|Whately Moonrise dee|
The moving truck arrived a little after 10 a.m. this morning. I am calculating the tips for the movers and willing them to be gone. I find moving disrupting. I would have preferred to do the move without the professional movers, but it was part of the package I was offered, and I felt it was important to make use of the entire offer. It sets a precedent. I don’t want to seem like I think I am stuck up, but it was a real luxury to have Ideal Movers come, back up my meager belongings and deliver them to me at my house on the Whately Prep campus.
I feel surprisingly lighter since my romance recently faltered; Jennifer Whalen and I split after an eight-year romance. I put my feelings out there. It was marriage and children, or it was over. At forty-five, I am beginning to think it may be too late for me to find a woman who shares my goals and dreams. All along, I believed that once Jennifer had a taste of success as a CPA, she would be able to make the necessary sacrifices that are required of becoming a mother -- at least the kind of mother I would hope to have for my children. I was mistaken. I thought she would outgrow the impetus that kept her fulfilling her own needs rather than giving herself over to me and to our offspring. Again, wrong on that count. I can’t say I wasted eight years with her, I learned a lot, we traveled widely, and we were companionable. Passion? I can not say we had passion. Taking this job at Whately Prep is like throwing myself into the jaws of the tiger. I will be surrounded by other people’s children, reminded of my bachelorhood, and working with the first woman I ever loved. It is not my intention to disrupt her marriage, remind Julia of the past or win her back. I believe we can be adults.
I head over to the dining commons for dinner. The place is practically deserted. There are only two people staffing the kitchen. I grab a “to go” box and fill it with chicken chow mein, salad and a couple of cookies from the buffet. I had the forethought to bring my travel mug. I use it to fix a cup of tea to go with my meal. I know the gas is on for my stove, but I have no clue where the teapot or mugs might be. Grabbing a napkin and some flatware from the dining commons, I carry the food back to my front porch. There are two wicker rockers that must have been left by the former inhabitants. The cushions look lumpy and slightly mildew. I toss them on the front steps. I will add them to the pile I plan to take to the dumpster later. I settle into one of the chairs. With the white styrofoam box open on my lap, I start to shovel in the chow mein. It tastes predictably like school food. Why is it that the food tastes the same from year to year? The chefs must change from time to time. Julia did tell me that a hot-shot chef is starting at Whately Prep in August. She reportedly transformed the food -- making it delicious, healthier and on less money -- at a hospital in Rhode Island. This chef has a tall order to fill, but judging from what I am tasting at the moment, it shouldn’t be too hard to improve the taste of the food. My sweet tooth is unrequited after two oatmeal raisin cookies. Inside, I use my pocket knife to slice open the tops of three or four boxes labeled “kitchen.” Finally, I find a Toblerone bar that does the trick.
In a sort of absent-minded haze, I open several more boxes. Since I didn’t pack them myself, each one surprises me. The year book on the top of the last box I open causes me to fall heavily into the futon that is set up in the middle of the living room. In a semblance of order, the movers left it facing the fireplace. I will place it in the den.
Opening the 1987 yearbook, I see a picture of the Whately Prep Cross Country Team. I was third from the left in the back row. I was four inches taller than the other boys. I remember this was partially because of the height of my Nike sneakers. Caught in the picture, with just one leg trailing, is Declan Kendall, who later became Julia Dickinson’s husband. It’s no wonder my face looks tight and stretched with anxiety. Just that afternoon, we had a dispute over which of us was taking Julia to the Senior Prom. In what I thought was an act of nobility, I deferred to Declan. His brother had recently died of a drug overdose and I was conscious about his state of mind. We had been in classes together all four years of high school. Declan felt like he had a bond with Julia because they both had lost a sibling. He actually threatened me when he heard I was going to ask her. I laughed at first, I thought he was joking. When I realized that he was serious, I thought, ‘Man, this dude is fragile!’ It took a lot for me to back down. In retrospect, I can’t imagine why we didn’t leave it up to her. As it turned out, It was the night of the Prom that Julia’s life fell apart.
These unbidden thoughts are taking center stage, which is exactly what I feared. I worried that I would start rehashing the past. Being on campus, seeing familiar people and places, it’s hard not to reopen the past. Maybe the only way to get to the future is to move through the past.