I don’t remember what we were talking about. I remember the clear blue sky, the bright sunshine, the strong coffee, the warm cup in my hand. I remember the color of the shirt Rodrigo was wearing, the way his body felt against mine, sitting together on his porch. But I don’t remember what we were talking about. All I remember of that conversation is that suddenly, seemingly without warning, he suggested that we move in together.
Photo by Jessica Spengler.
I smiled. I smiled more because I knew this was a nice sentiment than because I felt this was a nice sentiment. It’s not that I don’t like Rodrigo – I adore Rodrigo. It’s just that moving in with someone is about a lot more things than just adoring someone. Anyone who thinks love is enough to make anything work has obviously never been married. And if they are married, then I need whatever drugs they’re on.
There are the big things, like figuring out what happens if it doesn’t work out, who has to leave and who gets to stay? How long do they get to make this happen? Sure, all of this and other legal issues can be handled with a cohab, the prenup-like document for couples who simply want to cohabitate.
But there were other things. I remember the rush of being alone in my apartment after my divorce. The men who delivered my bed had just set it up and left. I’d just laundered the new sheets and made the bed. I lit a cigarette and fell backwards into the bed. This was mine. I had no idea what I would do with the space, but I knew that it was mine to decorate and arrange as it suited me. I didn’t know how yet, but I knew nothing would be beige.
That freedom – how can I describe that freedom to anyone who doesn’t know what it feels like to be trapped in your own life? That was two years ago but having my own apartment, even if most of the time it served as a glorified storage space as I traveled, and started to spend more and more time at Rodrigo’s. But it was still mine. It was an option. I could go there whenever I wanted. No one else had a key, even though Rodrigo had given me a key to his apartment a few weeks after we started seeing each other.
Clearly he doesn’t have as many issues as I do.
Then there were the insecurities. The side of me that would remind me that we were practically living together already. But! There was always a but. If we actually moved in together, then he would see me all the time. He would see me with a facial mask on. He would see my clothes in the closet, stripped of the magic they held when they were on me – or on the floor. He would see how much time it took me to get ready. I don’t always wake up looking perfect, it’s a complete charade – and he would finally see through it. I own sweat pants, for God’s sake. No man needs to know this.
If Rodrigo wasn’t as OCD as I am, I would have worried about keeping the apartment as clean as I liked it, but since I knew he was as obsessed with a space so sterile it would have been perfectly safe to conduct open-heart surgery in any room of the house, I worried instead about the periods when I was busy on a story and I tore the place apart with no concern for any order whatsoever. I am extremist – my place is either impeccable or it is a disaster area. How would he cope?
What about work? I’ve been able to work with him, but that’s different than knowing that whatever I don’t get done I can get done at my apartment later on.
When was the last time I was at my apartment for more than a quick run to get things, anyway? Three weeks, maybe a month? My practical side kicked in: it really would make more sense to move in together at this point. Think of the savings!
Tentatively, I set down my coffee and said, “it would be the smarter, most practical thing to do. It makes financial sense.”
“I don’t want you to agree to move in together because it makes financial sense,” he responded. “I want you to decide to move in together because you want to live with me.”
I didn’t say anything. He was waiting for some answer. I didn’t have any answers. So instead, I mumbled, “I’m terrified.”
He kissed my forehead.
“I’ll wait until you aren’t.”
As each month came to a close following this conversation, I’d become consumed with the question all over again. Some people stress out about paying the rent or the mortgage. I’d stress out about living with a wonderful, attentive, respectful man. You’re free to strangle me the next time you see me.
But Rodrigo didn’t pressure me or ask again. Finally one morning four months later, I woke up and I realized that I wanted more than to be with this man: I wanted to build a life with him. And that life started with sharing a daily point of origin we could both call our own with equal conviction. Our life, our things, our home.
I really wish I could offer an equation, or some elaborate chart to complete on a spreadsheet to determine whether it's a good idea to move in with someone, but I don't. I have only the certainty that I want to share my space and life with this person, and the satisfaction from that is greater than the knowledge that he will eventually realize that my sultry smokey-eyes are really just the dark circles under my eyes in camouflage.
I thought about it carefully all day long. Finally, when he returned that night, I told him I wanted us to live together. But first, we were going to have to talk about decorating. I'd seen couples undone by arguments about the proper way to install toilet paper. This, along with how to make the bed, how to fold the towels, and how it is never acceptable to leave dishes in the sink -- ever -- had to be immediately addressed.
He is servers and gadgets. I am books and paintings. Would we find a way to make everything find a home within this new arrangement? There was only one way to find out. And I was finally ready.