There is a story I always tell: There was one semester in college that I befriended a girl in my English class named Kristen.
Mobile, Alabama, the southern town where I went to college and spent the bulk of my life, is homogenous to a fault. Kristen had the air of someone from far away, and when we first spoke, she confirmed it. She’d grown up in California, met a boy from Mobile, and moved to Mobile to be with him.
“But, it’s so dumb,” she said. “I moved here and we can’t live together.”
Two other girls in the class who were listening, sighed heavily, nodding to each other.
“Living in sin,” they said.
“It’s not like that in LA,” said Kristen.
Myself and the other classmates tried to sum up the larger reasoning behind the rule.
“Well, you’ll be married soon,” one of the other girls said.
“A Catholic wedding,” Kristen interjected. “So we can drink.”
On the last day of class I saw Kristen easing late into her seat. Someone asked her if she was taking the second class in the program.
“I broke off my engagement,” she said flatly. “I imagine myself in New York.”
At a wedding reception In a little room off the main dining room at Le Petit Retro, in Paris, Alistair and I were making conversation with one of the party guests.
"Where do you live?" he asked us. We both gave our separate neighborhoods--me uptown in Washington Heights, him in Brooklyn. There was a one-hour-and-thirty-minute train ride between our homes. We finished the story with our usual joke: "Essentially, it's like a long distance relationship."
"You should live together," he said. Alistair smiled demurely.
"Ariel would be a great roommate," he said.
"Why not? Really, why not?" the guest asked.
Whenever Alistair and I brought up the subject, I brought up my reservations. No one I knew back home had moved in with a partner. Alabama was conservative and my very small community was extremely Catholic. Everyone married early and went straight from living alone to living together as a married couple. I would expect to make my parents very angry, I'd expect to have a few old friends (and even their parents) grow apart from me. I would be leaving Manhattan, with the tall buildings and the buzzy energy, for Brooklyn, a hip scene that I never ever feel at home in. So, there was that to consider.
The hours of schlepping and the hour-and-ten-minute commute to the office continued for another year. The summer passed, and Alistair suggested when my lease was up in February of 2019 to consider it again. I decided that I would do it, and thus began our plan.
Over Christmas break I packed my things and just last weekend the movers arrived. On the MLK holiday we found spaces for all my clothes and photo albums and artwork in Alistair's airy, maximalist, parlor-floor apartment. It already feels like home here.
Alistair's family is so happy about our decision. Me? I've relied on the support of Suni and Philippa and the clerk at the storage facility where my furniture is, my coworkers, and customer service agents for all the home services I've cancelled.
People are always telling me, "You can't please everyone." But that line doesn't work on me anymore, it has to be more extreme, I have to say: "You will make enemies." Because I will. If I live the life I've wanted for myself, naturally, people will disagree. That's OK.
Last week was my first week here. I've watched television with Alistair, wrote, admired my books on the bookshelf and made a Moroccan lamb tagine. It is as blissful as I imagined.