Continued from Part One.
I wish, like the movies I fall for, like the books that I read, I could pinpoint that moment, where it all came together. I wish I could write it in one chapter: this is the defining moment, this is when our lives changed, this is when we knew.
I can’t tell you everything about the exact moment my life shifted.
“I found flights to Colorado, they’re so cheap.. should we book? How does April sound?” It’s only November, but I ask and James looks up into the air, as if mentally assessing a calendar I can’t see.
“What if I have a new job by April?” he says and I roll my eyes because we’ve been playing the what if game for so long, I no longer have a legitimate life. My life is now all part of the calendar that James mentally assesses, the one I can’t see, and try not to resent.
I tap on the keyboard, wondering what to say next. Should I be a brat, “Okay then, I’ll just go,” or should I be supportive, “Oh you’re probably right, let’s wait until your new job gives you a vacation,” or should I stare, silently.
“Let’s just book it. I can always cancel if I can’t come with you,” he finally says, and I’m glad I didn’t say anything. I’m learning to wait, to give James his time. He’s learning, too.
“I NEED YOU TO BE SUPPORTIVE,” he raises his voice and I slam something because my voice will never sound assertive – a lifetime of mousiness and a face to go with it, has left me perpetually weak-sounding and therefore, constantly trying to slam things louder than the other person’s voice.
“I am supportive, but you’re in a tunnel, and this job is all you see, THE WORLD ISN’T STOPPING JAMES, I NEED SOMEONE TO TALK TO.”
We drive to New York City and James learns everything he needs to learn. I’ve never seen someone work so hard. I wonder if I have that in me. We decide no more television, no more lazy Sundays, no more wasted time. If we want to get out of here, it’s going to take sacrifice and I need to be okay with that.
The interviews sandwich themselves around a week of SWAT training and I spend three weeks in silence, tiptoeing around my own life, wondering if it will all be worth it. He doesn’t have time to workout, or cook, or open the blinds, or do anything but study, and focus, and think, and pace. I eat at the counter and paint my nails in the bathroom and read books and I try to be quiet and I try to be supportive. He doesn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up, we decide to keep it to ourselves. So, I rearrange my closet and put flowers in vases and wipe the back-splash in the bathroom and make cookies that he doesn’t have time to eat.
I can’t tell you everything about the exact moment my life shifted. But I will try. It was a Friday afternoon in March, around 6 pm and the sun was incredible in my bedroom. It had been a long week, a long few months, a long three years, really. I stood in the doorway of our bedroom and looked from one window to the next. I always loved this bedroom, though it was much too small for our furniture, I liked that it had two doors and that both doors had locks.
If added up, I might have spent two years, of the last three, sleeping alone. James would leave for work at 10:20 pm if he was on time, 10:25 if he was running late, and I’d already be in bed. He’d yell from the front door, “Babe, don’t forget to lock up,” and he meant come lock the deadbolt of the front door. What he didn’t know, was that after he left, I would run and lock the deadbolt, then run to the back of the house and check the other door, then run back to the bedroom and lock myself into the room, before hopping back into bed. He didn’t know this because they were unlocked by the time he got home each morning, me already out of bed and in the shower. He didn’t know this because I never saw much point in telling him.
As I stood in the doorway on this Friday in March, I could see the street and cars and yellow lines on the road and tree branches and hear the sounds of strangers yelling and engines and sirens and birds out the window to the right. James always hated living on a busy street. Sleeping during the day on the busiest street is as bad as it sounds. We always wished for a yard with a garden on a quiet street. I once tried to grow tomatoes on the front porch but wound up with two red raisin-sized fruits, “When we have a yard and a garden, they’ll turn out,” he said.
Out the window straight ahead, I could only see brick. How many times had I stared out this window and looked at that brick house in three years? How many more times would I have to?
I lay on my back, close to the window so that when I looked up, I could see only sky and I waited.
I felt my chest rise and fall, willing my heartbeat to regulate. I checked my phone six times: swiping the screen, seeing nothing change but perhaps the passing of a minute, then I would lock the phone and put it under my pillow. Repeat.
I asked time to move faster, but decided this was a good time to be alone. I needed these moments, in this room, with these doors I knew best and these windows I knew most. This was the first place I lived with a guy. This was the place I hated the most, but learned the most about love. These walls heard me cry and these floors felt me fall.
I’m not big on prayer, but this house felt me pray.
As I looked up to the sky, I wondered if maybe, they were about to be answered. Too afraid to let my guard down, I just asked one more time. I asked for the same thing I’ve asked for these past three years, since that first day in the shower all those summers ago, since that first winter that felt like it would never end, since the July I left and the November I came back.
The sun shone on my forehead and I heard a car door slam outside of the house. I heard footsteps, then door creaks, then keys jingle. I heard the deadbolt turn, then the smaller lock.
The door opened and I closed my eyes.
“I got the job,” he said, “we’re going home.”
“I start the day we get back from Colorado.”