She drove to the house of the man who had finished with her, she did not understand why he had left her and wanted to see if the reason was that she was with another
As a woman I was not satisfied with what that man who wanted me had argued to leave me, I needed to know if he was with another so I decided to go look for him and face reality, I needed it without knowing if he was good or bad in reality.
The Palmetto Freeway, known locally as 826, which runs through central Miami-Dade County, is approximately 30 miles long. Decades ago, I was only concerned with the six-mile stretch between the exits for Kendall Drive and West Flagler Street, the distance between my house and the house of the man who had broken up with me.
He wasn’t sure he wanted a family, that was the reason he had given me. Which meant I didn’t want to be absorbed into mine with my two daughters: Vanessa, 7, who was born worried, and Veronica, 4, a girl who sought to please others and who massaged my shoulders ( “Machaches”) and he asked me: “Am I making you feel better, mommy? I am doing it right?".
We had arrived from Puerto Rico just three years earlier, when one of my daughters was 4 and the other 1, and I was 25. I had been offered a coveted internship at a newscast in Atlanta that quickly turned into a job that later led to a better job in Miami.
As a single mother, I had been warned repeatedly about how difficult it was to find love and a man willing to have a long-lasting relationship, but at first it seemed like he could be that man.
By the time we finished, he and I had been dating for ten months. I lived in a modern townhouse in the Fontainebleau neighborhood, while my girls and I lived in an apartment complex in Kendall, just steps from the ramp that raised my Cabriolet to 826, where I would head north, with in a hurry to see him, to make sure he didn’t have a new partner.
Around midnight, I used to drive with the windows down, needing the murmur of the wind to calm my anxiety. To control my nervousness, I was counting lanterns and staring at the gray tar on the road as if that alone was keeping my white Cabriolet from flying away with me inside, so light that everything felt fast and out of control.
Back then, I thought a lot about flying, driving, cycling, escaping. Motherhood weighed on me. Sometimes I would look at Vanessa and Veronica, so small and helpless, and I would feel exhausted at the prospect of all the parenting years that still lay ahead. When he left me, I felt that it showed that having them kept me from being the kind of woman a man like him would stay for.
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I was 28 years old and in love, I still had no regrets for overdoing my daughters, with her hair freshly braided and tied with starched smooth ribbons for a man who couldn’t love them or me. I was still not wise enough to shudder to remember that I forced them to audition for the role of the step-daughters who do not cause any problems, that would allow him to remain himself, exciting and free.
All winter, spring, and part of the summer my daughters and I auditioned, and when she left in August and walked away from our life, I started asking the babysitter to work overtime, to come back after she was done. have dinner with his family, just so they can drive from one 826 exit to another, looking for him.
On nights when I couldn’t find someone to take care of my girls, I would get angry, alternating between denying everything and complaining about how tired I was. Tired of their fights and their toys lying around. From saying no to going out for ice cream and not going for a walk around the block so they could see other people walking the dogs that she wouldn’t let them have because they were too tired.
Other nights, I would tell myself that I would go to sleep early, then I would have dinner, read them stories, then rush and lull them to sleep and I could go to sleep too, only to get up again as soon as I heard their snoring
Minutes later, he opened the door for the babysitter. Once or twice I even asked my next door neighbor to keep an eye on them telling her there was an emergency with the breaking news on the newscast where she worked. So I was driving down the ramp, my heart pounding, wondering, “Is this the night you see a car in your visitor parking space? What if he comes home while the guard beckons me to come in as if I am still a welcome guest? "
He would be angry? Maybe he would smile and say: "Come here, crazy thing", as he did that first night when he guided me to his bed and I stayed, happy that he was fast asleep by my side. I remembered it as my pager at work vibrated with calls from the babysitter, who was rightly furious that she hadn’t come back when I said I would.
Why did I drive all those miles? I’d like to say I was looking for relief, but there was none. It was more because of the rest he would feel knowing that he was with someone new. If his car wasn’t there yet, I would park and wait, holding my breath in fear, until the headlights of his car could be seen on the corner; he would go out, walk slowly (tired?), stop to get his keys and, through my open windows, hear his front door open and close with a light bang.
Once I was sure that no one would show up with a bottle of wine or a suitcase for the weekend, I left, promising myself that this would be the last time. I walked up the ramp to 826, heading south, relief giving way to remorse, concern for my daughters overriding my delusion that I could get anything, even love.
I tried to stop. And for almost two months, I succeeded. But in October I did it again: I was driving down that road, I was smiling at the security guard, I saw my ex’s car already parked and without another car in his place of visit, I was driving back, I came to the entrance of my house, I ran into.
And I would do it again from time to time until one night in early November when my neighbor, who already knew about my ploy, did not open her door. The babysitter had a family member visiting. But anyway I put Vanessa and Veronica to bed and ran away, promising that she would be back in 28 minutes.
Except I didn’t find a car that night. I had planned to stay alone until 11:30 PM, long enough to watch him arrive, park, and go in alone. But when that time limit was met with no sign of him, I started to worry that he was with someone else. I was getting cold and hungry; he had forgotten to bring a scarf and had not eaten.
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As I tried to remember, I realized that I couldn’t remember a single thing from that week, not even from that month. Just the gray tar, the lanterns, the adrenaline rush of chasing down 826 what I thought was love.
At midnight, the headlights of a stranger illuminated the interior of my car, bringing lucidity with them.
What was he doing? What if Veronica woke up and needed her mom? What if Vanessa decided to sleepwalking and got lost? In my work on the news I had seen that happen, a woman lost her children forever due to an inexplicable act of neglect. And with that alarming thought, I started the car and drove off; I went up the ramp, I could not bear to see my own hands on the wheel and I felt hatred for that woman who could not stop doing this.
Minutes later, I walked into our apartment and heard the vibrant murmur of my daughters’ soft breathing.
I also breathed, closed the door of his room and called his cell phone.
"Yes," he replied. "Why are you awake?"
Sigh. "I’m fine. In San Diego for work ”.
We were silent for a while.
I have to stop worrying about you, ”I said. Since he knew me, it was as if he confessed every time I drove home, every hopeful night on the road, how I risked everything to hold on to nothing.
"It’s good to have someone who cares about you," he said.
I did not respond, afraid to hope again, my need like a beggar’s.
"But you seem to be right," he replied. "You must stop."
"I know," I said quietly.
He stayed on the line, breathing. I wondered if he was alone and he missed me, but I knew I couldn’t allow myself to think that way anymore.
This whole horrible episode made me sick with guilt. To this day, I can’t believe I have left my daughters alone. It made me think that a broken heart is a dangerous thing.
I also feel as if it happened in another life, and in some way it was: my daughters are now adults and, fifteen years ago, I found love with a kind and generous man. However, I will always know the feeling of despair that overwhelms you when love takes your life away. And I will always know the relief of letting go.
"I wish you all the happiness in the world," I said, and hung up. Anjanette Delgado is the author of "The Heartbreak Pill" and "The Clairvoyant of Calle Ocho." Lives in Miami.
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