[Not that anyone cares, but I wrote this a month ago. Just in case you read it [Aaron] and are all: “Dude, we had lunch together Wednesday, what are you talking about?]
My sweetheart is away.
He’ll be gone pretty much until December, with days and short weeks home here and there. I’m easing myself into it. I never let myself think that he won’t be home for a good chunk until December. I always think: he’ll be home for a day next week. Then three days in three weeks. I had to go to Petro’s wedding all alone, but he’ll be here to help me take Sula to the vet.
It’s early enough in this most recent desertion that memories of him being at home are sustaining enough that I can be completely alone without going crazy. In two weeks this will not be possible. I will be calling long-distance friends and begging local ones to come over for dinner (and oh, could you help me install a new door too?) but right now I am savoring my exquisite solitude.
In the past three days, I have interacted with exactly three people:
On Monday a woman came to the kitchen to ask for directions and we talked about how we cook our collard greens for a little while.
On Tuesday I met a farmer in a parking lot to get two flats of raspberries. We exchanged three sentences. I was supposed to go to a Stop Crossroads meeting that night, but I skipped it and ate ice cream instead.
On Wednesday I went to the office of the former treasurer of the Green Party to sign a paper.
On Wednesday night I had traffic court, which put an end to my solitary period.
Of course, I have talked on the phone for hours and hours and have sent 59 emails in that same period of time (plus 2 blog posts and lots of IM chatter), – I’m not completely sealed off, far from it.
In general though, I have found that the key to productivity and happiness is to cut out human interaction on a day-to-day level and to save it up for fun and/or productive work. Casual hangouts just don’t do it for me. Either we are going to make 400 chocolate truffles together, or we are going to have a giant lavish birthday party and get drunk and crazy, or hike until our legs fall off while confessing our deepest secrets – otherwise leave me the hell alone. I want extreme sociability or none at all. My solitude is too precious to be violated with idle chatter.
I have giant reservoirs of alone time that constantly need replenishing. I can’t think around other people. I stay up until 4 AM every night because even though I have no neighbors and live in a quiet small town, the psychic noise and buzz of humanity enters my bones and I can’t do anything productive until it begins to subside, around 9 PM. After dark I can think clearly without everyone else crowding me.
Jacob’s the only person with whom I can share my solitude. With no one else do I have the amazing experience of being alone, together. If I didn’t have him I would surely wander off and get lost in my head.
I still like and cherish my solitary alone time. In some ways, being in a long-distance relationship actually works well for us – it keeps our relationship fresh and we continue to appreciate each other, all that crap. I like that I have to stay self-sufficient even though I’m in a committed relationship.
Parts of me would actually prefer him to be gone one day a week or a few days a month rather than being home all the time – does that sound mean? I hope not. At any rate, after more than 4 days apart I start to feel the ache in my fingertips – that formless hunger of him not beginning where I end.
I am an eight-year veteran of the long distance relationship.
In our eleven years together my sweetheart and I have probably only spent about six or so years actually together (I completely made up that figure). This quantity of time is probably no different from most couples who do not work together but are not in long distance relationships, since when he is home we are literally never separated except for certain bathroom moments (couples who poo in front of each other will always be weird to me).
Although we are constantly searching for ways for him to travel less, we have come up with many coping strategies that work well for us.
We are never out of contact for more than a few hours, always call before going to bed or getting on a flight, and aren’t strangers to the two-hour phone conversation or all-day off-and-on Instant Message session. I have friends who know to call when he’s not around to keep me from being alone too much. We have a rule that if he is going to be gone for more than five weeks he has to turn down the tour or I have to come visit him.
I can tell you five different routes to JFK, Newark, LaGuardia and our little local Stewart airport, complete with best roads for different times of day, where to wait for a late plane without getting shooed away by cops, quick bathroom stops, vegan munchies for travelers starving after transatlantic flights with no food, and cheap gas stations along the way. We have become pros at the “It’s so great to see you! The lawn mower is broken, I can’t lift this giant box to take it to the basement, I haven’t cleaned the cat boxes since you left, and the printer is making that weird noise again” dance.
Jacob never forgets to take his high thread count soft cotton pillowcase (one midnight trip to the e.r. because of a hotel room pillowcase-induced horrible itchy face rash is enough) and has come to rely on the weird fact that girls in bands always cut his hair better than anyone else – including, alas, me. (Khaela gets the award for best haircut. She cut his hair to match her own, and although it sounds weird, it turned out great).
He has power adapters for every country always available and can direct you to at least one vegetarian restaurant in every single state in the US as well as most countries. He remembers the exact arrangement of the p.a. in every venue he’s ever been in, having spent hours “tuning the room” in all 50 states and countless countries. He has seen (and experienced) all the cliched stories of touring with bands and much more of what no one talks about – boredom and exhaustion, long flights and the loneliness of being in a group.
He knows that there is a direct relationship between fame and niceness: in general and with notable exceptions, the more famous someone is the nicer they generally are, contrary to myth (this is not to say that they might not also be insanely fucked up – the two are not incompatible). Inversely, the lower down the silly totem pole the more of a fucker they are likely to be.
