When I was twenty-five, I had a specific idea of where my life would take me in the next ten years. I would fall in love, have two kids, and drive a Range Rover. I would live on the Main Line, summer in New England, and tend to the family dog Tucket, a Golden Retriever named for Nantucket. You know, one of the places where I would routinely vacation. My kids would attend private school. My husband would be ambitious. Life would be good.
At thirty-nine, I live in a two-bedroom apartment in a city that still doesn't feel like home. It isn't the Main Line, but it is the ritzy part of Atlanta. I don't drive a Range Rover, but I'm often idling next to one at a red light. Meaning on a daily basis I peer through car windows and gawk at women living the life I once aspired to have. Goldens shed and I continue to struggle to keep plants alive, making me hesitant to own a dog. Though I'm currently exploring the idea of adopting a six-year-old, one-eyed pup from a nearby shelter.
"She's scary!" Olivia, my niece, said when I showed her the dog on my computer.
Oh, right, I don't have kids either. The closest I've come to motherhood is babysitting Leslie's kids. And seeing I advocated letting them watch an R-rated movie the other night, a film that started with Jonah Hill going down on some no-name actress, I fear I'd suck at the mom thing. Though, in my defense, I did run for the television and block their view until his head was out of her crotch.
"Aunt Paige, we can't see!"
" I know, that's the point!"
These two different worlds, the idyllic one of a twenty-five-year-old and experienced one of a thirty-nine-year-old collided last week. It was the gap of time that spans between those two existences that drove me and E to end things. There were words he had spoken and feelings I had sensed. After all these years, I had come to accept that summering in New England can be rife with mosquitoes and spoiled New Yorkers fleeing the city. But when E peers into the distance, he still sees the pristine life he has mapped out for himself.
A few days after ending things, E and I met up for frozen yogurt at a place around the corner from me. He had mentioned getting tapped for an incredible opportunity at work and I suggested we celebrate over self-serve and unlimited toppings.
"I don't want to break-up," he eventually said.
"But there are things you've expressed, experiences you want to have. And honestly, you have every right to want them," I replied. "Also, I don't want to rob you of those experiences."
"I thought I knew what I wanted. Now I'm not sure. All I know is I can't imagine not having you in my life."
It was a difficult place we had suddenly come to. In the prior forty-eight hours, friends had commended me and E for maturely ending a relationship for legitimate reasons. No one was hurt. No mean words were spoken. But at the same time, at no point were our conerns resolved. There were still years and a stream of life-altering experiences seperating us.
"What do you want?" E asked as he leaned forward in his chair, rested his elbows on his knees. "You, what do YOU want?"
It was a question I so rarely ask myself when others are involved. It is my instinct to accommodate the people around me, defer to their desires. There are only so many things in life worth fighthing for. At the end fo the day, eating pizza over sushi isn't worth getting my panties in a wad. And anyway, the times I have gone along with things I would have otherwise dismissed, I've appreciated the experience. See escargots, South of the Border, and World of Coke for examples. But here I was, sitting across from a man whom I utterly adored, being asked to think long and hard about what I wanted.
I ran my fingers across the hem of my dress. I looked across the room, back at E. A sense of calm and comfort blanketed me. I inhaled a breath and exhaled my answer.
"I still want to date you."