I spend the bulk of my day crying, which makes me wish I brought more than a small purse-size pouch of tissue. I stop in Kaycee for fuel and grab a stack of napkins as an alternative and keep heading south to make Cheyenne with enough daylight to find a place to stay. As it is, I realize I don’t know my way around the city well enough, but there are long stretches along the interstate where cell service is spotty, so I consider that I should have planned better for my arrival, but this wasn’t the week to be well organized.
I wonder if it is possible for me attend any services for Kenny. I want to, but I’ve already missed enough days of work, and I don’t know for certain from where in Montana he hailed. Again, I think of his wife, and even for young Jacob who will spend the rest of his life without his father. He’ll have been the last person who saw him alive and he’ll have to carry that guilt around with him for his entire life.
I certainly understand guilt and the terrible way it can rip your life apart. I can imagine his life has changed forever and he doesn’t even know it yet. I might be better off to write a letter to his widow, but I feel guilty that I didn’t make an attempt to look for him that night and left the area because of my own injury rather than make the effort to do more. In hindsight, I cannot imagine what more I could have done, but I still regret not doing more, not calling for help, not doing something – anything – that would have altered the series of events that will change their lives forever.
I expect this might send me back to therapy if I’m not careful. By the time I arrive in Cheyenne, I am already mentally compartmentalizing the events of the past three days trying to manage the emotional strain.
I find a hotel close to the interstate, overpriced as it is, but convenient, and easily accessible to the airport so that whenever Daniel arrives, I can be nearby. Once I get to my room, I consider dinner options, electing to just stay where I am and rely on the leftover nibbles from the drive. I open my email to find out where Daniel may be and when he will arrive.
The itineraries are full of too much information, as Daniel forwarded them in their entirety. Because many of his flights were booked independently of one another due to international travel, connections, and the last-minute changes, I navigate through all the TSA verbiage, pricing, taxes, fees, sales information, and poor formatting from a computer-generated message. I take advantage of the complimentary note pad in the room to make sense of the various pertinent details from each.
According to the international itineraries, Daniel should have arrived in Newark this morning on an overnight flight. He should be flying today to Denver, with a layover in Detroit, and then catch a connecting flight tomorrow morning into Cheyenne. That will put him in here in time for us to drive home and be back in our house tomorrow night. Looking at the flight numbers and times I’ve written down, he should be in the air now. I check the online flight tracker and see he should be landing in about an hour and a half. I text him to let him know I’m up to speed.
I’m in Cheyenne. Looks like you’ll arrive at 10:25 tomorrow. I’ll meet you at the airport.
Can’t wait to see you!
I have already dozed off with the television quietly chattering when the phone rings. It’s Daniel. I struggle to wake up, mute the TV, and answer the phone without breaking my other ankle.
“Where are you?”
“Denver.” I wish he would just rent a car and drive up now.
“You’re almost home.”
“Not nearly close enough.”
“I don’t know what time it is, but in about twelve hours we’ll be together and this whole trip will be behind you.”
I hear a long and exhausted sigh.
“I can only imagine how tired you are.”
“Yeah.” He doesn’t say much, but I get the impression there is more he wants to say. He’s not one to give away his hand, but something in the gasps and pauses that I hear makes me think he is not just his usual soft-spoken self.
“Should I meet you inside or curbside.”
“Yeah,” he starts again, “We’re going straight to the office from the airport.”
“We, like you and me?”
“No,” he answers, offering me nothing more. I try and think through the details of his travel that are not on my notepad.
“You and Newbold?”
“Yes,” he answers succinctly.
“Is he there with you?”
“Yes,” he answers this time with the inflection of indicating this is a guessing game where he cannot provide specific answers. I get it, even if I am still sleepy.
“You have some business to finish at the office following the trip?”
“What time do you think you’ll be done?”
“I don’t know.” I’m guessing this won’t be a quick touch base with Mr. Waterfield.
“Do you think we’ll still head home tomorrow?”
“I don’t know.” This is difficult. I’m trying to formulate questions not being able to get much information from him.
“Well, I’ve got a hotel room here. Should I just extend it for another night?”
“Maybe, I don’t know.”
“You know what, I’m just going to go ahead and book a second night.” Even if he wraps up quickly, which I doubt from his tone, it will already be after noon and we’ll both be exhausted. Why push ourselves? I know I’m still recovering from an insane week and he just traveled half way around the world in somewhat of a rush. Why not just take it easy, even if I am anxious to be back in our home and our bed? What counts is being with my husband.
I start to cry, thinking again about Kenny’s wife. I try to stifle it, but I just am too tired to do a decent job of it.
“Nat, it’s okay. I’ll see you soon. I’m sorry, but it’s unavoidable.”
“I know. It’s not that.”
“Are you okay?”
“Not really.” I want to tell him everything: my foot, Jacob, Kenny, light duty, my hiding out at the cabin. I don’t know what he has going on, but I do know he can’t say much, so it isn’t worth it to get into everything over the phone.
He doesn’t say anything either. He can’t. I pull myself together a little bit.
“I’m just so glad you’re almost home and you’re safe.”
“Soon enough, Nat.”
“I love you, Daniel.”
“I love you. Get some rest. I’ll see you tomorrow. Good night.”
I get up for another dose of ibuprofen and leave the leftover images on the screen, soundless. I briefly note this is the third straight night I fall asleep crying. I may already be emotionally exhausted, but whatever Daniel is dealing with is still ahead of me yet.