The Move (pt. 1)

She thought of how he would react when he read it, if he ever did. “You killed me!” he would say with mock annoyance. This was partly why she had written it—because Sam would know that it was about him and it would wound him. She had been in Boston three weeks and had not seen him yet.

In that time she had bought and assembled their wardrobe on her own and their bed and couch with Paul’s help. She had cooked dinner six times, eaten out six times and couldn’t remember what they had done the other days. She had had sex twelve times. She had carried furniture on what seemed like half the streets of Cambridge. She had spoken to her mother every day except for the two days her friend Shannon came to visit them while she went on Med School interviews in Boston. She had gone on two job interviews, accepted both positions, and reneged on both. She had written two stories about sex, one about running into Paul unexpectedly on the street and feeling strange, one about the funeral she had lately spoken at, and one in which Sam had died suddenly in a freak accident—pure fantasy. She was trying to decide how she would survive if something actually did happen to him, having recently realized that she was still pinning a lot of her happiness on him. It was a psychological experiment, then, and a lesson she thought she should have learned long ago.

So when she finally did see she him it was after she had written three drafts of a story in which he died two different ways, one where she mourned him like a widow in a melodrama and another where she hadn’t known him at all, but happened to be standing on the street watching as he was hit by the M66 bus. The girl in the brown hat. Paul was t.a.ing his first class, she was idle truly for the first time since she had moved in with him. Now that school was starting, she guessed she’d have to find something to do with herself in general—but today, she had finally consented to seeing Sam. After all, he was her only friend in Boston.

The irony wasn’t lost on her—the two men who she had loved in the last four years were both joining the same PhD program. They were going to be colleagues. Sometimes she thought about her future—maybe she would stay with Paul and they would run into Sam at some Professor’s cocktail party. And they would all be friends, and her old love for him would simply be part of the tapestry of her life; she would finally find a way to integrate him into her life without letting him obliterate everything. Or, she thought as she turned the corner and saw Sam flirting over the counter at Starbucks with the girl who was making his coffee, maybe not.
She stopped outside and watched him for a moment, wishing she were able to walk without kicking mud up on the back of her legs. He was standing with his arms resting on the glass pastry tray, leaning over the counter. The tray was high and it should have been awkward for him to lean on, but it seemed natural. He had just made a joke and they were both laughing. She disliked her own desire to disrupt the scene as quickly as possible, but she couldn’t control it.

“Hi,” she said casually, placing her hand on his back and appearing next to him, not even looking up, scanning the dessert tray as if she were trying to make a decision.

“Here she is!” he said in a showman’s voice. He leaned down to kiss her on the cheek, right on the curve of her cheekbone, underneath her eye.

She looked up at him. His sandy hair was longer than it had been when she’d seen him last, when she had cut it for him for the last time. They were standing close together—it almost seemed like they were going to kiss, but when he reached to brush a piece of hair away from her face she pulled away and made a face. The girl behind the counter was casting Angela a sidelong glance, trying to ascertain the situation. Sam, as if suddenly aware that he had left her hanging, looked at her, nodded heartily and said “she’ll have a venti cappuccino—lots of foam.” To Angela’s amazement, he actually winked at the girl, expertly communicating both his intimacy with Angela and his interest in the barista.

“You’re unbelievable,” she said, walking over to a table by the window. When he finally joined her she was looking through a crumpled edition of the Harvard Crimson that had been left on the table.

“Paul’s going to start working for them.” She said absentmindedly, tapping the paper with her forefinger.
“Oh yeah? I went on a date last night with the Arts Editor.”

“Oh yeah?” She raised her eyebrows.

He mimicked her expression, “Yes, Angela.”

When it was difficult for her to accept an idea, she had a habit of pursing her lips and nodding to herself—as if just one vigorous shake of her head would get that tough to swallow thing down. “So how’d it go?”

He looked down and smiled to himself. “Good—she’s real cool.”


He smiled at her intently and leaned across the table. “So—“ he said with flare, “how’s life with the professor?”

She scoffed. “Can you not call him that?”

“I don’t know...he seems old to me.” He leaned back in his chair and smiled, “always has.”

“He’s the same age as you. And everyone seems old to you.” She narrowed her eyes at him, but couldn’t help smiling.

“That’s true,” he shrugged. “I guess I just can’t wrap my mind around you living with somebody. You’re the second most immature person I know.”

“Next to you.”


She laughed. “You’re right.” Her expression darkened slightly. His chest tightened a little—he could sense that she was going to talk about something serious. True to form, she glanced up at him with intention. He was well acquainted with the subtle changes in her face when she wanted to unburden herself. In their first few months of dating, he had loved the responsibility of being her confidant. In time, however, he had come to see that she traded secrets when she was scared that she had no other hold on him. “I’m way too immature to be living with him,” she said slowly.

“So move out.” He looked into his coffee cup, almost guiltily.

“I just got here.” She hit him lightly on the arm for emphasis. “Plus, I don’t want to move out.” She wanted to say, ‘I love him,’ but she could never bring herself to tell the absolute truth about things to Sam. He already knew too much, she thought, about everything.

“Are you guys gonna’ get married?”

“No, no. How can you even ask that?”

