It was a long ride. After we pushed our bikes up Laurel Hill, I was drenched. We maneuvered through the front door, dumped all of our belongings on the floor, and saw that there was no space to lie down. It was our first night in his closet-size apartment. Before going to sleep, I watched a snail crawl across the window, glistening. That was when he told me he loved me. We had never slept next to each other before. I wondered if he would hold me, but he stayed on his back with a tee-shirt over his eyes and the faucet stopped dripping and the snail disappeared.
There was an eviction in the spring. The building emptied quickly. He started camping because he liked being outside. One night, I parked close to the edge, left my car, and stumbled down the overhang. The air was thick and black. I could hear the waves, cool, clapping. I fell down and scraped my leg. I screamed his name until my throat burned. He was sleeping somewhere in a cove, under the brush. I yelled louder, crawling along the ridge, snagging my skin on brambles and cacti. When I found his tent, he was angry. He accused me of drinking. I tried to lay beside him in the tent. It was only made for one person, he said. He hugged me until I agreed to leave. I was completely sober.
We moved into our downtown apartment before the electricity came on. We cooked curry and vegetables by candlelight and left everything on the gas stove because we had nowhere to put it. The spices were so hot, my tongue boiled for hours. Later we had sex on the hardwood floor in the living room and talked about our old life and the new one we were about to have. He sat with his back to me, smoothing the creases of a sleeping bag in the dark. I pushed open the grime-covered windows and let the city flood in.
When the lease was up, we separated, getting rid of what we couldn’t take. We carried 100 pounds of solid teak to the street in the middle of the night and scrawled FREE on empty pizza boxes, balancing them on top of the desk. By morning, someone stripped the wood body of its drawers and unscrewed the brass legs, leaving a carcass behind. We hauled it to the dumpsters and I cried a little. It was his idea to paint the kitchen cabinets white instead of cleaning them. He wrote our apartment number on the mail slot with permanent marker. We pushed his ’64 Falcon across the street one last time. I asked him if he’d miss the mustard stucco he said no and laughed.
I found a house with an orange tree in the yard. I packed quickly and he showed up with a truck. He carried all my boxes and fit the table, chairs, and bookcase like a jigsaw into the back. When we lifted my bed, there were a dozen condom wrappers on the floor. I tried to joke about it, but he said he didn’t care. I told him despite what he thought, it had been a lonely year. Then he followed me with all my furniture twenty miles across town.
The last time I moved, I hired a company. The men were fast and strong and wrapped everything in so much plastic, I didn’t recognize the pieces. There were no condom wrappers on the floor. Only dust balls, bobby pins, and a piece of paper with his math equations scribbled across the margin. I thought about saving that paper because I loved the way he wrote his 9s. I’d never made a 9 like that in my life-a backwards C with the top curving under and towards itself again. It was a perfect loop. I was never good at math and he knew this. He was a patient teacher but he knew I didn’t have the time to learn. He knew so many things, nothing really surprised him anymore.