Before the pandemic, I measured the distance between me and Matt in increments of travel. Fifteen hours by car from Ventura, Calif., to Santa Fe, N.M. If I flew, it was two hours in traffic to LAX, then a two-hour flight to Albuquerque and another hour on the shuttle bus to the adobe casita where he stayed up late with the porch light on, waiting for me.
Sometimes I would go to the smaller, mission-style airport in Santa Barbara, which was 30 minutes away, then take two connecting flights from there, praying not to get stuck in Phoenix or Denver, though I often did, losing precious hours at airport gates.
When Matt came to see me, it was the same, except I waited up for him.
Matt and I met years earlier in Santa Fe while working as editors at the same magazine. We were friends before we started dating. Two years in, as we were approaching the point of deciding how serious we were about each other, I got a job offer in Ventura. It was a good opportunity, but it didn’t make sense for Matt to leave his job to come with me, or for me to pass it up and stay.
We were in our late 20s by then, trying to figure out our lives and work and relationships, a process made more difficult by high costs of living and careers in an industry that often felt like it was fading before our eyes.
I said I would give it a year in Ventura, but one year quickly turned into two, then three. And all the while we stayed together. Afraid to put down roots in California and to
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