by Bella Rum
I can hear H downstairs. He’s puttering around in the kitchen , pulling things out of the fridge, preparing his lunch. It’s barely light outside. He’s going to work unusually early today because they have to take some passports into D.C. There will be guns and guards and such. The government takes these things very seriously these days. He only does this every few months, so he will tolerate the traffic.
When he works (a few days a week), we usually enjoy a cup of tea right here as we surf a little, chat a little, or engage in a little bill-paying. It’s a very civilized way to start the day, unlike the old days when he left for work before the first rays of sun dared to stain the dark morning sky. While he was backing out of the driveway, I was still sleeping in a warm bed, and very fortunate to have a job I loved and that I could do from home.
H did everything in his power to beat the horrific traffic on Ritchie Highway. He made his way into Baltimore every weekday with the droves of other semiconscious commuters who were probably wondering how the hell they’d ended up on that particular ungodly strip of highway. Then they remembered something about good schools for Johnny and more house for the money, a cul-de-sac, a community swimming pool – all the things for which they’d traded a short commute.
They attempted to harness their frustrations by reminding themselves it was for the good of the family… until July and August. All bets were off in July and August. The temperatures soared on those afternoons, the humidity descended like a soggy blanket and enveloped the condemned souls of homeward-bound commuters. The traffic came to a standstill, cars overheated, air conditioners were turned off. As sweat saturated armpits and dropped off the tips of noses, the oppressive heat produced pounding headaches and rolling stomach acid.
A few nights ago, I heard H telling our son that he couldn’t do it now. He’s glad those days are behind him – no more stress in his job, no more crack of dawn commutes, no more hitting the mark for any company.
I think my son is grappling with the changes he sees in his parents. He remembers us when we were his age. I think he sees our contentment as lack of vigor, the slow decline toward decrepitude. 🙂 Little does he know. Life is pretty sweet when you’re out of the pressure cooker. Everyone needs to feel useful. It’s not about not working. I’ve said this before, but it’s about freedom – the freedom to design your own day, your own life. There will always be considerations to others, but the ways in which those responsibilities are fulfilled are different now.