People We Meet on Vacation

Page 100

I’ve got an article to finish writing in the morning, my first for my new job. I was dreading telling Swapna I was leaving, but she wasn’t mad. In fact, she hugged me (it felt like being hugged by Beyoncé), and later that night a huge bottle of champagne was delivered to my and Alex’s door.

Congratulations on your column, Poppy, the note read. I’ve always known you were going places. X, Swapna.

The irony of it all is, I won’t be going places anymore, at least not for work. In a lot of other ways, though, my job won’t be all that different—I’ll still be going to restaurants and bars, writing about the new galleries and ice pop stands springing up around New York.

But People You Meet in New York will be different too, more human interest piece than review. I’ll be exploring my own city but through the eyes of the people who love it, spending a day with someone in their favorite new spot, learning what makes it so special.

My first piece is about a new bowling alley in Brooklyn with an old-school feel. Alex went with me to scope the place out, and I knew as soon as I spotted Dolores in the next lane over, personalized gold ball and matching gloves and a halo of frizzy gray hair, that she was someone who could teach me things. A bucket of beer, a long conversation, and a bowling lesson later, and I had everything I needed for the article, but Alex and Dolores and I walked over to the hot dog place down the street anyway, hung out until nearly midnight.

The article’s almost done, just needs a few finishing touches, but those can wait until the morning. I’m wiped out from our long day, and all I want to do is sink onto the couch with Alex.

“It’s good to be home,” he says, looping his arms around my back and pulling me flush to him.

I slip my hands up the back of his shirt and kiss him like I’ve been waiting to all day. “Home,” I say, “is my favorite place.”

“Mine too,” he murmurs, easing me back against the wall.

Next summer, we will get away from the city. We will spend four days tromping around Norway, another four in Sweden. There will be no Icehotel. (He’s a teacher, I’m a writer, and we’re both millennials. There’s no money for that.)

I’ll leave a key for Rachel to water our plants, and after Sweden, we’ll fly straight back to Linfield for the rest of Alex’s summer break.

We’ll stay in Betty’s house while he fixes it up and I sit on the floor, eating Twizzlers and finding new ways to make him blush. We’ll tear down wallpaper and choose new paint colors. We’ll drink diet soda at dinner with his dad and brothers and the nieces and nephew. We’ll sit on the porch with my parents looking out over the wasteland of Wright Family Cars Past. We’ll try on our hometown the same way we’ve been trying on New York together. We’ll see how it fits, where we want to be.

But I already know how I’ll feel.

Wherever he is, that will be my favorite place.

“What?” he asks, the start of a smile tugging at his lips. “Why are you staring?”

“You’re just . . .” I shake my head, searching for any word that could possibly encompass what I’m feeling. “So tall.”

His smile is wide, unfettered, Naked Alex just for me. “I love you too, Poppy Wright.”

Tomorrow we will love each other a little more, and the next day, and the next day.

And even on those days when one or both of us is having a hard time, we’ll be here, where we are completely known, completely accepted, by the person whose every side we love wholeheartedly. I’m here with all the versions of him I’ve met over twelve years of vacations, and even if the point of life isn’t just being happy, right now, I am. Down to the bones.

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