Tuesday night, I got a message from my roomie/landlord, Joe. He sounded irritated in the voicemail, drawing out my name with what can only be described as a verbal eye-rolling.
"Laaaaaaaaaaaurie. It's Joe." Sigh. "Call me." Some fumbling, and a click.
I was at my parents' house, having just Turbo Taxed my way to a handsome refund and stuffing both my Federal and State envelopes with my freshly printed taxes. I erased the message and looked at my parents, a worried look stretching across my face.
"It was Joe. He never calls me." I flipped my phone shut. "Well," I considered aloud, "maybe he's calling because we're both going to be out of town the end of this month. Maybe we need to work something out with the dog?" My voice was hopeful. My parents were both turned around looking at me over the backs of the comfy chairs they were sitting in.
"Maybe." Mom said. But her face betrayed her. She knew what the call meant. She turned back around to face American Idol. "Call him back," the back of her head said to me.
"I get shitty service here," I said, moving my phone around in the air to find the ONE spot in their house where I get more than one bar of reception. I had to get his voice mail on speakerphone, completely still, lest I drop the signal have to start all over again. For the fourth time. I gave up. "I'll just call him on my way home."
Of course, by "home," I meant "Billy's home." I tucked my IRS envelopes into my purse and headed for the door.
I was nervous about talking to Joe because I pretty much knew why he was calling me. The house we live in (well, the house I pay to live in, anyway. The house where I keep all of my clothes until I need them.) has been on the market for a few months. And, in my history living with Joe, we've moved into three houses. So, twice before, I've been the recipient of the call that warns me it's time to pack up again. Sometimes I had a month to pack. Last time, I had a week. And I've been dreading that phone call since he regretfully told me he'd be selling our latest house, too. I had a feeling this was that phone call.
When I got to the house, I dialed Joe's number. He answered, sounding a little weary. "Are you sleeping?" I said apologetically.
"Nooo...." His voice trailed off.
"Well, what are you doing then?"
My stomach lurched. "Tell me you're packing for your vacation."
He laughed sympathetically. "Sorry. But that'd be a lie. It sold today."
I put my palm to my forehead, a million things running through my mind. Go to the liquor store and get boxes. How long did it take me to pack last time? Clean out my car so I have someplace to store everything in transit. Oh yeah, and WHERE THE FUCK AM I GOING TO LIVE NOW? "How long do we have?" I asked, meekly.
"Till the end of May."
"Awesome." I leaned against the kitchen counter, the sounds of Billy assembling the new patio furniture out on the deck floating in through the open window.
We finished our conversation after going over some details, and I tossed my phone into my bag, disgusted.
Billy came in and wrapped his arms around me. I hadn't so much as said hello to him since I walked through the door. "How are you, baby?"
"My house just sold," I blurted. I rubbed my forehead. Where would I rent? Where would I go? What can I afford?
The thing is, I don't mind my monthly rent payment, even though I don't live there. I like having a place to call my own. But I don't pay much rent now. So it's never bothered me. I sort of think of it as a storage fee. I have an incredible deal with Joe, so living anywhere else will really gut me financially. Everything will change if I find an apartment that will undoubtedly cost me four or five times what I'm paying now. I just can't justify sleeping at Billy's house every night if I'm giving half of my paycheck for rent. And I'm not ready for that change.
"Are you nervous?" Billy said, smiling.
"Of course I'm nervous," I rested my head on his chest.
I lifted my head and looked out past his shoulder, onto the deck. The empty boxes from the new table and chairs sat in the dim light. "Save those boxes, will ya? I may need them. TO LIVE IN."
He laughed. "There's a bigger one out there. You could have a two story."
