On Thursday morning, as I step out of the shower, the first of two alarms I set chimes to remind myself to call the dentist before Archie and I leave to head into the mountains. I turn it off, knowing I’ve set another for 7:45. Not two minutes later, my phone alerts me again, but this time, it’s an incoming call from Daniel.
“Nat, hi, how are you?”
“I’m fine. I miss you, but I’m fine.”
“I have been so worried when you didn’t answer. I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t want to panic, but it’s just not like you not to respond.”
“I’m sorry, sweetie. I certainly didn’t mean to cause trouble. I just, I’ve been…work is just very different this week.” I struggle with how to tell him enough and trying to calm him.
“I got a new job,” I finally decide to tell him.
“A new what? You’re breaking up.”
“A new job. I accepted a new job, so I’m not in the office anymore.”
“You’re not at the office? Where are you?”
“Well, at the moment I’m mostly naked in the bathroom. Where are you?”
He didn’t sound amused. “I can’t say right now. But I only have a few minutes. I just wanted to make sure you’re okay.”
“I’m fine. Really I’m okay.” I am tired, and sore, and feeling a bit absent-minded for forgetting to cancel his appointment, but all in all, there’s no reason he should worry, “…and I’ll call when I get to the office and make sure to get your appointment rescheduled for next month.”
“No, just hold off. I told them I’d call them myself.” Was he angry with me? “Look. I need to go. I can’t talk now. I’ll see you this weekend.”
I don’t want him to hang up just yet.
“I’ll see you then,” I accept, even though I want to say more. I feel useless and disappointing.
“I love you, Nat, and I’m so glad you’re okay. I’ll see you soon.”
“Bye, Daniel.” I’m not sure if he heard those last words, but he said nothing more, even as I whisper his name aloud a couple more times.
I reach the office a few minutes before eight, and again Archie is waiting for me, polishing off his coffee.
“Good morning,” I greet him with slightly less enthusiasm today.
“Hey kiddo, I was wondering if all this hard work was taking its toll and you forgot to set your alarm.” Why do I suddenly have the word ‘forgetful’ tattooed across my forehead?
“Nope, but my husband called and it interrupted my morning routine just enough to put me behind schedule.”
“How’s he doing?” Archie asks, knowing only enough to know he is out of town on business.
We chatted briefly on our drive into the mountains on Tuesday morning about family and basic life stories that allowed us to get to know each other a smidgeon, or at least as much as you can get to know someone who is leaving the one location you both have in common. Archie’s a good guy, and I like learning from him, but I doubt I’ll see him besides bumping into him around town.
“Good. Busy. Annoyed.” I feel like leaving it at that, but it left a negative tone, which wasn’t the way I wanted to start the day. I elaborate.
“I forgot to do something. I need to call his dentist and reschedule an appointment for him. Do you mind if I take care of that before we head out? Their office opens at 8:00.”
“How about we go do our walk-around and then you can give them a holler?”
“That’ll work.” I’m glad I opt for a short explanation rather than all the dirty details. I am learning that Wyoming style of privacy well. We complete the short version of Monday’s inspection and he wanders back for a cup of coffee while I make my call.
“Foothills Dental, this is Amy.”
“Hi Amy, it’s Natalie McClure, Daniel’s wife. I’m so sorry, but I forgot to cancel Daniel’s appointment for his cleaning today at 2:30. If there’s a last-minute cancellation fee, I can give you a credit card, plus I’d like to get him rescheduled when you have an opening with Carmen.”
“Hi Mrs. McClure,” even after all these years, it still sounds odd to hear. “Yes, I spoke with Daniel yesterday. He said he didn’t want to reschedule at this time.”
“Yes, you caught him while he was out of town on business and probably pretty busy. Do you have something open in the next few weeks, or even into next month?”
“Um, I do have a couple spots with Rebecca, but Mr. McClure specifically said he did not want another appointment before his next scheduled cleaning at the end of September because he was going to be out of town again soon and he didn’t know what his schedule looked like just yet.”
He told her he was going to be out of town? He didn’t mention anything to me, and that sounds awfully forthcoming of private information for him.
“Oh, well, yes, I suppose that will make it more challenging to find a suitable date without comparing our schedules first.”
I wonder if maybe he doesn’t want to see Carmen and perhaps wants a different hygienist. I will have to find out what his ulterior motive is.
“Can you add him to a will call list in case you have a last-minute opening? Maybe we can make that work.”
“Sure I can do that. And the cancellation fee is $15.00.” I suddenly realize I have left my purse in my car as I have every day this week.
