It seemed like such a good idea at the time - and for a time, it really worked out fine. When Tater and I were in the early months of our relationship, she had to move out of her apartment, and it so happened that the apartment next door to mine was unoccupied. It didn't take long for the lightbulb to blink on over my be-smitten head. How about moving her in next door?
My Venice Beach bungalow is made up of two units, with a converted garage space in between that serves as my office, and a small yard that wraps around the property. The landlord had recently renovated the other unit, which now boasted beautiful hardwood floors, track lighting, AC, a freshly built outdoor deck and a freakin' rose garden, no less, plus that most valuable of all Venice commodities: a parking space in the back. The rent was steep, but I offered to chip in for some of it to acquire that parking space; the landlord liked keeping everything in the family, so to speak, and thus, the lease was signed.
What could be more perfect for two writers in love? Tater is a journalist, who was soon comfortably ensconced at the built-in desk in front of the bay windows - where Flower, one of Tater's two cats, quickly took up her pasha-like residence. On the other side of the wall, I was typing out my fictions. When either or both of us needed the space to write, that space was plentiful. For boundary-respectful communication, we set up walkie-talkies in lieu of an intercom, and life was good.
Truth be told, I'd cherished this particular literary romantic fantasy for years. I'd heard tales of Samuel Beckett living down the hall from his wife Suzanne, and had vague memories of reading about a similar arrangement at some point in the marriage of playwright Harold Pinter and his biographer wife Antonia Lamb. Given that despite our spending every night together and being generally inseparable, Tater and I both really did require uninterrupted solitude to do our work, I saw our bohemian together-but-separate existence as ideal. So did, as you might imagine, many of our married friends.
And it was fun, in its peculiar way, to bounce around from home to home. Our two dogs were ecstatic with the runaround yard; up until her death last winter, Molly the pitbull was particularly fond of playing around with Tater and Thomas the terrier at her place, then leaving to come scratch at my door and keep me company at mine. I got to keep my former bachelor digs in pretty much the same fastidious, control-freak condition, and Tater - who is, let's say, less tidy - was free to do what she willed with hers.
Slowly but surely, however, the subtle drawbacks became less subtle. We were always losing things. One weekend, every coffee mug we owned turned out to be at her place; one dinner party was such a comedy of dashing back and forth between residences to claim everything from an errant corkscrew to the wine itself that I don't remember having a chance to drink any of it. Keys went missing, as did articles of clothing, books and papers. Invariably, the one vital thing one of us needed - say, at one in the morning - would have to be fetched from next door. And the walkie-talkies kept bursting into loud, static-ridden exchanges between passing truck drivers.
Meanwhile, Tater and I were growing closer, more intertwined in our intimacies. We were married last November, but we still weren't actually living together, and it was beginning to feel... strange. Another major event of last year - Tater quitting her nearly two-decades long staff job at a weekly publication - began to put a big strain on my wallet as her freelance life yielded work, thank goodness, but not the same steady weekly paycheck.
Things came to a head this past summer with Tater's tearful meltdown. She'd been talking about her unhappiness with living in isolation for awhile now, but neither of us had fully comprehended its fundamentally negative effect. After a first year of back-and-forth novelty bedding, we'd been sleeping fairly regularly at my place, and Tater yearned to wake up in the morning with her own things, her own books in the shelves to look at, her own underwear in a drawer close at hand.
She was suffering from cat neglect guilt as well: poor Flower and the Bean, insider cats always at Tater's, didn't see enough of us, and in protest Flower had taken to peeing on everything in sight. And the basic daily trauma of never being able to locate... whatever, promptly, was making my addled wife feel like she had early Alzheimer's.
Not to get too simplistically gender-stereotypical about it, but truth is, she wanted to nest, while just like a typically thick-headed male, I didn't see anything odd about maintaining my own space, and was in fact feeling like the big provider, in making our two-home arrangement still financially sustainable.
The funny thing is, the entire conversation that led to our inevitable decision - give up the second apartment and have Tater move in with me - took all of about fifteen minutes. Despite my fears that my wife would see this as a diminish-ment in status (we were literally and figuratively downsizing), she felt it as a glorious expansion into a fully married life. She's been happier and happier with each day of the move. And I gotta admit, so have I.
That's the beauty part of moving when you don't need a truck - though we did rent one to put some things in storage, and get help carrying Tater's piano into my place: We've had the leisure to move in slow-motion - fill a box one day, carry a pile of them over on the next. The first of the month has come and gone, and due to our landlord's generosity, there's still some unpacked items lingering next door.
Meanwhile, my place - I'm sorry, our place - is a combination of the newly cozy and the utterly chaotic. My masculine aesthetic has been invaded by stuffed animals; meanwhile, the real ones are adjusting remarkably well for a small household with two dogs (puppy Tabitha now wrestles with Thomas) and two cats (the reign of pee has ceased). I've enjoyed throwing things out to clear shelf space for my honey, and I don't even mind giving my living room desk up for Tater, given that I've got my garage-office space now as a full-time Mernitman workplace.
Nearly three years after meeting and hooking up, my love and I are finally living together under the same roof. We did the meet-lose-get in an oddball order (marry first, move in later?) but I feel there's a romantic comedy somewhere in all of this, don't you?