We were going to be apart for an eternity. Two people. Two different continents. Two whole weeks.
Belaboring over penmanship scratched onto delicate sheets of rice paper was arduous. Phoning was impractical. The internet didn’t yet exist. The thought of separation unbearable. My good friend.
But I had a plan. I always had a plan. At precisely 10 pm Eastern Standard Time I would think of her and she would think of me. Just for a moment. And for a quiet pause we were linked.
But at some point, some how this was lost.
ONCE UPON A TIME: THE RIGHT JOB, THE WRONG GIRL
When I first came to New York my whole job consisted of doing something I was and am completely unsuited for, speaking on the phone. I worried no one would answer my calls, or return my calls or frankly exactly what I would say if they did take my calls. I was a publicist, ever trolling media sources to make bookings for writers to promote their books. My voice back then was pitched high and girlish. My boss actually trained me to lower it, bullied me into attempting to sound more powerful and resonant (she smoked, the whole office smoked which helped). I became adept at parroting, at saying the right thing at the right time on the phone. I sounded good but I felt awful, a mellifluously voiced poser simply reading a script.
THE HIDEAWAY DRILL SARGEANT
The clatter of dishes, the drone of the television, the whirl of the washing machine, the blips and clinks and blinks of videogame jingles. A constant happy cacophony of sound . This was home, a comfortable, safe hideaway with my boys and my husband. There was constant motion: dinners to make, doctors appoints to run to, school carnivals, school projects, school meetings. I bark orders and speak in directives: put that pile of clothes away, brush your teeth, please pick up the Crazy Bones before I step on them again, There is so much to say but no time to think about it and even less time to say it. I communicate in sound bites.
I’m just so busy. I’m so proudly preoccupied. The more things I cram into an hour the more time seems to stretch- like an ever expanding balloon. If I were a physicist this might make more actual sense but as I am just a person it does not. I just feel it, all electrified and hyperalert.
What is undeniable is the self-important buzziness of it all. That and a preoccupation so pronounced that I’m apt to walk into walls while reading, motor resolutely in the wrong direction while driving or absentmindedly throw sponges in the freezer or my keys in the trash.
That’s not so terrible. But to be so utterly preoccupied that conversations are blurry and only half-recalled is awful. I have a ready bag of bon mots and directives to reach for in a pinch. But I’m cheating and I know it.
CLOAKED IN QUIET
It’s what we dreamed of. Everyone off everywhere doing what they are meant to be doing. Sometimes the quiet is thick and almost tangible. I sink into it. And at last, once in a while, things slow down again.
Now, if I stay very still, even for a bit, time seems to contract and almost freeze . Sweet snatches of memory help me leap from thought to lingering thought. Once again over the miles, my mind reaches out and connects with those I miss, those I love.
I don’t give those faraway people a specific time to think of me. That would be so incredibly odd! And it doesn’t matter. It’s enough just to hope that they do,