On a good day, I'll start the morning by reading under the shade of a cedar elm. Time whispers by. Sometimes there'll be a little breeze, if I'm lucky it carries a hint of coolness left over from the dark morning hours. This is the way that I like to start the day. I can get lost in a book under these circumstances, looking up only to play referee for the pullets.
Some mornings I'll go out back and putter. Puttering is almost as good as reading; no hurry, no real chores to be done. I puttered this morning and was glad for it because the monk parakeets flew into our trees in a flurry, all green and chatty. We looked up - Beagle, the pullets and I. I saw a plane through the trees headed toward our airport. Soon enough I'll be high in the sky, too. Higher than the parakeets could ever dream of reaching.
I'd rather drive to New Mexico than fly - if there were someone going with me, that is. It would be fun. If I had time and company I'd drive through Marfa on the way back, take photos. I thought about a solo drive but Michael planted a seed of doubt deep in my mind by telling me that he thought I only had six hours of driving time in me; six hours before I'd reach my breaking point.
He has a memory like an elephant or maybe my crumbling to the ground and crying my eyes out along Interstate 44 years ago just made a really, really lasting impression on the guy. Our move to Austin nine years ago, in a tiny Honda Civic with three dogs (ranging from 12 to 60 pounds) and a cat is the event that he uses as his touchstone. We had driven hours and hours and a night even. The second day, we hit the road again. A few hours into the drive we stopped for fast food, had our sickening fill and drove off. Later, I went to reach into my purse and, and...no purse. No purse because IT WAS TWO HOURS BEHIND US SITTING IN A FAST FOOD RESTAURANT.
Okay, yeah. I lost it. Before we backtracked and headed north again Michael pulled the car over. I got out and dropped to my knees alongside the open door and sobbed and pounded my fists into the passenger seat. It was not my proudest moment. It was a moment that I wish Michael had never witnessed because now, nine years later, he will allude to it. He doesn't even have to relay the specifics because I know, and he knows that we are both seeing the same little home movie in our heads.
"Driving through half the state of Texas and the desert of southern New Mexico to my father's burial would be completely different," I tell him. "I'm just saying, it's a very long drive," he says. Our eyes lock. Silence. "I'll check the flight schedules."
It's been years, decades since I've flown. When Michael asks when my refusal to fly started, because hadn't we flown together somewhere once? I tell him it was after I met him, after we were married, after I started living the life I always wanted and loved it and him and couldn't bear to risk ever parting with it. But he'll be here when I get back and I already know, there's nothing like coming home.
Michael in his hen hat.
How could I ever walk away from this?