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I wake up with a jolt. I’m in a pitch-dark room with no windows. My head pounds heavy and slow. Like a heartbeat. Like a prison guard’s boots slamming against cinder-block floors. Like horror movie music. I lay in paralyzed silence for a moment. Like I’m procrastinating facing the dark reality that I’ve likely been kidnapped and am being held hostage in a lightless basement where I’ll stay until I die. Unless, of course, I get serendipitously rescued after six months. I envision the Safe Return™ to my family making national news. I see the headline: Adult Kidnapping Victim, Zara Barrie, Tearfully Reunites With Family. And suddenly I’m the face of adult kidnapping. It’s not what I had in mind for my life but I’ve always wanted to be the face of something, so I lean into it. I *finally* have a platform people will take seriously. When I candidly wrote about being sexually assaulted by a male bartender after slugging back more Sauvignon Blanc than my body could handle in a London pub—an editor at a top-tier publishing house rejected my book proposal because she was looking for “more serious stories about what women are up against.” I dare that editor to reject me after my stint as a missing person. I feel a fleeting moment of glee: I’m finally going to fulfill my dream of being an Oprah “SuperSoul” speaker. Right as I’m prepping for my first appearance on the Howard Stern Show—

Savannah’s voice booms into my ears: “There’s no way you’re making that flight, Z.” Her voice is the fog horn that alarms me back to earth.


The clouds break and a slew of images from the drunken night before downpour over my brain: The strip mall full of gay bars and asshole-bleaching spas. The Bacardi diet cokes in their little plastic cups with their sad little limes with their limp little over-squeezed carcasses floating at the top, like dead bodies in the East River. Savannah stumbling toward me clutching a skinny margarita like it’s a trophy. A stout lesbian looking at me intently, silver keys clipped to her belt loop, rendered shiny in the moon glow. I remember the stout lesbian’s name: Sue. I hear myself slur,“see you first thing in the morning for our heartbreak pre-flight fireball shots!” I hear the THUD of my body clumsily hitting the backseat of our uber. I hear Savannah sheepishly meow: "Let’s get one more." I hear myself whinge about having to get up early for the airport. I see us both, wobbly and bleary-eyed, at a different bar in a different part of town sucking back mojitos (plot twist) with a boy who is pretty like a Shetland pony and has the same rich auburn hair color you find on Clairol boxes when you're trolling the drugstore aisles at 2 AM on the verge of a mental breakdown. I hear Savannah stage whisper: “If I was forced to fuck a dude, gun-to-head, he’d be the kind I’d fuck.” I hear myself squeal in delight like a teen girl who’s just made varsity cheer. I see us all—Savannah, me, the pretty ginger femme boy—clinking glasses splashing sticky liquid all over the place—as wolfpacks of sun-kissed homosexuals hoof around us.

So no, I’m not being held hostage in a basement. I’m in my best friend, Savannah Katz’s bedroom in south Florida. I guess being the face of adult kidnapping is just not in the stars for me. That's okay. I’ll find another way to garner the success I deserve.

“Shit,” I grumble, pulling the sheets over my head.

“It’s okay, Z.” Savannah yawns, stretching her arms luxuriously, like a cat adopted into wealth. “There’s a flight that leaves right after your flight. It’s not season here. They probably won’t even charge you a fee to change your ticket.”

“I’m Jewish,” I say cryptically, as if it’s a great reveal, as if she, the stockkeeper of Jewish New York Lesbians isn’t privy to the fact that I too am a chosen person. “Jews don’t miss—”

“Flights,” she cuts me off. She knows. Jewish girls do many things: We wear uggs in the summer. We go to therapy every single week, even when broke. We call our mothers daily, even when we know they’re going to make us feel like shit. We still wear our Juicy Couture tracksuits on the airplane, even though it's no longer 2004. But you know what we *never* do? Miss flights.

Disappointment floods me. I’ve not only let *myself* down by missing a flight but I've let the *Hebrew* people at large down, as well. My ancestors. I imagine my great, great grandfather Abraham Baranoff, shaking his head in the afterlife, tenderly staring into a worn copy of the old testament, solemnly whispering, “I made it through Ellis Island and you can’t even make your flight on time?”

I hang my head in shame. Savannah's room is still a cave of opaque blackness, which is fine by me. Shame is easier to deal with in the dark. But then Savannah clicks on her bedside lamp. And the raw naked bulb shines her wicked light on the truth: Not only am I a poor excuse for a Jew, but I flaked on poor ‘ole Sue. Poor ‘ole Sue who like me—just had her heart shattered by the love demon—but unlike me is now knocking back fireball shots alone at the airport, because my hungover ass couldn’t get out of bed. I shiver and reach for my phone. “I’m so sorry,” I type at rapid-fire speed. “Savannah FORCED me to go out late last night and alas, I’ve missed my flight and won’t be able to engage in pre-flight fireball shots with you.” (Don’t ask me why I threw “alas” in the mix—a hungover heartbroken girl does weird inexplicable shit sometimes).

Savannah is right. I’m able to get on a flight two hours later, free of charge. But I still feel guilty as I gather my things and brush up for the airport. And truthfully, I was looking forward to doing shots with Sue. Not because I have a crush on Sue, I’m way too heartbroken to have a crush on anyone right now. Plus, Sue’s not really my type. Don’t get me wrong—I’m down with a woman who wears her keys—but I just don’t know if I could ever sleep with anyone whose preferred drink of choice is fireball shots? Maybe that’s a judgment. I'll look into that at a later date. All I know right now is that I am very sad to have missed Sue because I’m very hungry to trauma bond. Trauma bonding feels oh-so-good in the moment but can be oh-so dangerous because it almost always leads to unhealthy codependency that only exacerbates the harrowing aftermath of the trauma you two bonded over, to begin with. This is why the only safe way to trauma bond is to do it with someone you’re vehemently unattracted to and will likely never see again because say, they live in the midwest and you live in Manhattan and you’re time together is limited to one hour before a flight at a bleak airport.

