People say it all the time.
“It must be hard when your husband travels… What do you DO?”
“Oh no, it’s fine,” I reply, “we’re used to it.”
Then I laugh lightly. “I enjoy the peace and quiet.”
It is fine. We are used to it. And I do enjoy the peace and quiet.
He travels much less than he used to. And much faster. Singapore and back in four days. Hong Kong in three. Last year he did a full circuit of the globe in less than a fortnight.
He packs well. A black bag, with the right sized pocket for everything; wash kit, tie case, shoes. I sit on the bed watching. In the early days he and I would write each other notes on yellow legal paper to find later. I would find a way to slip one into his briefcase while he read through the itinerary one last time. He would leave one on the pillow for me to find that night. We don’t do that anymore. We trust our love, and besides, we text.
If it’s a long trip, I usually have an ambitious list of things to do. I plan to organise our bookshelves, and finally sort out the box of tangled electrical cords. I am going to catch up on seven years worth of unfinished photobooks, and get the garage door serviced. I will make an appointment with the optician. I am going to write something wonderful. I will run daily, read novels, and eat carefully constructed salads.
Of course, it never quite works out that way.
DorkySon’s list is usually less ambitious. But he knows that when Daddy is away the usual rules can be stretched a little. He will ask for dinner in front of the TV, which I say yes to once. Perhaps twice. He will ask if we can skip hairbrushing, which I will allow, and toothbrushing, which I won’t. One night we will go for fish and chips at the docks, and he will tut loudly at the people who feed the seagulls, the tourists who don’t know any better. He usually persuades me that he needs a new book.
I feel like I should treat myself too, but to what? A magazine? Red wine? Fancy dark chocolate with sea salt? They are good, but they don’t fill the husband-shaped hole in my evenings. I enjoy the weight of the remote control in my hand, but even when I’m in charge of what’s on, there is nothing. Sometimes I watch a movie, or put on my headphones and dance to music. I often spend more time online, chatting with far off friends on Facebook and Twitter.
Perhaps because of that evening screen time, which is rare, or perhaps because I’m not big enough for the bed, I do not sleep well. DorkySon brings in one of his cuddly animals for me to hug. No Daddy tonight, but you can have platypus, he says.
In the morning I get a takeaway coffee; If I don’t then habit makes me pour two. I eat breakfast at the kitchen counter instead of the table, and check for a text from one place or another to say that it is humid, that the hotel room is small, that he is still waiting for his bag, that he had crab cakes and jumbo shrimp for lunch. He tells me that he is not sleeping well either. DorkySon messages him back; long strings of vehicle emojis, misspelled stories and LOVE YOU all in caps.
It is fine. We are used to it. The peace and quiet is nice.
But our family is happiest when we’re all together, so next time someone asks what I do when he’s away I’ll answer honestly.
I wait, and I wait, and I wait for him to come home.
Photo credit: Peter Kasprzyk at Unsplash.