Sacrifice is a Four-Letter Word
January 1, 2022
“I’ve only been engaged for 3 weeks!” I screamed into the phone, unaware that my pitch was now so high, only dogs could hear me.
“Yes, but you’ve been together for what, over 2 years?” Lacey said from the other end of the phone line.
“This is true, but aren’t we still moving a bit fast? Moving out of a rent-controlled, upper-east side apartment is kind of a big deal?”
“Not when you’re moving into a townhouse on Park Avenue, Summer!” she responded, not an ounce of sarcasm in her voice. When it came to real estate, Lacey did not joke around. Since her 30th birthday, she had acquired an uptown, two-bedroom apartment, a downtown studio for her artwork, and some land upstate.
“Lace, I’ve been in this apartment for the past eight years. I cannot even imagine living somewhere else. And now because I’m engaged, I’m just going to abandon my home?” I asked, my voice lowering from a squeal, but still squeaking.
We had been conversing over the subject of me moving into a new home with my fiancé, Kevin for well over an hour. To me, it seemed ludicrous to move all the way across town simply because we are engaged. My apartment was surely big enough for the both of us. If, god forbid, I ever had any kids, then that would be the time to move. Why move now of all times? My life was slowly coming together; why mess it up by changing my address. I tried talking to Kevin about buying the apartment next door and expanding, but after factoring the costs of renovation, moving was actually cheaper. I just couldn’t seem to part with the place that I called home for the past 8 years. All of my fondest memories (in my adulthood) were formed while living there.
“Summer, darling, I love you, but if you don’t move into that penthouse with your gorgeous man, than I will”. Lacey had always been jealous that Kevin and I were an item, although she never vocalized her feelings. Every time we would double date with her and her newest man candy, she would look over the table at Kevin and sigh. It must be rough to be Lacey sometimes. She was always floating from one man to another, claiming it is the only way to have relationships with men, although I could tell she was really lonely.
After a few more moments of Lacey rambling on about how big of an idiot I am, I decided I had had enough. I told her I was late for an appointment and quickly said goodbye. My apartment was starting to feel smaller and smaller as I sat on my bed, contemplating how to handle my moving dilemma. I walked over to my closet, threw on my suede jacket, and rushed out the door. I took a cab to the Met and climbed the long staircase to the front doors. They searched my purse for any illegal substances (the only substances they found were Claritin and an old pack of Rolaids). Once in the main lobby, I paid the donation (I was feeling charitable and put in a whole $2, instead of my usual $1) and got my pass for the day. I aimlessly walked through the Medieval, Egyptian, and American sections of the museum before realizing I had never called Kevin back. He was probably furious, seeing how he had called me right before Lacey and I told him I would call him once I was off the phone with her. That was about 2 hours before I left my home. I grabbed my cell from the bottom pocket of my coat and quickly dialed Kevin’s cell phone number.
“Hi, baby.” I said with a seriously guilty tone.
“I’m sorry… do I know you?”
“Excuse me?” I chuckled.
“Well, you sound a lot like my fiancée, but she was supposed to call me about 2 hours ago, so this can’t be her.” He replied, sarcasm oozing from his voice.
“Ha-ha. You are hilarious. Seriously, I’m peeing from laughing so hard. You done?”
“Sorry babe. You know I how much I enjoy teasing you. Where are you?”
“On the corner of East 68th. I needed some air.”
“You needed air, huh? Talking to Lacey?”
“Guilty. She was giving me some advice on, uh…something.” The last thing I needed was Kevin getting upset that I was, not only arguing with him about moving, but discussing it with Lacey as well.
“You asked Lacey for advice? I hope it wasn’t how to maintain a relationship.”
“Ouch. You better start being nice to her. Seeing how I’ll probably never see her again.”
“Babe, we’re moving like 10 minutes away. I guarantee that, despite my best efforts, she will still come and visit.” I could sense that if I carried this conversation on any longer, one of our heads would end up imploding. I told him I was losing service and I would call him when I returned home.
Home. Such a strange concept. You grow up in one home, with your parents, for about 18 years. Then, you move to college and spend 4 years living there. College is not a home; Let me just put that out there. Once you are out of college, you move into your first apartment. For me, that was the end of moving. Still, it is odd to think that you can live in so many homes throughout your lifetime. I firmly believe that, contrary to the old saying, home is not where the heart is, it is where the low rent and walking distance to the best Chinese food in New York are. That was my apartment. It was perfect. But so was Kevin.
Two days later, I agreed to move. I loved my apartment, but it was not worth sacrificing my relationship over. For, though a good apartment is hard to find, a single doctor with the body of an Olympic swimmer is almost impossible to find. The fact that our new penthouse was down the street from Wong Ti’s Chinese Cuisine did not hurt. Kevin was thrilled with my decision and offered to sub-let my apartment, in case I ever wanted to buy it back.
