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  • Writer's picturemaggiehsmith07

Crooked Line

Twenty-three years ago, I rolled through the gates of Fort Rucker, Alabama, leaving the base one last time. I followed my starter spouse as we “pointed our cars North, with shovels strapped atop of them, and would drive until people stopped asking, ‘What’s that?’ of the shovels.” His idea, not mine. It was him, me and our border collie, Duncan. Duncan had eaten a bar of soap just prior to rolling out.


“He threw up in the car!” J reported at a rest stop.


“Ohhhh nooo.” I sympathized.


“Well. At least it didn’t smell bad.” J replied matter-of-factly.


I imagined the U-Haul rental smelling of Irish Spring. It could be worse. First stop was New Jersey where we dropped Duncan off at my in-laws who had graciously agreed to watch him while we continued to Massachusetts in search of a place to live and jobs. The only people we knew in Massachusetts were J’s brother and his wife whom I admittedly referred to as “Beasty.” We stayed with them in their one-bedroom apartment. We had the living room and a pocket door afforded some privacy at night. Sometimes, J and I would go to the mall and just sit there – to give everyone space. They were newlyweds whereas we’d already cobbled together 3 years of marriage, weathering a move to South Korea and back to Alabama. Now the move to Massachusetts. We had a dog together – a border collie as a first dog. Living, breathing evidence of how young and dumb we were.


Before long, we found our apartment in Reading, Massachusetts. It was on the first floor of a home that had been built in 1916. We were on the first floor – gleaming hardwoods throughout. There were 2 more apartments above ours. The landlord rented it to us although J had not quite yet secured employment, “You’ll be fine!” He said with a wave. And we were fine. We were fine (enough) together for the next 10 years. And then, we were fine apart. Years later, when that apartment had been reassembled as a single-family home and sold for $765k, J messaged me the listing and remarked that it certainly looked different than it had when we’d lived there. It did look different. We did too. Individually. And as couples – he with a new wife and 2 children together; me with a wife of my own.

23 years. Long enough for a life within a life. The funny thing is that if J and I never moved to Massachusetts, it’s incredibly unlikely I would have met Andrea.


On Saturday, we had one last hurrah under the big top of 5 Parkhurst Drive. I looked around the room and thought, “This. This is what I wish for the new people. Right here.” This feeling. This community.


The moving truck rolled up in front of our home this morning. When we received confirmation that they’d be packing us up today, and loading the truck tomorrow, I called to say that the guy who’d walked through said he’d need three days to pack us. The woman was steadfast in her conviction that the house could be packed in one day. The crew toured this morning and remarked how much packing there was. So I had low expectations. When I got to my home today, it was packed. We went to dinner and sat where we always do with the waitress we almost always have when it finally hit me. We’re doing this. Another life unfolding within a life. A new chapter. Then I sobbed and said, “How will we tell Danielle?!” our waitress. Which made Andrea laugh and cry too. Our dinner was comped, the kindness of which made me cry more. We came home and realized all of our lamps had been stripped of their light bulbs. The bulbs packed. It’s sort of like camping here on what is likely our last night before we’re off to Virginia, knowing just one another, a new beginning.


"Closer To Fine"

I'm trying to tell you something about my life Maybe give me insight between black and white And the best thing you've ever done for me Is to help me take my life less seriously It's only life after all Well, darkness has a hunger that's insatiable And lightness has a call that's hard to hear And I wrap my fear around me like a blanket I sailed my ship of safety 'til I sank it I'm crawling on your shores And I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains There's more than one answer to these questions pointing me in a crooked line And the less I seek my source for some definitive Closer I am to fine Closer I am to fine And I went to see the doctor of philosophy With a poster of Rasputin and a beard down to his knee He never did marry or see a B-grade movie He graded my performance, he said he could see through me I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind Got my paper and I was free I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains There's more than one answer to these questions pointing me in crooked line And the less I seek my source for some definitive Closer I am to fine Closer I am to fine I stopped by the bar at 3 A.M To seek solace in a bottle or possibly a friend And I woke up with a headache like my head against a board Twice as cloudy as I'd been the night before And I went in seeking clarity I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains I looked to the children, I drank from the fountain We go to the doctor, we go to the mountains We look to the children, we drink from the fountain We go to the Bible, we go through the workout We read up on revival, we stand up for the lookout There's more than one answer to these questions pointing me in a crooked line And the less I seek my source for some definitive Closer I am to fine Closer I am to fine Closer I am to fine

- Indigo Girls

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