To break the silence, Amber says, "It's nice that people would miss us."
"They are used to having me around, love. Melissa pretty much insisted that our leaving wasn't an option."
We had just left Jacki's annual St. Patrick's Day potluck. When the other guests had vacated, aside from Eric, Amber mentioned that she had applied to a yearlong artist residency at her alma mater in York, Pennsylvania, over five hours from where we currently live. She would have to work on her art and programs for the community for fifteen hours a week, after which she would be free to do as she wished. We would have a rent and utilities free apartment for a year and Amber would be given a monthly stipend that could not feed a dog. She does make York seem endlessly dull, except where it is outright criminal, which doesn't precisely put a shine on the concept. But it is an option, one of the few being presented to us right now. It is something other than our having to live separately.
We will only do this if I actually lose my job owing to the governor's budget cuts, but no one is admitting to knowing how likely this would be. Possibly, I would be offered another job with the state immediately, albeit not a teaching one. Possibly, reason will win the day and my facility will not close because people really don't want my residents released to their home communities all at once. I've been applying to other jobs in the region, but the only responsive school is one that I am guessing cannot come close to my current salary and benefits (but which would likely be a far more liberal and relaxed environment than teaching stubborn, adjudicated boys the basics of English grammar and composition).
Jacki and Eric offered various alternatives - Amber could commute to York, she could work all required hours in two days and then drive back to the Hudson Valley to cuddle beside her underemployed boyfriend - but did not come right now and say that they were entirely against it and Amber was forbidden to take me away.
On the drive down, we had broached the topic in broad terms by enumerating who we would miss most. Daniel topped the list, as we three have a quiet friendship where he can come over and we can sit and play on our respective computers while watching a movie and not feel a moment has been wasted. I don't know that Amber has ever had a friend so much like her as Daniel, an almost hermitical introverted artist who feels deeply beneath his stillness. She reaches the inevitable and unarguable conclusion: we will have to bring him on the residency with us. I tell her that there are certainly worse things in the world for him, among them continuing to deal with bankruptcies at work.
Daniel is only the tip of the iceberg. Red Hook has been good to me and is one of the prettiest places I have had the fortune of living. Bard College provides events enough to keep me busy every night of the week if I chose to let it. Amber and my weekly movie nights at Dan and Holly's has become one of the high points of my week because that alone is the closest I have ever had to the sort of sitcom-fond friendships I fetishized in my mid-twenties, where we all get together and banter merrily and intelligently. Seeing Daniel simply because we have a free evening is just perfect. Having money enough to take care of my lover is something I have never before experienced and would be loath to lose. I want to see more springs as I wander through trails, I want to raid Bard when the undergrads flee for the summer and dip my bare toes in their goldfish pond, I want to see autumn painting the mountains from Poet's Walk, and I will cope with another Hudson Valley winter as best I can. Wherever I go with Amber, I know I can build a life, but I don't want to lose the one I have now and all the wonderful tiny things that compose it.
Soon in Xenology: Dan and Holly.