I’ve been reading memoirs. Mostly books about growing up on little farms in small towns like Flushing, Michigan and Plains, Georgia, and about small kids who know how to build model boats and recognize train engines by the sound of the whistles. I want a life like that. Eventually I want my kids to have a life like that. Those books are becoming parts of a larger narrative—my own. I’m stealing some of their bits and pieces.
I’ve been reading other stories, too: Modern Love essays that run in the Sunday Style section of the New York Times. I’ve been reading the column since 2004, when I was too young to know much about love at all. A few months ago I read a Modern Love essay about a woman who finds love in an unexpected place. She’s visiting Michigan with her sister and meets a man who owns a café off of Lake Superior—a wooden shop on a little street, surrounded by a huge, huge sky. She turns to her sister and tells her that he’s the one. They marry within months—it’s crazy—but they do, and now they often snowmobile to work. It’s almost too much for me to handle, a story like that.
See, I want that. In my case it’s Montana—it’s always been Montana. I’ve never been there, but sometimes you need to put a name to a place, even when you’re dreaming. I like big sky and big mountains, and I don’t like skiing but I like snow and I love hot chocolate.
I grew up in New York City on 113th street. My boyfriend Sam grew up on 112th. We went to the same high school, but only met near the end of our senior years, and though we rode the subway home together, we didn’t realize how close our buildings really were. The first few months we dated were easy. We’d kiss often in our elevators. We’d worry whether there might be cameras, but we would do it anyway. He would walk me home at dusk, and then we’d meet again in the morning, a few hours later, to walk his dogs in Riverside Park. Sometimes we’d follow the stroll with breakfast.
Sam goes to MIT now, so he’s not as close. But there are degrees of proximity; I think it’s both near and far. The distance works because Boston is our middle ground. We go there for dinner and dates, and last year we spent a week in the city house-sitting for my cousin and her cat. We went out for sushi, and after dinner we got caught in a snowstorm. Sam took off his jacket and gave it to me. His t-shirt was soaked through. We ran home and put on the kettle. The cat snuggled with us on the couch.
I told Sam recently that I wanted to move to Montana with him and bake scones in a small café, just the two of us, like in the Modern Love essay. He leaned over and kissed me. “I haven’t read that one yet. Tell me about it.”