I woke up with the sun. I never used to wake up with the sun, sleeping well into ten o’clock, but very recently, my body began to shake me awake in time to watch the sunrise. I didn’t know what change had caused that, but it wasn’t entirely unpleasant. Sure, it required an extra cup of coffee at work, but I didn’t mind watching the yellow and orange hues of the sky.
That’s not true, I lied, I know what caused the change. What had begun the trend of waking up with the sun. It was him. It was the move.
I yawned, sitting up in my bed. Stretching my arms out, eyes closed and still full of sleep. It felt strange, waking up in a bare room. Not entirely bare, though, filled to the brim with brown boxes. Taped up so that it locked my stuff, my memories, away. It didn’t feel like my room anymore. All its charm was lost, charm that I had worked so hard to build.
But whatever, I thought, no use complaining now. It was all said and done, and now I had a train ticket on the dresser and an apartment full of boxed up memories. Joshua was expecting me soon, anyway.
I had coached myself into the same speech every time I watched the sunrise at an ungodly hour. You love him. He loves you. This is the natural progression of your relationship. It usually worked, providing at least a little bit of comfort.
That was months ago, though, and now it seemed too real. Too soon. And that same speech couldn’t take the edge off the anxiousness I felt.
It also didn’t help that today was my last day of work and the day the movers were coming, and the first thing I saw was the train ticket, sitting quietly on my bedside dresser. Not quietly enough for my taste.
Joshua booked me a train ticket himself… he thought I would like the view better than a plane.
I staggered out of bed, head still clouded with missed sleep. The boxes continued out of the bedroom and into the kitchen and living room. Piled boxes that taunted me. Saddened me. I ignored them as I also trained myself to do ever since they’d been packed up.
My phone was charging on the kitchen counter, and it was the first thing I picked up. I turned it on and found a message from Joshua and Tabitha. Unsurprising but not unpleasant though, not entirely.
Josh: one more day! miss you so much!
Reading his messages made me feel guilty for all the time I’d spent regretting my decisions and worrying about the future. It was clear what we were supposed to do and what was supposed to happen, so… why did it feel so wrong to me? I couldn’t tell you, still can’t, but all I do is feel wrong. Then, I feel guilty. It’s a pretty shitty cycle, so I moved on to Tabitha’s text.
Tab: last day 🙁
I frowned, lightly. Last day of a lot of things, I guess. Last day of work, something that I should celebrate, but it also felt like yet another part of my life that I was abandoning.
I glanced behind my shoulder and out the large living room window. The sun was beginning to peak out from the tops of the buildings. I had a lot of time before my last day of work. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to spending quality time with my thoughts.
The rest of the day was a little bit of a blur. Perhaps my body had been doing everything to prevent the wave of emotions from flooding into my system, so it reverted to blocking it all out. I wasn’t sad about it, though. I didn’t mind not feeling much.
There were a lot of tearful goodbyes from my coworkers. Cards and hugs. Tabitha was there too. She usually was off on Thursdays but had promised to be there for my last day.
“The magazine won’t be the same without our star journalist,” she joked. I laughed, but it felt a little too real. A little too close to home.
She had offered to take me to the train station tomorrow too, but I had declined. It was my own battle to fight, that train.
After work, the movers came and took all my boxes and furniture that I didn’t need anymore. Couches, lamps, kitchen supplies, all sold and leaving me. Posters, video game controllers, and my 80’s movies DVD collection were packed inside big suitcases.
I felt empty when they left. An empty person to match their empty house. It was like every bit of my life was taken from me and loaded onto a truck, and I didn’t understand it. Shouldn’t I be happy? Josh and I were moving in together. I get to see my boyfriend everyday and not just through nighttime Skype calls. Shouldn’t I be over the moon, jumping for joy? Shouldn’t I feel something… anything? No, I felt something.
Sadness. I felt a lot of sadness.
Finally, I gave up. I couldn’t stand being in this apartment anymore. So, I left for the deli. I walked past yellow taxis that honked too much, and I wondered how long I had to be annoyed at them.
“Leaving today, huh?” Mike asked, arms crossed over the counter. I smiled.
“Uh-huh. Train bound for Chicago leaves tomorrow… ”
“You excited?” he asked.
“Of course.” That was always my response. I thought maybe if I said I was excited enough, I’d grow to believe it.
“Well… I’ll miss you, Jen. The usual?”
My usual was a turkey on a roll. Little bit of mayo and three tomatoes. No lettuce. Mike knew. I’d been coming here as long as I’d lived in the city. My little slice of home. It never hit me that in Chicago there’d be no Mike. No Sal either, and I wouldn’t get to say goodbye to Sal because he worked the first half of the week and Mike worked the second half. In Chicago, there’d be no Mike or Sal, and I’d have to say my order out loud because the deli owners there wouldn’t know my usual.
The emptiness was coming back to me.
“Here you go,” Mike said, sliding the wax wrapped sandwich across the counter. I handed him my crumpled five dollar bill. He refused with a sad smile.
“Tonight is on me, Jen,” he told me. My heart bubbled with warmth. “Consider it a going away present.”
“Mike… I’m gonna miss you so much.”
I’d miss Mike and Sal. I’d miss Tabitha. I’d miss the city and the Hudson River and Central Park. I’d miss the West End Magazine, and I’d miss my apartment. Not the one now, but the one where all my boxes were unpacked and all my memories were preserved.
God, I’d miss my home.
The last thing the movers took was my bed, and I only had my suitcase filled with essential items I used last night and will use on the… train ride. Chargers, toothbrush and toothpaste, and other stuff I absolutely needed. Everything was finally gone. It hurt… it was all gone.
My train ticket was still there, though. Burning a hole into my kitchen counter. I was stalling all morning. Took an extra ten minutes in the bathroom. Ate an exceptionally long breakfast of pasta leftovers that I took a little bit too much care into stirring before putting in the microwave. I stared out the window, blank-faced, for longer than normal. I called the cab twenty minutes later than I should have.
I lingered inside my apartment, my home, and wished it would all go away. The texts Josh was sending me, full of smileys and hearts and warm messages about seeing me. The movers, the empty living room. I wanted it all to just… stop.
It wouldn’t though, and I had a train to catch.
The cab ride was smelly. Cabs were always smelly, though, so I wasn’t particularly surprised. Something was different about this cab ride, though, because I found myself feeling nostalgic at the bad smell rather than lightheaded and annoyed. A small smile twitched at the corner of my lips, my heartstrings tugging.
I peered out of the taxi window to see the New York City skyline becoming smaller and smaller. I closed my eyes, leaning back against the car seat. It’s really happening, huh? was my only thought. I’m really leaving the city.
I wasn’t sure the nausea pooling in my stomach was entirely from the lurching taxi ride.
I arrived at the platform just in time to see the loud train, screeching and clunking and roaring down the tracks. I ran towards the edge, breathless from the running across the train station to make the train I was watching pull away. I had missed it.
For a few seconds, I was silent as I watched my ride towards Josh and towards my new life disappear down the endless tracks.
Then, slowly, a thought dawned in my hazy mind and fast, rising chest. My face crumpled up in both guilt and joy. How am I going to explain this to Joshua? was my first question. It didn’t matter. None of all of this mattered because, even from the moment Josh asked me to move in with him, I always wanted to miss the train.