I ROLL OVER in bed and let my hand rest on one of the creases in the sheet, a tiny mountain that my fingers curl over like the legs of a giant. I am alone, so it doesn’t matter if I gather all the blankets over my body or grab the second pillow on the other side of the bed. This is one of those benefits of being single, Rachel, my body purrs silently.
Wait. Except that I’m not.
My brain slowly swims closer to consciousness, taking in the fact that light is streaming in through the uncurtained windows. I am wearing a T-shirt—several sizes too big—that advertises some pizza place in the Hamptons as well as a pair of cotton briefs that I picked up three-to-the-pack at a warehouse savings store that looked semi-sexy in the packaging but not so much in actuality on my body. The other side of the bed has a small dip in the mattress, the memory of the body that occupied the space minutes ago. And there is water running from the bathroom shower head, a light sound like paper tearing.
I open my eyes and look around the room, still half-expecting to see my familiar loft apartment, but instead find myself staring at a door. With a knob. And luxurious-by-New-York-standards plaster walls as opposed to the screen I used to wrap around my bed to create the illusion of a room. The closet door is half open, exposing the bins that line the wall holding the yoga pants I prefer to wear while I cook or write. On the floor, kicked casually into the corner of the room, is a pair of men’s jeans and size 11 lace-up black oxfords. Remnants of the pre-sex shedding of clothes.
The water in the bathroom turns off, and the sound is replaced by some off-key whistling. The sort of mindless whistling one does when they’re excited for the day, when they’re actually happy that they have a functioning alarm clock. It’s a whistle I’m currently familiar with because I’ve done it myself as recently as yesterday morning, making my way through a few bars of “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” while I made toast. I didn’t mean to do it; I just suddenly realized that the sound that resembled something off a Wham! album performed by birds was coming out of my pursed lips. Which is a long way to admit that, at this moment, my life is okay. Actually, it’s better than okay. It’s pretty damn good.
Recently, my agent, Erika Ledbetter from Rooks, LTD (Rooks knows Books!) sold my non-fiction proposal for a small advance to a mid-size publisher. The money isn’t enough to live on—the dresses at the Oscars cost more than the whole of my advance—but that is somewhat meaningless. It’s what the check represents: that someone cares enough to invest in me. After a post-divorce year of having to emotionally invest in myself out of necessity due to a lack of partner (not counting the hot Spaniard I dated for a few months), it feels good for someone to step forward and find me desirable. I finished the manuscript for my self-help divorce book, The Divorced Girl’s Guide to Starting Your Life from Scratch, and now I’m in that anticipatory period between completion and the book reaching the reader’s hands. Which means that along with the bliss, I’m spending a lot of time chewing Tums.
Ads on my blog, some freelance articles, and dropping the need to pay rent after moving in here have meant that for the time being, I’m still a non-graphic artist. I’m not quite ready to call myself a writer, but at least I haven’t yet returned to the New York Public Library to design brochures for another ten years. I still cook in the morning and write in the afternoon, or vice versa. And this fact alone contributes enormously to that morning whistling feeling. It’s easy to be excited about my day when I no longer have to go to my mind-numbing job.
Though the biggest reason for the morning whistling sessions is that I’m in love.
Not the sort of love where you’re half-throwing up as you get ready for the date, wondering what every single word spoken means. Not the sort of love where you mark down on your calendar how often you have sex so you can reflect on it and try to deduce how the guy feels about you from the frequency of bed sex vs. sofa sex. No, it’s the calm sort of love that comes at the end of a long road, the sort where you half-smile when he slips his hand into yours in the movie theater, and you think about how lucky you two are that you’ve found each other in this world with seven billion people and millions of missteps knocking your paths out of orbit. The fact that any two people can find each other and fall in love is a bit of a miracle.
And to find the same person and fall in love a second time defies even those enormous odds which are usually used to discuss your chance of being hit by lightning.
Adam Goldman, my ex-husband and once-again boyfriend, comes out of the bathroom, rubbing his brown hair into spikes with one towel while another is wrapped casually around his waist. He leans against the dresser and smiles at me.
“That’s my shirt again,” he tells me.
“Is it?” I yawn, plucking it away from my body so I can examine the pizza graphic with little red circles for pepperoni. “It was dark last night when I grabbed it out of the drawer. In my defense, I bought you this T-shirt maybe ten years ago when we were visiting your parents at their beach house.”
“Ten years?” Adam says dryly. “How is that possible when I just started dating you this year, Ms. Goldman?”
“I have no idea, Mr. Goldman,” I answer. “You’re the teacher. Why don’t you write out one of those theorems and figure out how it’s possible.”
“I teach English,” Adam points out, grabbing a pair of boxers and a white T-shirt out of his top drawer. “I don’t do math. And right now, I teach summer school.”
Not being a lawyer suits Adam even more than not being a graphic designer suits me. Being rid of that life has reverted him back to how he was during my graduate school days when I first met him, back when all he wanted to do was hurry through all of his law school reading so he could have a half hour with Nathaniel Hawthorne. He spends an extraordinary amount of hours preparing his lesson plans, teaching ninth grade English, and then grading papers into the late hours of the night. But it’s a different sort of time and a different sort of stress. He no longer storms into our apartment, releasing the eleven hours of tension that comes from doing something you despise for half your day. Instead, he likes me to sit on the sofa next to him while he corrects commas with his red pen, my legs casually dangling across his lap while I type a blog post on my computer.
See, it’s a whistling sort of life.
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