The Last Thing He Told Me

1.10 Six Weeks Ago

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“We should take a vacation,” Owen said. “We’re overdue.”
It was midnight. We were lying in bed, his hand cupping mine. He was
resting it on his chest, on his heart.
“You should come with me to Austin,” I said. “Or would that not count?”
“Austin?” he said.
“I have the woodturners symposium I told you about. We could turn it into a
getaway. Spend a couple of days in Texas Hill Country…”
“It’s in Austin? You didn’t tell me it was in Austin…”
Then he nodded, like he was considering it, considering joining me—except I
felt something shift in him. I felt something shut down in his body.
“What’s wrong?” I said.
“Nothing,” he said.
But he let go of my hand and started to play with his wedding band, turning
it around and around his 􀏯nger. I made him that wedding band. I made it to
match mine, exactly: Two slim bands that, from a distance, looked like any other
shiny, platinum ring. But I made ours out of brushed steel, a thick white oak.
Rustic and elegant at once. I’d used my smallest lathe. Owen had sat on the 􀏲oor
beside me while I worked.
“Bailey also has that school trip to Sacramento coming up,” he said. “We
could hightail it to New Mexico, just the two of us, get lost in the white rock.”
“I’d love that,” I said. “I haven’t been to New Mexico in a long time.”
“Me neither. Not since back when I was in college. We drove up to Taos,
spent a week on the mountain.”
“You drove all the way from New Jersey?” I asked.
He kept twirling his ring, absentmindedly. “What?”
“You drove all the way from New Jersey to New Mexico? That must have
taken you forever.”
That stopped him, his 􀏯ngers leaving his ring. “It wasn’t during college.”
“Owen! You just said you went to Taos during college.”
“I don’t know. It was a mountain somewhere. Maybe it was Vermont. All I
remember was that the air was too thin.”
I laughed. “What’s going on with you?”
“Nothing. It just…”
I look at him, trying to follow what he isn’t saying.
“It just brings back a weird part of my life.”
“College?”
“College. After college.” He shook his head. “Being stuck on a mountain I
don’t remember.”
“Okay… so that’s maybe the weirdest thing I think you’ve ever said to me.”
“I know.”
He sat up and turned on the light. “Shit,” he said. “I really need that
vacation.”
“Let’s take it,” I said.
“Okay. Let’s take it.”
He lay down, again, put his hand on my stomach. And I could feel him relax
again. I could feel him come back to me. So I didn’t want to press him. I didn’t
want to press him right then on what he’d almost chosen to share.
“And we don’t have to get into it now, but just for the record?” I said. “I
spent most of college playing guitar in a Joni Mitchell cover band, attending
poetry slams, and dating a philosophy grad student who was working on a
manifesto about how television was the government’s attempt to control a
revolution.”
“Not sure he was exactly wrong about that,” he said.
“Maybe not, but the point is, there’s not a whole lot you could tell me about
who you used to be that would change anything, at least not between us.”
“Well,” he whispered. “Thank God for that.”


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