an October apart

Over the past several years, I’ve had ample opportunity to miss Dave.

There were those two years spent apart, where I was mostly OK, but every so often needed to spring for a last-minute Amtrak ticket just to remind myself I had a real live boyfriend. (You know you really love someone when you’re willing to pay lots of money to board a train that’s bound for New Jersey.)

There were also all those trips I took last year, to Italy and Scotland and India and Ecuador, where I frequently found myself all alone, or in semi-grave danger, or both, and desperately wanted to hear his voice or offer him a lick of my gelato or ask him to gauge the width of the rifle currently pointed at my head.

But he wasn’t there, and save a few very-expensive long-distance phone calls, I traipsed through it by myself, the better for it, I’m sure, but a little sad nonetheless.

All the while, as I was criss-crossing the globe and living in our nation’s capital, Dave was less than lonely. He’s always lived close to his parents, and will happily evacuate to their home whenever school gets stressful or that girl who cooks him dinner and makes his bed is gone for more than a night. He also appears to really like his family. And looks forward to family vacations. And didn’t appear to miss me very much while he was perched on the beach in Maui, drinking something called a fishbowl and plotting the best way to avoid the crowds of ten-year-olds on the line for the waterslides. (I suppose I might not have needed as many of those emergency phone calls either if my getaways had been a little more Oahu and a little less Agra. Oh well.)

But these days, two weeks into his little California adventure, the tables are turned. He’s sleeping on couch cushions plopped on the floor. He’s car-less in a city known for its lack of public transportation and dependence on motor vehicles. His one friend, who has been gracious enough to let Dave crash at his apartment, has bad hours and no internet and conveniently deposited his television off at his parents’ house the week before Dave arrived. The TV relocation was meant to enable the friend to study for the GMAT without distraction but had the devastating side-effect of cutting off Dave’s access to his beloved Yankees (who were, momentarily, in the playoffs.)

Without baseball or a bed or the beloved, aging minivan his parents let us cruise around Jersey in, the kid is all alone. And he misses me. A lot.

He calls in the morning, on his walk to work, past the strip malls and the gas stations that make up the city he doesn’t really like very much at all. He calls in the evenings, after his day at the hospital is through, or even sometimes during lunch, when he’s still there. For someone who’s always the happy, optimistic counterpart to my moody, dramatic self, he sounds vaguely…sad. Even a much anticipated weekend trip to Vegas failed to cheer him up (though that may have less to do with how much he misses me and more to do with the fact that he lost his debit card and is at the mercy of our joint account – religiously monitored by yours truly – and knows that taking out cash to gamble is totally not going to fly.)

Whatever the reason, he’s kind of miserable. And, while I ultimately want nothing more than for him to be happy, always, I have to admit that I think there’s some value in his little foray into loneliness. After all, the absence of someone can sometimes be just as important as their presence; the empty, echoey apartment just as crucial as those days when they’re sitting next to you at the dinner table and bumping into you in the awkwardly shaped bathroom and lying there next to you in bed before you fall asleep. It’s the only way to really know, really feel, that you can’t live without someone, a gut-check that carries special importance when there’s a big move (potentially) looming on the horizon.

It’s important for Dave to know why he’s asking me to come, and it’s important for me to know why I’m going. Not just because there’s a ring on my finger or because our relationship has a new label that comes with a certain amount of gravitas. But because we really, truly want to be together, always.

And if it take a few weeks on the West Coast to totally get that, to really feel that, in an almost physical way, well, then I think it’s all been worth it.

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