It didn’t go super well.
Photo by: jez.atkinson
I like to think that I’ve experienced personal growth since my younger days–that tempered through the crucible of responsibility and experience, I’ve developed wisdom about the world external and internal. I like to think that as I progress through life, I continuously become a Better Man. I like to think this, then my family leaves town for 13 hours and I immediately devolve into a feral man-child.
Dropping my wife and two daughters off at the Staples Mill Amtrak Station at 8:00 AM, I’m temporarily blessed with freedom from responsibility and have nothing but possibility before me. However, I know that I’ll make choices that make me feel tired, bloated, and gross, and I try to actively fight my instincts.
A few things are in my favor: I’ve showered and am wearing clothing that’s acceptable to wear in public. I’ve already left the house to drive to the train station. I even remember to bring a Soylent bottle with me to break my fast. Momentum is in my favor and I head to my favorite merchant of legal, addictive stimulants and down delicious espressos and work on the New York Times Crossword.
But, then I mock the gods. I start writing this piece, the one you’re reading now. I start writing about how I’ve finally overcome my natural tendency towards gluttony and sloth and spent a productive, yet relaxing day without my family. I write a good three paragraphs and head home, unsure of what I’ll do with the rest of my day, but optimistic that it’ll be well spent.
I get home and don’t descend immediately. I don’t leave my shoes wherever; I put them on the shoe shelf. I don’t put my grey hoodie on top of my black hoodie on top of my heavy jacket on the coat rack. I take all three and hang them up in the closet, on hangers, because that’s where Kat prefers that they go and she’s not even there. I put the dishes away and make not one, but two beds, as I prepare the spare room for Kat’s brother who’ll be driving my family home later that night.
I’ve done all the things that I need to do, and it’s only 10:00 AM. I play on the internet for awhile, then get hungry. I think of all the food choices before me not constrained by having to feed tiny humans nor by something being unhealthy. I could just drink another Soylent and be sated, but knowing that I won’t have another opportunity for a long while, I break down and use that same internet to order a Pizza Hut Pepperoni Lover’s Stuffed Crust pizza.
In case you’re unfamiliar, the Pizza Hut Pepperoni Lover’s Stuffed Crust pizza provides temporary comfort bathed in nitrates and grease. Pizza Hut pizza itself tastes like sleepovers. It tastes like staying up as late as you can trying to beat Milon’s Secret Castle1. It tastes like watching Terminator 2: Judgment Day even though it’s Rated R. Pepperoni tastes like a soothing after-school snack, heated up in the microwave on a paper towel to sop up the orange drippings. The stuffed crust tastes like the future that was promised.
When the pizza arrives, I eat it and my old man body betrays me. Any nostalgia associated with this meal is forgotten as the stomach acid rises to meet the pepperoni onslaught, and my body starts the tumultuous process necessary to tackle 8560 mg of sodium. I have the presence of mind to fill a water bottle before I stumble toward my bed, but I decidedly don’t properly put away my pants as I don my sweatpants of shame. I then proceed to watch the entire 24-episode first season of TV’s New Girl2 on Netflix.
I get a two-hour warning as my family leaves Alexandria, I tidy up a little bit, and then rest until I hear the car pull up. The five-year-old is a wreck as it’s two hours past her bedtime. I carry her in, dress her in her pajamas, and brush her teeth. I head up to the eight-year-old’s room and tuck her in, sing her “Still Alive,” and say good night. It’s nice to immediately have purpose again.
My kids aren’t going to need me forever, but time away from them, even 13 hours, reminds me just how much I need them.