“How long do you see yourself doing this?” David asked. He cut a piece of salmon.
“I don’t know,” Caitlyn shrugged. “Till I make it?”
“Well, Agnes thinks I could go far in the industry.”
“Who’s Agnes, again?”
“My supervisor, my boss,” she reminded him.
“That’s right,” David nodded. “D’you ask her what she meant by that?”
Caitlyn chewed a piece of salmon and red pepper on the left side of her mouth.
“I’m assuming job placement,” she replied, “head-hunting. Stuff like that.”
“You really want to do that?” his brows coming together.
“Sure,” she nodded. “It pays great at the top.”
“Everything pays great at the top.” David sipped his wine, holding Caitlyn’s eyes over the rim of the glass.
“Duh,” she smiled. “What’s on your mind?”
“I’m just curious about your job. Is it what you really want to do?”
“I don’t know. Agnes says…”
“I know,” David cut her off. “Agnes says you can go far.”
“So yeah,” Caitlyn shrugged again. “I want to explore that, and this presentation could jumpstart my career. This
is going to lead me there.”
“Lead you where?” he asked, picking up his fork. “To the top?”
“Maybe, whatever,” she waved her hand.
“Well, good for you,” David said. “If you’re invested in this job I want you to do well.”
“You don’t sound like you mean that.”
“I’m just saying, you talk about it with really passionate ambivalence, like this is the chance of your career but
you don’t even know for sure that you want to make a career out of it.”
“The potential is there,” Caitlyn informed him. “And it pays really well.”
“Yeah,” he agreed, “Whenever you get to Agnes’ level. Is it really just about money though? What about having passion for your work? Doing something you love?”
“Passion isn’t going to pay my student loans, David.”
“Don’t you think it’d be more fulfilling to do something you believed in, while paying off your loans?”
“I believe in it.”
“Since when?” he asked. “I know you just want to pay off your bills and I’m not trying to knock your job. I just wonder how long you see yourself there, in New York, doing this job placement stuff?”
“I don’t know,” Caitlyn confessed, her voice strained in defense. “I’m fortunate to have that stability of a job in New York City, with health insurance, and I’m probably going to hold onto it as long as it takes.”
“As long as what takes?” David asked. “You want to wait out the economy at Higher Bracket?”
“Is that so terrible?”
“I don’t know,” his eyes flickered lazily, and Caitlyn knew he’d conceded to that point.
After a few moments of silence, save for the contact of silverware against melamine dinner plates, David spoke again.
“Say you get a promotion,” he started, “and a raise, and in two years your loans are gone, what then? You’d stay there?”
“If I was out of debt,” Caitlyn considered the situation, “and doing well, definitely.”
“How long do you think you’ll stay in New York?”
“I don’t know,” she turned up her left palm, “as long as I don’t hate my job – which I don’t. I’m doing all right, and I can only get better if I keep at it.”
“So that’s where you see yourself,” David pushed.
“What do you mean?”
“Your future,” he said, “New York. You ever think about us living together?”
Caitlyn blinked. She wasn’t expecting that.
“Do you want to move to New York?”
“I didn’t say that,” David clarified, standing. “But I miss you. I wish you’d visit more, and stay with me when you do, instead of staying with your parents.”
“It’s not economical for me to come up all the time.”
“Seriously?” He looked at her, dumbfounded. “I’m not worth forty dollars to you?”
“I’m not saying that,” Caitlyn tried to soften the blow. “I just didn’t think you wanted me to come see you for no reason.”
“It’s not for no reason,” David protested. “I want you to come see me because you miss me and you want to see me, not because you’re giving in, because I like to have my way. That hurts, by the way. It’s not about having my way. It’s that I love you, and I miss you, and you could stand to act like you feel the same, instead of attributing everything to my argumentative tendencies and need to be right. I don’t need to be right, Caitlyn. I always know when I am.”
“Great,” she rolled her eyes. “Now we’re arguing about your smarts too? I’d never have called you argumentative if you didn’t always start, you know.”
David leaned against the sink and counter, extending his arms along the length.
“Do you even love me?”
“However I answer,” Caitlyn said “won’t be good enough for you.”
“A ‘yes’ would’ve worked.”
“That question is cocked and loaded, and you know it.”
“I shouldn’t have had to ask it.”
“No kidding,” Caitlyn agreed. “How don’t you know the answer to that?”
“Why can’t you just say it?” David pressed.
“When did this go career ambitions to you feeling unloved?”
“Why can’t you just say it?”
“I love you,” Caitlyn recited. “You know that.”
“You know, you say it,” he folded his arms across his chest. “And I know you’ve said it before, but you don’t act like it. You’ve never been very affectionate, and I let that go. But you could try. We’re in a long distance relationship and instead of giving me your all to make this work, you’re giving me excuses. You’re fighting me every step of the way. I need to know that whether you want to be a head hunter, or a firefighter, that I have a place in your future. Otherwise, I don’t know what we’re doing here. And we need to figure that out.”
“David, this isn’t fair.” Caitlyn swallowed.
“No kidding,” he used her line.
“What do you want me to say?”
“Try the truth. Try your feelings.”
Caitlyn looked past him, her eyelids fluttering. After a few moments she confessed, “You’re still in school, and my career is just beginning. I’m not ready think about us living together. And if that’s what you wanted me to say, because that’s what you see, then I’m sorry. I’m just not there yet.”