When Alex told me she wanted to end things on a Wednesday at 9:30pm, I kind of tuned out. Not a great time to disappear into one's head, I admit, but I did. I thought about the time. It was late, and I already felt exhausted. How could I make it through this conversation? Should I try to go to work tomorrow or should I get in touch with my boss now? What about that weekend's planned trip to Oklahoma? Should I text my friend -- who I had emailed hours earlier about what to pack -- and tell her we were no longer coming? (I ultimately went, just me and Spencer.) Then, worse than contemplating the immediate future, I started to consider the real future. Flashing before my eyes was the life I imagined for us, crumbling.
I'm a fairly risk averse person. I try not to even let myself think too far down the line so as not to set myself up for disappointment. I think I waited six months into dating Alex to tell my sister about her, just in case. I waited months to mention her to coworkers even at socially liberal NPR. But five years into our relationship, I had finally allowed myself to picture "forever" with her. She seemed to be able to picture it, too, so I took her cues and ran with it. I imagined we'd get married in St. Louis at some point before her PhD was done, assuming gay marriage became legal in Missouri. We'd buy a small house or condo. We might even get a second dog. And in a few years when she completed her program, I imagined picking up all over again and moving to some new place for another adventure. I didn't need to picture where, just as long as it was our little family, us and our dog(s).
As I sat next to her on the couch while it all ended, my mind was racing with these thoughts. On top of them, I had some absolutely stupid regrets. Why had I brought her to Christmas last year? If I'd waited longer, aunts and cousins would have never known this had started, or ended. Why did I buy two sleeping bags and a tent (and remove the tags, god dammit) in advance of the camping trip I hoped we would take and now never would? And why did I encourage my sister, her family, and my brother to visit me in St. Louis? Their tickets were already booked. I had been excited to show them my new life, my little family. Now they'd only see me a mess. Then, another concern. Should I invent a new story for why I moved to St. Louis? Up until now, people I met always asked why I was here. I had always answered "for my partner's PhD program." Now what?
I imagined throwing in the towel and leaving for Boston, my go-to backup plan. Before I left DC for St. Louis, I'd quickly (and jokingly) mentioned to my sister that her basement was my Plan B in case everything went to shit. A year and change later, I guess it had? But it didn't seem like an easy plan to implement. How would I get me, my stuff, and Spencer there? Would I give up a great job in St. Louis for uncertainty in Boston? It seemed like a lot of work, not to mention risk, just to give up. So, within an hour of everything happening, I made up my mind to stay.
I emailed my realtor a week later, and today -- two and a half months after everything changed -- I'm writing this from my very own home. I'm happy with what I have. I feel accomplished for pulling it together when everything was falling apart. I'm excited to have a garage and take a bath in my jacuzzi tub. But in the week since I've been here, I've also caught myself thinking, "Wouldn't this be perfect... if it was our home?" I guess I did buy a condo after all, just not how I had imagined.