The California Interview

I woke up at midnight my heart heavy with concern for Egor.  Helpless, unable to do more for him now, I tabulated my prior work.  I organized, researched, and wrote plus I agonized over his PowerPoint presentation.  It was all up to him. What an enormous weight to bear. Maybe this kind of worry gripped him when I birthed Liev. Sitting, waiting. Worrying.

E drove to the interview place, a cinch since he’d done it yesterday, to be sure.  We arrived early since I panicked over lateness and safety. Pesky, selfish me.  We chatted aimlessly until 8:15. He vanished into a sea of cars as he walked away. Sigh.

I tried not to panic driving back to the hotel, which was work since I have been in a constant state of disorientation since we arrived.  I had practiced the way back in my mind, and still, I had problems.  One-way streets kept swapping their arrows every time I blinked.  I have to hand it to California drivers; they are a kind and patient lot.  No horn honking, cursing, or flip-offs, just smiles and friendly waves. Nice, very nice.  I looked for someplace to pull over, to let the rush hour traffic flow by smoothly.

I found a Super-Target and picked up affordable snacks (room service=$$$).  It was so odd to see all the merchandise so familiar in Las Cruces, but for one odd bit–they had wine!  Yes, I bought a bottle, a wine opener, and some chips, dammit.  The wine prices were excellent.  Another plus for California.  I wondered how many bottles of wine I would have to drink to compensate for the increased housing cost.

I agonized for the rest of the day, waiting to hear from E.  I must have called mom six times.  Perhaps this was not a good idea, talking obsessively over it, but I asked her to help keep my mind off it, and she helped. I didn’t know what to do with myself.  I watched Maury Pauvich, took a shower, curled my hair and put on makeup. I wandered around in rollers in my favorite worn nightgown with the AC on high.  I thought a glass of wine would be sweet but avoided it.  I worried over making a wrong impression if I invited out for dinner.

Time slipped by.  I watched Fox News.  The Weather Channel. Checked my email. Back to Fox News. I tried not to think about Egor’s interview, but there was nothing to do but wait or get lost/killed driving around.

E called late at 4:30. What did he do for eight hours that he couldn’t drop me a little message?  I pushed the thought from my mind. He said the presentation and interview went well and he would be home soon and, no, there wouldn’t be a dinner tonight.  After another eternity, he came back and urged me to dress since we were going to dinner.  I snapped.  After a long day of waiting, I unloaded on him.  I knew I was unreasonable, but a dam broke open inside me and I exploded.  Yet, I pulled my shit together, got ready, and quit bitching.  “This is not about me,” I said over and over to myself.

Long, traffic-filled, and metropolitan the drive to the restaurant took forever.  Streams of cars in the failing light looked like rows of silver zippers curving across an immense and eternal body.  I fought my anxiety to be quiet during the drive.  In my mind, I screamed, “Slow down! Quit weaving! Be careful!”

Adhering to his theory that being a good driver is not about following the rules; it’s about following the flow, Egor’s driving alarmed me.  Dim light and multiple lanes of cars confused and disoriented me.  Do you know how sometimes lines form at stores and it’s unclear what is happening?  Is this lane for the lane directly ahead or for the next open cashier?  These days, they corral you, so you don’t cut in front of the next Kohl’s customer.  Lanes did not seem to exist, just a giant motoring free-for-all.  How could anyone navigate through that at a single mile over the speed limit?

We reached the restaurant intact, my nerves jangling.  I did not grasp what happened during E’s day, but our reception was positive.  Dinner raced by, difficult to remember. I recalled, however, one fellow as being a maverick.  Perhaps too much so, for his own career’s sake–like a supporting character in an Armageddon movie who helps the hero save the world but dies for dramatic effect. The senior scientist charmed me. Wise, earthy and self-possessed, he could be a white-collar cult leader.

We ordered beers and then dinner. Since I assumed that Egor and I were paying my way, I ordered an expensive dish out of confusion over the menu.  My luxurious choice resulted in one fellow having a salad.  I did not realize my mistake until too late. People say, “I could have died!” when embarrassed. I understood that with my whole mortified body, which burned and tingled for twenty minutes.  We left extra cash to pay, but I did not comprehend if it was taken or refused.

I enjoyed dinner but something was subtly wrong.  The looks the men gave me made me wonder if they judged Egor on my appearance.  Their emotion–surprise.  Am I too old or fat or somehow inappropriate for such a splendid fellow? In retrospect, I must have come across as anxious and angry and they wondered, WTF?

Since the restaurant was located on the beach, we took a brief after-dinner walk. The last glimmers of pink painted the sky in glorious Southwestern style. Struck by the familiar beauty, hopefulness bathed me.  Well, even if we can’t afford a proper home and live in a small place, we will be here. This quiet peaceful beach waits.  Liev could grow up loving the ocean visiting stylish, cosmopolitan spaces.

When we returned to the hotel, I opened the bottle of wine and helped myself generously.  I’d sipped beer at the restaurant, feeling self-conscious and scrutinized. As I slurped wine, Egor spoke to his mother on the phone.  Shocking bad news. E’s grandmother passed away the day before.

Disbelief flattened me. What could I say to my husband except “I am so sorry.”?  I’d been so selfish and self-occupied all day; I did not want to add to his hurt.  After the call, we lay side by side holding hands, crying quiet tears, and saying nothing.

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