Option: A woman sits on the floor of her flat, surrounded by dusty unopened, moving cartoons packed seventeen months ago. Moonbeams, the only light, spill in the window.
Who knew moving to the big city would be such a flop. Once again, Rosalie curses herself for filling her head with so many unrealistic movie scenes of a small town girl who gives up everything to make it in NYC. In those movies she watched and imagined herself in, they did not mention how claustrophobic she would feel once she moved to the “big” apple. Or how the streets smell like piss and cigarettes. Or how there were people everywhere, but very few human souls left.
The whole city made her feel like she was gasping for air and longing for human connection.
As the faint moonbeams coming in her only window cause the smallest of shadows to form around the towers of boxes, Rosalie slid into her usual nightly routine: rips off the waitress uniform, grabs a beer, lounges on the rickety bed, and tries to make sense of where she is and what to heck to do next.
Most of the stacked boxes in front of her have remained sealed. Only a few were reopened to pull out needed items, a warm sweater, a book, silverware set for one. Only eight feet away, her open laptop sits at the opposite wall, playing some faint melodies from her iTunes. John Denver begins serenading her through the tiny speakers: Blue Ridge mountains, Shenandoah River…life is old there, older than the trees…younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze. A smile started forming at the corners of her mouth, widening until she let out a giggle and sang along with the rest of the chorus: Country roads, take me home, to the place, I belonngggg!
By the time the song ended she was standing on the rickety bed belting out the words she knew so well. It was an album Gigi played for her while she clicked tinker toys together. Whenever Rosalie visited during the fall, they put all the classic records on and cooked. Gigi pulled over a chair in front of the stove and let Rosalie stir the ginormous pot of soup while she cut up vegetables and let them splash in one at a time. Carrots, peas, beans, squash, zucchini, mushrooms. All the strange shapes and colors that usually Rosalie would refuse to eat, but at Gigi’s they all melded together in the pot to make a bowl of warm heaven.
If only she could feel that warmth in her lonely apartment, taste that comfort in her mouth as the vegetables land on her tongue. Instead, reality hits and she lets her lifted arms drop and hops down from the bed and goes to open laptop, about to run out of battery. In her inbox there are many older emails from Gigi, and Rosalie gladly reads them all, but never replies. It took her forever to figure out how to get on the computer, but now she sends her the longest messages, with stories of black bears coming on her property again or just a simple: hello hun, the mountains miss ya!
Gigi had never been forceful. She made sure Rosalie grew up saying “please” and “thank you”. Rosalie was taught to wait her turn and put the needs of others before her own. But as she got older, Gigi did not coerce her into a job or tell her who to be. When Rosalie talked about plans to move away and find herself and find love, Gigi listened. When Rosalie bought the bus ticket and packed her things, Gigi made her packed her some leftovers to take. She kissed her goodbye that day with some tears, asking Rosalie to write her often, just to let her know how her granddaughter was holding up in the big city.
“You will always be welcome here,” Gigi said softly and seriously, but then added, “So you come back, ya hear!” with a smile.
Rosalie knew she meant those words with her whole heart. During her nightly routine she would think about the possibility of returning to the colored mountains, the fields scattered with cows, the place where no one hears the traffic beeping and yelling, the place where everyone knows her name at the piggly wiggly.
But how could she walk into that familiar house that always smells like heaven and look into the eyes of that sweet, wrinkled face? How could she return and not be overwhelmed with shame? Shame for leaving the only one who loved her, took care of her, practically raised her, and the devastating shame for never keeping in touch with her. Rosalie leaned back on the bed and thought about what in the world she could possibly say to make up for the fact that she deserted Gigi, deserted love.
Rosalie finished the last sip of her beer and looked back at the tower of boxes. Seventeen months of collecting dust, just waiting for a decision to be made. Waiting, waiting, waiting for her to swallow her pride.
I can’t do this anymore, she thought to herself and a lump formed in her throat. I can’t sit in a room of packed boxes anymore…what time is it in her timezone…is she already asleep?
Rosalie hesitantly picked up her cell phone and dialed the number she could never forget, unsure of what was about to happen. Will she be furious? Will she demand an explanation? Will she scream at me, call me ungrateful? A screwup? Pathetic? She paced rapidly in the tiny room, turning around every four seconds, biting the nails of her left hand. The phone was about to finish its fourth ring when she heard a click and was breathless.
“H-hello?” came a course, muffled voice, “and who is calling so late?” Rosalie was literally speechless, but she felt tears of both excitement and shame forming in the eyes as she heard that sweet voice. Oh how could you leave this woman, you selfish oblivious child! she angrily thought to herself.
“Anybody there?” the voice called out suspiciously.
Too afraid that she would hang up and be lost forever, Rosalie gathered the courage to find her own voice, “Um, sorry to call, I um, I-I, um Gigi?” her heartbeat was banging her chest, but it was the first time she felt it rocking her body in months. There was a pause and she was afraid that they had been disconnected, when suddenly the voice sounded more awake:
“Well hello hun, I hope you are calling to tell me you are coming to visit! The mountains miss ya more than ever, and I just bought all the vegetables we need to last us the WHOLE autumn. When’s the soonest you can get here, sweetie? I need help dicing!”
“Um, I can be there by Friday? Is that okay?” Rosalie managed to get out between sobs.
“Of course, sweetie. I’ll pick you up at the bus station.” Rosalie could hear the joy in Gigi’s voice, she could envision the crows feet as she smiled, she could feel at home already.