So—to Philadelphia (city of brotherly potholes) we duly decamped! The fact is we both liked the area a lot. Our little rental was near my sister and her family, whose proximity had become vital to my happiness over the years, so that brought familiarity. Moreover, after all our collective years of travel to far-flung places, it felt good and even revitalizing to be living in America, a country which, for all its flaws, was still interesting to both of us: a fast-moving, multicultural, ever-evolving, maddeningly contradictory, creatively challenging, and fundamentally alive sort of place.
There in Philadelphia, then, Felipe and I set up headquarters and practiced, with encouraging success, our first real sessions of shared domesticity. He sold his jewelry; I worked on writing projects that required me to stay in one place and conduct research. He cooked; I took care of the lawn; every once in a while one of us would fire up the vacuum cleaner. We worked well together in a home, dividing our daily chores without strife. We felt ambitious and productive and optimistic. Life was nice.
But such intervals of stability could never last long. Because of Felipe's visa restrictions, three months was the maximum amount of time that he could legally stay in America before he would have to excuse himself to another country for a spell. So off he would fly, and I would be alone with my books and my neighbors while he was gone. Then, after a few weeks, he'd return to the United States on another ninety-day visa and we'd recommence our domestic life together. It is a testament to how warily we both regarded long-term commitment that these ninety-day chunks of togetherness felt just about perfect for us: the exact amount of future planning that two tremulous divorce survivors could manage without feeling too threatened. And sometimes, when my schedule allowed, I would join him on his visa runs out of the country.