Three weeks later, Kevin helped me pack all of my belongings into boxes. We finished after a few hours and I stared at the bare walls and empty floors. It was hard to imagine someone else living in the place I had called home for eight years of my life. Kevin comforted me with a big bear hug. He kissed my forehead and went downstairs to check on the moving truck. I sat, cross-legged on my hardwood floor and began to tear up. Just then, my cell phone beeped. It was my mother, calling me from her house in Boca.
“You do realize you haven’t called your old, broken-down mother in over a week, don’t you?” She yelled into the phone.
“Mother, I called you two nights ago.”
“You did? Oh, that’s right!”
“Yeah, so, please…no guilt today.”
“Well, excuse me darling. I guess those 4 Jose shots had more influence on me than I thought.”
“I’m sorry- Jose? Why were you doing drinking the Cuervo, mother?”
“Well, I won at bingo night, which I believe was created to make the blue-hairs feel good about accomplishing something while sitting on their deflated asses, and I invited some of the girls come with my to the local pub. Nothing wrong with that.”
“Actually, mom, there is something wrong when you forget your own daughter called you!”
“Oh, don’t be such a stick in the mud. I was only having a little fun. Anyway, how are you? How’s Kev?”
“He’s good. I’m… dealing.”
“Yes mother, I am dealing drugs. No, I am dealing with moving. Remember I told you that Kevin and I are moving into that penthouse?”
“Of course I remember; I am not senile dear. Wait, that’s today?”
“Yeah, Kevin’s downstairs checking on the movers.”
“Well, I am personally thrilled for you!”
“Thanks. But I should be going. I still have some dishes to pack.”
“Okay darling, don’t forget the bubble wrap. Love You. Call me soon.”
Hearing from my mother always seemed to bring a blissful calm along with a small panic attack. There was positive outcome from her call that day though: she reminded me to pack up my dad’s voice recorder. I crossed over to my door-less bedroom and sat on my bed. I reached over the nightstand and pulled out the tape recorder. On the tape inside was the message my father had left me before he abandoned my mom and me. I pressed the ‘Play’ button and listened to the scratchy message. He apologized for leaving and told me he will always love me.
I had listened to the tape so much since I received it on my third birthday that the words were practically understandable, but the sentiment had always remained. No matter where I lived or what was happening in my life, that tape made me feel safe. I know that sounds rather childish, but it was like my security blanket. I had grown accustomed to having it with me at all times. Occasionally, I would even put it in my purse, just in case I wanted to hear the message during my lunch break. My mother had sent me to several psychiatrists in middle school when I admitted to my obsession with the tape. All of my psychiatrists said the same thing: “You’re suffering from the trauma of losing your father at such a young age.”
WELL, DUH! Paying thirty dollars an hour and that was all they had to say. My mother still insisted I go, claiming “If you ever want to marry a man for the right reasons, you need to have all of this ‘father business’ sorted out”.
I stared at the tape for a moment longer. Was she right? Maybe this was why I was having such trouble with moving in with Kevin. The last man I had lived with was my father and that did not have the greatest of endings. HOW WAS THIS POSSIBLE? All of those years listening to hair-brained psychiatrists and I should have been listening to… my mother? I looked down at the recorder and then into the one mirror I had yet to pack. I stared into it, trying to see past my green eyes, into something deeper.
I loved Kevin and I could not imagine my life without him. Was I actually considering removing my security to be with him? This tape had been with me for three decades. It was there for me when Cindy Milestein dipped my hand in warm water at her birthday party in fifth grade, I listened to the tape to calm my nerves before the talent contests in middle school, and when I moved from Connecticut to New York, it was the one part of home I counted on to get me through those lonely nights. How could I give that up?
“Honey, the movers have almost everything in the truck and we’re going to throw whatever else is left into the cab, so you almost ready?” Kevin said, appearing from nowhere. He did have the sweetest face; filled with kindness and love. I walked across the room, my stilettos click clacking against the hardwood floors. I pressed into his body and gave him a kiss.
“I’ll be down in five minutes.” I whispered. As he started to walk away, I throughout my arm to him and called “Don’t leave without me, mister!” and he smiled and walked out the door.
I traced the same steps I had taken a moment ago back to my bedroom. I picked up the tape recorder, which contained all of my insecurity and questions and threw it out the window. I felt exhilarated. It was only when I heard a man on the street outside screaming that I was shaken from my euphoric state. Still, this was a new chapter in my life. Hell, this was a new book. For what is sacrifice but giving something up and being rewarded? Soon, I would be living with my beautiful fiancée in our big, beautiful home. I said goodbye to my apartment and walked into the hallway with my final belongings in my arms. As I walked outside, I saw the man I loved waiting, as he said he would, in front with a cab.
For some, sacrifice is harsh and bitter; for me, sacrifice was a four-letter word….