Frank leaned in close to me, his lips an inch from my ear. “Even professor has lost just about everything he once had,” he whispered. “It happens to all of us.” I looked around the table at the motley group that had gathered. We sat at the corner table of the bar and must have looked an odd sight to the regulars: a smattering of officials in suits, a police captain, two officers, a few younger types. Four of the men had a gun at their hip; Jen and I wore matching pearls in our ears.
We drifted back and forth from boisterous table-wide conversations to individual chats. Frank was explaining to me why he was single. “Imagine being in shallow cover and trying to explain to the perps why your girl drives a Mercedes. The lifestyles just clash.” He sighed, rocked his bottle back and forth between the palms of his hands. “What girl would put up with me walking in every other day, not telling her where I was? This career becomes your relationship.” I looked around the table at the left hands of my classmates. The ring fingers were empty, except for L’s. She had just gotten engaged this past weekend, and her announcement had brought an empty sort of congratulations from the table. We knew, and maybe she knew, that she couldn’t have the ring and the job.
“I hope you don’t have a guy,” Frank said. I shook my head, watching the Phillies game out of the corner of my eye. I usually love when the Phillies beat the Mets; this time it just made me feel empty. “You can’t have some guy in the places you’re going.” I know this; I know that if I end up where everyone expects me to go, I won’t be able to have a husband. I won’t have kids. I won’t be able to go to family parties or meet up for drinks with my friends. I’ll be lucky if they let me bring my dog.
The table resonates this: my professor was in the field for years and divorced because of it. The captain is separated; the officers are both single. The chief investigator is more fond of his gun than of his ex-wife.
Frank laughs, a hard burst that almost sounds nervous. “I can’t believe a girl like you doesn’t have a guy.” I think to this past weekend up in New York, I think to how the boy put his hand on my knee during dinner. I think to how I woke up in the middle of the night, our legs wrapped in jersey sheets, the sound of cars outside of his window, how happy and full I felt. I think of his absentminded kiss goodbye outside of his apartment. I don’t have the guy, despite all of that. I don’t want to word it, so I shrug. Let Frank figure out what he wants to believe.
I’ve spent the past few months trying to decide if this was even worth pursuing, whether I could have the relationship and a toned-down version of the job. When I imagined the future I saw that; I saw an apartment on the river, walking the dog to the park with him. The part about him is starting to disappear more and more.
Everyone at the table is wondering if they’ve made the right choice, but no one is voicing it.
Will I be happy ten, twenty years from now? Will I be miserable knowing that the boy has found someone else to be with, someone he actually loves, and that all I have to turn to is a job? Will I be even close to happy falling asleep alone, even with the city sounds outside of my window?