On February 6th, I started a new job. After fourteen years as an insurance broker, I powered down my old work computer, tucked personal possessions in a crumpled tote, and walked away from a long chapter in my life. In the years leading up to that day, I learned how to navigate a male-dominated world. I grew into a person who appreciated what she had gained but itched to experience more. And I had the confidence to set out for new adventures.
On March 4th, I packed up my car and drove eight hundred miles south for Atlanta. Art too big to ship leaned against the empty walls of my Philly condo, the paperwork pending for a potential tenant. Twenty-five boxes filled with books, winter coats, and tattered journals from my adolescence sat stacked along the back wall of my cousin's office, their fate on hold until I figured out where I would be living. Oh right, I had no idea where I was living.
On April 1st, I had my first date with E. I couldn't deny concern about the age difference but his smile made me smile. The conversation lasted far longer than our grande iced-teas. When we parted ways, each setting off for other evening plans, I cursed the fact that he didn't look back over his shoulder. Because I already knew that I wanted to learn more about this man with a slight accent, expressive brown eyes, and no-poker-face-grin.
On May 26th, with three friends visiting from Philly, I applied a swipe of lipstick and set out for a night on the town. Along with E and Leslie, the six of us congregated at Blake's. We were there for the cheap drinks in plastic cups and the sexy drag queens belting it out to Rihanna. We raised our glasses, sang along to the tunes, and shook our hips to the rhythm pumping through the speakers. With one hand on my new boyfriend and my attention directed toward my old friends, two worlds melted into one.
On June 26th, I pulled the covers closer to my shoulders and rolled onto my side. Even through the darkness, I could see E, his eyes open as he pressed his cheek into his pillow. He said something. I said something. Nothing was hurtful. If anything, we were both being careful with our words, delicate with our sentiments. But somehow we had landed at the same place, acknowledging for once that the best choice for both of us would be to end things.
"I think you should take me home," he eventually said, his car intentionally at his condo with a plan to run back there in the morning.
"Are you sure?" I asked, realizing that, fair or not, I still wanted him by my side.
"I don't know."
A few more words were shared as I idled at a red light, as I pulled into a parking space at his complex, as we stood before each other beneath a half-lit moon.
"I love you," he said.
"I love you too, E."
He slowly backed away, settled his bag on hisshoulder, and disappeared down a hallway toward his condo. I'd be lying if I didn't say I slowed up as I pulled away, squinting against the darkness to catch one last glimpse of his frame. And I'd truly be lying if I didn't admit I cried.
PS: E is a gentle soul with a generous heart. He did me better than any man who came before him. When I'm struggling, I write, and he has always supported that habit of mine. Even now. But I can't help but ask you to be sensitive with your comments where E is concerned. He earned that. Trust me.