We were driving away from the Oakland Airport at 10:30 last night ... looking at the moon hanging low on the horizon, watching the airplanes circling the runway in the sky above us, talking quietly about how well the visit had turned out ... and I was thinking, "Isn't it amazing that I'm not crying this time?" And of course that's the precise moment when the waterworks kicked in. Fat, noiseless tears, sliding down my stoopid face, one after the other.
One minute I felt strong and calm ... the next minute I was wrecked.
The tears lasted for about five minutes -- through Billy Bragg & Natalie Merchant singing "Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key," and a couple of minutes' worth of the song after that -- and then as quickly as it had begun, the crying part of it was over.
I felt purged and limp. David and I didn't talk much, the rest of the way home. He held me until I fell asleep.
Her flight had been delayed by about twenty minutes. The three of us sat at Gate Six and waited patiently for her plane to be ready. I brushed her hair with my fingers. I read her Glamour magazine over her shoulder. I took a couple of last-minute photos, much to her annoyance. We people-watched. I said, "The next guy who walks by wearing an all-blue shirt is who you will marry" ... an old game from her childhood. I handed her a fat envelope, containing a check and a handwritten *I love you* letter and some of the Polaroids from the zoo, and I told her not to read it until she was in the air.
We watched her get onto her airplane. I had been strictly forbidden to take her picture as she boarded. As she walked away, I yelled "Bye!" and she turned around and waved at us. And then she was gone.
I am completely useless today, of course.
I keep walking around the apartment, searching for things she's left behind this time: the flattened penny I bought for her at the zoo last weekend ... her empty Gummy Bears wrapper ... half a bottle of Lipton Iced Tea, on the middle shelf of the fridge ... her Lady Schick, still sitting on the side of the tub. I've gathered up all of her stuff and I've got it sitting here in a big pile, right next to the computer keyboard ... all of the bounty from my demented sad little scavenger hunt ... and every once in a while I stop typing and just look at all of it.
I hold the zoo penny in my hand. I feel as flattened as it does.
I cry some more.
More than a week ago I applied to take today off from work -- "family reasons," I wrote on the vacation request -- but in the back of my mind I don't think I was actually planning to use the day off. I try not to take any more time away from the Totem Pole Company than is absolutely necessary ... mostly because I'm trying to save my vacation time for *real* things, like Christmas visits and breast reduction surgery and honeymoons ... but also because it makes me nervous to be away from the office -- and from Franz -- on a Friday. Fridays are his worst days. If everything isn't perfectly, 100% in order on Fridays ... the next week will be hell.
But I didn't care. I wanted to have a *recovery day* reserved, just in case.
I didn't say anything about taking the day off to Jaymi while she was here. I don't know why. I think maybe I was afraid that she would be offended, somehow ... that she would think, "Why didn't you ask for that extra day off while I was here? Why were you planning to wait until I was gone?"
I didn't know how to explain to her that part of me knew, well in advance, that her going home would so flatten me, emotionally ... that it would leave me feeling so run-over by the karmic truck of life ... that I would need that extra day, just to remember how to breathe again.
And as it turns out, of course, I was right.