The Beginning of the End of the World (Bryce)

But that is not the end. The end comes months later; en route to a new life, a new home, a new job in a hot, desert state that you have never seen before. He says everything is going to change, everything is going to be different, new slate wiped clean. He promises. He wants that for him, for you, for “us.” Before the move you give him a list: these things must happen before we go. Before you agree to take this leap, drive this road with your life puzzle packed neatly in a Penske truck.  He agrees.

You take care of your obligations, your responsibilities. And most of his. You sublet your apartment. You give notice at your job and apply to others in the new city. You sell your couch and give away other pieces and parts. You spend hours online searching for a house close to his new work, in this new town. You set up the utilities, make the calls about the moving truck. You collect boxes and pack them neatly with all your things. He goes to work, he calls occasionally, mostly he just texts you. He checks nothing off the list.

And then it’s too late. It’s three days until your supposed to be on your way. He has packed nothing. Taken care of nothing. He’s still going to his job 12 hours a day, neglecting his inevitable future, your inevitable future. You take boxes and cleaning supplies over to his house. You scrub his bathroom, you wash his laundry. You throw away bags and bags of trash and sweep up mountains of dirt and cat hair. You pack his boxes. You walk his dog.

Three days later, he still isn’t ready to go. Your new job starts in a week and you do the math, how late can we leave and still get there on time? You load all your things in the Penske truck. You have to move out of your apartment, today, so you pack an overnight bag and get a hotel room. He has still never given notice at his rental so he will keep it, paying rent until he can come back and pack up the rest of his things.

There is no going back now. You come to the horrible realization that you have made a terrible decision. You are going to drive into the sunset with this unreliable, uncommunicative, unhelpful, unorganized, perpetually unprepared slob of a man. These are the kinds of decisions that you can’t take back, the kind that will forever change the course of your life. You are terrified, but you don’t know what else to do.

You make a spot on the front seat for your little dog and load the cross-country soundtrack CD’s into the player. He drives the truck and you follow in your car. For two days, 12 hours a day you drive. Across the desolate plains, down into green valleys, up hills and down, you leave one state and enter another and another. You stop momentarily at fast food places and diners and coffee shops. You are tired and afraid and uncertain.

Las Cruces, New Mexico. You pull into a roadside restaurant for a late dinner. It must be 11 o’clock. Your eyes are swimming in your head with the fatigue that comes from an endless road. “Please can we get a hotel room,” you say. “I am so tired and I can’t see straight, it’s dangerous, I shouldn’t be driving.” He fights you on it. You must continue on. He’s supposed to be at work in two days. You left three days late. You have to drive all night.

“I can’t do it. I’m worried. I’m exhausted.” You promise him you will get up as early as necessary. Let’s just get a good nights sleep and tomorrow we can power through. No.

You get up to go to the bathroom. The face in the mirror is old and stupid. What have you done? Why are you here of all places? Well this is a fine mess.

When you come back to the table he is gone. You assume he’s in the restroom so you sit down and wait. And wait. And wait. He doesn’t return. You pay the bill and go out to the parking lot. Your car is there. The truck is gone. You don’t even have a map. Then again, you never did.

You find a Best Western. You get a room. You buy a cord at the front desk so you can use the internet. You get a good nights sleep. You Google directions from Las Cruces and look at Craigslist for tiny, cheap apartments in your new town.

In the morning you get into your car with your little dog. You put some music on and start down the road. Today you will arrive in an unknown place where you don’t know a single person. You will go your new part-time job and find a place to live.

Everything will change. Everything will be different. New slate wiped clean.