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.