“I hear somebody hasn’t accepted her contract yet.” Denny calls. “Patrice in the English office was worried it was because of me. Was it my MeToo moment?”
“You didn’t have a MeToo moment, Denny. You caused one. And it wasn’t a moment.” More like a lifetime, I think. I’m outside, grateful for the slice of ocean beyond the bluff. The breeze reminds me to keep my cool. “It wasn’t you,” I say.
As we talk, I realize that I’ve come to my decision. I won’t be signing my contract. I won’t be returning to teaching full-time, face-to-face. I’m moving onto something new.
I have options. I will sell the condo in the city. The duplex is paid for, the only expenses utilities, taxes, and insurance. I won’t need a car, living on the island, where everything is walking or biking distance. I can rent out the other half. I can pick up a few online classes from the county community college. I can sell some landscapes in the gallery. I’ve put in enough years to qualify for a pension, and if I hold off for another six years before drawing on it, I’ll have plenty to meet expenses then. Until then, I’ll stitch together this and that to make ends meet.
“Why aren’t you coming back, then?” Denny asks. “Burned out?”
“No. Too many eyes,” I say. “Take care, Den. Come visit anytime. I’ve got a spare couch in the music room.”
Turtle, the dalmatian, races towards me, her tail bent like a rudder. She tackles me, paws on my shoulders, and I rub her back. I’ve got three anachronisms now. The water spaniel, who I call Dixie, also let me coax her to come live with us.
I must have already made up my mind when I took in these three strays. Of course they’d never have a happy life back in the city. I must have decided I’d be staying, only I didn’t realize it yet.
I’ve been in the netherworld, moving without conscious thought, wading through memory, through dream, through feeling, waiting to see where I would emerge.
I’ve emerged. The call with Denny helped me see. I’m here, and here is where I’m staying.
Tomorrow, I’ll email Patrice and the department chair. No, better yet: I’ll call. I’ll tell them I won’t be returning. I’ll put in a good word for some of the part-time instructors to cover the classes already been assigned to me. I’ll let them know they can share my email with students who might ask after me.
And after the phone calls, I will have walked into this new life.
Crystal stretches and leans against my leg. Dixie races out the house, chasing Turtle. I pick up frisbee and follow the dogs to the meadow.
The otters, with their dens in the marsh, the gulls, with their nests on the rock-islands, are safe now. The strays live with me, and I live on the island, here in my home, where I can lose myself and find myself and need never hide from watching eyes.