“We should decorate our apartment Japanese style,” he says over sushi on our day off. I smile up in agreement over my miso soup. Start to make a joke about us sleeping on a bamboo mat when the waitress brings our entrées, and the subject slips through my plastic chopsticks. Lost among the sesame seeds that litter the restaurant floor.
These intrusions of the future are happening with greater and greater frequency. Just a few weeks ago we were in the housewares section of Macy’s looking at plates when he said, “It’s like we’re getting married.”
He was joking, but the inevitability of our cohabitation is becoming more and more apparent. The joint checking account. The family phone plan. The future builds up beneath our tongues as our words change from potential to kinetic energy. I start to worry that maybe Kate Bush was right. Maybe just saying it could even make it happen.
That night we sit on his couch, taking a virtual tour of NYC on his laptop. Him navigating. My head on his shoulder as we stroll along the virtual streets of Williamsburg, a hip neighborhood in Brooklyn. Past bistros, boutiques, and Brownstones on a tree-lined avenue. “These apartments look nice.” He says.
“And expensive.” I add, trying unsuccessfully to couch my natural inclination toward pessimism in a veneer of realism. He sees bay windows. Concrete stoops. Cast iron fire escapes. A nearby subway. But all I see are dollar signs and empty pockets.
“If we want it, we’ll find a way to make it work.” He says, undaunted. His optimism, like hepatitis, is infectious. I find myself getting excited in spite of myself. Imagine the people, the energy, the momentum of this familiar, but unknown city, seen only in films or photographs from other people’s vacations. I feel like I did as a kid when Christmas was approaching. Giddy expectation tinged with stomach churning anxiety.
We’re both constantly speculating on the future these days. Except that his speculations are rooted in reality and mine are in fantasy. He talks about the school he wants to go to, and I talk about the album I want to record (a folk-punk pastiche of lo-fi anthems I’ll record on my laptop as soon as I figure out how Garage Band works), or the cafe I’ll open that serves southern comfort foods like banana pudding, and King Ranch chicken, or the zombie movie I’ll film in our neighborhood, using our Puerto Rican and Hasidic Jew neighbors as extras.
He talks about the logistics of moving our things, while I try to come up with band names. (Bitter Semen and the Fallopian Tubes or the Flaming Peg Legs?)
He tries to learn the subway routes, and I name my cafe, which may be a coffeehouse, or possibly an e-bookstore. I lean toward Lance’s Place!, but he nixes this since it will be “our” place. I suggest Lanos as a compromise, or Carnce, neither of which has the captivating ring of Brangelina. He suggests Redback & Wetneck’s. This is why I love him. Because he’s witty, and he indulges my continual flights of fancy.
We’ve settled on March as our tentative moving date, a timeframe that is both reassuringly vague, and unnervingly specific. And most of all close and very steadily approaching. I pace around my apartment, wondering what things to take and which to leave behind. As I pace my body constricts into a writhing ball of constant panic. What if we can’t find jobs, or a place to live?
Imagine the city eating us alive. The two of us crawling back to the west coast, penniless and eviscerated. Or what if we do find jobs and a place to live, but when we live together we discover that the other rolls the toilet paper from the wrong direction, or loads the dishwasher incorrectly, or has horrible taste in movies? What if things change and we stop being happy? There are too many unknowns!
I try not to hyperventilate. Try to anchor myself to the present, to the things I know. These are the facts as I see them. 1). I have always dreamed of living in New York City. 2.) I have never had a bad time when I am with him. 3.) Everything else will sort itself out.
In the present we are curled up on his coach, watching a bad, 80s horror movie (That he’s agreed to watch Ghoulies with me is reassuring). His head on my shoulder. My hand on his knee. A cat curled up in the crook of my legs. The comforting smell of the homemade chicken stock he is simmering in the kitchen. The out of sync ticking of his roommate’s fiance’s clocks on either side of us. The rain that falls against the window. He looks over at me and puckers, and we kiss. Then I know the future is going to be okay. Because he’ll be there.