time I spent the night with him. (I almost got caught because my mom sensed something was up and she called my girlfriend’s house. Her mom covered for me, but was not happy that her daughter and I had put her in this position.)
That week-end trip was the start of many trips to Santa Cruz over the years. As a young couple raising a family trying to make ends meet, we could take our kids there. We often saved up our quarters, leave early in the morning to make the drive, fill up the parking meter with coins, and spend the day on the beach. Santa Cruz has a boardwalk, so if we had a little bit of extra money, we could take the kids on some of the rides.
When we decided to sell our family home, Santa Cruz was where we started to look for another home. The ex was working there and my job was just over the mountain. Prices in Santa Cruz and in the Silicon Valley made this dream become an impossibility, so we ended up buying the house in Gilroy.
Santa Cruz is where he would meet the woman that he left me for. Santa Cruz is where he would spend drinking with his friends as I sat at home not knowing when or if he would make it home.
Santa Cruz has this mix of emotions where some of my happiest moments reside and collide with memories of intense pain and hurt.
Last week, I had to talk to the ex about a tax issue. Whenever I have to talk to him, it stirs up all kinds of emotions. And even though he hurt me, I know that I will always care about his well-being. Without going into any detail, I could tell that he was down. After our conversation, he texted me and I think there’s regret.
The day after my conversation with him, my (new) husband asked me if I would be willing to go with him to show a house and maybe we could grab something to eat after. It was in Santa Cruz. I’ve managed to stay out of Santa Cruz since 2018 because it’s the one place that still creates so much pain within, even though it’s just a place on a map.
I would like to say that I mustered up the courage to go, but I didn’t.
Sometimes being kind to ourselves includes knowing that you are not ready to face some of the demons who still chase you.
(I also want to acknowledge that my new husband is incredibly understanding as I still process my old life. I honestly cannot believe my luck sometimes in having him in my life.)