She sniffed. “I just want to get off the phone.”
“You’re making me feel like a child. I’ll see you Friday night.”
The phone clicked and nothing but silence carried through the line. She’d hung up. I’d yelled at her, and she’d hung up. Well done, Will.
Guilt and aggravation and just plain dread warred in my chest as I crossed the room before dropping back onto the couch. My beer sat on the coffee table in front of me, still full, condensation forming at the neck of the bottle and running down the glass to pool on the wood underneath. I picked it up and brought it to my lips.
It was going to be a fucking long night.
Jensen jogged beside me on the trail. “Yeah, I’m probably the worst person to talk to about this,” he said. “I’ve dealt with Hanna’s head-in-the-sand shit for years.”
“No, see,” I said, glancing over at him, “this is where you tell me it’s normal to get in a fight like this one week after a wedding.”
This made him laugh dryly, and only then did I realize what I’d said.
I pulled up short, stopping in the middle of the trail. “Jens, I don’t mean—”
“You want me to tell you what’s normal one week after a wedding?” he asked, bending to cup his knees and catch his breath.
“Sorry,” I said, shaking my head. “Dude, that was totally inconsiderate. I am a prick.”
He waved off my apology with a flick of his hand before straightening. “Given that my wife—previously my girlfriend of nine years—told me one week after our wedding that she wasn’t sure we were meant to be together, I’d say that you and Hanna are just fine. It’s a really stressful time, that’s all.”
“I guess.” I looked past us, down the trail at the line of mothers and jogging strollers headed our way. I hadn’t stopped feeling nauseated for hours now.
We stepped off to the side, on the grass, and Jensen pulled a water bottle from that dorky jogging belt of his.
“Hanna has laser focus,” he said, and then took a drink. “It’s what makes her great at what she does, and shitty at multitasking. I suppose I should give her some credit for consistency.”
“She’s just trying to be an adult,” he said. “Maybe she thinks this is how adults deal with stuff. Sort of stoically.”
I groaned, knowing he was right, and marveling at how fucking easy it was for him to come to this conclusion.
“Well, that makes sense, given that she told me I was treating her like a child last night.”
Jensen’s laugh boomed out in the chilly morning air. “Good luck with that one, Will.” He pretended to wipe away a tear. “Holy shit, I don’t think seeing you two stumble through marriage will ever get old.”
My cell rang on the bedside table, startling me awake. I picked it up, swiping the screen and squinting at the clock: just past three in the morning.
The last time I’d looked at the clock was only fifteen minutes ago.
She let out a tiny hiccup and squeaked, “Not really.” She paused. “Were you asleep? Your voice is all sleepy-deep.”
Shaking my head, I said, “I just sort of dozed off a few minutes ago.”
She started to apologize but I stopped her. “No, no, I’m glad you called.”
“I couldn’t sleep, either,” she admitted, her voice a little muffled, as if she was lying on her side. “I miss you and I hate that we’re fighting.”
I fell back against the pillow, rubbing a hand over my face. “I’m sorry. I was a dick earlier.”
“You weren’t, though . . . You were right.”
I nodded behind my hand. I was right, and I knew that, but I could have been gentler. Because Hanna was self-possessed in so many ways, it was easy for me to forget that she was only twenty-five and on the cusp of choosing which prestigious university to join, in a faculty role. Talking to Jensen today helped remind me that Hanna had blown through college in three years, graduate school in another three, and then had a post-doctoral fellowship that was only a year—she was still learning how to manage career choices that many of us didn’t have to worry about until much later.
“So how was the rest of your day?” I asked my wife.
I settled back into bed as she took a deep breath and launched into a detailed description of her interview: what she was asked during her job talk, the meetings with other faculty members afterward, and, later, dinner with the chair of the department at a small but apparently amazing sushi restaurant in San Francisco.
She talked about what they ate, the mild gossip they shared, and the strange small-world coincidences sprinkled throughout the day, which, frankly, were prevalent in research circles.
The entire time she gushed about it, I listened, trying to imagine us there.
I tried to imagine living there.
Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, I could see a transition to the Bay Area. I just wasn’t sure I wanted to move to California. I liked our seasons. I liked our urban cluster. I didn’t want to have to drive everywhere.
I didn’t really want to leave the East Coast, and it wasn’t until this moment that I knew I felt strongly.
“But, I don’t know,” she said, rousing me from my thoughts. “I can’t imagine us here.” She paused and I briefly wondered if I’d accidentally said any of that out loud. “I can’t imagine you here,” she added.