autumn leaves near a creek

The piece I posted yesterday was a couple pages too long for the assignment, so I wrote another one. Again: the assignment was to write in any genre about a job that influenced a relationship or vice versa.

In Berkeley in December 2006, right around the time that I was caught by surprise by a scathing review at work, my girlfriend dumped me. You might have read about it. I wrote a six-word memoir that was published in an anthology of same; it was a bestseller and my six words are in there with a little drawing I did. It read: I still make coffee for two. After my review at work my supervisor closed the door and told me that if I wanted to be somewhere else, she would write me a great letter of recommendation.

January I was back to work and already back to online dating. I must’ve gone out with a dozen women that month. I remember snippets of them, a shock of red hair, a scowl, disconcerting puppy-dog glances, a backyard party where I was wallpaper, a nerve-wracking concert or two, some uncomfortable dinners, a cute nose but an unbearable voice. In my mind they combined to form, well, not exactly Voltron, more like the Toxic Avenger. It felt very much like how I imagine a crack addiction: destruction hurtles at you full tilt but you’re out of your gourd in a not-exactly-pleasant way, and you can’t stop. But I was determined to put the past behind, to make up for every failed relationship, to forget every relationship that never started, and to erase every bad move at work from the past year.

When I had been hired I was a wunderkind. I was on the rise. They created a fancy title just for me and paid me more than I had ever made in my life, more than any of my coworkers in my department. Great things were expected of me. And somewhere during that year they must’ve recalibrated. They must’ve realized that when I said I was a creative type, that that really meant I was a creative type, not a numbers guy. I guess they thought they wanted a creative type, the way you think you really need an iPad, when really all they needed was someone to check things off lists, the way a pad and pencil will sometimes do just fine.

In February I was on a roll plugging numbers and checking things off lists and meeting new people and forgetting new people. Like the tiny ball bearings in a lock on a safe clicking into place, I went out with a girl who was blonde and from Minnesota. It didn’t last long, but something must’ve stuck because the next person I met online was Angie, who was also blonde and also from Minnesota and who had wide blue eyes that grabbed me by the throat and a voice when we first spoke that sounded like a deep pitcher of water from a sweet primordial spring.

The problem was that she was living in Seattle, a grad student at U-Dub.

We talked and then it was April. I visited and then it was May. In June Angie visited and in July I visited and in August and September we both found time to visit each other. She came to my family reunion and I went to hers.

I spoke to Noelle, my best friend from high school, who is known for getting right to the point of the heart of the crux of the matter, and she said, “Move.”

What is a wunderkind anyway, but someone who is rewarded before they are hurt? In Berkeley I had a future in publishing, leapfrogging jobs until what? In Seattle I had a sister and a brother-in-law and a nephew—and Angie. In the Bay Area I had the bottomless prospect of endless first dates. I had excitement and nightlife and friends who came and went from my life like a cast on a sitcom. In Seattle, a city dim with rain and five million fewer people, I had Angie. At work I had status and I had money and I had the constant rush of important things and critical people all relying on me. I had a pulsing pervasive pressure that lit my brow with a permanent perspiration, a new boss working alongside the old boss making two bosses looking over me as I looked out the window

and jumped.