He can always tell you what decibel any noise is, and he always susses out the bathrooms of every airport or venue he is in because he knows the band will ask him where they are – even if none of them have ever been to that particular place before. It’s just the way it goes.
We know how to get shit done and make it work. Jacob has missed flights, lost luggage, been punched by a Parisian homeless person, interrogated by Customs officers for looking haggard after 24 hours of flying (oh, the joys of traveling with bands), called hotels in practically every country in the world to try to find the expensive electronic items he always leaves behind (try explaining what “in-ear monitors” are to a Mexican chambermaid when you speak no Spanish – this happens every week or so in my house), and has only had to come home from tour once because of a domestic emergency. He has enough frequent flier trips for us each to go to and from Hawaii every year, and he knows the system well enough that our tickets for next December are always booked in January.
Entire bands have become paralyzingly addicted to kombucha (GT’s brand only, please!) and daily fights have broken out over who took the last Mystic Mango. Jacob has made backstage riders catered exclusively to his favorite foods when he knew the band wasn’t into food – two baguettes, preferably sourdough. Two ripe avocadoes, olive oil, sea salt. Fresh fruit, preferably seasonal and local. Kombucha and teas and Luna bars and one pair of socks, a postcard depicting a landmark of the town. One lemon, one knob of ginger (for throat tea for sore singers). The New Yorker magazine and today’s New York Times.
Jacob once took a slumbering band 2 hours out of the way to go to a vegan restaurant he wanted to try.
We’ve watched people on tour break up, fall in love, get married, get divorced, get pregnant, get unpregnant, have babies, take babies out on tour, become secretly gay, become openly gay, become secretly straight, become openly straight, lose their virginity, cheat on their boyfriends and girlfriends and never cheat on their boyfriends and girlfriends. Friends have overdosed and friends have become alcoholics. Friends have done lots of drugs and no drugs at all. Friends have gone to rehab and quit cold turkey. Friends have become addicted to conventionally unaddictable substances and we have had phone interventions with them.
One tour friend died. (Don’t listen to the song on this page unless you have the rest of the day to sit and cry.)
Life is hard, what else is there to say? Hard, and sometimes heartbreaking.
We just keep trucking along, syncing our Google calendars so we know where we are in the world, chatting about cupcakes and the increasing availability of biodiesel for tour buses. He sees my faraway friends more than I do (oh Christy, oh Mary, oh Katy, oh Ivan!).
I know how to dial any country in the world, am adept at thinking in multiple time zones, and can tell you to never take any evening US Airways flight from Philly to Newburgh, NY because your flight will almost certainly be canceled and I am not driving to Philly to pick you up, Mister – one 3 AM Philly run was enough. I always ask Jacob to bring home the hotel toiletries only if he’s saying in a W or Doubletree or Westin – never a Holiday Inn, with their crapass private label shampoo, and never, ever, a La Quinta.
If his tour ends in Portland or Las Vegas he always brings home a few vegan doughnuts, and if he swings by Spain he brings home those neat chocolate-covered corn candies you can get in the airport.
He’s recorded Grammy-award winners to sing personalized birthday songs to me, and I’ve arranged for vegan birthday cakes halfway across the world. He’s sent me pictures of everyone on tour holding up a “happy birthday Lagusta!” sign, and I’ve decorated the house for his birthday celebration and had frozen cake, ice cream, and wrapped presents ready to go so when he comes home a week after his birthday we can pretend that it doesn’t matter that he turned 30 without me.
In short, we hold a PhDs in the arts of the LDR.
For some reason, though, seeing the pictures Jacob takes on tour (which is rare – he had been to Europe 5 or so times before he visited the Eiffel Tower) always makes me sad. All those memories made without me. Even weirder than your best friend cavorting around in Tulsa, Tokyo or Toronto without you is when you go to put a few pictures of the garden on your computer and are greeted with pictures of places you have never been.
So, before I remembered that Jacob was away last month I just stared at the images appearing on the screen wondering how my memory card had been switched with someone else’s. Then I remembered, but it has been such a hectic few weeks that I couldn’t remember where he had gone. I just stared at the pictures, racking my brain.
In fact, I had a bit of a headache.
Then I remembered the aspirin. Lacking the ability or desire to swallow pills, for the rare occasions when we forgo homeopathy and take aspirin we are dependent on magical Disprin, an adult-strength chewable aspirin with a not-horrible citrus flavor available only in the UK. Because you can apparently use it to make bombs or meth or who knows what, you can only buy a few packs at a time. Thus, every time Jacob is in the UK he goes to every “chemist” (Boots the chemist!) around and picks up a few packs. Noticing the large amount of aspirin in the bathroom closet, I remembered he had been in England for a week, which reminded me that he had been in Mexico and South America for a week or so before that.
So, the only thing jogging my memory of where my sweetheart, the person I’m closest to in the world, had been for the past week was our recently restocked aspirin supply.
That’s a long-distance relationship for you.