Last week I rode the Greyhound to New York on a reconnaissance mission. My objective: to discover whether I should move there, either to find short-term work, or in advance of Marcus joining me there. My friend had invited me to stay for two weeks at his apartment, so folks were probably befuddled when I left after a mere four days. Here’s what happened.
I woke the first morning with a head cold, postponed a job interview until the next day, and went back to sleep, dreaming that my old boss had dropped by for an unexpected visit. Later that day I received an email from him and, sure enough, found myself sitting on the other side of his desk, catching up on the past several months.
I had electrocuted our office friendship last April by writing him a love-email declaring that, while I wasn’t sure if my feelings for him were platonic or romantic, they were definitely inappropriate. Married with three children, he took several weeks to recover from the shock.
Ironically I found him recovering from yet another shock that night. Having discovered his wife’s adultery only two days before, his expression alternated with hurt and anger as I shared my mom’s similar recent experience.
It was a fantasy come true, literally. Last summer, still missing him, I had contemplated the wild possibility that his wife would cheat and I would have the opportunity to finally show him how I felt. Sitting there sixteen floors above Fifth Avenue witnessing that very event, I felt dizzy. As in my fantasy, he was vulnerable and open. All I had to do was reach out my hand, if not that night, then one soon after.
He invited me a few times to visit the office again before I left the city. We donned coats and bags and rode the elevator downstairs, I to meet a friend for a beer, he to reluctantly journey home.
My feelings for this man are intertwined with my perceptions of Manhattan, a city where one not only strives to be the most intelligent person in the room, but one knows that another intelligent conversation is just around the corner. Calling someone “the one” seems mathematically absurd. Couples do stick together, but I witnessed far more breakups, drift-aparts, and float-aways.
Right before leaving the staffing agency where I worked for the aforementioned boss, I enjoyed an interview with a print production manager who typically oversaw the manufacture of catalogs for big-name retail chains like Abercrombie & Fitch. He was handsome, articulate, in his forties, earning a six-figure salary. Someone most Americans would expect to find living in a spacious home with his wife. Our conversation drifted from his work history to the general experience of Westerners living in NYC. He and his brother had moved there fifteen years before from Arizona, and shared the same apartment ever since. A few years later, his girlfriend’s roommate decided to move, leaving his girlfriend with no place to stay but with himself and his brother. It was a temporary decision that was still in effect several years later. He admitted that his brother may finally move out now that he and his girlfriend were contemplating having a baby. But that, he pointed out, is a classic New York story. People fall together in the oddest arrangements, and find that a decade has passed.
I had, while living on the East Coast, dated four men of varying ethnicities and ages, all of whom lived with parents. One parent was literally dying in the bedroom next to my boyfriend’s, another spent most of the year in her home country, and yet they maintained their grip on the decor and rent-controlled lease of apartments my lovers couldn’t afford to leave if they wanted to stay in Manhattan.
I was dating one of those men, a droopy-eyed scholar from the country of Georgia, when I flew back to Seattle to act as maid of honor for my cousin. Watching her walk down the aisle in that white dress, committing to a man she loves, in witness of family and friends, I remembered values that loud bars and exotic people had led me to forget.
For better, or for worse. When we tire of meeting the next interesting stranger, we long for one person, who we can wake up next to, cook pancakes for, cheer on, and be cheered by.
Add to my long list of reasons for leaving New York: I could not imagine a romantic relationship enduring there, I did not want to live with my brother, boyfriend, and neighbor’s uncle’s gay lover, and who can raise a child in that city without two nannies and a steady supply of meds?
After settling in to work for a family in rural England, I placed two ads online, one looking for friends, the other for dates. My first two encounters with men via that website left me convinced that normal Englishman didn’t use websites and I’d have to chillax until I met someone in real time. I left my ad up, however, amused by the illiterate, two-sentence responses I kept receiving, along the lines of, “hey babe r u hot lol send pic im a 40 yo trainer x.”
And then I received an email that was not only longer than one sentence, it was… perfect. Well-written, silly, expressing a unique outlook on life. I responded merely to see how many emails it took before he betrayed his fondness for skinning live dogs. Yet email followed email without any sign of madness. We arranged a date.
I waited for him on a Saturday afternoon outside the cathedral in Exeter, listening to a man with a guitar sing about Jesus, while teenagers in tight jeans lounged on the grass. Up walked this tall, broad-shouldered redhead with the jawline of a superhero in a comic book and the eye contact of every romance novel’s Rhett Butler.
We walked along the quay in search of a likely pub, found a table outdoors, and talked over a few pints. He told me about some sort of martial arts he’d been into lately, until wrestling with sweaty, stinky half-naked men finally became too much for him. I told him about my newfound attempts to go with the flow. When we parted at my train that night, I leaned up on tiptoe to kiss him and regretted, in that moment, that I was a bit too tipsy to remember the moment for posterity.
So when the fantasy I’d entertained last summer came true the other day in my boss’s office, I gave him a stranger’s hug, and three days later, gave up on my beloved city and rode back to Suckallo. Because my boss is a New Yorker, and because New York is not my home.
My home is with this guy who still lives in Exeter, who will go to Niagara Falls with me on a whim and stare for long stretches of time at the water pouring over the falls. A man I don’t like to write blogs about because I want to keep him to myself, safe from public view. A man who reads heavy, tricky books for his own enlightenment rather than to name drop them at a cocktail party. A man who looks me in the eye when I talk, and remembers what I say better than I do. A man who visits his grandma several times a month, to drink her Scottish whiskey and appreciate her joie de’vivre. A man so gentle, even my rabbit lets him pet him, a man so strong, he can meet my least coherent emails and most emotional moments with acceptance and reason. My home is with Mr. Hotness, whom I love.
We’ll find a new fabulous place to live, and whether we share an apartment with forty strangers, or move into a little white house with picket fences, it will be an adventure we can remember… together.