October 23rd
Fall 2010
by kelley quinn

September 26

He was the first thing I saw when I pulled my blinds this morning.

My husband always wakes early, dresses in the dark, kisses my temple before he leaves. He says something sweet before he goes – sometimes I’m too sleepy to catch it, but today I do.

“You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”

We’re new to the city and I still haven’t found a job, so I’ve been sleeping in. I sleep every day til my alarm jolts me awake at 9, and then I force myself out of bed and, to make sure I don’t fall back asleep, I open the curtains.

There was a man in the window of the apartment across the street, on the same floor as mine. He was standing there staring right at me and I startled. He took that in and smiled. I wondered how long he’d been standing like that. He gave me a small wave before I retreated out of view.

I’m sure I’ll run into him around the neighborhood eventually, and we'll laugh about it then. I’ve lived here two weeks and every day I take a walk along some new route. It’s been a warm fall and I’m determined to drink in the sun before the days start to shorten. Walking also keeps me from thinking about home, from fretting about what I’m missing while I’m here in the big city, away from everyone I love.

Not everyone – my husband is here, and I love my husband! He knows that. But I think he also suspects that I miss my old life.

The trees along my new street are good-sized but still smaller than the ones at home. Today as I walked back towards the building, I noticed for the first time their roots ripping through the sidewalk. Roots are trees’ nerves, I think, but the way these bulge upward, straining against the concrete, they look like muscles.

October 3

I wish I had a job, but my husband assures me it’s okay, I can take as much time as I need. He makes enough money to support us both, but I still want to feel like I’m contributing.

I want to journal more regularly. I’m going to write in this every day if I can. It feels good, productive somehow, to keep my days in order. I find myself writing formally, like this is a letter to an estranged lover and not a messy place to blurt my feelings and observations, but maybe I'll get there with time!

I keep taking my daily walks, and I’ve been trying to learn a new recipe each day to make my husband for dinner. Today’s was pumpkin risotto with goat cheese. He gets home so late and is always appreciative when I have food ready.

I saw the man in the window again today. It feels crazy to say, because I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but he spooks me a little!

October 4

This morning before he left, my husband kissed my head and whispered, “I’m so lucky you’re mine.”

It’s sweet. I still get bashful when I hear him say things like that. Things happened between us so quickly – in a nice way – that we still feel quite new to each other. It’s exciting. A lot of people wait so long to get married, but I feel like I just started dating my husband, which is a nice way to feel.

Today’s walk took me through a nearby cemetery, its paths lined with gravestones mottled with moss and age. Huge willow trees all throughout it too. It was beautiful.

And I made a friend on the way home! Her name is Molly and she bakes banana bread for the coffee shop around the corner. She hand delivers it to them every morning and she said I should come with her sometime. So quaint! Homemade banana bread and in-person delivery! Little things like that remind me that city life isn’t so bad. I can get used to it if I just keep looking for little slices of home in the people and rituals here. I am lucky to be here with my husband, and that’s what’s most important – the rest will fall into place.

October 7

Uneventful last few days, but this morning, I got up right after my husband left to meet my new friend Molly for her banana bread delivery. It was so nice! The people who run the coffee shop are the sweetest couple, and they have all sorts of local art hanging on the walls. I think tomorrow I’ll take my computer there to do some job applications (still no luck with that, bleh). Wish me luck!

October 8

I forgot to mention my outing with Molly to my husband, but he seemed to know I’d been out doing something yesterday before I was able to tell him about my day. He wasn’t happy. I could tell because he didn’t finish his ravioli, and normally his plate is completely clean by the end of dinner! He said he’d prefer if I didn’t do that again without telling him. I know he just wants me to be safe, but I don’t see what the harm is. I moved here for him on such short notice, I think the least he could do is be happy that I’m settling in and making friends.

Ugh! Listen to me. I don’t mean to be a complainer. I was just so excited to have something that felt like mine in this big new place. I’m going to be a perfect wife for the next few days and then ask if it’s okay if I see Molly again.

October 9

I submitted eight (8!!!!) job applications today, cover letters and all. I’m so proud of myself. I also cleaned the bathroom, dusted the bookshelves, and took my longest walk yet. Almost two hours, and I think my legs will be sore tomorrow! As I got my keys out, I heard a bird caw in the tree closest to our front door. When I turned to look up, I thought I saw that man in the window duck out of view. I guess I could stop calling him “that man” and not “my across-the-street neighbor,” but it feels odd that he still hasn’t introduced himself after a few weeks of this. Not very neighborly, if you ask me!

October 10

I spent most of the morning stitching a tear in my husband’s winter jacket. Cold weather will be here before we know it and I don’t want to be unprepared! I’m getting a little restless but I think my husband appreciates my attention to detail on household chores. He gave me a big kiss on the cheek last night before bed.

