Something Worth Holding Onto

The sun never did quite break through the fog yesterday. Dusk, then, found the skyline brushed with a fine, salmon-colored mist. Heading up Tenth Avenue, the city looked like a Hollywood back lot.

The Parsons Desk was unwieldy even without my messenger bag, or the shopping bag full of Bed, Bath & Beyond clothes hangers.

“Dude, that’ll never fit in a cab,” the West Elm employee said. “Wanna car service?”

I looked down at the box, which I pegged at roughly four feet long and three feet wide.

“What’s it weigh?” I asked.

“Eh, about seventy or eighty.”

“Then yeah, I do wanna’ car service, thanks.”

The car service, it ends up, was in fact an SUV service. I stood sheepishly at the curb as the guys loaded the box into the back, embarrassed at the size of my ride. The black, Chevy Tahoe with 22″ chrome rims was more Notorious B.I.G. than Benjamin Wagner. I considered climbing into the front seat, then wavered; I didn’t wanna’ creep out the driver. And frankly, I could use a minute to think.

Excepting clothes, media (CDs, DVDs, and books), electronics (stereos, laptops, and iPods), and a few framed photos, Abbi and I didn’t bring a ton of material into our new relationship. We wanted to start fresh and build a home full of stuff worth holding onto. And so couches, chairs, ottomans, desks, and shelves all stayed at her sister’s, or hit the curb in front of my old place. On paper, and in conversation, our intention to build a home together sounds well intentioned, noble, and even romantic. I have no doubt that it’s the right thing to do. But that doesn’t mean it’s the easy thing to do.

The result of this romantic ambition, then, is that, save for my couch (which, luckily, we moved at the last minute or we wouldn’t have had anything to sit on), and her bed, our new apartment is a jumble of boxes. For two people who absolutely crave order, it’s a bit maddening.

“If I only had a desk,” I told Abbi Sunday night, “A creative space where I can write, and play, and record, I think everything would be fine.”

Which brings us to the back seat of my $40 ride up Tenth Avenue in a black, Chevy Tahoe with 22″ chrome rims. I’m rarely one to sit quietly in a cab or car service. It doesn’t fit with my proletariat leanings. I like to talk people up, dispell the service-oriented power dynamic. But after a quick, “So is the Passover holiday good or bad for business?” we fell silent. I couldn’t make my mouth work for all the thoughts in my head.

I stumbled across two envelopes with the return address: Corporation Service Company, Wilmington, Delaware, as I pulled together my taxes Monday afternoon. CSC acts as registering agent for my two LLCs: Benjamin Wagner Deluxe (which protects me), and Ubiquity Ltd. Publishing (which protects my songs). Of course, they do so for a fee of two hundred bucks per year per entity. Which is all fine and good, assuming a) I make more than $400 on any given year and b) I pay the bills on time.

Um, about that Ubiquity Ltd. Publishing, LLC, bill…

Somehow, I discovered to my horror, I have failed to pay it in some time.

I owe $1162.

I began sweating immediately.

I am not the most fiscally responsible guy you know. At least, I haven’t been historically. I’ve dropped $2k on last-minute mixes, and $600 on last minute flights, even as I ignored burgeoning cavities, ran marathons on worn sneakers, and pulled on the same ratty jeans and faded sport coat. You could say that rock ‘n roll has skewed my priorities a little bit.

Not surprisingly, doing right by Abbi has been a great inspiration. I’ve done a decent job spending more intelligently (that is, buying well-tailored Brooks Brothers dress shirts instead of nearly-disposable Gap oxfords), paying my bills on time, and even planning ahead. A little.

Starting a new life with Abbi mere days after purchasing a diamond ring, though, has posed
some challenges. Confessing my $1162 oversight, then, proved… well, sticky.

I was sitting on the floor of our new bedroom, drinking a beer, listening to a melancholy playlist (Fountains of Wayne’s “Troubled Times,” Death cab For Cutie’s “I Will Follow You Into The Dark,” The Fray’s “Over My Head”), assembling our new desk when she walked in. Before long, everything was on the table. Intellectually, I knew that the $1162 bill and the $302 desk and the $325 doctor’s bill and the rent and the invitations and the plane tickets and the — intellectually, I knew it would all work out. Emotionally, though, I was torqued. I was curt and defensive.

Abbi and I worked it all out before bed, but it took until this morning for me to begin to realize why it was all so difficult.

Living with someone, and committing to growing with them, is like walking around with a mirror and a camera crew. Nothing goes unseen, or unsaid. You can’t hide. It’s all there for both of you to see and know, warts and all. And so, in the absence of denial, and in the face of extreme scrutiny, we are laid bare. We are made vulnerable. And vulnerability is scary. And admitting you’re imperfect is difficult.

The cool thing, though, is waking up and knowing that you’ve found someone with whom to be imperfect, and then sitting down at your new desk, and writing it all down as the sun breaks through the clouds and starts a brand new day.

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