April 1, 2003

David wants to know if I'm 'sad.'

"You seem very quiet today," he says, as we're driving to my office on Monday morning. "Are you sad because Jaymi has gone home?"

I turn away from the passenger window, where I've had my nose pressed flat against the glass for the past ten minutes, and I shrug a little. The truth is that I'm not thinking about Jaymi at all -- I'm thinking about The Project From Hell, and about how I'm going to be spending the next nine-and-a-half hours of my life typing teeny-tiny numbers into a spreadsheet, and about how much I wish that David and I could retire tomorrow and spend all of our time toodling around the hills of Port Townsend on a tandem bicycle -- but pleading Tot Sadness seems like a lot less work right now, frankly, than reciting the tired litany of Job Complaints again.

"Yes," I tell him. "I'm sad because Jaymi has gone home."

We drive in companionable silence for the next little while, his hand warm and sympathetic on my knee. When we get to The Dirt Company, he drops me off in front of my office building. We exchange the customary hasty kiss goodbye -- the obligatory I love you and Be good and See you tonight -- before I grab my lunch and my library book and I leap out of the car. 

As he drives away, I sling my laptop bag over my shoulder and head for the front door.

Once in the office, I immediately open The Project From Hell and pick up where I left off on Friday afternoon. My thinking is that I'll give the project my all for the first five hours of my day -- typing up a storm, getting at least another couple of binders indexed, printing out the finished spreadsheets for review -- and then I'll screw around for the last half of the day. (I've discovered that if I prop an open PFH binder on the desk in front of me, and then just sit there typing "SDJHFSLDJHF SDJFHSDJF SJDFHSLDJHF" into Excel, over and over again, everybody thinks I'm hard at work and they basically leave me alone. I can sit there and write *FootNotes* entries in my head all afternoon, and nobody will ever know the difference.) 

I haven't been typing for five minutes, though, before The Main Nerdy Geotechnical Guy is standing in front of my desk with that rabidly expectant look on his face.

"Can I help you with something?" I ask him politely.

"You've just got this sort of ... I don't know ... sourpuss expression this morning," he says. "Is it about your kid going home?"

Everybody in the entire office knew that Jaymi was coming to visit last week: I talked of little else, for five days running. I stop typing my rows of teeny-tiny numbers for a moment and look up at him unblinkingly. The fact is that I'm still not thinking about Jaymi -- I'm thinking about the fact that I haven't had a decent night's sleep in over a week, including/especially last night: David was futzing around on the computer until long past midnight again ... and about the fact that I'm so tired this morning even my cuticles are oozing fatigue ... and about the five endless hours I must schlog through between now and lunchtime, when I can escape to the abandoned CAD office across the hall and snooze for an hour. But I've learned, through humiliating personal experience, that nobody around here gives four-elevenths of a crap about how tired you are: all they care about is how available you are to photocopy their drainage easement reports.

"Yeah, I'm a little sad," I tell him. "It always takes me a day or two to get back to normal after one of my kids goes home."

He nods politely -- he doesn't really care about my daughter: this is merely him making nicey-nice before he dumps his drainage easement report on my desk. "Well, I hope you feel better soon," he says. And he drops his report on my desk -- "Only if you have time," he adds  -- and he turns around and flees to the sanctity of his private office and his morning newspaper.

Midway through the morning, my phone rings. I'm expecting another snooty Accounting Department manager, calling to yell at me because the timesheets haven't been delivered to the corporate office yet ... another crabby client, calling to yell at me because The Main Nerdy Geotech Guy hasn't returned any of his phone calls this morning ... but instead it's Jaymi.

"You're so funny," she says.

Say what?

"You put a picture of my airplane on your website," she giggles.

Ohhhhh. That. "Did you like it?" I ask, smiling for the first time all morning, and she says yes, she thought it was really sweet. I give her the backstory -- how I ran out to the parking lot on Sunday night and pointed the digital camera at the sky, hoping that at least one picture would turn out well enough to post on the website -- and about how one of our neighbors, the nice little Asian-American gentleman who lives in B13, was standing over on the other side of the parking lot talking on his cell phone while I was taking pictures -- and how when I waved goodbye to the airplane, my neighbor thought I was waving at him, and he politely waved back at me -- and we both laugh.

"I thought this was a pretty good visit this time," I tell her.

"It was," she agrees. "It was one of the best ever."

We chitchat for a couple of minutes -- about meatloaf, about weather, about Tom Petty CDs, about her contact lenses -- she's going to schedule an appointment with an optometrist in TicTac this week, she says -- and then we both get off the phone and get back to work. I open Excel, for what already feels like the 43,897,621st time this morning, and listlessly type another row of teeny tiny numbers into the spreadsheet. But it's no use. My concentration is blown. 

I pick up the phone and buzz JoAnne on the intercom. "I'm going to take a break," I tell her. "I'll be back in a couple of minutes." 

I don't actually know what I'm going to DO with a break -- it's too late for coffee, too early for lunch, too soon to sneak across the hall to the empty CAD office and slip into that coma -- but I'll think of something. Maybe I can walk around the courtyard downstairs and pick up empty beer cans. Maybe I can go into the lunchroom and clean out the office refrigerator. Maybe I can sit on the bench next to the elevators and pick at my nail polish for ten minutes: just long enough to clear my head, and to recharge my emotional batteries, and to get back on track ...

... and to make myself forget, for a little while at least, how incredibly SAD I am that she's gone.

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ackk! i forgot to mail the BOOT!
[if you can wait till this weekend, i'll add a little *easter surprise*]