The following piece of creative nonfiction is part of a series I started on my personal blog a few years ago called “Alphabet: A History,” which is a collection of short, autobiographical vignettes, focusing mainly on relationships (familial, romantic, platonic, and self). I will be publishing the series on Fridays.
Alphabet: A History (K) Kimbrough
It’s 1998 and I’ve just graduated from college. I’m moving out of the 2-bedroom duplex I’ve shared with my friend Becky for the last two years and moving into a 1-bedroom apartment on the bottom floor of a big, white, dilapidated house on Kimbrough. It’s the first time I’ve ever lived alone and I piece together a home with hand-me-down furniture and thrift store finds. I paperclip postcards to a long string and hang them across my ceiling, an idea I stole from some design magazine I saw in Borders one time. On the mantle above the faux fireplace I arrange a few candles, a couple of artsy greeting cards and a framed photo of my boyfriend and me. He has the same picture on his fridge in his apartment, just a few blocks away.
Just before I move in, he goes away for ten days, to stay in a log cabin on a mountain top in Colorado to meditate. I water his garden and watch his cat while he’s gone and try to imagine the summer ahead. We’ve only been together for a couple of months but we’re in love and he tells me he wants to marry me someday. Most of my friends have graduated and moved away and I’m looking for a job and I’m not sure I want to stay in Springfield much longer and he thinks this is where he wants to settle down and everything is just kind of up in the air and I don’t really know what’s going to happen exactly. But for now I just want to think about warm nights on his porch and cooking breakfast on Sunday mornings in my new kitchen.
I’ve never really watered a garden before and I’m not sure if I’m doing it right, but the peonies have started blooming like he said they would so I don’t worry about it too much. I write a lot of letters in those ten days and that’s pretty much all I do. Well that, and I go to Borders almost every day, and I read books about writing and about finding a job, and I go for a lot of walks and I call my friends who have left town and I listen to their big plans. One afternoon I even make a key lime pie.
I won’t find a job this summer…or even this fall, not a real job, anyway. I’ll do a string of odd, soul-sucking jobs: temping; telemarketing; I’ll drive to Branson four days a week and give away Mel Tillis tickets to anyone who will sign up for a timeshare tour. I’ll stand in a darkened wax museum next to a fake Johnny Carson and Bill Cosby and listen to a loop of their interview on repeat over and over for weeks before I quit that weird job. When I finally find a gig in the Spring, one with an office and a desk and a title — if not a competitive salary — I’ll be so broken I’ll hardly know even know who I am anymore.
But it’s still early in the summer and I’ve got this new apartment on Kimbrough with a faux fireplace and hanging postcards and a boyfriend who grows peonies and says he wants to marry me. He calls me from the road on his way back to town and says he driving with my picture on the dashboard and his foot heavy on the gas. I don’t see it coming yet, but he’ll dump me in a few months, on a cold morning in January. He’ll tell me to be happy and go live my life and for a long time I won’t really know how.
But it’s May now and the summer lies ahead and my boyfriend’s at the door and I let him in and he’s wearing a goofy smile and a baseball cap I’ve never seen. He picks me up and twirls me around and says in a big voice: “Girl, I missed you!” and I laugh and say, “Do you like my place?” because this is the first time he’s seen it. So he puts me down, takes off his hat, looks around, and says “Yeah, it works, it’s really you.”
I move out four months later.
Taylor December 9, 2011, 3:02 pm
MissDre December 9, 2011, 3:15 pm
“When I finally find a gig in the Spring, one with an office and a desk and a title — if not a competitive salary — I’ll be so broken I’ll hardly know even know who I am anymore.”
This is how I feel exactly right now. Ugh.
But your whole story really rings a bell for me.
silver_dragon_girl December 9, 2011, 4:03 pm
Me too. It’s beautifully written, but it made me so sad.
Landygirl December 9, 2011, 3:22 pm
Love these stories.
LolaBeans December 9, 2011, 3:30 pm
i love these stories so so so much!!!! i wish there were more. I went through all of them on your citywendy blog a while ago… such well written, personal pieces.
thank you for sharing!
TECH December 9, 2011, 3:37 pm
Hi Wendy, just wanted to say I love these vignettes. They are beautifully written and very touching. I think many people can relate to soul-sucking jobs, and the statement, “When I finally find a gig in the Spring, one with an office and a desk and a title — if not a competitive salary — I’ll be so broken I’ll hardly know even know who I am anymore.” Even though I am several years out of college now, it is incredibly difficult to find a job that you enjoy going to every day where you make a liveable wage.
When you are fresh out of college, it’s expected you’ll go through some pretty crappy jobs. But my fear is that I’ll be stuck in the same soul-sucking job through my 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond. I have bills to pay and I can’t simply decide to quit and pursue writing, which is also my passion. We don’t always get what we want in life.
MissDre December 9, 2011, 3:45 pm
I’m totally going through this. I went through 5 years of school, I’ve been out for 3 years now and I can’t find a job that I actually enjoy. I wake up everyday exhausted and wish I could just quit and I don’t know how much longer I can show up to this soul-sucking job… Now I’m dealing with the anxiety of wanting to quit and start my own business, but I feel like that’s such a foolish thing to do considering the state of economy and that I current have full benefits and a retirement plan… Sigh. What’s a girl to do?
TECH December 9, 2011, 3:57 pm
My hope is that eventually if I get successful enough at my “side job” I will be able to work my current job part time (while still maintaining my retirement and benefits.) Maybe you’d be able to swing that, MissDre. Only having to show up three days a week as opposed to five may help!
MissDre December 9, 2011, 4:10 pm
I’ve been thinking about that a lot. I know I don’t have the energy to work my full time job and work on my business at the same time, but I’m really afraid to ask for part time hours. I’m afraid that if I ask and they say no, they’ll realize that I’m not entirely dedicated to this job and it’ll only be a matter of time before they fire me. And in that case, I need a Plan B.
Kristen December 10, 2011, 1:51 pm
Any chance that if you and your boyfriend get married, you can quit your job and work on your side project while he keeps working?
cdubs December 10, 2011, 2:48 pm
I feel the same way. I’ve been out of college almost 4 years, and I’m doing really well in my job…but I know it’s not what I want to do the rest of my life. And I figure it’s a bad sign when I wake up every morning wondering if I can call in sick..no I took a sick not that long ago…but maybe I can say the pumper is coming…ugh I just need to go to work.
I’m pretty sure I want to be a real estate agent. But that’s not quite the best move considering the economy. Although there is one company that actually pays a salary instead of commission, so that would be more secure. But I’m too afraid to quit and pursue it. Sigh.
Addie Pray December 9, 2011, 3:46 pm
Just lovely, per usual.
Nick December 12, 2011, 6:51 am
Nice Wendy. Reminds me a little of Nathan and Sophie. I really like how you put so much together with so few words: the season, the professional pre-start era, the terrible left-behind vibe of staying in a college town after graduation, the foreboding relationship and the wonderful nesting instinct. When it’s May, boy I tell you, if you don’t feel it then I’m not sure you will. I’d love to read that January story too. And that move-out one. Btw, did you know Yakov Smirnoff (sp?) has (had?) a theater in Branson? Party find you, party find you.