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The 9-week vacation experiment

What would you do if your spouse took a nine-week vacation to South America?
I know what you’re thinking: Party!! But think again…

The adventure begins

We got up at three a.m. on Saturday, thankful that we had loaded the car the night before. We drove to the airport and by 4:30 I was idling at the Departure curb in the dark. After an affectionate kiss, my sweetie took his carry-on backpack and his huge black duffel bag and was on his way.

I sat there for a minute watching him head into the concourse—a little lopsided from the weight of his bag—and I felt such warmth and love. This was my sweetie, and for nearly the first time in the several months that he’d been talking about this trip, I felt that he’d probably be safe and would actually come home to me in nine weeks as planned.

Nine Weeks. Just over Two Months.
That’s an awfully long time for him to be away.

Sydney the amazing watchdog

After I dropped Dave off, I drove to my friend Jen’s house. She lives not too far from the airport and we’d planned to hang out together that day. She left the back door unlocked for me so I could sneak in and crash on her couch until a decent hour—like when it was at least a little light out.

As I tiptoed into the house, from in the bedroom I could hear Jen’s dog, Sydney, emit a few pathetic attempts to sound threatening: kind of a cross between a cough and the sound of a human clearing its throat. I slunk onto the couch and froze in an effort to be as silent as possible until Sydney quieted down. Then I tossed and turned and fought insomnia for all of about 20 seconds before crashing into a deep sleep.

A few hours later I woke up to see Jen standing in the living room in her pajamas and laughing hard. Sydney was behind Jen trying her “threatening dog” impression out on me again—except she was both backing up and only cautiously peaking out from behind Jen, who couldn’t stop laughing.

Finally I realized that Sydney was actually scared of the human who had materialized in her home, so I sat up and called her name. As soon as she realized who I was, she was her normal licky, butt-wriggling adorable self again. Jen described to me how Sydney—the valiant watchdog that she is—wouldn’t leave the bedroom this morning until Jen went first to give her some protection.

All I can say is: Thank goodness I wasn’t a murderer.

Where is he now?

Jen and I had a wonderful day. We took Sydney for a long walk, went out for breakfast, took the train into the city for shopping, and saw a movie (we saw Pumpkin). Late in the afternoon we went back to Jen’s house had dinner, then sat in the back on the grass with some wine and planned how we’d like to landscape her front yard and what Jen should buy once she changed jobs.

I had a fantastic time with my friend, but all day I found my thoughts turning to Dave. Over and over again, I’d wonder, Where is he Right Now? And all day, the answer to my silent question was that he was probably  sitting on a plane somewhere over North, Central, or South America, probably stiff from sitting so long and probably filled to the gills with bad airplane-food.

By 9 p.m. I was home, and I wasn’t sure what to do. I wandered around the quiet house, picking up some of the flotsam left over from our quick departure that morning. I straightened up a few of Dave’s many piles of stuff and chuckled, thinking that he’d be amused that this was practically the first thing I did when I got home from dropping him off.

I stayed up until around 1 a.m. watching an old movie, then I went to bed, thinking about that Joni Mitchell song, My Old Man:

“But when he’s gone, me and them lonesome blues collide. The bed’s too big, the fryin’ pan’s too wide.”

Where is he now? He’s probably asleep by now; asleep in a strange bed—a stranger in the home of a host-family in Quito, Ecuador.

The bed seemed so still and lifeless. And I wished so much that I could snuggle up to him, lay the whole top half of my body on his and nestle my face against his chest and feel his arms around me as I fell asleep. This was how I went to sleep most nights—and I missed that so much now.

My better half

One thing about me and Dave is that we get a lot of comfort from all our little traditions. It’s not so much an issue for him, I think, but for me: I just don’t like change. I could easily go into the same restaurant nearly every weekend for ten years and order one of two or three different things, and this would be just fine. You might call it a rut. I call it structure.

Sundays usually meanswe get up around 8 or 9 and go to the mall with the New York Times and drink humongous sodas and eat fast-food Indian food from the Wazwan in the food court. Usually I’d nip off for a bit of innocent shopping, then we’d meander our way home by way of a bookstore or two, or maybe a movie or whatever else struck our fancy.

This morning I got up, intending to grab that NYT out of the driveway and get myself to the mall—but somehow it was nearly noon by the time I got there. It was more than that I had taken time to wonder “Where is he now?” Somehow it was like my timing was all off without him around. I felt mildly confused, like I’d forgotten something very important.

Later in the evening when I was thinking about how strange I’d felt all day, I thought about the term “my better half.” Dave and I have a pretty equitable relationship, so I won’t say either of us is the other’s better half. But he is exactly one-half of this couple I’ve come to so identify with—and it really did feel like I’d left just about half of me lying forgotten somewhere. What a strange feeling.

This will be an interesting nine weeks.

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