We dragged random furniture in from the street. Chests and tables that were scratched or with paint peeling or with water damage.
A large overstuffed green armchair.
We slept on a futon on the floor, tucked into the corner. We found pillows from Goodwill and washed them in hot water in the building’s laundry room. Different colors and patterns. It was a mess, but somehow it made our sleeping area look luxurious. Blankets were easy enough to find and we were lucky that the building kept in heat well. We were warm together.
Our refrigerator was small. Just large enough to hold a carton of milk, some fruit, leftovers we brought home from the diner. We didn’t buy much food in those first weeks. The diner had just opened and business was slow. A large glass jar held our tips.
“Should we get a bed with it?” I asked.
“But I love our futon,” her eyes twinkled, “what do we really need that we don’t already have?”
“I don’t know.” And I didn’t. I looked around the room. We sat in the corner at a low bench that served as our breakfast nook, writing desk, and dinner table. Areas of the walls were covered with Eve’s collection of clippings. The window was open a crack, letting in the cool air from outside and the sound of the street. I looked at Eve. I smiled. “I guess we don’t have to decide. It can be our emergency fund.”
“For our next emergency departure!”
“We just got here. You’re already thinking of leaving?”
“I don’t know. I can’t help it. Who knows.”
“Emergency departure? What kind of emergency?”
“The kind that makes you leave and never come back.” A solemn, faraway look came over Eve’s face. The kind of look that people get when they remember a horrible nightmare. Questions flooding in with worry and fear and anticipation. Her arms turned to gooseflesh. I knew it was not the air.
She had never shown me that look before. I had traveled hundreds of miles with her, I was in love with her, but I had never seen that face. One that asked for comfort and certainty. And I did not think to do anything but become silent. Nothing to offer except my hand on her arm. I squeezed and pulled her into an embrace.
It was abrupt. That change. From joyful and dreaming to quiet and fearful. And I knew that something had changed. It was a moment of definition. And I knew that she needed me as much as I needed her. If she offered me wildness and fantasy, I could offer her peace and constancy. Yes, that is what I offered her.
Even the wildest bird needs to rest from soaring sometimes. And I could be her nest. We could be that to each other. We need not always do the pulling or the pushing. We need not have only once side. Whatever she saw in her mind, I could not bring myself to ask her. I was afraid, yes, even to know. Of course I was afraid. I was as much afraid of the knowledge as of what it would mean if she told me.
I wanted her to be invincible and I wanted to be her protector simultaneously. That is how it works sometimes. Such contradictions. Always. Wanting and not wanting. Chasing and not chasing. Decisions unmade and hearts untied. Whatever there was in her eyes, I would wait for her to tell me. I would not push. I would allow her to come to me.
She had never been quite like that with me. She would ask. She would prod. She would yearn to know so that she could at least share in whatever I was feeling though she might not understand. She was like that. And I trusted her. And I spoke. Because I needed to speak. I was compulsive about it. Even when I wanted to try and hold things in, somehow, she pulled them out of me. I wanted to be open to her. I did not know how not to be open to her. It was that simple, really.
And then the moment passed and her face was bright again. But after having seen that look take over her once, I would always see it there, lurking behind her eyes.
I would always look for it, too. It made me feel stronger. It made me feel capable of offering her something. She brought such lightness to me, she floated. What I had to offer was my steadfastness. I could be there when she drifted into dark clouds and hold her away from them.
It was terrible. I was terrible. To want to see her pained so that I could feel worthy of her, so that I could feel that I could offer her something. At times I felt like a pillbug that had fallen in love with a butterfly and wished for her to land, to stop flying so high into the flowers, so that I could be nearer to her.
But we shared that room. The light that came through the windows was ours just as the dark shadows that fell were ours. We shared them. I knew that we shared them. I knew that we shared it all.
We made the place home. With furniture that had been abandoned though it was not yet spent. With a thrift store kitchen and second-hand sweaters. We had as much as we needed. We knew we needed each other.
Eve, with her persistent brightness and her distant darkness. She was home. She was solace and she was respite and she allowed me to be hers. And I was. Utterly.
We would live on free coffee and leftover sandwiches. We would keep dragging furniture in from the street. We would put scraps of paper on the wall. And that would be enough.
Of course it was enough. Of course.