October 11

Sometimes I almost think my husband doesn’t want me to find a job! I told him at dinner tonight (lamb vindaloo, my most ambitious recipe yet) that I haven’t heard back from anywhere I applied, and he didn’t seem to understand my frustration. He just said, “There’s no rush, my angel.” That’s sweet, and I know there’s no rush, but every day I feel like I’m sending resumes out into a black hole, and without any other contact, it’s a little difficult to stay sane. I think I’ll try to see Molly again tomorrow. She is so cheerful, and talking to another human might lift my spirits!

October 12

I am writing this from my comfy chair at the coffee shop. This place is wonderful. I had to beg them to stop giving me free refills because I won’t sleep if I keep drinking that much caffeine.

I finally got an email back from a prospective employer. I’m going to break the news to my husband tonight. I know he likes having me at home where I can help with the little homey tasks he hates, but it’s time for this baby bird to fly!

October 13

I’m a little sad. I just hit send on an email to the shop that asked me for an interview. My husband helped me draft it – he’s better at that business language than I am, so he typed up that I actually found another opportunity and can’t take the job. This isn’t true, but he said he didn’t think it was a good idea for me to be taking on work just yet – that all the change is coming too quickly and I should just relax and enjoy being a wife for a while.

I don’t think he’s right, but I’m scared to challenge him. He’s much older than I am, and more experienced with life. And lately he seems angry.

October 17

It’s interesting that I have the impulse to apologize to a journal for not writing in it. You aren’t a person! But I went away for a few days and I wanted to explain.

I switched to a new notebook. This feels crazy to say, but I think my husband was reading my journal. At dinner last night he brought up some random thing I wrote about tree roots a while back. I don’t usually mention my silly thoughts to him because I know he has so much other stuff on his mind. At least I don’t think I mentioned that to him? I don’t know, I’m being crazy, but I changed notebooks and I’m keeping up a dummy journal in the old one. I’m stashing this one in the bottom of my underwear drawer, where I don’t think he ever goes because he never does laundry. Oh gosh, I’m so nuts, I sound so nuts.

October 18

Tonight when he got home from work, my husband asked to see the new houseplant I’d bought today. I did buy one, but I didn’t tell him, I wanted to surprise him. I even used cash so he wouldn’t see it in our transaction history. He seemed embarrassed when he asked, like he’d slipped up.

I’m going to write something even crazier than what I wrote yesterday: I think the man in the window is being hired to watch me. I think my husband pays him. I don’t know how else to explain the way he knows about what I do during the day.

October 19

I had to test my theory. I’m not scheming, or trying to be sneaky or any of the other things my husband says I’m being, but when he asked me this morning what I was doing today, I told him nothing, just a walk to the park and then coming straight home.

I lied.

I went to see Molly at the coffee shop and told her everything I’ve been worried about. She said she was here for me if I ever needed anything and that I could come to stay with her if I ever felt unsafe.

Do I feel unsafe?

I think I feel unsafe.

October 20

He knew.

He came home in a mood last night and didn’t speak at all through dinner (beef bolognese). I asked him what was wrong and he said that he wanted a wife he could trust, that he thought he had one but he wasn’t so sure anymore. I apologized and he went to bed.

I don’t know why he’s having me followed. I don’t know why he reads my things. I’ve never been anything but loyal to him. I never asked any questions about why we had to leave home, why everything happened so suddenly, why I’m not allowed to talk to my sister anymore. I feel so stupid, like I overlooked something huge. I don’t know what to do next. I think I have to leave but I don’t know how to do it without the man in the window noticing.

October 23

I met Molly again today. I asked if we could do it on my neighborhood walk, so it looked like we just bumped into each other. I told her I think I need to get out, and we hatched a plan. She’s going to borrow a friend’s car and come pick me up at 11am three days from now, enough time for me to slowly get a bag together without my husband noticing. It’s nice to have a friend.

I feel so stupid for leaving my hometown in such a rush, without asking any questions, so soon after we met. I don’t know why my husband needed to leave in such a rush and I worry more and more that there’s something he wasn’t telling me. I told Molly all of this, and she said I shouldn’t beat myself up, that I’m young – as a matter of fact, too young to be married, in her opinion, not to make me feel bad, it’s just weird that a man his age would seek out a girl of mine, and what was he doing anyway.

October 26

When my husband left home this morning, I did my best to act normal. It feels strange knowing it was the last time I’ll see someone I thought I’d spend the rest of my life with. I left the curtains closed as I got my things together and now I’m just waiting for Molly.

Oh gosh, there’s the buzzer. I’m so paranoid lately. I’m going to run to the window to make sure Molly’s out front in the green VW Jetta, and then I guess it’s off to whatever.

It’s not Molly in the car. It’s him.

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