“I don’t know.” He shook his head. “It just seems like why would you live together if you’re not going to get married.”

“That’s not the point Sam—“

“Then what is?”

She raised her eyebrows. “There is no point—It’s hard to describe.” She said slowly. “I mean, I’m not with him because it means anything about 50 years from now or even next week. That’s not why you’re with somebody.”

“That’s definitely not why I’m with somebody.”

She laughed. “You know what I mean. I would never be with someone because I thought they were promising me something.” She smiled at him, “In fact, if they tried to promise me something I’d probably be out the door.”

“See that’s how Paul has you figured out.”

He paused. “Go on,” she said.

“Well see, Paul’s a huge hippie, and he’s had a totally crazy life. And you see that, and you think, here’s a guy who’s just sort of rolling along and doesn’t have it all figured out. And that’s what makes you feel comfortable.” She started to protest, but he said, “Come on Ang, I know you way too well. I actually remember when we all first met I could tell that you were so impressed by all the shit that’s happened to him.”
She looked at him seriously. “You’re right. You are right about that. He’s been through a lot.”

“You just can’t see him from the outside because you’re with him. I saw him with other girls before we ever met you and he’s totally hopeless. I promise you that he wants to get married.” He hit the table for emphasis.

“He just knows that you’ll flip out if you realize that. And he totally gets that you love that he’s unpredictable—he’s got you all figured out. I mean, what do you think, the guy’s practically a genius.”

She smiled and shook her head. “You’re unbelievable. I love how easy it is for you to dissect my life.”
“Who better to do it? I know you better than almost anyone.”

“I guess.” She looked around, almost guiltily. They had been there for a long time and the tables were filled by different people than they had been when they arrived. It looked like it had stopped raining. “So are you and Paul going to play nicely together this year?”

“I’m always nice.” Her hand was resting palm up on the low table, and as he started to stand up he tapped his forefinger lightly on her wrist, right on the large vein that was visible through her light skin. He shook his head in the direction of the door. “I have to go.”

That night she and Paul had dinner with the Professor he was working for, and his wife. They were young and cool, but the strangeness of being out with a married couple (Jake and Lynn) was profound. She thought she could feel the man’s wife wondering what her story was. Telling it was difficult, and she demurred to Paul who noticed this and kept trying to make her talk.

“We met at Oxford, I was at Christ Church and Angela was going to Teddy Hall. We actually met through a mutual friend.” He looked at her.

“What were you studying there Angela?” Jake asked.

“English Literature.” She smiled. She didn’t want to disappoint. “I was working on this project on Lewis Carroll, and so I was doing all this research at Christ Church. But that actually wasn’t how we met, although I had seen him around. But, like Paul said we met through a friend, we were both at this thing—they have these drinking societies that put on these parties. For like ten pounds you go and it’s black tie—it’s just an excuse to drink and dress up. Anyway, that’s where we met.”

“I didn’t know you knew who I was,” he said with pleasure.

She smiled and he reached for her hand under the table. She looked at the people across the table from them. “I knew who he was because I noticed that he was an American. There’s not that many Americans at Christ Church, so I had noticed the lack of accent.”

She had trudged home from meeting Sam earlier that day and found Paul in the shower. She cracked the door and a surge of dampness descended into the cold air of their living room.

“I’m home.”

He poked his head out of the side of the shower curtain and smiled broadly. “Hey hey.” She slid through the small opening between the door and the wall, careful not to open the door too wide and release all the steam, and sat down on the toilet. He bent down to kiss her lightly on the lips. “Sorry to get you wet.”

“It’s okay,” she smiled. “How did it go today?”

“Oh—it was great.” He shook his head vigorously. He closed the curtain and went back to showering. “It was really great Angela, I really liked it.”

“That’s great baby. I’m so happy for you.”

“I know, I know.”

She felt glad. Paul was generally sort of evenly happy—it wasn’t often that he got genuinely, outwardly excited about something. “You sound so excited.”

He pulled back the curtain and nodded, “I am.”

“So do you want to go out and celebrate tonight?”

“Actually, the guy I’m teaching with wants to take us to dinner.”

“Really? That’s awesome. Well hurry up because I have to take a shower too.”

“Just come in here.”

She pulled back the curtain a little bit and kissed his wet head. “I have to shower Paul, like actually cleanse my body, without getting fondled”

“You showered this morning.”

“I know but I saw Sam today so now I have wash the stink off me.”

He was a little affronted, having not realized that they were even really in contact. He scrunched up his nose a little. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I’m telling you now.”

He raised his eyebrows. “Okay,” he said slowly. He understood the need to hang on to former loves—just that day he had gotten an email from the woman he dated before Angela, who had broken things off with him when her mother died unexpectedly. He genuinely thought that new loves and old loves could coexist in a well-ordered mind, and he understood that it was complicated. It was Sam that bothered him. He knew too well that Angela had a soft spot for him that defied logic. It was this knowledge that made him decide not to push the issue. “Well, like I said, get in here.”

“Paul—“ she looked at him. “Okay,” she said, pulling her shirt over her head. She paused and pointed a finger at him. “But don’t distract me.”

He put his hand above his head and smiled. “I wouldn’t touch you if my life depended on it.”

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