Dear Love: What If The Model Home Falls Down?
You know how you want to buy a house in one of those brand new communities, but they have to give you a tour of the model home, because yours isn’t built yet? The model has all sorts of upgrades that your home won’t have to start, but you can always add them on. It’s decked out and spectacular. It gives you something to dream about, to work toward. That was Sha and Richie. They were my model home for love. Built up and established, full of all the upgrades that hard work and togetherness can bring. They were my love inspiration. And now that they’re breaking up, I’m starting to get scared again. I mean, they have more than two decades of foundation. If they’re crumbling, what hope is there for me in my starter? Love, what if the model home falls down?
“Grace, what is it?” Nina saiaskedd as she chopped lettuce for our dinner salads. I was sitting at her island, staring into space, knife in my hand. I jumped, startled. I looked down at the half chopped tomato, and then up into my girlfriend’s eyes.
“Oh. I’m sorry, love. I’m just thinking.”
“About your friends again?”
“Yeah. I just feel so bad… and a little lost. I mean, I’ve known Sha since we were kids. I was there when she met Richie, when they fell in love. Kaya and I were in their wedding. This is all so unbelievable,” I said. Nina nodded.
“I know. But they’re not perfect, Grace. No one is. Things happen.”
“Yeah, I know. We’re none of us perfect people, but I thought their love was perfect, you know? They were like a vision board for me, of sorts. I’d always seen their connection as something I aspired to.”
“Relationship goals?” Nina said, smiling. I smiled too and went back to chopping the tomato.
“Something like that. I know it sounds corny—”
“No it doesn’t. It’s sweet. And I’m really sorry this is happening to them. Do you think they’re still in love? Or do you think all of this is happening because they’re not anymore?” Nina asked me. I put the chopped tomatoes in a bowl with the lettuce Nina had readied and grabbed the bacon and hard boiled eggs I’d already chopped, throwing those in too. I frowned as I thought of Nina’s question. I’d never imagined either of them falling out of love. It seemed impossible. But people did it every day. I knew Shahira still felt something strong; her heart was too broken. But was it love or just residuals from having been with Richie so long? And I never imagined Rich falling out of love, but the way he’d lied to Shahira stung me; something definitely wasn’t right.
“Honestly… I don’t know,” I admitted, going to the refrigerator and grabbing salad dressing. Nina turned to the stove, filling our two plates with steak and roasted garlic mashed potatoes.
“Well, enough about that. Dinner is ready,” she said, grabbing my hand. I smiled and nodded, clearing my thoughts. I was still concerned for my friends, but our earlier relationship skirmish had taught me to be present when I was with Nina. We took our plates to the living room and set them up on trays so we could watch whatever house buying/ house fixing/ house renovating show was on television. We were both obsessed.
“Oh that’s a nice one. Mark that down, Grace. We definitely want that in our house some day,” Nina said, chewing. I laughed, a little nervous all of a sudden. But I didn’t know why.
“Some day, way down the line,” I said back. Nina turned to me, narrowing her eyes.
“Well I didn’t mean tomorrow, Gracie,” she said. I cut my steak and swirled a piece through my mashed potatoes.
“I know you didn’t,” I said, keeping my voice calm. I didn’t want to fight. Nina had just come from a conference and tonight was our first night together after nearly a week apart. I’d missed her terribly.
“What’s wrong? You love this show,” she said. I shook my head.
“Nothing. It’s nothing. I just drifted back into Sha and Richie for a second.”
“Grace, I know how you feel about your friends, but I don’t want you to do this,” Nina said. I dug into my salad, pretending to still be hungry.
“Do what?” I said, mouth full. Nina smirked at me.
“This distance thing. We make jokes about our someday house all the time and you know that,” she said.
“I do know that. I just—it’s nothing. I’m back. I’m good.” Nina gave me a side eye and cut into her steak again.
“Okay,” she said, going back to the show. But I could tell she didn’t believe me. I didn’t blame her. I didn’t believe myself.
Later that night, we were lying in bed, sated and warm, wrapped around each other.
“I want a snack. You want a snack?” Nina said. I giggled.
“My hungry baby. You need a mini fridge for this bedroom,” I said. Nina sat up, laughing. She got out of bed, slipping a shirt over her head.
“You know what? You’re right. I’m gonna get one. Put that on our house board too!” she said, dancing out of the room. I sat there waiting for her, anxiety filling my stomach. I took deep breaths, trying to get myself together. Nina and I had all kinds of talks and jokes about our future life. Most of the time we ended up laughing and kissing as we dreamed together. But today, after Richie and Sha, it made me afraid. What if it all fell apart? If my twenty year relationship goal love was ending, what hope did my barely started love have?
“Gracie it has every hope in the world! And if you lose Nina behind me and my lying bastard of a husband, I will kick your ass,” Shahira declared as the three of us ate cheesesteaks. Shahira was wearing a headwrap and her face was free of makeup. Kaya and I knew she’d been crying nonstop. It was the only time you’d ever catch our girl not perfectly groomed.
“I feel so silly. We were talking about houses—my very favorite thing—and I just couldn’t stop thinking that we should stop all of the future talk. I mean, what if there is no future?”
“Grace, stop this. Your problem is that you feel other people’s pain so deeply, especially mine and Sha’s. And I understand. None of us want this to be happening to Sha and Richie. But—”
“Our love is not your love,” Sha said, taking a huge bite and sitting back in her chair. Kaya nodded, following suit and I stared at them.
“Your homework tonight is to make a future plan. Sit down with Nina, and talk about something you’re going to do later. The only couple you need for goals is the one you’re in. Embrace love,” Kaya said.
“Step into the gotdamn future,” Shahira declared, smiling. Her eyes were bright and I knew she wanted to cry again. I wanted to cry for her, but they were right. Her love was not mine, and my love deserved all the faith I could give it. I nodded, and picked up my cheesesteak.
“Grace, it’s starting!” Nina yelled from the living room. I picked up two forks and hurried to the couch, carefully setting down our dinner—sheet pan nachos we were eating straight from the sheet pan—and sitting next to Nina. Our favorite renovation show started and I passed her a fork, kissing her cheek. She turned to me, smiling. The couple renovating the house decided to turn the backyard into an entire oasis and add a hammock.
“Oh a hammock! I always wanted to try one!” Nina said. I shrugged.
“They’re pretty nice. I’ll make sure we have one for our vacation,” I said, stuffing a forkful of nachos in my mouth. Nina turned to look at me. Then she wrapped her arms around me grinning.
So Love, it turns out that the model home sometimes has shit go wrong too. But it doesn’t make the neighborhood bad. It’s still worth the investment if you have enough faith. The house you build is your own, and though the model can be a spectacuar example, there’s no better feeling than the home you work and build yourself. With your own finishing touches. Maybe even a hammock.