David wants to know if I'm
"You seem very quiet today," he
says, as we're driving to my office on Monday morning. "Are you sad
because Jaymi has gone home?"
I turn away from the passenger
window, where I've had my nose pressed flat against the glass for the
past ten minutes, and I shrug a little. The truth is that I'm not
thinking about Jaymi at all -- I'm thinking about The Project From
Hell, and about
how I'm going to be spending the next nine-and-a-half hours of my life
typing teeny-tiny numbers into a spreadsheet, and about how much I wish
that David and I could retire tomorrow and spend all of our time
toodling around the hills of Port Townsend on a tandem bicycle -- but
pleading Tot Sadness seems like a lot less work right now, frankly,
than reciting the tired litany of Job Complaints again.
"Yes," I tell him. "I'm sad
because Jaymi has gone home."
We drive in companionable
silence for the next little while, his hand warm and sympathetic on
my knee. When we get to The Dirt Company, he drops
me off in front of my office building. We exchange the customary hasty
kiss goodbye -- the obligatory I love you and Be
good and See you tonight -- before I grab
my lunch and my library book and I leap out of the car.
As he drives
away, I sling my laptop bag over my shoulder and head for the front
Once in the office, I
immediately open The Project From Hell and pick up where I left off on
Friday afternoon. My thinking is that I'll give the project my all for
the first five hours of my day -- typing up a storm, getting at least
another couple of binders indexed, printing out the finished
spreadsheets for review -- and then I'll screw around for the last half
of the day. (I've discovered that if I prop an open PFH binder on the
desk in front of me, and then just sit there typing "SDJHFSLDJHF
SDJFHSDJF SJDFHSLDJHF" into Excel, over and over again, everybody
thinks I'm hard at work and they basically leave me alone. I can sit
there and write *FootNotes* entries in my head all afternoon, and
nobody will ever know the difference.)
I haven't been typing for five
minutes, though, before The Main Nerdy Geotechnical Guy is standing in
front of my desk with that rabidly expectant look on his face.
"Can I help you with
something?" I ask him politely.
just got this sort of ... I don't know ... sourpuss
expression this morning," he says. "Is it about your kid going home?"
Everybody in the entire office knew that Jaymi was coming to visit last
week: I talked of little else, for five days running. I stop typing my
rows of teeny-tiny numbers for a moment and look up at him
unblinkingly. The fact is that I'm still not
thinking about Jaymi -- I'm thinking about the fact that I haven't had
a decent night's sleep in over a week, including/especially last night:
David was futzing around on the computer until long past midnight again
... and about the fact that I'm so tired this morning even my cuticles
are oozing fatigue ... and about the five endless hours I must schlog
through between now and lunchtime, when I can escape to the abandoned
CAD office across the hall and snooze for an hour. But I've learned,
through humiliating personal experience, that nobody around here gives
four-elevenths of a crap about how tired you are: all they care about
is how available you are to photocopy their drainage easement reports.
"Yeah, I'm a little sad," I
tell him. "It always takes me a day or two to get back to normal after
one of my kids goes home."
He nods politely -- he doesn't
really care about my daughter: this is merely him making
nicey-nice before he dumps his drainage easement report on my desk.
"Well, I hope you feel better soon," he says. And he drops his report
on my desk -- "Only if you have time," he adds -- and he turns around and flees to the sanctity of
his private office and his morning newspaper.
Midway through the morning, my
phone rings. I'm expecting another snooty Accounting Department
manager, calling to yell at me because the timesheets haven't been
delivered to the corporate office yet ... another crabby client,
calling to yell at me because The Main Nerdy Geotech Guy hasn't
returned any of his phone calls this morning ... but instead it's
"You're so funny," she says.
"You put a picture of my
airplane on your website," she giggles.
"Did you like it?" I ask, smiling for the first time all morning, and
she says yes, she thought it was really sweet. I give her the backstory
-- how I ran out to the parking lot on Sunday night and pointed the
digital camera at the sky, hoping that at least one picture would turn
out well enough to post on the website -- and about how one of our
neighbors, the nice little Asian-American gentleman who lives in B13,
was standing over on the other side of the parking lot talking on his
cell phone while I was taking pictures -- and how when I waved goodbye
to the airplane, my neighbor thought I was waving at him, and he
politely waved back at me -- and we both laugh.
"I thought this was a pretty
good visit this time," I tell her.
"It was," she agrees. "It was
one of the best ever."
We chitchat for a couple of
minutes -- about meatloaf, about weather, about Tom Petty CDs, about
her contact lenses -- she's going to schedule an appointment with an
optometrist in TicTac this week, she says -- and then we both get off
the phone and get back to work. I open Excel, for what already feels
like the 43,897,621st time this morning, and listlessly type another
row of teeny tiny numbers into the spreadsheet. But it's no use. My
concentration is blown.
I pick up the phone and buzz JoAnne on the
intercom. "I'm going to take a break," I tell her. "I'll be back in a
couple of minutes."
I don't actually know what I'm going to DO
with a break -- it's too late for coffee, too early for lunch, too soon
to sneak across the hall to the empty CAD office and slip into that
coma -- but I'll think of something. Maybe I can walk around the
courtyard downstairs and pick up empty beer cans. Maybe I can go into
the lunchroom and clean out the office refrigerator. Maybe I can sit on
the bench next to the elevators and pick at my nail polish for ten
minutes: just long enough to clear my head, and to recharge my
emotional batteries, and to get back on track ...
... and to make myself forget,
for a little while at least, how incredibly SAD I
am that she's gone.