Apart at the Seams Excerpt

My best friend, Rachel, makes blogging look so easy. From what I can tell, she just vomits out the contents of her brain onto the screen, hits PUBLISH, and waits for the accolades and advice to come pouring into her comment section like the tide racing up the sand. So why have I been sitting here, staring at the blinking cursor for over an hour, trying to write my very first blog post? All I can think to write down is I can’t believe I’m asking my boyfriend to move in I can’t believe I’m asking my boyfriend to move in I can’t believe I’m asking my boyfriend to move in, and that doesn’t even amount to a paragraph.

But I can’t believe I’m asking Ethan to move in tonight despite the fact that I can’t really wrap my mind around whether this is a good idea or not.

I want it to be a good idea. But that isn’t really the same thing as it being a good idea.

Normally I’m not one to mess with the status quo. Our relationship works. Ethan has his place in Brooklyn, and I have my place with my son, Beckett, in Manhattan, and there is a short subway ride between us that goes over the Hudson River. Beckett loves that—when the train breaks out of the darkness and the light sparkles off the water. He bangs his toddler hands against the window of the train car and shrieks, much to the chagrin of the commuters. That subway ride between our apartments feels like a nice buffer, a cotton batting that I can wrap myself in, knowing that all is safe and neat in my world.

Which makes sense because Ethan isn’t exactly the poster child for responsibility. When he stays over, I have to hang back for ten minutes after he leaves, straightening up the apartment. Living with him could end up feeling as if I’m parenting two toddlers, only one leaves an adult-sized mess in his wake. But I can tell that Ethan is trying to turn his life around with his new job, and that has to count for something.

The cursor pulses like a heartbeat, reminding me of the reason I ultimately relented to Rachel’s nagging that I should move the relationship forward even though she knows I never want to get married. I am growing older. My colorist found two silvery hairs the last time I went to get my highlights done. Silver hairs, like snakes waiting in long grass.
What do I have to show for the last five years of taking the safe route? Despite my design training, I’m still just a finisher at Davis & Howe. I still have the same friendships, eat at the same restaurants, attach the same sequins and seed beads to pattern after pattern after someone else’s pattern. My life is familiar, comfortable, like a well-worn pair of pajamas that feels good to slip into at the end of the day.

But don’t I owe myself something more than comfortable? Something more than house clothes? Why did I put in all those hours drawing out my own designs if they’re never going to end up on someone’s body? Why start a relationship if we’re not going to at some point end up living together in sin until death do we part? Isn’t now good enough even if it isn’t quite perfect?

I type and backspace as if my fingers are performing the lindy hop before I decide that maybe blogging just isn’t my thing. I’ve never been an analyzer like Rachel. I catch my reflection like a ghost in the screen. Arianna Quinn is a doer, not a navel-gazer. And this week, she’s going to march her designs over to the atelier designer and ask her what she thinks.
But first, she’s going to invite her boyfriend to share her apartment.


I wait until I’m positive that Ethan is completely distracted by the baseball game—two outs, the bases loaded, one of those guys who always gets a home run because he’s most likely hopped up on steroids stepping up to bat—before I mumble out the question, my face buried in a Crate & Barrel catalog. As if I’m asking the glossy pages if they kind of sort of want to move into my apartment.

I’m hoping that he’s so wrapped up in the game that the question passes unnoticed but I can know that I made an offer. Of course, that isn’t the way it goes. If I were asking him his opinion on my outfit, what he wants to eat for dinner, or if he could grab me a new diaper for Beckett, I know his hearing would be impaired by the tension of the game. But cohabitation offers seem to be spoken at a pitch heard only by boyfriends and dogs.

His eyes peel off the screen with the same alacrity I saw the day I flashed him in a crowded restaurant as part of a dare. You’ll never do it, Ethan had insisted. Not rational, Midwestern Arianna Quinn. So I had carefully unbuttoned my shirt while keeping my coat loosely closed as a screen, a grin spreading across his face, until his eyes had flicked away from the customers around us to take in the two-second flash of my violet, satin bra. He is once again staring at me in amazement, as if I’ve just completed the ski jump or something equally as unfathomable.

“Move in with you?” he repeats.

“I figured that’s where this relationship was headed,” I comment. “Living together forever. Domestic bliss.”

Ethan tackles me like a puppy, knocking the Crate & Barrel catalog from my outstretched hand. It lands picture-side-up, displaying a very homey-looking apron with an apple-pattern trim. Xs and Os. Beckett sighs through the baby monitor while Ethan kisses my neck hungrily, not even pausing when we both hear the baseball connect with the bat on the television screen and the announcer scream out the names of the men rounding the bases.

“I thought you’d never ask,” he mumbles into the cloud of my hair.

His mouth finds mine, and I kiss him back eagerly. Mostly because it’s much easier than talking. It’s easier than thinking. Because when it’s like this—just the two of us on the sofa in our own little world—I can believe that everything will work out.

