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  • The Year of Perpect Happiness
  • Becky Adnot Haynes (bio) and Liz Priddy

"A year of perfect happiness, just the sound of it, a single year locked away from the years before it and the years after it, happiness unburdened by nostalgia, perfect"

-The Volunteer's Friend, Kevin Moffett [End Page 56]


Winter in the city depresses Davis, the grimy slushiness of it, the graduated shades of gray that make up the street, the sky, the dirty snowbanks. It is as if the gray trumps all else, Technicolor dragged through dishwater, drained of its brilliance. He can feel it seeping into him, the slow trickle getting into his brain, freezing him like an icicle.

"I'm moving," he tells Angie over dinner-Angie, who is more than a roommate and less than a girlfriend-and she wrinkles her nose.

"No, you aren't," she says and stabs at her food with her fork. He's prepared tofu parmigiana for dinner; he and Angie have worked together to perfect his method of cooking tofu, pressing it before dry-frying and then dipping it in egg and [End Page 57] breadcrumbs and sautéing. Tomato sauce and mozzarella are cooked on top, browned under the broiler.

"Yes, I am," he says, watching her over his wine, sipping without taking his eyes off her. "To Arizona. I'll keep paying my half of the rent until the lease is up."

For Davis, happiness is traveling. Or, more precisely, relocating-the newness, the freshness of things, the uncontaminated goodness of a place where one has not lived and had time to become aware of its ugliness, its scrapes and nicks, the ghosts of things gone wrong while you lived there. He has a reason for moving, a nascent curl of a plan, an idea that occurred to him when his girlfriend before Angie, Chloe, broke things off with him: he wants to locate a year of perfect happiness in his life, just one year, a year that he will be able to look back on and remember as the twelve months during which he was happy. Searching his memory, he can isolate weeks of happiness in his life, a month, even, here or there, but not a year-not even close-and this seems to him a great shame.

The moving is a part of this plan. He will go from each place when this happiness begins to sour, become tainted. Before this ugliness grows, he will move on and begin anew, maintaining his happiness; this is his plan. New York he is tired of. It is time to go.

"I have a business idea," he is telling Angie. "It's called ForageFarm. It's going to be a mix between a co-op and an assisted gardening program. Because people want to eat locally, you know, grow their own food? Eat things without GMOs and pesticides. But they don't know how to go about it. That's where I come in." He cracks his knuckles with satisfaction. "I'll set up a system of going around and helping people plant gardens in their own yards and tending these gardens, harvesting them, whatever else. But that's not all-I'll set up a sharing system among neighbors, so, say, if you've got extra tomatoes and you want some fresh sage or chives or something you don't grow, you can make a trade. I'm planning a website, the works." This is his official excuse for quitting his job at H&R Block and moving about as he pleases, though he doesn't tell Angie this. Besides, engaging his entrepreneurial spirit is an idea that appeals to him, a move he sees as a cornerstone of locating this newly established happiness (because isn't that what happiness is, anyway: doing something you're good at and knowing that you're helping people at the same time?). [End Page 58]

"Why don't you do it here?" she asks. "I could help you. I could make the flyers or help you with your website. Create a logo for you. Smiling carrots and broccoli, or whatever."

This stops him momentarily-Angie is a...


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