Living my life alone feels like walking through life with artificial legs. First learning to walk was painful. The rhythm, unnatural, the force of life knocked against me like a prosthetic knocking against bone. Without a buffer it took time to acclimate. Eventually, I found my stride and I have even learned to run.
Still, even while running, I’ve been searching for a pair of legs that aren’t artificial, but that are…well…of me.
So when Nightingale first brought up the subject of living together, I sprinted.
He was living in a 10 X 7 nook—1/3 of a small Hermosa Beach garage that had been sealed off with drywall. I was living in a 700sq foot studio in Beverly Hills, significantly larger and charmingly decorated with Parisian flair. His first idea was to move what little he had into my studio where the two of us would cozy up with my three rabbits and my bird. I toyed with the idea, but couldn’t quite imagine my space getting any smaller…the boundaries of our relationship were expanding and I felt our home should expand with them.
Now, I am not completely idealistic. I may be romantically inclined, but I’m also a realist, and practicalities are never lost on me. The rational side of my brain kept replaying a phone conversation that had occurred within the first two weeks of our love affair…
He broached the subject of my animals and how he was uncertain he would ever be able to live with them. He cited allergies as the reason, explaining that he had once loved a girl (but not half as much as he loved me) and she had had two cats. They were supposed to move in together, but he was allergic to the cats and she wouldn’t get rid of them and so their love had to end. (I would later find out that it wasn’t the cats or the allergies that brought the expiration date. It was Nightingale’s OCD. She asked him to get help. He didn’t. She said, “That’s it.”) Nightingales insist on living their lives on repeat.
I try to respond sensitively: “Rabbits are allergen free. Have you had any symptoms when you’ve stayed over?”
He admits he hasn’t, but what if he does? And what if later on some time, I want to get a dog…or a cat?!
I tell him that while I won’t give up the animals I currently have, I also won’t take in any more. I just need to see my commitments through.
“But what if I can’t live with them? What if it doesn’t work? I already feel so much for you…I can’t imagine going through the pain of losing you.”
I try to disguise the humor in my voice. Because, really…why all the drama…over furry little creatures? “Should we end it now then? Because of…animals?”
“No! No! That’s not what I’m suggesting!” he panics. “Geez. That sorta backfired on me. That wasn’t the outcome I was anticipating when I brought this up.”
That’s what my brain kept replaying: “That sorta backfired on me. That wasn’t the outcome I was anticipating when I brought this up….” As though the conversation were calculated to get him what he wanted: Me…minus my animals.
Calculation…manipulation…always subtle at first.
Throughout our month long quest to find the perfect home, he keeps shifting. I can’t live with rabbits. I can live with rabbits.
And then it becomes about the bird. I can’t live with the bird. I can live with the bird.
I can live with you, I can’t live with you…
“Woah, Boolove! We don’t have to live together,” I say. “It’s too soon anyway. We can just take it slow.”
And then it becomes about age. “I’m 40,” he says. “I don’t have time to wait. I want to find my girl. If it isn’t going to work between us, then there’s no point in waiting 6 months or a year to find out. So either we move in together now, or we break up and find other people.”
The theme of breaking up becomes a constant threat and I am perpetually sick to my stomach.
We stumble upon the ideal apartment, on a street named Barrington. Barrington is the name of the Illinois town where both our families live. I, of course, take this as a serendipitous sign.
But even after we find the apartment my Nightingale is still not convinced. Should we or shouldn’t we? Ironically, or perhaps apropos of his mental struggle, the question always arises at the loveliest of moments—after a day of bliss or a particularly dynamic lovemaking session. The exact moments that catch me completely off-guard.
One episode stands out in particular.
Our soon-to-be landlady calls and asks if we are available to sign the lease the following morning. Nightingale and I have already planned to meet for breakfast, so I say, “Yes. That’s great. We’ll see you then.”
I call my Nightingale, letting him know we’re all set to sign the lease tomorrow.
He calls back, that familiar edge to his voice.
“You told me to tell you if you do anything that bothers me so I’m just going to come out and say it. I feel like you’re trying to control me. Are you a controlling person? Because that’s not what I want in my life, so if you are, then I think it’s best we end this now. Are you…controlling?”
Emotional manipulation acts like a stun gun. Fucking taser my heart why don’t you?
“I don’t…know. I don’t…think so,” I say. “No boyfriend has ever accused me of being controlling before. Why do you think I might be controlling?”
“Because. You didn’t even call to ask if I was available to sign the lease tomorrow. You just decided for us.”
“Oh my gosh. I’m so sorry,” I apologize, immediately seeing his point of view. “I knew you were coming over tomorrow morning and we had planned to meet with her sometime tomorrow anyway and she said she needed an answer right then…but you’re right. I should have checked with you first. I’m so sorry. I won’t let that happen again.”
But it didn’t end there. The conversation, which consisted of me defending our love, lasted another two hours.
After I got off the phone with him I called my Dad. “I think I’m moving in with an emotionally manipulative man,” I tell him.
“Amy,” he says, “Slow down. Don’t move in with him. Get to know him better.”
But I cannot slow down because a minx sees things through to the end…the what ifs of not trying are even more unbearable than the crash she knows will come. So instead of caution, she braces for the brick wall and plows full speed ahead.
“I just want it on record that I know what I’m doing…I know what I’m getting myself into…I know…and I’m going to do it anyway.”