Who was this man next to me, his body curled up against mine?
"I’ll be there in a minute," I said. I stood in the center of the room, alone, finding that I couldn’t breathe.
What else was I going to do? He had a job and a place to be. I didn’t, but I had him. I could feel the tremors of change even before we graduated, growing more pronounced as the date approached: time to get serious. We’d been dating for more than three years, and we loved each other, and my friends already had roommates, and I couldn’t afford to live by myself. So we signed a lease. We packed our things in shared boxes. It felt sensible and grown‑up. And maybe taking this plunge would repair whatever hairline crack had already appeared between us, in the late months of senior year. Double or nothing.
In New York, we settled into a routine along with our friends, accruing habit fast. We all endured the same things: shoebox apartments, crowded subways, overpriced groceries, indifferent bosses. What kept everyone going was the dream: store windows on Madison Avenue, brownstones lit golden in the night, town cars gliding across the park. Imagining what it would be like when you got there, someday. Manhattan was like a dazzling lifesize diorama. A motivation to work harder, stay later, wake earlier. Fantasy is the only escape valve – what’s all the pain worth without it? But not for me. I’d screw my eyes shut and try to imagine it, what the future would look like, what alchemy might transform our current situation. But nothing came. There was no thread of hope. Who was this man next to me, his body curled up against mine? What was this feeling of vertigo that sometimes came with the blurry edge before sleep? I realized that I had made a mistake. Evan wasn’t the one. We weren’t meant to be.
And so my life in New York grew smaller and smaller, a thorny tangle of dead ends. I rattled around in the tiny apartment. I hated my job. Evan was too busy. My friends were too busy. I was lonelier than ever. The problem was obvious. I was trapped in an airless bubble, with no plan to get out. My life lacked any escape.
Until, against my better instincts, I went looking for it in the wrong place.