It's 8.30am, Saturday. You're homeward bound. Crossing the last little bit of Pacific Ocean. Probably cursing as the captain interrupts your movie to make a final safety announcement. Me, I'm in the car, driving to the airport, toward you. The house is clean, there's fresh fruit in the bowl, and milk in the fridge. I've showered, done my hair, put on something nice. Probably, because I never allow enough time, I'm applying my mascara at the lights. I'll be a little flustered. I always am when you've been away, an odd hash of apprehension and elation. You've been gone a week this time.
You'll have missed us, of course. I hope. I know too, though, how much you enjoy being your own man. Going to bed with a bottle of wine and three Adam Sandler movies. Talking to no one. Talking to everyone. Taking naps. Wowing other conference-goers with that signature dance move. Discovering fresh ears for stories old and practised.
And meanwhile back home there is still the dog to be walked, the lettuces to be watered, still that greasy smear, bang smack in the middle of the French doors. Us missing you, me resenting and relishing your absence in equal measure.
This week, my darling, I have lurched from the joy of deep sleeps undisturbed by your wakefulness to the loneliness of a day with no plans, the kids to entertain, a reluctance to impose on others. I have taken up exactly half our bed, piling the pillows and throw you so loathe on your side each night, marvelling come morning at how much quicker it is to make. Last night I ate muesli for dinner and watched three episodes of Divorce without having to listen to you say for the umpteenth time, "I just don't get Sarah Jessica Parker. She's so horsey."
It was a drag supervising homework and battling to get the kids to bed by myself every night, but it was a relief, too, not having to get mad at you for taking a work call when you were meant to be doing their spelling or for nodding off when you were meant to be reading to them.
We spoke most days and sometimes our conversations were thick with longing, and at other times they were stilted, you were at breakfast and a man in a chef's hat was asking how you wanted your omelette, or I was showing the washing machine service tech where the water was coming from. I tried not to bother you with mundanities, instead accumulating a small pile of jobs for you to attend to on your return, a fiddly sunglass screw needing tightening, an insurance claim form needing signing, but sometimes they would creep into our conversation and the incongruity of discussing what timeslot I should book for the parent teacher interview while you were on a bullet train passing Mt Fuji was not lost on me.
"I love you," I said. "What," you said over the roar of a street-sweeping machine. "I love you," you said.
"Uh huh," I said, trying to get a bagel out of the toaster.
You will come home with your sponge bag full of complimentary toiletries from all the hotels you stayed at, perhaps a fan or some ornamental chopsticks you picked up, a subway map or the most hilarious menu, all the trappings of your travels; and nothing will seem quite as meaningful or as curious out of its original context. You will be jetlagged and I will be exhausted by my week of running our house and family alone and reunion sex will not quite be as anticipated.
But here you come now. Through the arrival doors. You're home.
Last week I wrote on friendship. Lulu said she didn't have masses to say, but moved me all the same. "Re friendships," she emailed, "when I was a child I thought they would last forever. Or that all the people I loved or liked would feel the same about me. Since then I have learned some painful lessons that ultimately have imbued me with a little wisdom I hope. In that time I have had friends for a season i.e. children the same age, neighbours, clubs, etc. I have also experienced being abandoned by really close friends who were being pressured to give us up. I learned then that sometimes it takes courage to remain as someone's friend."