By Nicole Wilmoth
It was a chilly day in late October; the crisp feeling of fall had just begun. The chilly air was the only thing that seemed to keep me awake. This was one of the last things I wanted to do; preferably I would have spent my day lying in bed under my heated blanket sulking. I hadn’t slept the night before and the hour drive to get to Annapolis was just as emotionally exhausting as the previous night. The only thing that got me out of bed that morning was the hope that a day exploring would somehow bring my relationship out of this endless slump it seemed to be in. I hoped that such a charming city would help me see the bigger picture.
Neither my boyfriend nor I had ever been to Annapolis, we had been planning this trip for a month, but not like this. Just a few days before we were both equally as excited, but as we walked towards the Visitor’s Center I sensed that not only had my excitement simmered but so did his. As I spent the day trying not to cry, he spent it trying to find the right thing to say.
“Are you going to be like this all day?” he asked.
“Hope not,” I replied. The edge in my voice was noticeable; so he shut up.
As we walked along the beautiful brick buildings of Maryland St. we passed vacant wrought iron tables and chairs that I imagined were seats of choice during the summer months. I kept my eyes on anything I could; I couldn’t look at Dave without a combination of hurt and anger surfacing. I was looking at the signs on buildings and the people walking by, but I couldn’t get myself to pay attention. The night before was running through my head. How could I make it stop?
The fight wasn’t like any other fight we’ve ever had; this one was a huge deciding factor into the future of our relationship. We had decided a couple of months prior that we were ready to get a place together. He got a better paying job, we started looking at place, and everything was running smoothly. Then the night before our trip to Annapolis he decided to drop a huge bomb on me; he not only wanted to get a place with his best friends but he decided he wanted to do it without me.
He was always putting his friendships before me and I was tired of it. Our relationship was already in a rough patch and it took me everything I had not to just give up on our relationship all together. How could I have spent so long with someone and after all this time he still couldn’t put me first?
So today was the decision day. I decided on the car ride to pick him up that morning that at the end of the day I would decide if I was in or out.
Before I knew it we were approaching the Visitor’s Center; it was a lovely blue painted brick building. As we stepped inside I was amazed to see how new it looked compared to the outside of the building. I didn’t know where to start. I found myself over in the historical section, which seemed to have the largest selection of materials. Louise was a friendly elderly woman who pulled out a map and started showing us places to go before I even understood what was going on. I’m not much of a history person, but my boyfriend is. He began talking to her and asking questions. His interest was only short lived because he changed the subject to food.
“Where’s the best places to eat around here?” he asked.
“Well it depends on what you’re looking for,” Louise responded.
Before I could respond my boyfriend took the words right out of my mouth: “a place that is the essence of Annapolis.”
Louise smiled and said, “There’s a sandwich shop down on Main Street, it looks a little rough on the outside but the food is amazing. It’s called Chick and Ruth’s Delly.” She pointed to its approximate location on the map and added, “if you want something you can’t get anywhere else that’s the place to go.”
We thanked her and after grabbing a few more pamphlets, we left. We got maybe 10 feet out of the door when we heard her voice again. We turned around and she said “you’re going to Main Street right?
At the same time Dave and I responded with “yes.”
She laughed and pointed in the other direction. “Then you’re going to need to go that way then.”
We began walking back towards her and thanked her again. I secretly hoped she could just as easily tell us how to get our relationship back in the right direction.
We walked past her she said, “Remember Chick and Ruth’s, best sandwiches in town.”
Knowing we were going in the right direction, we approached the large circle that separated Maryland St. and Main Street. In the middle sat a gorgeous brick church. We crossed the street to take a closer look; St. Anne’s Episcopal Church was written on a sign that was hung on the fence. The church was surrounded by wrought iron fences, brick walkways, and large trees whose leaves were beginning to change colors. I let Dave grab my hand for the first time all day, and it was then I finally looked at him. My mood lightened a little, and I pulled him forward.
As we walked around the circle to Main Street the Maryland Inn caught my eye. It was a brick building that’s front was so skinny it made me wonder how it functioned as a working hotel. It wasn’t until we began our journey down Main Street that I noticed it got wider at the back.
As I was analyzing the side of building I noticed a Starbuck’s sign, but I couldn’t find it. Then the smell of coffee hit me, I stopped and looked around.
“What are you doing?” Dave asked.
“Trying to figure out where the Starbucks is.”
He pointed at the hotel, there was a flight of steps leading down below the side walk, and then I saw it. “Oh my God that’s so cool,” I said.
I don’t think he understood my amazement with it because he just pulled me along.
Main Street wasn’t like anything I’d ever seen before. Looking at it I was surprised at how many shops and restaurants lined the streets. Cars were slowly driving past but I was focused on the sail boats and the water. That was my destination for the day. Dave and I walked down the street hand-in-hand looking in windows; we weren’t really sure what we were looking for when we stumbled upon Wood Craft Artisans. We stopped at the small window at the front of the store when we saw a large wooden map of the bay.
When we walked in the smell of wood was overwhelming. There was a large wooden table in the middle of the store. I walked around it looking at the various knick-knacks and jewelry boxes. In the back corner of the store is where we found all of the large water maps. It was then that we noticed these pieces were cut in order to show the depth of the water in different places of the various waterways. After looking around for a couple more minutes, we said goodbye to the lady at the register and left.
