It was 6:15 AM, and I was searching for a space in my house that would seem novel to Simon, so that I could entertain him while everyone else slept in. I couldn’t face our dirty, toy-strewn living room, so I took Simon upstairs to Jeff’s office.
After accepting that Simon wasn’t going to peacefully sit in my lap drawing loopy “circles” with his new box of 64 crayons, I turned to the computer to entertain us both.
As I reached for the mouse, I saw a sheet of paper that had various cab and restaurant receipts stapled to it.
Jeff’s expense report, I realized once my eyes focused on the details. In his orderly way, Jeff had labeled each receipt and arranged them to form a perfect puzzle of expenditures for the second month of the third fiscal quarter.
I moved the expense sheet and Googled “hot air balloons” for Simon who’s recently become enraptured by the sight of inflatable transportation. My eyes kept returning to Jeff’s expense report. Each 4 inch by 6 inch slip of paper formed a breadcrumb trail of his work travels – an early dinner eaten at Ray’s Hell Burger– (I hope he ate with someone else because the total was $54.58). Later that week, he had some Gatorade at the National Airport Grill– (It was pretty cheap, only $2.25 at an airport no less).
I bounced restless Simon on my knee and tried to find images of something that would excite — quietly– a curious toddler. “How about some giraffes? You love giraffes.” Simon sat transfixed by images of giraffes, and I similarly transfixed by Jeff’s expenses.
Why was I so hung up on the record of the 8-inch meatball sub Jeff ate at Bozzelli’s Italian Deli in Arlington, Virginia? I hate meatball subs, I reminded myself.
But those slips of paper proved something about Jeff. They were tangible evidence that he was out in the world. He existed because he crossed state borders and time zones and ate exotic sandwiches south of Mason-Dixon line. Each receipt marked Jeff’s footprint in the big, wide world.
I rarely leave my zip code.
Jeff eats in restaurants I have never heard of with people I have never met. I rolled this thought around in my head as if it was the first time I realized that Jeff had to eat and socialize with other people on his trips to D.C.
It wasn’t that I felt threatened that Jeff had co-workers to eat burgers with or elite status on American Airlines. I remembered having co-workers not so long ago, and I spent a lot of time thinking of excuses to avoid joining them for dinner or a Bulls game. I also detested month-end when my secretary would send me email reminders about my expenses. Begrudgingly, and always at the last minute, I would gather up receipts I stuffed, all wadded up, in my wallet. I usually had to troll around asking co-workers for blank cab receipts so I could be reimbursed for my trips to and from O’Hare.
I hated that shit.
But, now I feel shame about how familiar my life is. There are three places I eat: at home (standing up), at Wishbone Restaurant (because it’s exceedingly kid-friendly), and at the gym snack bar. Jeff knows those places intimately. Everything about me and my life is known to him. And there’s no paper trail for my comings and goings, unless you count the trail of baby wipes and snotted-on tissues that fall out of my pockets.
I have the more familiar life, and I have made an uneasy peace with that.
In the face of Jeff’s expense report, however, I felt every inch of my unease. It was like a layer just under my epidermis– it covered everything.
But that morning was different because I let that uneasy feeling be. I didn’t try to fix it by brushing up my resume and pretending I would check Monster.com for jobs that “look interesting.” I let myself feel the free-fall of dis-ease without trying to distract myself or beat it back with platitudes about motherhood or choices.
Later that night, in the dark stillness, I felt the unease settle next to me, as close as my pillow.
What do you want to say to me? I asked it.
In the silence I heard, “It’s ok to want more. There is more. For you. But for now, sleep, because you need your rest where you are headed.”
Hooking up again with the writers at Yeah Write. If you are curious, hop along for the ride. It’s about community and writing and bath tub gin, but you don’t have to drink to get the buzz.