“Oh shoot. I left my wallet in the car. Let me run out and get it.”
“How about we just send you a bill?” Amy doesn’t sound annoyed, just accommodating, and even unfazed by my forgetfulness.
“I’m sorry. I started a new job this week and I’m a bit absentminded. A bill would be great. Thank you.”
“No problem, Mrs. McClure.”
“Thank you, Amy. I appreciate all your help.”
“Anytime. We’ll see you soon. Thank you.”
While the call only takes a handful of minutes, I nonetheless apologize to Archie for the delay and rush to get out the door to make up for the handful of minutes the call eclipses.
I spend the drive into the mountains considering Daniel’s request not to reschedule, as well as my own carelessness in not being on task with my responsibilities. It’s unlike me and reminds me of myself in my previous life. Plenty of therapy over the past several years reinforces the knowledge that I am not forgetful or irresponsible, but that the negative forces in my past positioned me in a way that still leaves me feeling inferior and mistake-prone, even when I am not. It’s how people like Jason gained control over me – by making me feel as if all the mistakes in my life were my fault. It took dozens of sessions to come to terms with the truth that I am not perfect, but I am by no means irresponsible. It took twice as many sessions to stop apologizing for my shortcomings, and to recognize that those shortcomings aren’t even mine.
Yet, for all those years of improvement, here I am again making mistakes and feeling at fault. As I am trying to use the techniques that have helped me to overcome my past behaviors and confirm my abilities, Archie interrupts my internal, self-development conversation.
“When does Daniel get home?” I wasn’t even sure he knew Daniel, much less that he was out of town. I don’t think I mentioned it earlier this week.
“He’s supposed to arrive on Sunday before noon.” I may struggle with time zones, but I know that is just over three days and three hours from now. I feel my insides get a little excited at the narrowing window.
“That should be a good welcome home.”
“Yes.” I try not to get overly excited at the thought, which isn’t easy.
“Are you planning a welcome home dinner for him to celebrate?”
“Only if he cooks it. That’s not really one of my strengths.”
“You don’t know how to cook?” I hear a similar comic tone to his disapproval of my not drinking coffee.
“No, I can cook, I just don’t like to cook.”
“So, maybe this is one of those times when you give it a try. Trust me, if he’s got that much travel to get home, he’d probably rather not have to cook.”
Now how did Archie know how much travel Daniel has? I may have mentioned he was out of town, even though I don’t think I did, but I certainly didn’t tell him he was overseas. I don’t want to cause any awkwardness between us, so I say nothing. It’s a very Daniel maneuver.
“Would you like me to dig up a recipe for something delicious that you can slow cook? I have a white chili recipe that is notorious.”
My mind wanders through a variety of questions. Why is he offering me recipes, even when I didn’t acknowledge his suggestion to cook for Daniel?
I remember having white chili once when I was in Texas and I loved it, but never learned how to cook it. And what does he mean by notorious? Like delicious, or gassy? I start there.
“Notorious, because it is digestively trouble-making?”
Archie laughs louder than I ever knew he had in him.
“Ha! That’s a riot! I never thought about that description before!” He keeps laughing to the point that he takes off his sunglasses to wipe a couple tears from his eyes. It’s not even the first time I made a man cry on this road. At least this time it is comical.
“No, kiddo, I have won the Johnson County Chili Cook-Off with that recipe more than once.” Maybe this would be a good option, now that I think about it.
“Is it difficult to make? Do you think you could give me the recipe?”
“It’s not so much a recipe as you throw all the ingredients into a slow cooker and just let it go to town.”
“So, what do you put into it?”
“Where’s that little notebook you keep writing everything down on?” I didn’t ever call attention to the fact that I was writing things down, although, I have taken a lot of notes in just three days. I make a quick mental scan of what I’ve written to make sure I didn’t write anything inappropriate before I unbutton my shirt pocket and hand it to him.
“Do you need a pen?”
“I’ve got one here somewhere.”
He pops open the console between us and rummages through a pile of misfolded maps, copies of citations, ear plugs, hand warmers, and at least three gloves. In the end, he does produce a pen.
I try to keep the truck’s path smooth and steady as he writes, and periodically, he throws out a couple comments, which I wish he would just write down.
“Be sure to get a sweet onion. It makes a difference.” A few minutes later he adds, “You have to rinse the beans before you soak them. You know that, right?”
In fairness, I did not know that, but now I do.
“Maybe you should write that on there, too.” Let him judge me.
NEXT: On The Job – Part 14