As we continued in the direction of the water we smelled and aroma so mouth watering it stopped us in our tracks. We looked up and saw we were standing in front of Chick and Ruth’s Delly. An orange building with a green awning, Louise was right. It looked a little rough on the outside but the aroma from this small shop made me want to go in. Dave and I looked at the menu and decided to come back when we had more of an appetite.
As we turned to keep walking a group of men from the Naval Academy ran by; my eyes followed them until my boyfriend pulled at my arm. They were all dressed the same in blue shorts and grey shirts with the word Navy across the front. They kept their eyes forward and on task, which is exactly what I had to do. I was there to enjoy myself despite the aching feeling in my chest.
We walked past souvenir shops, boutiques, and restaurants. We stopped a few times to look at the menus hanging in the windows of various places, but nothing seemed to change our minds about Chick and Ruth’s.
We crossed the street towards the water before I checked the time; we had a half hour to walk all the way back to the car to move it before getting towed. We turned around and walked back in the direction from which we came. So close to where I wanted to be yet yanked away at the last second because of time, but we’d be back.
This side of Main Street was much like the other side. It was lined with restaurants and stores side by side down the length of the street.
It was fall, and for weeks I had been telling Dave I wanted to go apple picking and make delicious caramel apples. So when we passed the general store where Uncle Bob’s was selling caramel apples I did not hesitate to go in. I selected an o range and yellow sprinkle covered caramel apple, bought myself a bottle of Coke and was on my way.
The sun was beginning to come out from behind the clouds and feeling it on my arms brightened my mood, I released my boyfriend’s hand and wondered if he knew why. I just kept walking. Dave was slightly behind me, this was my day; I wasn’t going to let some stupid fight ruin such a charming city.
Up to this point I had been enjoying Annapolis, but it hadn’t exactly been able to get me out of the mood that right now seemed to never end. The environment distracted me to a point. I enjoyed looking at the buildings and wondering what they had been before they turned into places like Chick and Ruth’s. I loved watching the variety of people who were happily wandering around Main Street happy and excited to be there. The way I thought I would be: hand-in-hand with my boyfriend, laughing, smiling, and enjoying a new experience together.
I could have forgotten about last night, put it behind me, and enjoyed myself. The funny thing is I don’t think I wanted to, every time I caught myself having a tiny bit of fun, or smirking just the slightest bit, I’d stop myself. I wanted my boyfriend to realize I wasn’t ok. In our silence I wanted him to start caring about my happiness for the first time in months; if he didn’t at least I would know.
We moved my car and headed towards Chick and Ruth’s Delly, I finally felt like I could eat for the first time in two days. We walked in and seated ourselves i n a two-person booth near the front. It was cramped and loud in the small space. It was hard to hear the waitress over the sound of the bustling kitchen; we ordered two waters and looked at the menu. When the waitress came back she informed us that her shift was ending and our waiter would be over in a few minutes.
As she walked back behind the counter and took her apron off one of the chef’s said something and everyone behind the counter broke out into a boisterous laughter.
A middle-aged man approached our table. “What can I get for you guys?”
I ordered a fried haddock sandwich with lettuce and tomato. He recommended one of the specialty sandwiches but I declined.
“She’s an obnoxiously picky eater,” my boyfriend pointed out. It wasn’t a lie, but I’ve never found it to be a problem. Dave ordered the Ruben sandwich and the waiter left. Sitting there waiting on the food, I began to think about the night before and Dave sensed it.
He tried to grab my hand and I pulled back. “We were having such a good day,” he said.
“Yeah on the surface,” I replied, “but I still can’t shake the feeling. I’m hurt a few hours aren’t going to change that.”
“Then why did we come here?”
“I thought it would help.”
“Well, now were both miserable.”
Maybe we both had been miserable for longer than we realized; or maybe fights just had a funny way of making you see things at their worst.
Our food came quickly and as delicious as it smelled I barely touched it; the sinking feeling in my stomach was back. We paid the bill and left. Dave started walking the opposite way of the water. “Where are you going?” I asked him.
He turned and said, “Were leaving aren’t we?”
“No,” I replied “I want to go see the boats.”
I walked towards the water without seeing if he was following. I didn’t care. I needed this but I felt him following me. I walked along the docked boats knowing that this would be one of the last weekends they would be out before they were put away for the winter. There were people all around taking pictures with their kids, smiling and happy. Why couldn’t that be me? I found a bench and sat; I had the perfect view of the water. It was freezing down there but I didn’t care, I just wanted to sit and watch the boats. They glided across the water elegantly, the wind moving them along. The boats didn’t stop when they hit the smallest of waves. They didn’t change course either. They just kept going in the same direction. I knew then how small this blemish was in the grand scheme of things, and for the first time all day I let everything out of my mind.
Dave finally sat next to me and grabbed my hand. I took a deep breath and wondered how long this feeling would last. I looked at him and for the first time all day I stopped being angry and I showed him the hurt I felt. We needed to talk about this, but not here. I wouldn’t let another fight ruin this city more than it already had. As we walked back to the car, I already couldn’t wait to come back. Next time, by myself.