When to Leave and How to Stay

By October 24, 2011On Love, Stateside

I quietly inch open the door to my room and slide my Keds off my aching feet, quickly tossing my jeans onto the floor at the edge of the bed. The light is still on and he lies on his back, glasses still perfectly placed on his sleeping face, shorts and belt still around his waist. He tried to wait up for me, unsuccessfully, of course. It is 12:17 in the morning and I have been on my feet the past eight hours. I slide into bed next to him and kiss him gently on the mouth as I place his glasses beside the bed.

“Oh, hey there.” He says sleepily, his eyes still closed but his mouth looking to kiss mine once more. “Hey there.” I reply with a seductive glint in my eye as I slide his shorts off and make my way in next to him. He wakes up enough to roll over and kiss me just a few more times, but his alarm will go off in fewer than five hours and within minutes I can hear him sleeping soundly once again. Knowing I have the whole day to sleep in once he leaves for work I don’t rouse him from his snoring, but lie with my eyes half-open, his arm wrapped around my chest, wondering for how long this is going to be enough when there isn’t an end in sight.

In the pale dark of autumn morning he kisses me hard and holds me close in the minutes before it’s time for him to go. He will work from 7AM to 4PM and just as he is making his way back to his place I will slip into the one pair of jeans I own and make my way back to the bar for another eight hour shift. Our work schedules are so cruelly incompatible that we fight for even these sleepy, fleeting moments knowing they only taunt us with what we can’t have. At least I’m making good money, I say. Often pulling two hundred bucks or more a night, yet my piggy bank is as hungry as it was when I arrived. And now I remember the costly fatigue of denying myself the things that I want.

All the times in my life I have been capable of exercising discipline in one facet, I inevitably lose self control in another. If I am dieting, I end up spending more money. Try to quit drinking, eat more food. So I go to work five days a week and more often than not come home to an empty bed. But when it comes to the two days I have off to spend with him, or even the hours after my shift when I know there is no one waiting for me at home, I spend the money I’ve made as recklessly as I’ve ever been known to do. With each sacrifice I make comes an equal and opposite indulgence.

But what happened to the girl who said “saving money became the thing I wanted more than anything else?” Since when did all of these things mean more than the next destination? DC was only meant to be a different place to save, this job a better means to the same end, a place to feel like home until it was time to go. But in the months since I scored that one-way exit strategy from a city I hated, my year abroad in Colombia has dissipated to nothing but a two-week vacation. Perhaps believing alone in South America isn’t where I want to be three months from today is the reason my money keeps finding its way into my pockets instead of my piggy bank. But how did everything change so fast?

For all the years of bouncing around the planet swinging blindly from one unraveling thread of a connection to the next, I could never stop to sew anything together. Changing course for some half-hashed love contradicted everything I needed to do. Yet now I find myself tossing whole plane tickets to the trash. In the jarring epiphany of a fiercely independent wanderer I realize it’s not that I don’t want to leave, it’s that I don’t want to leave him behind.

But any life I have here will always be fighting the nine-to-five of everyone I know: an endless game of sacrifice, of missed connections, and ephemeral glimpses of what I can’t have, reminding me the boundless freedom life on the road provides, but also the loneliness that inevitably accompanies that freedom. Maybe one day the effortless sway of our drunkards affair will sober as quickly and inevitably as morning floods a hungover bed. But if it doesn’t, I know my only plans can’t be struggling to find time to share those sheets with him, and burning through another dollar with each reiterated frustration.

If I want this boy as much as I think I do, I’m going to have to hold on to hope that he might just want to come with me whenever it’s time to go. And if once again all my worst laid plans vanish to the wind without even a token of their once spectacular promise, I know I’ll be leaving then just the same.

With renewed resolve I will collect the days we can find together and stack them neatly next to the few things I take with me whenever I go. I will work too much and roll my own cigarettes and live on mac & cheese and finally put my money each night directly into my little piggy where it belongs for whatever future into which I stumble. In my mind this morning it is me and him against the seas bouncing carelessly from one island to the next. In my mind I have everything, the freedom of leaving and the comforts of love. But perhaps he is meant to be only a sweet shade of memory I quietly carry with me, a reminder of how comfortable having a home can be. The only thing I can truly know now is that no matter where the next year tempts and tumbles me, I am not done wandering yet.

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