We chuckled together, and I excused myself to the bedroom to change. Part of me was sad that I'd be out of my house. The other part was upset that Billy hadn't mentioned anything about me moving in with him. But, I reasoned, it's for the best. The last thing in the world I want to do is invite myself to move in with him, and I certainly don't want him to feel like he has to take me in. And, besides, I'm really not stuck with no place to live. My parents, after all, live right in town, in a big comfortable house that is always open to me. I'm not too keen on the idea of living with my parents again at 25, but it's not the worst thing in the world. I love them, they're fabulous, and I'm at Billy's most of the time anyway. It wouldn't be so bad. But I still like my independence, my own space...So, still morose, I plodded downstairs to join Billy in his assembly task on the deck. And I eyeballed my new living space: The box marked "Table."
The next morning, I woke up with the whole issue still weighing on my mind. My boss is renting out an apartment soon, and even though it is in the same building I'm working in, it may be a possibility. I lined my eyes and considered what it would cost my budget to fork over an actual rent check. I started thinking: Well, my car will be paid off shortly, I could not order my lunch anymore...It started to make sense.
I went into the bedroom to collect my things and leave for work to find Billy partially awake under the covers. I had tried not to wake him, since Wednesday is his one day off, but there he was, blinking at me with sleepy eyes, his smile weak with slumber. I walked over to him to kiss him goodbye.
"Have a good day off, baby," I said, my mouth barely inches from his. He cupped my face in hand and drew me to him, pressing his soft lips against my own. One kiss, then another, and another. Each time I pulled back, he pulled me closer. "So," he said, between kisses. More kisses.
"Babe," I said through our mashed lips, "I really have to go." Another kiss. "I'm running late."
"So...Would you like to move in here? With me?"
I was truly shocked. It was something I wanted to hear, but nothing I expected. "Do you want me to?" Another kiss.
"Of course. There's just one problem, though." Another kiss.
I wasn't sure what to expect. "What?" Kiss. Kiss.
"I don't think I can fit all your shit in here."
"I won't bring it all. How about that?"
Kiss. "Okay." Smile. Kiss.
"In that case," kiss, "yes. I will. I do."
"You do what?" Kiss.
"Want to move in here."
He stretched out a "goooooood," kissed me one last time and let me go. I sprinted to my car and headed to work.
And, although I was listening to the radio, I couldn't focus on it. I was busy thinking. Thinking about what had just happened. He actually asked me to move in with him. He slept on it, and he woke up thinking it was the right move to make. And even though I've been more or less living there already for the past eight months, it still struck me as something profound.
Because there's a drastic difference between just staying there and actually living there. Because, as of now, if there's a problem or a fight or a breakup, I have a house of my own to go to. I can go back to life as I knew it, Before Billy. But relinquishing that freedom is, actually, a pretty big deal for me.
I never thought I'd be the type of girl who saw moving in together as a big deal. Because, up until recently, I never thought I'd actually consider moving in with a guy. I was the kind of girl who, ten years ago, out-and-out refused to live with a guy unless we were married. Then, three years ago, I thought maybe we'd move in together if we were engaged - But only with a wedding date secured. All this time, I'd been living off of the technicality that I wasn't really living with him because I had a place of my own. Until I realized that it is a huge deal. That you are sharing a life with someone. There's a permanence to cohabitation.
It's probably a much bigger deal to me than it is to him, I think. He probably sees it as just me bringing over a mountain of shoe boxes and more odds and ends. I see it as giving up my way out. And it scary: I'm saying "Hey, I really think this is going to work with you and me, so I'm going to trust that I won't need a place to live other than right here with you."
I'm kind of freaking out a little bit. Last night, laying in his arms before bed, I turned to face him. "Can I ask you something without getting shit for it?" He nodded. "Are you sure? About me moving in here?"
"Of course I am. But, babe, you've been living here for eight months, anyway."
"I know...I just don't want you to feel like you had to ask me, or that I expected it of you. I want to make sure it's something you asked because you wanted to, not because you felt like you had no choice."
He squeezed me and kissed my forehead. "Aw, babe. You worry too much."
My mom always disagreed with couples living together. Why would he buy the cow when if he's getting the milk for free? But she was just as happy as I was when I told her the news.
Sometimes, when it feels right (even if you are a little scared), you don't feel like you're giving away anything. You feel like you're getting something, instead.