It starts in 2006. We are dropping the college beer weight. We have paychecks that (mostly) cover our Saturday nights. We share a dog between four of us that we take turns smuggling in and out of the apartment in a large bag, averting our eyes at the “NO DOGS ALLOWED” signs posted along the bathroom route. We are one month, two months, four months, seven months into this new pronoun, us. We go to Bed, Bath and Beyond to buy you a mattress pad for the nights I sleep over. I sleep over a lot.
It is 2007, late summer, early fall, one of those periods when all the U-Haul trucks are rented out and we are scraping together our security deposits. Our not-yet-closest friends are moving in together after years of dating. They have a roommate, another close friend, their third wheel. Smart, we say. They’re just saving money, we tell each other. Then the wine hutch appears.
It is brown and sturdy. There is no accompanying booklet with a crudely drawn Swedish man assembling furniture step by step. It has slots to hang wine glasses upside down. It is a gift from one of their parents, an “investment piece.” It sits in their shared living room, but we know it is meant for a future room. It says: we will lose all the beer weight, we will buy pots and wine glasses with stems, we will pay down debt and accumulate more, we will get older. We will choose one person.
We ignore the wine hutch.
It is 2008. To celebrate the end of your first year in law school, we go camping, and you break your foot diving for the Frisbee. We ignore the swelling and go crabbing. We go to our first wedding and laugh when your aunt asks about my left hand ring finger. You move apartments and plastic tubs of your mom’s old dishes.
It is 2009, and our now-closest friends get married, and their wine hutch leaves the East Coast with them. I move away for school; you help me stuff trash bags with my clothes. We go to the Nutcracker at Christmastime, but we cannot afford two seats together. You fall asleep against the wall. We spend the weekend drinking champagne, just because.
It is 2010. You graduate and consider leaving—leaving the U.S., leaving for training, leaving me. I spend the summer wandering the streets of a new city by myself, hanging sheets as substitute curtains in my rented room. One morning, we sit reading the paper at brunch, petting someone else’s dog, thinking out loud, “What if?” You decide to stay; I push you away anyway.
It is 2011, and I graduate, and come back home to where we met. Only you’re not there anymore. My roommates have an armoire from Morocco, a coffee table from Syria, a kitchen table from Miss Pixie’s. I keep my Costco bed, but we both sign up for the Amtrak frequent mile program.
It is 2012, and you consider taking a job that would take you away forever. Again. We stand next to the former third wheel and my best friend when they get married, but at dinner we sit at different tables, averting our eyes from each other now. I know I want to choose only one person; I know which person I want. I leave my Ikea desk on my front porch: free to a good home.
It is 2013. It is another U-Haul season, and another lease to sign. Two names on it: yours and mine. We have lost the beer weight, and put on working-late-weight. I own more pots than fit in the small kitchen. We have automatic monthly loan payments and wrinkles around our eyes. I leave again, but this time I buy a return ticket first. You will be waiting at the airport when I come home, home, home.<
And for 2014, there is one spot in our new apartment that we both agree: perfect for a wine hutch.