This is what I am wearing the day we drive from Connecticut to Maine: a pink and camel-colored sweater, soft and narrowly striped. Outside, it is sunny and bright and memorably cold. It is the morning after Thanksgiving.
We leave later than we said we'd leave—we always leave later than we'd said we'd leave—and drive through the main artery of the small Connecticut town where we met. We divide and conquer. I order our breakfast sandwiches at the deli Sean used to go to in high school; he gets our coffee at the Dunkin Donuts where he gave me his number, next to the restaurant we went to on our first date. As we merge onto the freeway, our past recedes in the rearview mirror of the car. Our future is tucked deep into one of the suitcases in the back.
The day is a question mark. Should we do it here?
No, too weird.
What about if we get off the freeway here, at this rest stop?
Do you really want to find out at a rest stop?
No, I guess I don't.
The beach where we met had felt like it might be poignant, in a providential sort of way, but the restrooms are locked for the winter. Halfway to Maine, we stop at Walden Pond and I think about it there. Seems like it might be romantic, until I see the place I'd actually have to do it.
It's okay, I say. What's a little more waiting?
We bought it a week ago, the night before I left California for the East Coast. Actually, we bought two. Different brands, just in case. It was raining and we ran across the Target parking lot holding hands, heads bowed and hoods up. In the brightly-lit aisle, we filmed each other giddily for posterity, nervous and jumpy as schoolchildren looking at something they don't feel old enough to look at.
But the next morning, I'd changed my mind. I don't think it's worth me doing it, I said. I think we'll only be disappointed.
I boarded the plane to New York, left the Target bag in the bathroom cabinet. A few days later, I called Sean in San Francisco, caught him right as he was packing for his flight out to meet me.
Actually, I said. Could you bring them?
It's been dark for a few hours when we pull up in front of the B&B in Maine. We climb the stairs to our attic room, put down our bags, and look at each other.
We should do it now, I say. Should we do it now?
The bathroom is small and white and clean, with sloping ceilings. Sean sits on the bed, starts the timer on his phone. Ready? I say. Ready, he says.
I leave it on the edge of the sink and walk out into the room and wait.
Hours pass. Days, months, years. Suspended together in a weird fissure in time, we make the jittery small talk of people in elevators. The wait is a void of nothingness, a lacuna between before and after. The timer goes off on Sean's phone, and we give it another minute, the present wrapped around us like a security blanket. Then we rise off the bed and cross the threshold into the future.
There are two, I say.
Definitely two, he confirms.
There they are. Two pink lines.
But what do you do after that? We don't know what to do. We'll do another one, I say. Just to be sure. We'll do the other kind, the one with the word.
We tiptoe down two flights of stairs and make tea in the living room of the B&B. I drink the two small bottles of Poland Spring that have been put in our room. I've barely brought the second test out of the bathroom before the word flashes up at me, consolingly.
Well, says Sean. Looks like it's true.
After dinner, we drive to the flagship LL Bean store in a blissed-out bid to make the night stretch on even longer. It's almost midnight, and alone in the vast metropolis of the children's department, I pick up miniature scraps of seersucker and fleece. I need something tangible and tactile to commemorate this, something physical to make it real.
I choose a tiny cableknit fisherman's sweater in navy blue, and when the cashier rings it up, I ask for a gift box. I don't know why. It feels like a gift. The whole thing feels like a gift.
There is a picture of us I love, taken the next day on an empty, windswept beach, our old life blown wide open into something uncertain and new. There we are, huddled together, the sole two keepers of our precious secret. We look terrified. We look awestruck. We look thrilled.