Fifteen days stretch between us. His trip, then mine, then his. More than two weeks, the time has been slow and it has been fast. I remember his voice, the smell of his skin and the feel of the stubble that he grows when we are apart.
We are not the couple that speaks every day. Better in person, our phone calls are succinct. Texts are better, full of our code: love you mosts, breaking pickles, the Tchoucatabouffa. For me, missing is less an ache and more a transaction to be soldiered through til the end.
At the veterinary hospital where I worked during school, in addition to walking dogs, giving shots, and cleaning cages, I had the job of developing x-rays. We did not have a dark room, only a smallish closet with a tub for bathing dogs and cats. Light off and door closed, this was a job done in total darkness.
First I unclasped the back of the tray, then fed the thick plastic film into the humming machine. The hardest part was locating the right size of unexposed film, then fitting it exactly into the tray before swiveling the clasps closed once more.
The very first time, I was afraid. Of dropping the metal tray on my foot or of some horror-movie creature lurking in the dark. I fumbled and shook and dropped the tray (though not on my foot), but emerged with a perfect image of a cat’s fractured femur.
Later I discovered that I worked with my eyes closed.
Without realizing it, I would squeeze them shut against even the sliver of light coming from beneath the door. So I began to intentionally keep them open. I did not need my sight, yet I was surprised at what I could see: the faint outline of the hulking machine, the white laces of my Adidas gazelles, a glint of the metal tray.
I could complete this familiar set of actions without looking. But with my eyes open, the familiar looked different than I imagined.
I came home to an empty house: clean, trash cans by the curb, wine in the fridge. The dog’s backside wiggled wild and he even licked the baby, whom he usually ignores.
When we are gone for more than a day, the house forgets our scent. It smells like it did the first time we walked through with a realtor, as though the house loses faith in our return and reverts to what it knew before us.
Tomorrow Rob and the boys return in what will certainly be a joyous and chaotic reunion. We will all hug and kiss and exclaim and talk at one time, and then the boys will fight or whine and we will remember that life is not made up of the magic moments from fairy tales, but these moments: the ones we could see with our eyes closed. Or, if we choose, with eyes open instead.
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