The distance between two people is hard to measure when you can’t use a map. You and Heather are still very much together, and there are moments of passion and closeness, but they are only moments. Sometimes you wonder if she is there, or if you are there, or if it would make any difference if you weren’t.
You are spending a lot less time together. You are working earlier and staying later. She is spending more nights out with her friends. You are spending more at home with your father. Sometimes, she is the last to bed and the last to rise and the two of you will spend a whole day without passing a single word back and forth.
One day when you are home alone together you decide to see how long it will take before she initiates a conversation. Between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. you circle each other. Not once does she make a sound. Finally you crack because it is painful to miss someone who is standing in front of you.
Over diner you quip that Milo has a blood lust for squirrels and how you’re worried the dog might be the reincarnation of a serial killer. She ignores your funny aside and instead talks about herself, her friends, and her job. When you try to steer the conversation to the two of you she seems uninterested and returns to her food.
The next Saturday you take Heather on a drive out to the suburbs. She spends much of the time on the phone with her girlfriends and is speaking to one of them when you drive down a remote tree enveloped road. You pull into the driveway of a little house, all by itself, carved out of the forest, and turn off the car.
“Hang up the phone.” You whisper to her.
She does and asks, “Where are we?”
“What do you think?”
“This house.” You are restrained in your excitement. “In six months I can afford this house. I talked to the owner and he wants to sell. He doesn’t even live there anymore and he is willing to let it go cheap.”
She scrunches up her face and squints. “It is so small.”
“The first house is always small. It’s two bedrooms, one and a half baths, nice kitchen, and has a porch out back. It’s bigger than our apartment. There’s plenty of room for you, me, and the dog. There is even enough space for one regular sized child or two little ones if we have them back to back.”
She sighs and says, “I don’t know, Mark.”
“You said we needed a house before we could get married. This is a house. It’s clean. It’s relatively new. We have the woods. It reminds me of your parent’s house. Well, maybe their garage, but we can live here for a couple of years and trade up.”
“It’s so far away from the city.”
“It’s twenty two miles. I can commute. You can commute. Or, you can get a job closer to the house.”
“I can’t quit my job. I love my job.” She is not interested in the house at all and tries to rationalize her decision. “Besides, I’d go stir crazy out here. There is no one around. It’s so isolated.”
“I thought that is what you would like most about it.” You are crushed and finding it difficult to conceal. “I just want to get married. We have been engaged for a year. We have been together for a lot longer than that. It feels like we are stuck in a holding pattern and I want to land the plane. I’m afraid we’re going to run out of gas and crash if we don’t.”
She strokes the back of your hair and comforts you. “It’s okay. I love you. I just think we need more options. Who knows what else will be out there in six months. We can look again then.”
On the ride back you are alone with your thoughts. Heather spends the entire time with her face buried in her phone, texting her friends. The seed of paranoia that you have been keeping in the dark is starting to see daylight. You want to know what she is saying to them. Is she ridiculing you? You plead with yourself to not overreact.
You have been so desperate to conform to the idea of what she wanted. You wonder what else you can do or if there is anything you can do. You had your hopes so high. You thought she would be overjoyed not underwhelmed.
The next weekend Heather went to see her parents. You stayed home. She wanted some alone time with her mother. She said you’d be bored because her father was out of town on business and you’d have no one to talk too. You agreed halfheartedly.
While walking the dog you took the time to figure the mileage to her parent’s house. Then you factored in the pace you and Milo kept on an average jaunt. You combined the two in your head to conclude exactly how long it would take the two of you to reach her. There is no way you could make it. She is too far away.