One Year Later: An Alternate Story

I wake up, sunshine slowly streaming through the window in the bedroom, our bedroom, pat the cat on the head and roll over to give him a kiss on the cheek lightly, not enough to wake him yet, but he still stirs and puts his hand on my back to keep me there for another moment. I oblige, snuggled into his chest, and breathe into his embrace, smiling when he starts to snore again. I escape with practiced ease and tiptoe to the kitchen, a bigger one than either of us had last, and pour water into the coffeemaker. I run through emails on my phone, another project awaits my approval before we share with clients on our weekly call this morning. I sigh and tap at my phone until the coffee sputters that it’s ready, and move into the living room to catch up on work before going into the office.

He rises slowly, “good morning baby,” and hops into the shower, while I finish up work and put on breakfast, eggs probably, and sigh as I look at my yoga mat in the corner of the room. It’s been a while since I practiced, but I’m teaching a class next week at the office so I need to do that tonight. I make a mental note to stop at the lululemon next to my office, my favorite one in the city, to pick up some new gear as motivation to get back to practice. I’ve been working late nights gearing up for an approval and I can feel my stiff body craving the stretch. He emerges, and I drink in the sight of him in the morning, wet hair, nicks from the safety razor. Living together hasn’t been easy but it’s nice to wake up next to him every day.

Eventually I make my way to the closet for a dress and summer heels, apply a thin layer of makeup and stare wistfully at my sneakers; my side has been acting up again and the heels aren’t helping. We eat breakfast and talk about the plans for the day, we may stop out further in Queens for dinner to see friends or maybe we’ll make some of the Trader Joe’s bags taking up space in the freezer. Eventually we leave, he walks to his car and I walk to the subway, “have a good day baby, I love you” and we part. There’s an easy elegance in the routine of everyday life together.

I step into the office after a short commute, drop my lunch in the fridge and say hi to reception before settling in at my desk overlooking the Hudson. There’s that moment just before you open your inbox where you know it’s the final moment of peace before the day really begins, and that’s where I like to be. Deep breath, email opens, and day begins. There are emails, spreadsheets, meetings, peppered with office gossip and checking the kitchen to see if lunch arrived yet. One of the girls I work with is talking about her marathon training, how she wakes up at 430 every morning to run and I shudder. 430am?! That sounds miserable, even for working out. The day concludes eventually, long after it’s supposed to, and I shuffle with the rest of the herd onto a crowded subway, wishing for a seat but telling myself not to take one. “You sit down all day,” I chastise, “it won’t kill you to stand for a half hour.” Once I’m home I’m exhausted, and the yoga mat stares at me again across the apartment, our apartment, through a layer of dust. Tomorrow, I tell myself. Tomorrow I’ll practice. 

I sit with a glass of wine to wait for him to come home so we can decide dinner once and for all, and turn on Chromecast to finish watching The Office for the umpteenth time. It’s the series finale, I know I’m going to cry again, and then Pam tells Jim she sold their house so they could move to Austin and he could follow his dream. Austin, I think, I could have been there by now. If the original plan went down, I would be teaching yoga in Austin full time. No more meetings and endless emails, no more inbox anxiety and late nights that take away any joy from restarting my practice. If all went according to plan, I would be following a dream, but if that plan worked out I wouldn’t have him. 

As if on cue, he walks inside and I smile, he’s worth it. I’m okay waiting for a few years to follow that dream, and maybe it’ll be okay. Maybe the late nights will get better and I won’t dread going to work so much; maybe I’ll find the time to practice again or maybe I’ll try running again, anything to get moving. It’s only a few years, I tell myself, and even though we may have a house and kids and other obligations he’ll support me when I finally decide to leave and give this yoga thing a go. He loves me, I tell myself, he’ll understand how important this is to me. He knows how badly I want this, and we’ll figure it out together.

We decide to go out for dinner and as he hands me the keys to lock up I get a glimpse of the mirror and I freeze. In a second I see myself but she isn’t me; her hair multicolored and pulled back into braids, no makeup, and she looks strong and more importantly she looks happy. She looks happier than I’ve ever seen myself before, ever knew I could be, even. I stare for another second and I see my reflection who is not me; she doesn’t work in PR anymore, she’s a personal trainer?? and she has a smile I’ve never seen on myself, except maybe the night I met him. I’m paralyzed, looking at her, because she looks so, so happy. “You okay?” he asks me, scaring me out of my daydream and I see her stare at him with a look of wonder and deep sadness and I blink and it’s just me again in the mirror. I’m fine, I tell him, and brush it off, Just a daydream. I’m not that girl. She can’t exist, not within our life.

We go to dinner and we come home. He plays a video game for a bit while I get ready for bed first like I always do, and once I’m snuggled in bed he brushes his teeth and makes his way next to me. “Good night baby,” and a kiss and we roll onto our sides of the bed. The next day we’re going to wake up and do it all over again, I’ll wake up first and I’ll tell myself tomorrow I’ll practice yoga and we’ll make dinner from Trader Joe’s before we fall asleep. Before I can fall asleep though, the other Me pops into my head. She looks so happy at me but she looked so sadly at him. I look at him sleeping and can’t imagine a life without him, no matter the cost. As I fall asleep I dream of multicolored hair and what it would be like to be a personal trainer. I wake up the next day and do it all over again.

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