When I got to New York, I was definitely expecting Buddy to be surprised at my new hairstyle, but I didn't expect him to flip out about it. I mean, it seems so innocent. It's just hair, it's not what defines me, it's not who I am. In fact, having short hair might make me more myself.
But when I took off my hat (a silly wool cap with ear flaps) and he saw what had happened, he just stared a while. "Well, that's... wow."
He winced. "Uh, maybe? I don't know."
"What do you mean you don't know? Everyone else has said it's nice."
"Well everyone else isn't dating you. I kinda would've liked a head's up at least."
"What's the big deal? It's just hair!"
Then he goes off on this whole thing about communication and trust and whatever, and how we're long distance so we should be paying special attention to that kind of thing because he can't be near me all the time -- and when I ask him just what is that supposed to mean, he says to drop it, it was a poor choice of words. I don't push the issue, but it still sticks with me.
I told him I didn't tell him because it was spur of the moment, and if I'd spent time talking to anyone about it, I probably wouldn't have done it, even though I'm happy with it. He insists I should have, and accuses me of making "a lot" of spur-of-the-moment decisions lately. Leaving my job, moving in with Raine. I guess he feels like we're on shaky ground. It seemed like neither of us could say the right thing, because I told him not to be insecure, and that sent him off into the snow for a few hours.
I had already called Ken to see if I could crash on their couch, if this fight was going to last all night, but I wanted him to come back first. I ordered up some food to tide me over since the two of us were clearly not eating together. He came back around 7, drunk, but I guess he hadn't eaten since he was mad I hadn't ordered anything for him.
I tried to apologize, but things just got worse until I finally just had to leave. I was in tears again, worrying about fucking up my first serious relationship as a girl right when it was starting to get good.
Ken and Jana were just about ready to get to bed by the time I arrived. And so was I, so I laid out on the couch with a comforter and tried to get some rest. Before I fell asleep, I heard a buzz in my purse. A text message from Buddy.
"I'm so sorry. I love you so much."
That hit like a fist in the face, and I spent so much time staring at it, trying to figure out what I wanted to say in response that I fell asleep without answering.
It didn't come up again the next day when we met up for breakfast, at this little corner cafe we like. Mostly we just talked about the future. In February, I'm starting night courses in computer repair -- it isn't anything I need to re-learn, but nobody knows that. Mainly I just want to brush up and get certified. It's a 6-week course and then I'll probably be able to get a job and just go on living my life.
That's when he told me he was moving around again. He's got a new gig in Houston, and if he's lucky it might become permanent. I went stone cold at this. If we were having this much trouble with him just a state over, how were we going to do with half a country between us?
Then he told me he was thinking, if it turns permanent, and we're in a good place, how would I feel about moving to Houston with him?
And I just didn't know what to think about it. Uproot myself again, leave this city, leave the family, commit, and basically give up the option to become Cliff again? I mean, I am basically done with that life, but I guess I just thought it would make an effective back-up plan if I ever needed it. I haven't even heard from Willie in months. Last I heard he was in England still.
I told him we'd see what happened. It's a possibility. But deep down it really feels like just too much to handle. To completely base my lie around this relationship? That would be different.
We went to the bus depot, and he told me to think about it and I said I would. I gave him a big hug and a kiss -- his lips were ice cold but his breath was so warm. We just stood there a while in our winter coats, holding each other, and he said to me, "Have a nice trip, Vic."
I looked up at him. He's never called me Vic before. I asked him where that came from and he said, "Your family all calls you Vic. I thought maybe I could call you that, too. Maybe since you're changing your life, you might like a new name. New haircut, new identity."
I smiled. It was a little bit of a dig, but kinda sweet also? Like, mean but also being cute, after all, it's a guy's name, and he makes it a point to remind me any time I do or say anything guyish, including my short hair. I told him it was all right if he wanted to keep calling me that. I've learned not to get too attached to names. You never know when you might wake up with a new one.
I kissed him on the cheek and told him goodbye. I spent the whole ride home wondering what Vic was gonna do next.