Do you ever envision your life as a movie? That’s how I would describe the moment I graduated from college. Cue the music: girl with the long curly hair walks across the stage — her pink high heels a shocking contrast against her black cap and gown. She’s handed her diploma, smiles and moves her tassel to the other side of her face.

As she steps off the stage she sees him on the other side of the arch. He’s stopped taking pictures and his beaming at her, arms outstretched.

The background becomes fuzzy, leaving only the boy in focus. The music swells, the frame moves in slow motion. She passes through the arch — meant to be a metaphor, she assumes, for the transition from child to adult — and is scooped up in his hug. He swings her around and she laughs while trying to hold on to her cap.

“I am so proud of you.”

***

I think he’s going to ask me to move in with him, but he doesn’t. I put off finding an apartment until the very last second just in case. He’s not ready to live together.

I pay a lot for an apartment I don’t like. I sleep there twice a week. Maybe once. Sometimes not at all.

***

We decide to visit his grandmother in Arizona for Christmas. Knowing this might be the only opportunity we have to make this type of trip, we pack up the car and take two weeks to drive across the country and back. We hit Lake Havasu, the Grand Canyon, San Diego, and Las Vegas. We spend my birthday in a hotel room in L.A. I drink from a bottle of champagne and cry that for the first time, my friends forgot to call. He reminds me we are three hours ahead of them.

To this day, the trip remains two of the best weeks I ever spent with him.

***

I’m drowning in a quarter-life crisis. While Michael goes off to work each day I drag myself to the daycare, where for nine hours I sing songs, hold babies, clean up food and wipe butts. And because the salary is laughable, afterwards I nanny for three wonderful children until 7 p.m. I am stressed and tired — so tired. I try to assure myself the job is just a stepping stone, that I will find a job that utilizes my degree and will make enough money to not pay for things in quarters.

While Michael is sleeping I apply for a job. I’m late for work and I do not care.

***

He smiles and lets me ramble on and on about my first day. “CNN, baby! I got to work with CNN!” I talk until I have no words left and that’s when the doubt creeps in. Can I do it?

“You can do it.”

***

He’s sent away. An entire month in rural Georgia for work. The longest we’ve been apart is three weeks and that was more than three years ago. We talk when he has a free minute, but it is rare. I hide behind a tree at work and cry, still the new girl and not wanting to be seen upset.

The dog, who is still a puppy, regresses and turns on me. He barks and swats and my legs are covered in bruises. I scream into the phone that I’m going to throw him in the river. Michael sighs and promises he’ll be home soon.

***

My lease is up and we make it official. I say goodbye to the very expensive closet and make myself officially at home in his house. Mom, dad and baby dog together as a family.

It is almost a year before we confirm to his mother we’re living together.

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