It took me five minutes to walk to the coffee shop, twenty minutes to order and be served my drink, and another five for the return trip. Margie was alone back in the apartment where she was supposed to be preparing to leave for Maine. I’d assumed that spending a half hour folding laundry, packing toiletries and sorting road maps while surrounded by piles of my crumpled clothes would remind her of the excitement we both felt on the first day of travel. I thought that Margie just needed some time to herself and twenty pairs of socks to sort and she would forget about the car accident, spilled sunflower seed shells and endless complaints about the travel conditions. Yes, clean shirts and an empty suitcase would get her back to the time when we were both in love with opportunities presented by an extended road trip. I was wrong. Very, very wrong.
When I returned, Margie’s bed, desk and floor were completely covered with paperwork. She hadn’t packed a single thing. To my horror Margie had pulled out all of the receipts and broken down the expenses for the first half of the trip. I didn’t enter a room full of enthusiasm for the next phase of our journey. I had walked right into a conversation about money and nothing good could come from that.
I attempted to busy myself in the farthest corner of the apartment but, since it was a studio and located in Manhattan, I was only physically ten feet away from Margie. Although I tried to pretend not to be, I was still well within earshot. I picked up a strip of film and stared at the shots of locked restrooms like they were so engrossing that whole world drifted away. Margie just repeated the question until I was way past the comfortable timeframe of ignoring her. “Your half of the charges are $986. Will you be able to pay me back when we get home?”
Of course, I wasn’t going to be able to “pay her back.” Lisa had spent the last dollars in our bank account on a vibrator that she sent for Valentine’s for which I didn’t even have the money to pay for batteries. The shiny pink rod that represented the last of my resources was as useful to me as a ski pole. In regards to the trip finances, I was left with two options. One, lie to Margie and hope that I came into some money before the end of the trip. Two, lie to Margie and hope that we could find a way to monetize the project before the end of the trip. Sadly, pinning my fortune on America’s appreciation of keychains fashioned out of discarded plastic cups and dirt covered sticks was my most logical choice.
I shot Margie a thumbs-up, “I should!”
Luckily, Margie took that to mean, “in all probability.” She was too busy with her own agenda to analyze what I was saying. Margie wanted to delay travel for one more day so she could finish her accounting and pay the bills. I had spent two weeks complaining about the project. Without an explanation, how could I justify my sudden interest? I couldn’t tell Margie that I was ready to start paying attention when I took the photographs. She didn’t have the back-story to know that I needed a completed piece of work to both do right by her and justify abandoning Lisa.
If I argued for leaving asap and she were to find out that I was broke, Margie would quit on me, pack up my boxes and leave me by the bus station. If it would keep her happy to staple receipts and lick stamps for one more day, how much difference could that make?
By the time we ate dinner, a light snow was beginning to dust New York City. Shortly before midnight, the blizzard of 2003 was in full swing.