Peter Peter and the Road Trip
It all started out well enough. They met and fell in love almost instantly. She was a university teacher from New Jersey. He was an embroidery designer from Sunbaru. They both were older. But love knows no age, she told herself. And she was right, except for the earning a living part of the bargain.
They settled in a midwestern state where prairie grasses grow high and stretch golden across the plains. Peter Peter looked for work but found none. “Too old,” he was told.
“Can’t work hard. Looks all worn out.” Others said. “What kind of accent does he have anyway?”
She found a job teaching in a private school. At first she worked full time. Long hours, unruly students, obnoxious principal. But she was so in love that she really didn’t stop to think. She ended up earning most of the money. She paid the bills, paid the rent, and put food on the table. All the couple’s belongings including dishes mostly came from musty 2nd hand stores.
But they were happy. Two older people trying to survive in a world made not for them. Eventually he grew homesick. He began to miss Sunbaru. She really had no home to miss so all that mattered was the fact that she was together with the man she loved and adored. He finally found a job working for the state. It paid very little but at least, Peter Peter could buy his cigarettes and put gas in his dilapidated car.
Meanwhile, she put up with the smoke in her eyes and the heavy burden of paying all the bills. On weekends, the couple would celebrate their time off by going to rustic used furniture stores and driving to other cities. “It’s a great life,” she remarked to Peter Peter one day as they drove past the oak trees and lilac bushes. She breathed in the sweet smell of the day.
He gently took her hand, kissed it and agreed, “Life with you is indeed great.”
And so they continued for several years this way. He working a few hours a day very part time, and she teaching. Until one day, she clutched her heart, gasped a bit and blurted out, “I can’t go on this way. I’m too old to teach.”
It was true. Through the glass door leading outside she could see the cardinals flying from tree to tree and the squirrels scampering on the wooden deck. It was then she had announced her predicament. She knew she was getting too old. Her heart bothered her. Every day she struggled harder and harder. She dreaded going to school. She began to hate teaching. Too much stress, too much work. She couldn’t walk like she had before. She started limping and she couldn’t move as fast.
Peter Peter himself didn’t look so good either. “I can’t carry heavy things around any longer. When I do, I get this terrible pain in my side.” he said. “I too am not getting any younger.”
What would happen to them? They couldn’t live on love alone though many poems and songs suggested they could. Love itself wouldn’t pay the bills, put gas in their cars, or put food on the table. Later in the evening after contemplating his fate, Peter Peter announced, “It’s time for me to go home and see my family.”
“Ok.” She murmured. But what about her. Wasn’t she his family too? Where would she go and what would she do? His sudden announcement hit as if he drove a stake into her soul.
Without any hesitation, the next day he bought a ticket to Sunbaru, the place he called home. A few days later, he sold his car. He tried to explain himself to her daughter. “She can’t work any longer. She’s getting too tired. This is why I’m going back home.”
She knew it didn’t sound very good. It didn’t look very good either. That night she sat in her living room contemplating her fate, her future. What would she do? Where would she go? Peter Peter was going home to his family. To his children and a place to stay.
How could she really live a life without him. Yes, he was being selfish. Yes, he didn’t seem very worried about her. Yes, he would be leaving her all alone.
Not long after his sudden announcement, on a day in May, he carried out his suitcases. Trees were blooming brilliant flowers along the way to the airport. New grass sprouted everywhere. White clouds floated across the sky and the sun shone down on her car. But this wasn’t a happy day for her. Peter Peter looked sad yet at the same time, he seemed kind of overjoyed to be going back to his country. The emptiness she felt would be hers alone. She last saw him as he jumped down from the car and weighed his suitcases outside the terminal. A quick farewell. He shed a tear or two. She climbed back in the car and nearly choked from all the tears welling up inside of her. That was it then. The final good-bye.
A few days later, he called her. “I miss you so much,” he said.
“I miss you more,” she answered.
A few months passed. Then a year went by. They developed their long distance relationship. His text messages became more and more earnest. “I miss you more and more each day. My life will never be the same without you.”
On a late fall day, he wrote, “I need to see you, even if for a few short days.”
Peter Peter’s reality had set in. She had been living her reality for a long time now. “We can meet in New York. I’ll come for a four or five days so I can see you again,” he texted.
She was supposed to take a road trip to meet him. He was going to book his ticket and a room at a hotel. Back home, she sank down in her brown chair on a faded blue cushion, rocking herself back and forth thinking. The strong tobacco smell still lingered. She stared at his picture on the wall. His greying hair was combed haphazardly. His distant smile looked back at her. It was true, she loved him deeply. But he was the one who left her when he found out she could no longer work. He didn’t waste time going back to his country and leaving her stranded with all the things he left behind, including her.
“We’ll meet in New York,” he texted again a few days later. “I’ll use our credit card from our joint account to pay for the ticket and hotel room. You can drive there. It will be like old times. I can’t wait to see you. You’re the best wife in the world and the years I spent with you were the happiest years of my life.”
How would she drive across country? Where would she find the strength? Where would she get the money? She no longer worked and her meager pension wouldn’t buy gas for her car, not for a cross country trip and it certainly wouldn’t pay for a hotel room. Peter Peter had his wife but he really couldn’t keep her. She wrote back, “No, it’s not going to work. I’m too tired to drive all that way and we can’t afford to meet in New York. Maybe we can see each other some other time.”
He gave up the idea of flying back to America for a rendezvous after hearing her insist she couldn’t make the road trip and that their credit card wouldn’t pay for the hotel room or his overseas flight. But he still texted her saying, “I miss you and I love you.”
She had to live with the sad idea that she might never see him again. Love is truly beautiful, she thought, but it really doesn’t pay the bills.