And so today when he put up a orange-hued photo of The Painted Ladies he took earlier this week, I saw something more than a goodbye to San Francisco. He was shifting.
I’ve felt it for weeks, the sadness of saying farewell to the city he’s made his home for a decade and where he came to care for his mom, the anticipation of the movers and boxes and just getting through the long haul across the country, the softness to see my smile in talking about having him here.
But there it all was in one picture of one of his favorite spots in his city, and in the one line that accompanied it: À bien tôt San Francisco. I will miss thee.
It’s very him of the Not Boyfriend to say farewell that way. Our earliest text were peppered with French and Spanish and he still loves to throw a Japanese or Italian phrase over my phone as I head through security and an airport or before he tucks in for the night.
It’s not just his books and custom-made coffee table and precision-sharpened chef’s knives moving seven states, I thought, staring at the intentional graininess of the row of Victorian houses and handful of typed words below it. His whole heart is in transition.
The day got busy in each of our states. He supervised a crew of movers, wrapped up business where he was, and I tended to my boy’s birthday arrangements.
In a pause, I checked my email, and waiting there was an alert that the Not Boyfriend had made another update on Facebook, this time tagging me in his post.
I clicked over. There was a picture taken in downtown Chicago on New Year’s Eve day. It was cold and bright and we were standing in front of the Bean with many other people looking into the smooth steel reflection of the city in the final hours of the year.
We’d just passed a man as he threw his hands in the air and yelled out, “SHE SAID YES!” to a small crowd of strangers while a giddy, embarrassed woman with wavy brown hair laughed and clutched her pink cheeks with oversized mittens.
There were crowds of teenagers and people speaking other languages, families taking photos of themselves and the magnificent skyline.
And there we were, the Not Boyfriend behind the camera and me, making a kissy face in my own self-consciousness of standing before him, and still so far away. He was a matter of feet in the distance when he snapped that photo, but outside the grasp he’d had of my hand most of the day, it felt like miles.
Underneath this photo, he wrote, “Off to my hometown Chicago. Turning the page... — with Jessica Ashley.”
Those letters, in that configuration, with that photo, in that moment, filled all the space left between us.
Moments before, I’d posted a photo of the three of us -- he and Lil E and me framed by more clear, crisp blue skies and the majesty of the Golden Gate Bridge. It was his city in this picture and this time, we were huddled together. But there we were, all making kissy faces at the camera.
This move is a big deal, a wide-open beating of three very vulnerable hearts. I get the sacrifice he’s making, I honor the pain of releasing all he’s built and experienced there. And I am so grateful the next chapter gets to be with me.
I wanted to be more available as he packed up his own car full of camping equipment and headed out on the highway and the planned the route to the many stops he’ll be making in the days ahead. Instead, I was running from Target to school pick-up to Party City to my parents’ house to make the day big and wonderful for the other love in my life.
We went about our business and busyness, little texts and check-ins as we could. But the distance already felt closed. I sat in traffic, swiped my debit card, recycled wrapping paper, did dishes. But what was happening across state borders made me feel like the lines were already drawn in.
Lil E’s birthday. Our new beginning. Maybe it all had to happen on one big moving day. Things change. We shift. And my heart keeps growing, filling up and growing more.
More on the move: