Not having to undergo the Scramble is pretty amazing, right? No last-minute interviews, no last-minute stress. Someone wanted Derrick. Someone on his list of ten schools had said yes. Yes, I want this young man in my program. Yes, I choose him over the others.
And so we celebrated.
We gorged ourselves on cheap oysters and $1.25 beers. Derrick told anyone within earshot he had a job--after ten years of higher education, he had a job. It was exciting. We laughed, we chattered to strangers, we grinned like fools from ear-to-ear.
Then we got home.
Home was quiet. Dark. Settled. And we both heard all too loudly the click and whir and plod of the clock with sixty hours to tick away before we learned where he was going.
Derrick had a job, sure.
Baltimore? Boston? Worcester or DC? Richmond or NYC? Gainesville or here in Norfolk?
Derrick wanted Baltimore or Boston. He'd be okay in Worcester or Richmond. DC or NYC for a shoreside surfer with a large German Shepherd? It'd be a stretch, sure, but he could do it, right? He'd learn to live with the commute times, the constant stretch of city, the cold shoulders of passerbys.
And then there were the safeties. Gainesville. Beth Israel in Manhattan. Staying here at EVMS.
And then there was me.
We'd already agreed to give it a year. We had too much invested, too much planned. I can write anywhere, right? I'm a gypsy. I adapt. I can live anywhere. In a house by the beach, in a ramshackle row home in the bad part of town, in the suburbs, on a boat, in a shack, in a cardboard box. But with every second that clock ticked away I'd picture my life in a new city.
Baltimore, exiting a painted brick cafe with a black coffee and tattered manuscript in hand.
Boston, with legs crossed on the T, camera slung on a shoulder, heading to a lecture on Virginia Woolf.
Commuting to NYC with Kindle in hand, savoring Susan Orlean or John McPhee.
I was so clear in each of these city fantasies; I wore a checked chenille scarf in Boston, gray suede boots in NYC, dangling feather earrings in Baltimore. Each one was this beautiful urban Bohemian fantasy, where I'd sit at my typewriter and write stories that snagged the heart the way a calloused hand catches satin, poetry that closes with firm fingers around the throat. I would make the knitting needles pause, the jackhammers quiet. I'd hush the songbirds, turn the head of the harshly lined lawyer, make the stirring cook sigh with pleasure.
And I'd do it all from the window seat of my North End apartment, my yellow house in Baltimore with the chipped paint, my cluttered townhouse outside the NYC city limits. Heavy dreams, but I could see them all so clearly---
Then there was the rest.
Worcester, Mass. Easily commutable to Boston. A little pretentious, a little boring. Not ideal, but managable.
DC. Terrifying. Harsh. Gray suits and black heels. Laughing party girls, silenced museums. Cunning, skilled, fierce ambition. Intimidating as hell, but manageable--especially if we lived outside of Baltimore and commuted in.
For the last three I saw nothing. I'd never been to Richmond, couldn't judge it. I knew there was a theatre scene, rich history, tall white Southern buildings, charm. But I've lived in Virginia for almost three years now. Too long. I'm ready to ramble on, set my eyes on someplace new, explore, live in a new world. I've tired of this one.
I could imagine staying here, but barely. My sights have been trained on the mysterious unknown for months now, waiting for the envelope to be opened to tell me my new home. I couldn't imagine opening it to reveal...nothing. Same apartment, same town, same life, a long stretch of endless sameness with no discernible end.
Yet I latched on to Gainesville as the worst possible outcome. I'd been to Gainesville. It was gorgeous. It was warm. It was friendly.
|Even the trash cans are owned by the university|
I can't write like that.
I can't live like that.
I'll find something, I told Derrick brightly. Wherever we go.
I wondered if I was lying.
Gets a lot worse before it gets better, kids. Tune in tomorrow for a train wreck of brutal honesty, heavy drinking, and self-destruction... or as I like to call it, Part Three.