When the weekend finally arrives, and it feels as if it never would, exhaustion accompanies a stack of dirty dishes in the sink, dirty uniforms at the end of the closet, and a dirty vehicle from the melting snow that creates a thin layer of mud throughout town. Saturday will be spent cleaning up and Sunday will be spent finishing all the tasks that need to be done before I can start the new week, and there goes the weekend – feeling over when it’s barely begun. I’m exhausted and I haven’t even lifted my head off the pillow.
It’s not that I don’t love the work of the nearly three years that have passed, but for every month I spent working inside that office, I would likewise spend thirty days wishing I was in the beautiful mountains. Admittedly, from the time I moved into Daniel’s house, the mountains have surrounded me. Now I imagine what I can do with him in my life and my feet in the forest! I am lodgepole – see me grow!
This forest ignites enthusiasm within me, but I certainly don’t want to start day one unable to take in all the joy that comes with finally getting out of the office simply because I worked all weekend. The prospect of what the coming week will bring, not to mention Daniel’s return at the end of the week, can’t overcome the compulsion I feel to remain balled up inside my tent at the bottom of the stairs.
I did start a small fire in the lower fireplace before falling asleep last night, but I expect the remainder of wine in the glass I poured, sipped, and abandoned on the hearth, likely lost its savory flavor as much as the embers lost their glow. Why get out of my cozy shelter and face the unglamorous reminder of how quickly I am buried in a week with no responsibility but work?
As I finally crawl, quite literally, out of my enclosure to face the morning, I confirm the fire is extinguished. In one long, lazy, first-thing-in-the-morning drink, the glass of wine meets a similar fate. It certainly doesn’t taste as fresh as it did when I opened the bottle last night.
It’s odd that I imagine myself as a life spring fueled by the forest, but when faced with a handful of chores, I can barely muster myself to face the day. I’ll admit that I’ve never been a fan of chores – or adult homework, as I began identifying these mundane tasks back when I spent time grading actual student homework in my previous life – but I can feel today’s particular animosity for the mundane is equal parts disdain for doing dishes and desperately missing Daniel lying beside me as I start my weekend. Thank goodness I don’t have to take a puppy for a walk.
I thought for certain I would measure the days and hours and minutes since Daniel left, ticking them slowly away with endless glances at the clock, but as I trip my way up the stairs to the kitchen, with yet another dirty dish in hand, I realize it has been one week since his departure, and I am halfway through this absence, and not missing him more. So, now, in addition to apathy for the dishes, exhaustion for my work-life balance, and acknowledging the fact that I begin my one day off with a leftover glass of pinot, I can add guilt for not missing Daniel to the pile of Saturday morning regrets.
I’m nearly to the kitchen before I realize I’ve left my phone in the tent, when I quite possibly fell asleep with the device in hand, rereading the previous email from Daniel which arrived shortly after bedtime Thursday night.
My precious Nat,
The scenery here could not be any more different than the Iraqi desert. As much as I miss you, and I would never want you to be here, but I know if you were you would fall in love with the high mountains and the flora of the terrain. Every time I see a view that I think you would appreciate, I wish you were by my side to enjoy it, much like our first sunset together. And truthfully, when I think of how much I cannot wait to feel your touch, even from half a world away, I am electrified by the thought of you.
I can’t say much about work other than it is going to be a long project, but one with which I will be proud to be associated. I can’t say much more than that, except that I miss you and the next ten days will be an eternity until I see you again.
All my love,
I tell myself that my reward for finishing the dishes will be to reply to his email. I wanted to respond yesterday morning when I first saw the message in my inbox, and again last night when I got home, but I never even got so far as hitting reply and I was already asleep. The motivation to spend time simply thinking about my husband expedites the kitchen task and I opt to skip breakfast just to get back to his email.
The fact that only about half of the dishes fit into the dishwasher and the rest remain stacked on the counter is not a reason to delay my response. I do as many as I can and even rinse off the waiting items that will be loaded in a couple hours when the cycle completes and can be unloaded. For now, I live up to my private end of the bargain and head back downstairs to reply to my husband. I visibly smile as I reach the first step thinking about him. If it weren’t for the fact that I would undoubtedly trip and fall, I would attempt two at a time, but instead I settle for a rapid descent.
By the time I reach my phone, I see two missed calls, both from Daniel.
“Damn those dishes! Damn every single one of those fucking dishes!” I rarely swear anymore, but this mistake deserves a full and total reprimand to the individual responsible, which happens to be the sink of dishes rather than the woman who left them there. I know better, and I’m just mad at myself.
Ultimately, I am pissed that I didn’t at least think to bring the phone upstairs. As I stare at the phone realizing I missed his call only by four minutes, the voicemail alert chimes. I hit play instantly.
“Hey Nat, I can’t believe I missed you this morning. It’s bedtime here, in fact, it’s pretty late. We went out to the officer’s club with a couple of the guys in country, and I thought for sure you’d be home and I could at least hear your voice. The service must be bad here because I haven’t gotten any of your emails.”
I sent the one on Thursday morning so that brings the grand total of emails I’ve sent him to one, which makes me a pretty crappy wife. I made a point last weekend not to be needy and annoying so I didn’t send any, and I’ve spent every day since being exhausted.
His message continues for a few more moments. “I’m hitting the hay, babe, so I’ll try again in the morning. Morning here, not morning there, so maybe sometime tonight. Your tonight, not my tonight. Anyway, I love you. Hope you’re finding something to keep you busy. Good night.”
The irony slaps me in the face like an old boyfriend. I realize it’s a bad simile, but it actually stings and I feel responsible for not being available when he called. Just like those days, I know it isn’t my fault. I might just as likely have been in the shower when he called if the dishes weren’t all stacked up, but mostly I feel awful that I have not missed him more than I have.
I take time for a quick email before getting to work on the rest of today’s tasks.
Ugh, I just missed your call. I was in the kitchen and my phone wasn’t.
I am finding quite a few ways to stay busy while you’re gone. In fact, I’m sorry I haven’t written more, but I’m probably going to work tomorrow (Sunday here), too.
I’m going to keep my phone close to me later today so I don’t miss your call. I’m glad you are making the most of your time and that it is rewarding to you.
I hope you are taking pictures you can share when you get home. I’m sure it’s not the same as being there, but you’re right – I’d rather not be there. I’d just like to be closer to you.
Stay safe, handsome and hurry home. I love you!
I hit send and promise myself to not set down my phone again, and to get as many household tasks done as I possibly can before he wakes up on his Sunday. I wish I could calculate the time difference so I knew when to expect his call. Despite all the work to be done on my one day off, it’s going to feel like a long day.
NEXT: On The Job – Part 9