Savannah Katz orders bagels and rosè to the apartment in anticipation of my leaving. I gather my things and try not to think about the fact that in two hours I’ll be en route back to New York. “Eat,” Savannah orders, shoving an everything bagel with scallion cream cheese and lox into my face. Another thing about us Jewish girls? We’re insufferable snobs about cleanliness and hygiene—yet we insist on incessantly consuming foods that are putrid for one’s breath.

“Sav,” I whisper, trying not to dry heave, “I don’t think I can do it. I have no appetite. Not even for bagels.”

“Oh god,” Savannah puts her arm against my back, warmly, “that’s no good. Just have a few bites.”

Savannah runs a tight ship and I know she’ll deny me of even a small splash of rosè if I don’t abide by her rules. I mechanically stuff the bagel into my mouth. It’s strange to eat when heartbroken. It reminds me of smoking cigarettes on the medication Zyban, which makes it so nicotine doesn’t jive with your brain the same way. By which, I mean, I can taste the texture of the bagel but it doesn’t reach the pleasure centers in my brain, so eating it is strictly utilitarian. I take another bite. And then another. It’s odd to eat a bagel joylessly. “Can I pretty please have some rosè?” I beg. I know that my desire for breakfast wine is because I want to self self-medicate. I know that self-medicating backfires. I know that the only way out is through. I know that wine is a Band-Aid and Band-Aids don’t treat the wound, they just distract you from the wound, which makes the infection worse. I know alcohol is a depressant and a depressant is the last thing in the world I need to pump into my body right now. I know that the pain I feel won’t kill me, it’s running from the pain with drugs and other numbing mechanisms that attain the potential *actually* to kill me. I know all of this because I’ve done lots of therapy and even wrote a book about this. The book is called GIRL, STOP PASSING OUT IN YOUR MAKEUP, and was published to mild critical acclaim in 2020, in the salad days of the pandemic. Girls sometimes highlight passages I wrote about the importance of “honoring your feelings of heartbreak” and post them on Instagram and tag me. I should be very ashamed that I’m not practicing what I preach. And a part of me is ashamed. The part of me that is strong and ethical and stoic. But the other part of me, the broken part of me? She doesn’t give a fuck about ethics or stoicism. She is as shameless as it gets.

My uber driver on the way to the airport is named Carlos and he’s from Queens. I discreetly sip on my to-go glass of booze and we bullshit about the rising rents in New York and for a moment I forget all about the holes in my perforated chest.

“So. Rent in New York sucks. The weather sucks. Why don’t you move to Fort Lauderdale? I’m nevah goin’ back to the city.” Carlos slams on his horn for no good reason, except he’s from New York.

“I don’t want to leave New York. I love New York.” My voice has a manic desperation to it.

Carlos notices. “You aight, back there?” he asks, swinging his head around. I can smell mentholated cigarettes on his breath. I only smoke mentholated anything when I’m rolling on ecstasy—which I haven’t done in about a decade—but something about Carlos’s warm minty-nicotine grin and the glimmery gold chain necklaces wrapped around his thick neck—renders me desperate for a Newport.

“You smoke Newports?” I ask.

He digs into the pockets of his track pants. “You want?” he asks.

“Nah.” I smoked a cigarette last night and am drinking pink wine out of a plastic cup before noon. I’ve got to draw the line somewhere. If we throw Newports into the mix who knows what will happen? I’ll start freebasing coke and become a Scientologist.

“You seem sad ma,” Carlos observes. I don’t care if I end up in the feminist hall of shame. There’s nothing more comforting than being called “ma” by a gentle giant from Queens.

“I just got separated. It’s been seven years.”

“Damn, Ma.”

I take a swig of wine. “It sucks.”

“You two have kids?”

“No. But I was planning on getting pregnant at the end of the year,” I look out the window and notice a Wawa, my favorite gas station/convenience store famous for their dripping subs. I’ve never seen one anywhere outside of the tri-state area.

“Look!” I tap excitedly against the glass. “Wawa! I thought they only had those in Jersey!”

“Girl." Carlos chuckles."Is this what you do?”

“Is 'what' what I do?”

He catches my eye in the rearview mirror. He has twinkly Santa Clause eyes. “Change the subject when you don’t want to talk about shit?”

I meet his eyes. “That’s exactly what I do.”

When we pull up to the Delta terminal, Carlos opens the trunk for me and carries my pink fluffy suitcase right to the sliding glass doors. He envelops me in a bear hug and whispers, “yo, when ya come back to Lauderdale, I hope I’m your driver. Good luck, mama. Stay strong.” I hug him back hard. There’s nothing lecherous or creepy about his hug. It’s one of the purest hugs I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. “Thank you,” I mutter, giving him a final squeeze before traipsing into the airport, dragging my pink fluffy bag, holding my little dog in my arms, tears spilling out of my eyes and into his fur.

It’s interesting. Before this heartache, I never noticed how many angels are in the world. They’re everywhere from strip mall bars to uber cars, hiding their wings but not their gorgeous charm. I guess it’s true what they say: A broken heart is an open heart. Yeah, heartbreak is brutal. But it cracks you wide open—

leaving just enough room for angels

to make their way inside.

To be continued...

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