What is more agreeable than one's home?
-- Marcus Tullius
I opened my eyes and turned my head to face David, my hair trailing across the white pillow beneath me. This time it took only two seconds, rather than the disorienting five or six more common on recent days, for me to realize where I was: guest bedroom in Ellen and Kirby's house, Boston . In a voice soft enough to coax a wildcat into submission, David said, "Two left," then yawned and smiled, extended his arm around my waist, and pulled me closer to him. "Mm, yeah, two," I mumbled into his neck. Eight flights down, two to go. Three gallery openings attended, four cities briefly inhabited, one new passport broken in, three suitcases overpacked, and two people exhausted from 28 days on the road.
The sweet silence of slumber had almost reclaimed me when I noticed how light the room was. "What time is it?" I shrieked, and then thought, Time, ha! I don't even know what day it is.
I jerked upright and looked at the floor, where clothing, shoes, and toiletries seemed to have been spewed forth from my luggage as though the large plastic case had found my wardrobe unappetizing.
"I'm not sure, check your phone," answered David.
"Doesn't matter," I said, "Whatever time it is, it's time to get going."
Yanked from his mellow morning mood by my nervous energy, David shed the warm fluffy blanket and flung his legs off the side of the bed. "I guess we should pack," he said in a reluctant tone. "It will be nice to sleep in my own bed again. We had a great time, though, didn't we?"
"Yeah, beh beh, we sure did," I said, pausing from folding a pair of pants to return his calming smile with a pathetic smirk. "So much so that I am as disappointed as I am relieved to be going home." I longed for the feel of my bed and craved the permanent organization of the drawers and shelves in my closet and bathroom; but I couldn't stop thinking of the other things awaiting my return, things that are not so comforting yet all too familiar -- like the mountain of bills and notices requiring my "prompt attention" that was waiting for me at the post office. Like the manila envelope leaning against my door, the one that contains the agenda for a homeowners' association meeting that I, the association's current president, must be prepared to facilitate in two days.
The thought of one task would remind me of another until my mind was racing uncontrollably and, overwhelmed by their simultaneous weight, I had the urge to say, "Fuck it," and crawl back under that fluffy blanket. Twenty-eight days is the amount of time it takes someone to make or break a habit, which is why most rehab programs operate in that time frame. In 28 days, I had become addicted to my peripatetic escapism, which is similar to heroin in that it offers immediate pleasure and eventual pain.
Traveling offered me an escape from routine responsibilities. "I'm out of town" was the coup de grace that won me temporary triumphs over external stresses. Once those words were uttered (or e-mailed), nobody pushed or questioned -- they understood the futility of doing so and respected the almighty absence in a way they never would if I had simply said, "I don't want to deal with this for a few weeks. Why? Because I have other things going on."
But even the best procrastination device can backfire. Before embarking upon this latest adventure, I had become overly dependent on one dangerous sentence -- one that I have continued, like an idiot, to employ while away: "Yeah, sure, I can do that...when I get back." Now, sitting here on the last ten flights, I try to keep track of all the things I must do upon my return. I realize I have 28 days worth of shit to get done within the next three , and I am beginning to freak out.
David, unaware of the paralyzing thunderstorm raging inside my head, turns to offer me an almond from the small crinkly bag in his hand. I stare at him, wide-eyed and unmoving. "What's up?" he asks, his hand withdrawing at my silent declination of his offer. Unable to answer, I furrow my brows.
"Just think about how wonderful it will feel to sleep in our bed tonight," David says, intent in bringing me back to the moment. He kisses my forehead and briefly rests his cheek on the same spot. When he leans back and searches my face with those penetrating, impossible-to-deceive blue eyes, I say, "I want to traipse around Soho without a worry in the world. I want to relax with a drink outside that cute Italian café near our hotel in Zurich. I want to listen to the rain as it lands on the green leafy canopy outside our room at Ellen's." I know I'm whining, but I'm unwilling to stop until the truth of it is on my lips: "I don't want to deal -- I want to stay away from everything."
"Ah, but that's not possible," states Mr. Obvious, before giving my hand a conciliatory squeeze.
"Don't patronize me," I snap. My lower lip juts forward in frustration and my brows droop dramatically.
"Are you pouting?" David sounds amused.
"No," I mumble, mentally kicking myself for allowing the weariness of travel to turn me into a grumpy five-year-old.
"Look," David says, poking me with the word as though it were a sword prodding me to walk the plank. "There's a ton of stuff for you to look forward to at home." Slapping an eager expression on my face, I implore him to convince me. "We'll get to see our friends," he tries.
"Man, I've got so many calls to return," I complain.
"There's probably some bad movie from Netflix involving a unicorn waiting with our mail," he says.