“City on the Plain” Part III

Lisa and Bonnie, Raton Pass, New Mexico

Lisa and Bonnie, Raton Pass, New Mexico

On Tuesday we go to Lisa’s first interview. Bonnie and I wait in the car. The opening turns out to be for a part-time position with no benefits, but afterwards Lisa thinks she’s got a good shot at it. I call the list of colleges who had responded to my query letters. The letters were all like the ones at CU Colorado Springs—we’d be happy to meet you if you’re in the area—schools always need a pool of potential adjunct professors to accommodate unexpected enrollment—but everyone was on spring break. I leave more voice mails, and my disappointment deepens. Lisa makes some calls and finds out a rental house will run close to a thousand dollars a month, twice what we pay for a much larger house in Mississippi. Most of the ads say no pets. In addition to Bonnie, we have two house cats waiting at home. Lisa calls an apartment finding service. The woman tells her we will probably have to lie about three animals, but she gives us a list of apartments that will take two pets, as long as dogs weigh less than thirty pounds. Bonnie weighs forty-five.

The exterior of the first place we visit looks like a resort hotel, with fountains in the courtyard and manicured grounds. A receptionist offers us coffee while we wait, but the manager dismisses us pretty quickly by jumping straight to the no-pets policy. Housing is tight in Denver, we find out. Owners can afford to be choosy. As we are leaving the manager instructs the receptionist to call the apartment finders to straighten out their listing. The next apartments have no office that we can find, and at the next, The Pines on Marston Lake, we lie about the cats and tell the woman our dog weighs thirty pounds. She frowns and says the dog can’t weigh over twenty. As Lisa and I leave we see a man leading a boxer the size of a Volkswagen out the door of his apartment.

At Cottonwood Creek apartments the manager gives us a friendly smile and tells us thirty pounds is okay. She lowers her voice to a conspiratorial level and says, “Forty or forty-five is okay as long as the dog isn’t mean or loud. What’s the difference in thirty and forty-five?” Lisa and I agree and don’t mention the cats. Shannon shows us a two bedroom on the second floor of a three story building. It has a mountain view outside what would be my office window, a balcony, wood-burning fireplace, and a walking path around a huge open field just out the back door, across the creek. We can move in as early as May 18, six days after my graduation, plenty of time to load a truck and drive. We pay Three hundred dollars down and sign the paperwork holding the apartment.

Cottonwood Creek Apartments

Cottonwood Creek Apartments

The next afternoon, though, I come back from taking Bonnie for a walk and find Lisa lying on the motel bed, crying. Putting money down on an apartment has pushed the move closer to the realm of reality. What had been dreams before, wishful thinking, now loomed before us, concrete.

“Whenever I think that I’ll only get to see my parents a couple of times a year, I just get sad,” she says. “Everything is so expensive here. We don’t have jobs and we don’t know anyone. This is what I want to do, move to Denver, but it’s hard to think about my parents growing old and not being there to help them.”

I sit down next to her and tell her it will be okay, but I know what she’s feeling. The night before, when I told my mother we’d found an apartment, she said, “Aren’t you putting the cart before the horse?” It had never occurred to me that my parents thought I would spend my life in Mississippi. I hadn’t lived at home, other than occasional weekends, in years. And even during five years of grad school I never went home for longer than a few days at a time. Later, after my father’s death and talking to his best friend, his preacher, I will find out that he was disappointed that I was choosing to live so far away, making regular visits almost impossible. It would have been one thing to be offered a job in Colorado. That would have been out of my hands, so to speak. But to choose to live 1,300 miles, that was different.

That evening we go to a small church we’d passed earlier that day. We hadn’t planned on church hunting, but the prospect of meeting some people seems better than moping around the motel all evening. The people in the church are friendly, and we play the where-are-you-from and who-do-you-know game. Lisa and I both attended church based colleges as undergrads, and we are able to make some weak, seven degrees of separation connections. Whatever the reason, we return to the room feeling better, knowing that friends will come with time, and knowing that church and jobs always makes it easier. Lisa’s parents call the motel that evening and Lisa tells them what she has been feeling. I’m surprised to find out they are entirely supportive, if not a little jealous of our opportunity. When they were younger they talked about moving to Alaska or Colorado. They see a chance for us to have the adventure they didn’t take. They tell her everything will be okay.

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