I’ve spent nearly ten days back in the U.S., bouncing around between Dallas, Atlanta, and then upwards on to Nashville. I’m feeling restless; I’m missing the daily routine I had back in Switzerland. I’ve definitely been spoiled by the nice gym I can walk to each day, and the supportive running shoes that I left sitting by our front door. I miss my Italian cookbook and the gurgle of my coffee machine as it fills my cup each morning. I guess you could say that I already feel homesick for a new place, despite having Nashville as my home for over 8 years.
I’ve had lots to do on this trip, mostly FM business, including a photo shoot on Monday and a video shoot on Wednesday. I spent the better part of Sunday morning having brunch with a girlfriend in East Nashville, and then we drove around to all the vintage shops spanning Eastland Avenue before I finally found a Calvin Klein jean jacket with snarling black spikes pinched through the shoulders: my statement piece for our new FM promo photos.
I was lying on the couch on Thursday evening when Sharon came back from dinner with friends. The glass door exhaled as it closed behind her; she was rifling through a stack of mail as she pushed the front door closed with the weight of her right arm. I was surprised she was back so soon; with the time it took to travel to the restaurant, she must’ve only been eating for about 45 minutes. She just shrugged, and handed me an envelope we both thought was from my old health insurance company.
I wasn’t going to open it at first. Who knew what they might want from me now: a bill, a missed payment, perhaps one of my kidneys or a piece of my liver. But as Sharon remained standing there and the room once again fell silent, I leaned against the high armrest of her squishy suede couch and tore open the top edge of the letter. I was surprised to see a check peeking out from the inside…were they reimbursing me for something? Then I saw the total, and I gasped. This was far too much for some kind of reimbursement. My eyes flashed over to the letterhead and I recognized my mischaracterization: this wasn’t from my ex-health insurance company.
This was from Jerry’s bank—the man who once deemed it a good idea to cheat me out of a month’s worth of piano tunings done for his company, and then to skip town. On the check was the name of the bank I had written nearly two months before on a wage garnishment form. This cashier’s check that I held in my hand was the money I deserved to be paid, the money I had gone to court for, and the money I never, ever thought would actually come.
I gasped, loudly.
Sharon wheeled around and darted over towards me, and noticing that I wasn’t hurt, looked at me quizzically. I flicked my wrist and showed her the front side of the check. She snatched it out of my hands and held it under her nose, as if she worried it might be counterfeit.
Sharon froze, motionless, as I jumped off the couch in a spontaneous fit of exuberant energy, much like what you would see a playful dog do as it gets that look in its eye and it starts darting around the house. When I was younger, we had our sweet little mutt Buster, and we called them his “doggy run-throughs”. Others call them “zoomies”. I never understood the urge to get up and sprint in no particular direction until this very moment. I ran hollering through every room in the condo twice, jumping up and down in place in each corner, my arms waggling above my head resembling two giant, floppy ears. I had reached peak Golden Retriever. Sharon, in contrast, remained positively still, eyes wide and mouth agape in disbelief.
When I had tired myself out, I collapsed on to the carpet, rolling onto my back with my legs and arms flailing in the air like a live bug trying to flip itself. I got up, and Sharon muttered under her breath:
“I…can’t believe it. I can’t believe it. We actually did it.”
She had been there the whole time. She was the one I called when I worked up the courage to drive to the courthouse that very first morning. She, a notary, personally certified each document we had translated to English from the original Legalese. I called her when Jerry the jerk caught wind that I might not give up after all, and he sent a phony letter from a phony lawyer trying to threaten me into altering course. Now, after all this time, we had won.
I called my mom and my dad, and obviously C, who was out at a work dinner and couldn’t pick up until much later. He was ]in San Francisco this week, and my phone rang long after I had gone to bed early (having expended all of my energy on zoomies). I told him everything: how I thought the letter was from the insurance company, how shocked Sharon was, and how I was nearly positive I cleaned out his entire bank account, because the total was slightly less than what I was owed plus court costs, and a random, arbitrary number. I could hear him smiling through the receiver, the breath hitting his teeth as he exhaled through a grin. He just kept saying the same thing over and over:
“When you’re right, you don’t give up. You don’t give up and you eventually win. I’m so proud of you, honey.”
I felt lucky to have a partner who understood, and appreciated, this fact about me. I may think about giving up, I may contemplate it and feel like my actions were all for naught, but in the end, most of the time I will stand in the rain outside the theme park ride, or I will stay up all night to finish a school project, or I will, in fact send in yet another redundant notarized form to the Kentucky courts in order to take that one step closer for just the possibility of a future victory. It was just like when we met, and what I had done since to stay by his side: I sold my car and most of my stuff; I waved goodbye to my cozy country and flew off to a mountainous fairy land of aged cheeses and possibilities; I came back to America and marched into a consulate, asking nicely for a form that would make me a Swiss local, and his wife. I can’t remember the last time I gave up. And you better believe, if I can help it, I won’t be doing it any time soon.
The next night, Sharon and I went out to a brand new restaurant in Nashville, called Tailor. It was a carefully constructed menu consisting of 8 courses hand-plated by the chef himself behind a counter in the main dining area. The meal was inspired by his grandparents, who were tailors and kept the sewing machine they used, starting at 5AM each morning, standing next to his childhood pillow. His upbringing, raised by two Indian immigrants, enriched his life so deeply you could see nostalgia boiling through his gaze. From salty pappadum and sorghum popcorn, to a brain-teasingly good braised pork loin, and on to the finale of a British sticky toffee pudding, we were stunned into submission by each of the eight offerings, including the perfectly accompanied drink pairings.
I was drawn initially to the place by its description on its website, stating that the whole nature of the restaurant was to provide the atmosphere of a dinner party in the chef’s home. This is the kind of dining experience I crave above all others, and he stayed true to his word: returning to the center of the room after each dish was placed on the table, giving context and a personal anecdote to the inviting smells rising from the plates. During the dinner, I thought about how much tenacity it takes to have a vision that lives only in your heart and in your mind for so long, until the right moment when you get to express it with a laugh, or a song, or a cry, or a dance. I imagine all of the victories that lay before me, and I am thankful, and rest easy, to finally see what seemed insurmountable to me at first, slowly vanishing into the distance behind me.