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An excerpt from her memoir,
Four Sublets: Becoming a Poet in New York
Next day, on the plane going home, I ran into a friend in whom I could confide. When I told her what I’d done, the sublet in Greenwich Village I could have, her excitement matched mine. “Take it!”
And when I arrived home from the airport on that October day in 1980, waiting for Harold to come home from work, pacing from bedroom to kitchen to living room through the browns and oranges of our house, the Danish chairs and tables I’d surrounded us with, looking out the window to see him drive up the hill, I said to myself, See, even the trees are changing. I kept trying to know what I’d do, what I’d say. I had only two days. I knew it was my dream. But to act on it?!
That night, sharing our news after dinner, I just said it. I told Harold, “I looked at apartments in New York. I’ve decided to take a sublet in the city in January.” There was no saying “Should I?” It was my fantasy, and I was afraid to be talked out of it. He stared, flabbergasted.
As the realization of my desire sank in, this man not given to anger became enraged. His usually calm face flushed. He hit the table; he shouted, “If you do this, don’t ever come back!”
I wanted him to understand; I told him he’d had his chance, I needed mine. We’d moved for him to start a business – a success – now it was my turn. I explained I wanted a community of poets for the writing I’d begun to do, that writing had become more important to me than teaching, and I believed it was my true work, the way I wanted to grow old.
Then I compared my being away to that of a traveling salesman. “We can work out weekends, I'll come back, you'll come up.”
“Oh no,” he yelled, “if you do this, don’t ever come back.”
Only with the words I’d learned in the previous ten years from Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem and the women with whom I’d gathered in consciousness-raising circles could I know what my mother would never have known to say: “You decide what you need to do, but you cannot tell me what I can do. This is my house as well as yours, and I can return to it when I want.” Then I added, “I refuse to say years from now If only…”
“You're abandoning me,” he confided as his voice softened. Then it rose, “Don’t think I’m ever coming to New York.”
He walked out of the dining room. I heard him in the bedroom collecting things he always took out of his pockets to unload on the dresser after the day at work. Coming through the kitchen, holding his car keys, he marched out the door into the driveway. I heard the engine, the car in reverse, the tires screeching. Since he had no close friends, and he never went out by himself once he was home, I didn’t know where he’d go or what he’d do.
I was frightened but not hesitant. Suddenly I had to go forward, I had to. It was not about marriage, not about this man or any man. I was about to stop longing, I was about to give birth to a life.
© 2007 Myra Shapiro
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