We had only been living in Saint Paul for a couple of months when my husband told me he’d found somebody else. “Someone from work,” he said. “Can I keep my stuff here until I find a new place?”
I put off telling my mom for a couple of weeks, not wanting her and my dad to worry about me and my one-year-old son. When I finally did tell her, I had to repeatedly assure her that my freelance work was actually bringing in enough money to live on, even though it was far from true. “He’s still got his stuff here,” I told her, thinking that that would put her somehow at ease, knowing he would have to come back and see me at some point. “His office is still set up in the other bedroom.”
My mother laughed incredulously. “I can’t believe you didn’t just put all that crap out on the street,” she said. “How about if I come over tonight, fix dinner for the two of you, see what we can do about that spare bedroom?”
She showed up a few hours later with a stack of cardboard boxes in tow. “I say we put his crap in here, and whatever doesn’t fit, we put out by the trash,” she said. I protested, saying that he would be back to pick his things up in just a couple of days, but she wouldn’t have anything to do with it. “If you’re paying the rent, you should get to use the whole apartment,” she said firmly. “Just think of how much work you’ll get done when your desk isn’t in the middle of the living room, surrounded by baby toys and laundry?” She was right, of course, and by the end of the evening, all of my ex’s things had been stuffed into a teetering pile of cardboard boxes by the front door. She helped me move my desk and computer into my brand-new office, an office with a window that looked out over downtown Saint Paul, the flickering lights of the tiny convenience store across the street blazing perpetually in the foreground. It was a beautiful room, with a beautiful view, and it was mine.
At the end of the week, the landlord showed up for the rent, and I only had half of it. I didn’t even have to explain to the gruff old man who always reminded me of Popeye with his Greek fisherman’s cap and knobby physique that I was alone now. He just asked me to give him whatever I had on hand and asked if I’d have the rest in a couple of weeks. “I’ll have it by Friday,” I promised, and I would have it; I had little trickles of money from small jobs coming in, and I had just signed on with a new agent who was directing a bunch of small jobs my way.
The landlord shrugged at my explanations. “Take your time,” he said and winked at my infant son crawling around on the rug close behind me. “No rush.”
That night, I put my son to bed and went to work until the wee hours of the morning, as I would continue to for years afterward. Every night I spent in that apartment on Thomas Avenue, my infant son snoring peacefully in the other bedroom, I would look out my window at the Saint Paul skyline and think how much I loved being there. Of all the places I’d ever lived, I felt that this place was truly mine.
Holly Day is a housewife and mother of two living in Minneapolis. She teaches community education needlepoint classes in Minneapolis and writing classes at The Loft. Her poetry has recently appeared in The Worcester Review, Broken Pencil, and Slipstream, and she is the recipient of the 2011 Sam Ragan Poetry Prize.
Artist Steve Robbins is an illustrator and designer from Saint Paul. When he’s not drawing, he’s designing card games and writing an incredibly complicated internet-based “Choose Your Own Adventure.” SteveRobbinsArt.com