When I was thirteen I caught the horse bug for real. I can’t remember how it started – I had always loved animals. But I started riding horses (English, so I could jump) in Andover, Massachusetts, and my sister and Mom soon followed.
By the summer after my freshman year of high school, my Mom had found a very odd barn on the north side of town owned by “sisters” who seemed unlikely to be from New England. Mom, who is on her third horse just since moving to Colorado in 1995, first attempted horse ownership with an unfortunate mare named “Call Me Cutie”.
I don’t think I had quite realized yet how my mother’s involvement in my hobby (and my first boyfriend) were affecting my interest in riding, but Cutie did not fit my ideal of who my horse would be. Mom had explained that Cutie wasn’t very pretty, but she was very sweet, and Mom had ridden her and she was calm and a great first horse for us.
Cutie was anything but cute, the poor thing – the horse equivalent of being forced to buy all my clothes at our town’s Marshall’s. I can best describe her now as some sort of dappled Roan. But then, I rode her, as Mom urged her daughter with the great seat (that’s a riding term for sitting a horse nicely) on our new mare. And someone started the tractor. Cutie bolted across the arena, terrifying me and herself. I really didn’t like her then. She was homely and scary. Cutie was a nervous wreck.
I don’t remember what happened next, but Cutie must have been returned to her previous owners, who discovered that she was blind. Cutie had never revealed this as she was ridden on the same familiar paths daily. Only the new surroundings showed her less obvious flaw.
Our next horse, “Wayward Wendy” was a beautiful dapple gray with triple crown winner Seattle Slew in her blood. Like most thoroughbreds, she was “off the track”, having committed a few slow races before being dressage and hunter jumper trained. Wendy made un-asked for flying lead changes and would squirt at the boys when she was in heat, halting in front of them in the riding arena no matter who was waiting for her to move.
We moved barns when we had her, and she lived a couple miles from our house. In one of the loneliest and most picturesque summers of my teen years, I would run from our house to the barn and ride Wendy bareback at dusk. Wendy reared up and bronced when under the saddle, (yes, just like a bucking bronco), and I miraculously never fell off her until the day she spooked when I was walking her cool and my feet weren’t in the stirrups. I almost broke my neck in an irrigation ditch and would never ride her again. I’d still run to see her and sit in her stall, she’d kiss me as I’d trained her to, and I could cry with my head on her neck. I loved Wendy, and I never stopped being her friend.
Wendy had back trouble (hence the broncing and rearing up) and was likely drugged when Mom met her and bought her. I mostly relate to her type – striking, misunderstood, and passionately in love with a bad boy (the Palomino Billy – so much so that she rushed a gate and opened the skin on her chest on its corner to get to him). But I’ve never felt more like poor Cutie than my first weeks in a new city, at thirty-eight, and not on vacation.
I love to travel, and normally, I love getting lost. It’s the best way to find new places. But, being someplace new when you have work to do is a whole different story. I never moved someplace for a job before. I always moved someplace to find a job – and finding a job is filled with all this desperate exploring and not having money and filling out applications and learning the landscape of a city… as you worry it’s going to spit you back out to its environs, dumb broke loser that you are. I’ve done that one so many times, and mastered it a couple at least. I fought for my place in those communities, and felt like an earned member.
My last city – I knew how dialed I had it. Yes, it was blowing up and changing all around me, I couldn’t stand my new neighbors, but I had my super cheap place (and the broken garbage disposal that came with it) in a fantastic location a mile away from my primary place of work. I knew where to go, where to park, bartenders and CEOs and artists and pools and back roads and dog sitters and free eyebrow tints and comedians and every brand of locally available kombucha and tequila. I had pick up dry cleaning service for God’s sake. And could barely date a guy who hadn’t slept with one of my friends. But then again, access to verified reviews on the same.
My new city is a life I’ve never lived. It’s very grown up, and that’s scary. I feel I’m already destroying my brand new apartment for the simple fact I’ve never had such a nice place to live before; I don’t even know how to care for it. Destroying it includes chipping a baseboard and scraping paint from the walls in separate mirror and poster hanging incidents. I already spilled a Campari Soda on my brand new couch because I am a boisterous, unfiltered, and clumsy girl. My daily disasters range making a wrong turn or exit at least once to forgetting my wallet and having to Venmo someone money for our meeting and my gas, to being on the wrong side of the fucking highway for the bank. Everything is new and I have so much more to deal with other than just that new stuff. Like my career.
I’ve been embarrassed by how flummoxed I am by the combination of Siri’s bad directions (Austin’s roads and highways are weird, they really are, and she just doesn’t get it) and the complexities of entering someone else’s apartment building garage. I pride myself on my organization and efficiency. I really do believe in minimalism. I really never forget my license or lose things. Except lately.
Lately I’m the opposite of efficient because I literally never know where I am, have no idea how long it takes to get places, am always late, am always overheated (Texas), and forget to pay my bills (overhwhelmed). Therefore, I feel like a child who was dropped in a grownup world, and just can’t take care of her shit. Because I really did stretch my adolescence into my late 30s, I’m struck by how much fancy apartments and taxis weren’t a part of my old life, even in a rich white people town like Denver.
I had no idea how used to my old city streets I was – I was so anxious to get to a place full of people I hadn’t met yet. And that part is nice, but I’m surprised how my self esteem plummets with the part where they don’t know me. No matter how far away I get, I think I’ll always be that small town New England girl with the shitty outfits from Marshall’s.
Wayward Wendy was sold as a companion horse and got to live out the rest of her life on Cape Cod. The day they picked her up and took her away, she whinnied loudly, desperately, as the trailer pulled out of the drive. It was painful. My Mom and I were crying. Mom called the new owners and was told “she is such a nice horse”. That was all she wanted to know. I hope she lived a long and happy life near the ocean.
I am not quite ready to retire yet. And also don’t want to be sent back home.
I still haven’t had the “big night” I associate with myself as I’ve always known me. The first thing I’d do in a new city was to find the very hippest bar I could attend and stay at it as late as I could. I haven’t had time for those kind of high jinks. Though I do experience the world through my work and the friends I meet through it: restaurants, venues, swimming pools, and the like, my favorite inroads to a new place are the grocery stores (where I’m wandering around looking for syrup) and the outdoor spaces, where it actually feels different than where I’ve come from. Texas to me is swimming holes, butterflies, mesquite trees, these lizards I keep seeing, the surprisingly charming crickets of September, the country music on the radio,and oh, the six dollar negronis.
Yes, a fucking six dollar negroni and butterflies. I may be blind, but my eyes are open.