I clear out the top dresser drawers while Ethan is traveling from Brooklyn to Manhattan with a carful of possessions. The majority of the clothes that once occupied those drawers—random t-shirts I would never be caught dead in and gym shorts that haven’t seen a gym in several years—have ended up in a box under the bed to be dealt with at a later time. My seldom-used vibrator has migrated to the back of the side table. I leave the drawers slightly open, like a greeting.

Beckett toddles into the room, followed by his babysitter, the Rocky Horror–obsessed teenager from the building who promises in her monotone to keep him occupied in his bedroom so he isn’t underfoot once Ethan makes it upstairs. Case (never Casey, as she was called years ago back when she wore pigtails instead of black lipstick) scoops him up, carrying him out of the room by tucking him under her arm as if he’s a human baguette handbag.

There’s a soft ding, letting me know I have a text message, and I dive for my phone.

Your DVD collection is about to double, Arianna.

Are you texting and driving?

I’m at a red light. And I love you. And I’m excited that our DVD collection is doubling when I walk through the door.

I love you too. And I’m excited about our burgeoning DVD collection even though it will include a lot of movies with superheroes in the title. But please don’t text and drive.

Green light!

I slip my phone into my pocket and move to the bathroom to push all my toiletries to one side of the medicine cabinet. His toothbrush leans toward mine in the toothbrush holder, as if it’s inquiring whether it wants to dance. It’s not as if this is the first time his things will be in my apartment. He has a toothbrush in the toothbrush holder. Some spare clothes tucked into my closet. He’s left a CD or two in the stereo. Still, nervous energy scurries around in my stomach like a mouse exploring the inside of a wall as I realize that in a few more minutes, we’ll also have his-and-her deodorants and 50 percent less tampon-hording space.

I throw out a mostly empty bottle of hairspray and a bunch of hotel samples that I’m never going to use and shift my stuff around to leave him the entire bottom shelf of the medicine cabinet. I run into the kitchen and grab an empty plastic cup and a Sharpie, scrawling “Ethan’s Cup” with a smiley face, and place it next to my own beside our toothbrushes.

Red light! No commute back to Brooklyn anymore. What will we do with all this newly found free time?

I type back quickly, I’m sure we’ll find a way to fill it.

Afternoon sex. 100 percent more afternoon sex. Green light!

I didn’t think he’d actually take me up on my offer then and there. I thought there would be discussion. And negotiations. A few weeks—or maybe even a few months—to get accustomed to the idea. But he agreed instantly, and we told Rachel the very next day, which pretty much was the no-going-back point. She was smugly happy, as if our relationship had been her idea instead of conducted behind her back for several months.

This is it, Arianna, she told me. You’re getting all the big changes over with in one fell swoop. You’ll move ahead in work, move ahead in this relationship, and five years from now, you’ll look back and wonder why you were so nervous to take the first step.

The reality is that all of Rachel’s gentle nudges to get Ethan through my front door were made without knowing that everything isn’t quite as fairy-tale wonderful as she thinks. Ethan and I are both squeamish about sharing the details of our relationship with her, but I suspect that even if we were to tell her everything, she wouldn’t really hear it. Rachel is intent on seeing our relationship as perfect, and I get it: Ethan is her brother, I’m her best friend. She wants us to be happy.

Her myopic view of our relationship comes from a good place.

I sigh, opening the cabinet under the sink to look for anything remotely embarrassing. Things are really really good. We are deeply in love, enough to merge our lives into one borough. I keep reminding myself of that thought like a mantra; as if I can meditate on it and it will quell all of my doubts. Love conquers all, or something like that.

I start counting the things that are going well beyond the sex. There’s his job, for one thing. That was a huge step that he undertook for me. For us: me and Beckett. He became self-conscious about his odd-job existence a few months ago and started applying left and right to every job related to photography until he settled on a part-time job teaching photography at a private school in addition to an adult-education class over the summer. But what no one else knows is this little thing that still bothers me, and I hate myself for the fact that it keeps popping up in my mind, practically tugging on my leg as I try to take this leap of faith.

There was a much better job that Ethan turned down.

It was a full-time position creating stock images. The pay was a lot more than the private school, and his work would have been used in advertisements. Billboard ads and magazines. We could have been driving out to his parents in New Jersey and seen his work splashed down the Turnpiketurnpike. But he balked at the idea of working eight hours or more per day, and he told me that it would kill his soul to have to photograph artfully arranged watermelon slices on white backgrounds.

So he didn’t take it. He opted for a lot less money with many fewer hours. I tell myself that it’s not a big deal as I peer under the sink for leftover tubes of Monistat or that self-waxing kit I bought one time on a whim, making my bathroom Ethan-ready. I remind myself for the three thousandth time that the point is that he does have a job now. And a job is definitely a step up from no job. Plus there are silver linings to the school position that shouldn’t be undervalued. Fewer hours means that he can help out more with picking up Beckett. It really does have its advantages if I look at it from that angle.

I shove that final thought figuratively under the sink and snap the cabinet closed so it’s trapped next to the extra bottles of shampoo and conditioner. I don’t want to let anything spoil this day.