"Hey lady. I'm always thinking of you. I love you and miss you and wish you weren't so damned far away."

It took me a minute to figure out what the buzzing noise was -- too much intermittently buzzing technology 'round here. This time my cell phone left on vibrate was the culprit.

As I read her text, the miles just slipped away and there I was, sipping a cool glass of water from the sink in her laundry room, watching our boys scurry around her living room doing whatever it is that boys do when they get together and find out that although they are a lot alike, they are so, so very different but who cares, let's be friends and look at what I can do! Swathed in the aroma of just enough garlic and butter and easy conversation and comfortable silence. Visceral and heady and overwhelming and heartbreaking and healing all at the same time.

"...How'd ya know I was feeling all alone and lonely tonight?" I replied.

I had spent that morning at the local ER. A scheduled visit to Imaging Services to start the long overdue process of taking care of my chronic hip pain brought me to the waiting room and as I looked around, I couldn't help but feel like I just didn't belong. A young man, couldn't have been a day over 20, came in holding his thumb in place with a blood soaked towel; an older couple mumbled to each other in a language that I couldn't quite make out in the corner. He, in a wheelchair, doted on by the tiny speck of a woman at his side. No obvious signs of trauma. I wondered what brought them in today. Stomach pain? Gout? No insurance? A family of four rushed through the doors, little girl screaming her lungs out. Looked like she had walked into something eye-level and solid. Like a countertop or a fist. My name was called before I could get a good enough look to pass judgement on anyone else.

We all wore the same expression of uneasiness, though. Banded together by dissimilar circumstances that took control of our collective present out of our own hands and placed it squarely in the hands of unfamiliar faces in vaguely comforting white jackets. According to the blue embroidery above his pocket, "Kai" was responsible for exchanging my paperwork for a three armhole gown, leading me to the changing room, and then through the x-ray procedure. In half an hour I was back in my own clothes, images of parts of me sent electronically to be interpreted by the orthopedic surgeon I had yet to meet. Down the hall, out the door, across the parking lot, into my car, and driving away, all with minimal interaction.

I paused at the crosswalk to let the family of four pass. Little girl now sedately holding onto mama's hand, gingerly poking at her eye with an icepack. Bee-sting? I could afford to be more generous now that the adrenaline of the unknown was no longer pumping through my veins. Grandma waved a "thank you" for my patience as they all crossed, never raising her eyes to mine. My own eyes darted quickly away when the boy-man with them glanced unexpectedly in my direction. As if direct eye-contact would somehow oblige us into further association. As if further association would somehow breakdown the semblance of control I was working on projecting.

Alone. Of my own choosing, mostly. Josh is in full turn-around mode, leaving the house before 6:30 most mornings and slipping in just as we sit down for dinner. Aaron is at "school" on Mondays and Wednesdays, has swimming lessons in the evenings MTWTh. By bedtime he is exhausted. His social needs are met, requiring little-to-no interaction on my part. Just the way I hoped it would be. His days with me are days of quiet. Just the two of us, running an errand or two, hanging out in the backyard, making this or that out of bits and pieces of stuff and things. Public school is out for the summer, so no "forced" weekly involvement from my volunteering gig. I do have a contact list of people that I could call if the mood strikes. I'm anxious when the phone rings lately, though, preferring the edit-ability of a text message or email. Preferring, in fact, the brevity of 160 characters to the unlimited conversation of email. My words fail me more often than not and it is comforting to have the option to go back and rework them if I get them wrong the first time.

"I miss you too and daydream regularly of being home so we could bump into each other. Someday soon, I keep telling myself! How are you?"

Home. I've lived in a lot of places during my 34 years on the planet. Some of them longer than others. I was barely pregnant when we moved there, farther away from my (biological) family and its culture than I had ever been before. By all expectations, I should have been scared and lonely. I was neither. I was excited. Invigorated. Delighted by the new. New sounds, new sights, new smells, new faces, new ideas. I couldn't take it in fast enough. Thirsty, aching for more. Filled. Fulfilled. Comforted. Contented. Home.

"I'm psycho. Er... psychic. I pray that [josh's work] closes everywhere but here so that you are forced to come home. (That's not a joke.)

I'm okay. Overrun these days, but I'd be bored if I wasn't, I guess. How are you?"

"Trying to slow down a bit. It's harder than I thought it would be, though. I kinda miss having 14 things spinning out of control all at once. The weather is perfect for taking it easy, though. Why don't you pack a toothbrush and the boy(s) and come and hang out in my backyard for a month or so?"

Slowing down. Trying to be more specific, more mindful. More engaged in the present. Quieter. Less caught up in all the peripheral stuff that seems to attach itself to the present. I wonder if it wouldn't be more fulfilling to return to the days of waiting for responses by mail. To force a pause in the conversation, diluting the emotion of the moment. To have that time of silence to reflect and build anticipation. Even in texts and emails, I crave the silence that comes between responses. Silence = not having to worry about what I said or how I said it or what was heard and how it's going to be interpreted and relayed to the next person. Not having to worry about how or who or what or when even if it's all there in black and white, each word carefully considered, shaved, and straightened to convey exactly what I want it to. Silence = stillness.

But sometimes stillness = voices. Voices of condemnation, of "you should be...", "why aren't you...", "why didn't you...", "are you ever going to...". Harsh and relentless. Voices from my past that have grown in number and strength in my unsuccessful efforts to please everyone else and do/be/say/think what was most comforting to them. At those times, the silence is overwhelming and I miss the misdirection of engagement in anything, everything else. I miss the quest for cleaner, leaner, faster, wittier, [ ]-er, [ ]-est, most, better, best.

"I know that feeling. Like 14 spinning things was the factor that made me special and different from the masses..."

Oh! How I've yearned to be unique! To be separate and unequal and remarkable! To be necessary and irreplaceable! It is in those moments that the silence is most deafening, that my failures are most vivid.

I wanted to respond "Yes, exactly! Once again, you've taken what's been floating around in my brain and put it into words! There is no way to describe the comfort that it give me to know that you've felt that way too. That I'm not alone." But I'm still a bit timid in this friendship. I fear coming across as a chameleon, spouting back whatever words I heard last. Or, even worse, as pandering. Instead of reaching for a deeper connection, I stepped back into the realm of banter. Inquired about her job. Remarked on the time. Surface conversation. And in that moment of cowardice, the connection was broken. Focus blurred and we were suddenly an entire continent apart again.

A slightly smaller continent apart.



Lora said...

Hey lady. I'm always thinking of you. I love you and miss you and wish you weren't so damned far away

Amy Jo said...

Ditto. And maybe we should plan a philly trip together? Maybe even without kids?

susan said...


And, yes, a Philly trip is definitely in order. An anywhere trip is definitely in order, but it wouldn't take any arm twisting to get me back to Philly! Let's start plotting... :)