There's something romantic about talking to someone on the phone, even if it is the romance of 1983. I could feel close to him without the fear of actually being close to him. I never had to worry what I looked like, if I was blushing, never had to feel preoccupied by what I was wearing, by a body that stubbornly refused to do what I wanted. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if we had lived in the same city. Would we have stumbled drunkenly into bed and scared one another to opposite sides of the room the next day? Could we have ever gotten to know each other in the same way if we hadn't been confined to opposite sides of a cellphone signal, 1,300 miles apart, nothing to do but rummage through every story we have, one long conversation in which every fifteen minutes someone said, "Oh oh oh"?
There was one thing we couldn't talk about — my case, which limped its way through the courts for six long months. The preliminary motion was lost, but the assistant district attorney filed an appeal, which we won, and one and a half years after I was mugged — and about two weeks before I planned to see Nick in person, not for the first time but sort of for the first time — the kid who mugged me pled guilty. He got fifteen years. It's a long time. And it's a bad trade for two purses and about $150. But like I said before, the worst thing that happens to you could, unexpectedly, lead to the best.
Anyway, I flew down to see Nick soon after that. I already knew I was in love with him. But that was so cuckoo, so entirely bananas, that I thought I must be mistaken.
I don't cry in restaurants much anymore. I cry in airports.
How could you love someone before you even kissed them? Before you even held their hand? I would try to dig up the old catastrophist in me, rooting around for possible dealbreakers: What if he was bad in bed? What if he had the Eagles on his iPod?
Try as I could, I never was able to drum up the old shrieking, familiar angst. Maybe I just knew it would work out. Maybe I had calmed down with age. Maybe I had finally realized that the people we love do not come perfect and fully formed to us, that part of the fun is to shape each other and learn from each other. And you know what? Nick does have the Eagles on his iPod. And turns out, I think that's totally adorable.
I don't cry in restaurants much anymore. I cry in airports, where it's just as hard to hide. I cry in bed, too. Not because of fights we have (we haven't had those yet). I cry for silly, random reasons. I cry because my cat is going to die one day, before I'm ready, and life without him feels unfathomable.
"This is such a stupid thing to cry about," I say.
"I actually think it's a pretty good thing to cry about," Nick says.
I cry sometimes that Nick will be taken away from me. Not that he will cheat, or break up with me, but that he will somehow be ripped from my life. It is hard for me to love something without worrying that it will somehow leave. So I have nightmares that I get sent to an internment camp. I have nightmares that I am trying to board a train to his place but it never stops, just keeps passing me by as I stand on the platform's edge, waiting indefinitely.
We are lying in bed one morning — my leg draped over his side, his hand running along my bare thigh. "I keep worrying that you'll go away," I say.
"But I just got here."
"I know." I start to cry but it's softer than it used to be, less barbed. The tear from my cheek drips onto his back. "It took you a long time."
"Is that bad?"
It isn't bad. "It was just lonely for a while."
I don't remember what happens next. Maybe we have sex. Maybe we drift off to sleep. Maybe we lie there, not saying anything, and he turns to me and kisses my damp cheek, and I run my hand through the soft, short crop of his hair, close my eyes, and sigh. I do know one thing: Whatever happens, I stop crying.
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
|| Sarah Hepola has been a high-school teacher, a playwright, a film critic, a music editor and a travel columnist. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, The Guardian, Salon, and on NPR. She lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
©2008 Sarah Hepola and Nerve.com