Come With Me. Let’s Escape.

 

Mazey helping me pack. She especially likes string bikinis. So does my husband.

The phone rings.

“Come with me to Hatteras,” my husband says when I answer. “Come stay for two or three days. Pack your bathing suit.”

He sounds a little out of breath. I can hear the muffled sounds of a busy airport in the background, the tinny voice of the public address system, the hustle of travellers rushing to gates, pulling carry-ons with one hand, gripping Starbucks with the other. He’s at the Philadelphia International, between connections; I’m in the kitchen with a batter-covered spatula in my hand.

I hesitate.  Out of the question, I think.

“I’ll contemplate that,” I say.

“You contemplate. But call your sister. Get her to stay with the kids. But pack your bathing suit. Look, I’ve got to catch a plane. I’ll be in Toronto in an hour.”

I hang up the phone. I feel jangled:  a flash of tension in my chest, adrenaline tingling down my arms, thoughts spinning wildly in a dozen directions. You’d think I’d been shot or something.

Let me back up.  My kite-boarding husband is in the midst of a two week in North Carolina. He is flying back home, though, to stay with our daughters for the weekend while I head to Washington on business. On Monday morning, we will literally cross in the air as we return to our respective launch pads.  And now he’s saying, wait a minute, what are we doing here? Don’t come back. Let’s escape together. Come with me.

I want to. I really do. And I can’t. Not now.

I wonder sometimes if this is how marriages unwind: I can’t. Not now.

My brain jerks into action before I can stop it, shuffling through the rolodex of obligations in the week ahead. The appointments to be cancelled, the responsibilities to cover. Do we have Lactaid in the fridge? It feels as though I’m being tested and a wave of irritation washes over me in response. Am I up to this? Uh, no, I’m really not. But I go through the motions anyway.

I walk to my office and sit down in my chair. Travel documents for my trip to Washington sit stacked on the desk in front of me: boarding pass, customs form, passport, Nexus card. I pick up the checklist that dictates, day-by-day, the smooth operation of the home front in my absence: the mail to be picked up, the cats to be fed, the girls to be ferried to their many and various lessons and appointments.  As my friend Ginger often says of us as mothers, we are the glue that holds everything together. And the glue can’t just up and evaporate.

Do I sound like the kind of person who can drop everything and fly off for three days of bed wrestling with my husband? I’d love to, really I would, but the fact is, I am the mom¸ a tortoise, slow and methodical, not quick and flighty. And need I even mention what happened to that hare, people? Never mind, that’s a different post.

And then I feel bad, like a failure, because here is my husband, my loveable, affectionate, sexy, adventurous, fun, brilliant husband saying: “I want to spend time with you. Come with me!” and my reaction is “No! I cannot!” And I am momentarily struck wondering how can a man like this want to spend time with me?  I know that sounds crazy: I’m his wife, but I wonder nonetheless. It’s the same feeling I had twenty –odd years ago, when I was an awkward, unworldly twenty-two year old: what is He doing with me? Only now, I am an awkward forty-four year old weighed down with all the responsibilities of a home and two teenage daughters. (Never mind that it is his house and his kids, too.)

And the answer to this is: I don’t know.

How does this end?  Come with me. Let’s escape. I don’t know. I don’t know. Ask me next week.

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