“Well, and you did, too,” she added quickly. “Early on you said let’s not worry about location, let’s just see where things fall.”
“Maybe because I expected to be talking about it as we went,” I argued, standing to pace the living room. “But every time it comes up, you say, ‘Let’s wait and see what the choices are.’ At this point, Hanna, the choices are every fucking corner of the globe. Can we at least narrow it down a little? Begin to form a plan?”
“I don’t know which place has the best offer yet!” she argued, voice tight.
I laughed out an incredulous breath. “Well, we can lay out the landscape so far. I mean, doesn’t my opinion factor in at all?”
“Of course, but we don’t even have offers from every school.”
“Hanna, we can assume everywhere you’ve been is an option!”
It sucked having this conversation over the phone, but I was too wound up to wait. After reading my friends’ reactions today, I knew it was absurd that we didn’t even have an inkling of where we were going yet. I didn’t want to put it off anymore.
I heard her take a calming breath before she said, “I feel like planning right now would be putting the cart bef—”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake!” I cut in. “You are the fucking cart! You are the fucking horse! You’re leading this. Every school wants you!”
I sighed, pinching the bridge of my nose. She sounded so vulnerable, but her placating tone chipped away at my already frayed patience. “What?”
“Don’t yell at me. I don’t want to fight.”
I felt too upset to diffuse this immediately. “At this point, getting off the phone with me or putting this aside doesn’t mean we aren’t fighting. The fact that you’re eight interviews in and I have no idea where you’re leaning is already a problem. I want to have it out.”
Hanna went quiet on the other end of the line, finally uttering a small “Okay.”
Trying to calm down, I said, “Babe, there’s nothing wrong with fighting. Sometimes we won’t agree. Sometimes we will actively disagree about how to handle something. It has to be okay for us to have a fight.”
“Well, we just argued this weekend, too. And this one feels big,” she said.
“Because it is,” I answered with an incredulous laugh. “I mean, hey, it’s only our future.”
She didn’t respond. All I could hear was a quiet tapping on the other end: her nervous habit of flicking a pen against her leg.
Leaning against the wall, I said, “Hanna. I need you to say something.”
“I’m not sure what to say because I don’t feel like I can make a decision yet. I haven’t been to Caltech. I haven’t heard back from Harvard, Berkeley, or Rice yet, either.”
“And that’s fine,” I told her. “All I’m asking is that we talk about it, because you do have offers from five schools, but you won’t even lay out some hypotheticals with me. You loved Harvard. You loved Princeton, but were iffy on a faculty spot at Hopkins and MIT. Right?”
And then she said nothing more.
“You only have one more interview,” I reminded her evenly. “You’ve heard back from all but three places. So what are your top three?”
“Based on what?” she asked, clearly getting annoyed. “Location? Resources? Salary? Teaching load? How do you want me to weigh these things?”
I let my head fall back against the wall with a soft thunk. “Jesus Christ, Hanna. It’s like you are pathologically unable to approach this decision. You weigh them with me, one bit at a time.”
“It’s just complicated, Will. This isn’t a simple process. There are about a million factors at work here.”
“Are you really going to patronize me right now?” I growled, pushing off the wall again to pace the apartment. “I know what schools you’re visiting when you leave the house, and you generally tell me the specifics of your interview schedule when you get home, but do I get even a single opinion afterward? No! So yes, I realize it’s a complicated process, but you don’t seem to.”
“Maybe I’m just trying to remain open-minded.”
“Fuck open-minded!” I yelled. “Be open-minded when you’re doing the interview. Inside this marriage, tell me all the tiny gripes and fears and hopes. I don’t need the whitewashed version. I want the big and small, the ugly and the awesome. Right now, I know what questions you were asked in your job talks, how big your lab would be, what your start-up funds would be. But I don’t have a single clue what you like. And you haven’t asked me once where I would like to live, what I would like to do. I would follow you anywhere, Hanna. But I want to do so as your partner.”
She went very quiet, and for a few beats I wondered if she actually had the gall to hang up on me. But then I heard a tiny hiccup and realized she was crying.
“I’m not trying to be selfish,” she said. “You know that, right?”
“Of course I do,” I told her, softening. “But, look, you have to process this with me, as a unit. Your desire to remain open-minded means that you’re not letting yourself fall in love with any one place. And your inability to express a preference—no matter how preliminary—is making it totally fucking impossible for me to get engaged in this process.” I heard her blow her nose in the background. “And now, your unwillingness to deal with any sort of confrontation is going from naïve to thoughtless. I didn’t like the way you used to avoid dealing with things—it nearly ended us before we even began—and I really hate it now.”