“I wondered what I was getting myself into, and what I was getting R. into.”
Author’s Note: This is the second part of a six-part story written from memory, and as memory is an unreliable source, I cannot say this story is entirely true, nor that it’s completely false. As a result, people’s names, the name of the newspaper and the town in which the newspaper is located do not appear in this story. Nor should they.
Part 1: “Hope in the Form of an Email Arrives” can be found here.
2: HEAD WEST?
As the days passed, the possibility of moving to New Mexico created a lingering tension between R. and me. We discussed what it all meant, and we soon found that we had no more left to discuss. The problem of moving to New Mexico together was obvious. The problem of her not moving was clear.
I tried to ameliorate her concerns by telling her that whatever she decided, we’d find a way to make our relationship work. It wasn’t a destination job. It was place to get some experience, then move on. It was temporary.
Still, when I privately thought about our move to New Mexico, I was less certain. The salary was awful and I knew it. It wasn’t nearly enough to support us both, which meant R. would have to find a job once we moved down there. She was a yoga instructor, a career that wasn’t in the highest demand in the desert. I also didn’t want her to be in a situation where she was working as a clerical assistant for some redneck with right-wing sensibilities and a penchant for demeaning behavior.
Compounding the issue, we would also be in the middle of nowhere, which meant we’d both need a car to go to our jobs, when she found one. We couldn’t afford another car. We could barely afford the one we had. Factor in my credit card debt from being unemployed for so long, my graduate school loans and the cold steel fact that I’d have to buy her an engagement ring too, and, well—the situation seemed like a trigonomic absurdity.
When I thought about her staying in Chicago while I lived in New Mexico, the only clear path that option provided was to the end of our relationship. We could try to pretend that it wasn’t the case. But it was. It just was.
Regardless of whether or not she went, the salary was my biggest concern. With all the other costs and expectations, I knew there wouldn’t be enough money left for a spontaneous exodus. I have enough of a temper that a disagreement with the editor might lead to the immediate termination of my employment. But I could control that, to some extent.
The other part was that newspapers aren’t a particularly stable enterprises and I had to prepare for the possibility that I could be laid off or fired with no warning and no severance. I thought about that one notch in the plan quite a bit. I realized too, that I could be fired because, well, just because. I wondered what I was getting myself into, and what I was getting R. into.
In the meantime, I exchanged Emails with an office assistant from the newspaper. She set me up with a flight, a rental car, and a room at a local Marriott Courtyard. She explained that I’d have to fly into Albuquerque, before driving more than three hours to the town. As I processed this information, I had more considerations. If R. moved with me, we’d be somewhat isolated, and I was quite sure the isolation would drive her crazy. If I were down there by myself with the slim hope that R. and I would be able to stay together, coming home to Chicago would be an epic hassle.
I imagined struggling to get a story in on deadline on a Friday, then grabbing my suitcase and driving to the airport in Albuquerque. I’d have to endure the usual hassles of flying: checking in, going through the security line, waiting for a flight that was delayed. Once I was on the plane, I’d most likely have to sit between two people who teetered on the cusp of morbid obesity. One of them would need a seat belt extension, and it would probably be the person in the window seat, who would have to reach across my face as she or he grabbed the contraption from the flight attendant. The other person would quickly occupy the armrest, leaving me to bunch up my shoulders and tolerate the resulting cramp. All of this, of course, would happen as an infant two rows back blared like a car alarm in the stillness of the night.
By the time I reached Chicago, I’d be too exhausted to pay much attention to R. We’d have Saturday together, then on Sunday I’d head back to O’Hare and learn that my flight had been delayed. I’d sit in the airport, getting angry that hours of my life were being taken from me and dreading the treacherous drive through the highland desert back to that depressing small town and a job would most likely be taking my self-esteem away in slivers and pin pricks.
Sadly, that scenario was all too possible to me. Still, I pushed away the concerns and confirmed the travel reservations with the office assistant. I could worry about the potential problems after I had a job offer.
As those thoughts ran amok in my mind, R. was becoming unflappably optimistic. Determined to find a way, she researched the surrounding areas, made a few phone calls and found a resort where she thought she might be able to get a job teaching yoga. She shared her research with me and announced with stunning, unexpected alacrity, “I’m in!”
“You’re in?” I asked incredulously.
“If you get the job, I’ll think I can find a way to go with you,” she said.
Her answer wasn’t certain, but it was a far cry from where we started. For a moment, I was relieved. At least I wouldn’t have to make that cursed commute back and forth to Chicago.
—Photo by rutlo/Flickr