My schedule also changes with the arrival of summer. During the off season, until early May, I still kept the Monday through Friday work week, but once the snow began to melt and the seasonal crews started to show up, Aaron asked me to cover weekends. When I spent my first Wednesday/Thursday combo at home, Daniel kept checking on me as if I were under the weather. It took a couple weeks before I figured out that he, too, might be uncomfortable with my presence, even though I make a point to stay away from his entire office wing.
When he finally speaks up about the oddity, he not only comes up with a solution to a challenge I didn’t know we were experiencing, but I am also not the only person involved in the discussion. He finds me sitting by the downstairs fireplace reading Or Perish In The Attempt: Wilderness Medicine in the Lewis & Clark Expedition. The book gives him an introduction.
“It’s a book about the Corps of Discovery and the medical work and implications of the journey.”
“Is this for work?”
I nearly blurt out, “Lewis and Clark were never in Wyoming,” when I realize this is likely the first time he’d taken a break during the middle of his work day aside from lunch. I usually don’t see him throughout the day, except at our midday meal.
“No, just for fun. Did you know that from examining the writings of the captains, it can be hypothesized that based on what symptoms were being treated and who was assigned to which mess, who was under cooking the dinner?”
“Was it you?” Always a chance to kid me about my cooking.
“I don’t think you wandered down here to learn about Meriwether Lewis’ traveling clinic or to poke fun of my cooking. What’s going on with you?”
He sits down on the closest chair and put his feet up, which makes me think this isn’t a serious conversation.
“I just got off the phone with Mr. Waterfield.”
“Oh, how is he?”
“He’s fine.” He doesn’t speak for a moment, not unlike him, so I set the book in my lap and wait for him to continue. And wait.
“We were talking about my current workload and my schedule,” he pauses as if waiting for me to put two and two together. I suspect, but I want to hear what the two of them concocted. “He said it would be okay if I changed up my work week so I could have the same days off work as you.”
“That was quite generous of him.” Daniel displays his poker face, so I call his bluff. “So, I’m guessing he just randomly decided you ought to start working Fridays through Tuesdays?”
Daniel grins almost imperceptibly in a way that I recognize blatantly.
“He agreed that as long as you were working through the weekends, it wouldn’t hurt if I did likewise.”
“He agreed because you proposed it.”
“Because you don’t want me sitting around the house while you’re working.”
“No.” I tip my head to one side to perhaps elicit a longer response. “Not exactly.”
I again wait for him to elaborate.
“I hate not spending time with you when you are so exhausted during the week when you get home.” This is not untrue. He hates trying to have a conversation with me, or even better, not have a conversation with me in bed at night, and I am dozing off from my day of physical exertion.
“I’ve tried not to be intrusive while you work.”
“Oh Nat, you’re not. You’re pretty quiet, and I appreciate that, but if we want to go camping this summer, or spend quality time together, it’s going to have to be in the middle of the week and of the two of us, I have the ability to be more flexible than you.”
Of course, he is right.
“And Mr. Waterfield was cool with that?”
Now he puts his feet down and leans closer to me with his elbows on his knees. His body language tells me that he is changing gears.
“Mr. Waterfield is being especially accommodating because of the overseas project.”
I presume the project just moved right along or was tabled as he never really mentions it since he returned home this past spring. I again utilize Daniel’s own silent techniques to get him to tell me the details he must obviously know I am waiting to hear, or he would have already headed back to his office and left me to my reading. I’m not wrong. The delay takes minutes.
“I have to go back.”
Now he has my attention.
“Back to Afghanistan?”
Daniel looks down and nods. He doesn’t even verbalize his response.
“Why? What’s happened?”
“Then why are you having to go back?”
Again with the silence, except now my improved skills in navigating his conversational style allow me to answer myself more quickly. More and more, there is an amazing clarity in his silence.
“You always planned to go back.” Now he looks up. I am obviously correct. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
He extends his legs to the side, crossing his ankles, so he can stretch without having to be close enough to reach out to me. I recognize his body language, set my book in the chair beside me, and cross my arms. He should recognize my closed stance, even without my moving from the chair.
He doesn’t waste time asking me not to be mad. It is apparent I already am.
“I was hoping it would get canceled – that I wouldn’t need to go – but yes, it was always part of the process.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I stop short of reminding him that we don’t keep secrets from each other, but I am getting pissed that he’s known this was coming but didn’t say anything up front.
“I hated leaving you alone the first time, and we didn’t even know that the project would proceed when we began planning the first trip. Over those two weeks, everything was suddenly locked and loaded.”
“I hate that expression.”
“’Locked and loaded?’ Why?”
“Because it implies you are ready to shoot to kill.”
“That is how firearms work, Nat.”
“Don’t patronize me. I know how firearms work.” He must know that he is in deep on this one because it’s not like him to be patronizing and he clearly is.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. And I’m sorry that I’m being patronizing. I should have told you sooner and now I’m feeling defensive because I wasn’t forthcoming about it.”
Admittedly, I ought to share some of the guilt in his admitting to being at bay. “You shouldn’t have to feel defensive, I’m just frustrated that you’ll be going away again. So, why didn’t you tell me?”
“Nat you curled up in a tent for two weeks because you couldn’t even sleep in our bed. I knew you weren’t okay with my being gone that long and I didn’t want you to worry about a second trip if it didn’t materialize.”
“You didn’t know about the tent until you came back.”
“I did know.” I roll my eyes, but whatever gesture I display, I expect he is going to respond accordingly. “Okay, I didn’t know specifically about the tent, but I did know you weren’t okay with my being gone.”
He’s right, but I am not going to tell him that. “Is that why you had Aaron keep an eye on me while you were gone?”
He leans back in the chair, clearly exasperated by my line of questioning.
“I didn’t know you knew about that. I was just looking out for you. That’s all. I didn’t think he’d tell you.”
Granted, he didn’t; Archie did, but I am not going to let Daniel off the hook regardless. Despite sitting directly across from him, I’m firmly planted on the high ground and I refuse to surrender it. This conversation isn’t going to end without him telling me everything I want to know.
NEXT: On My Own – Part 22