Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Long, Quiet Drives

One of the oft-unspoken pressures of a long distance relationship is the compulsion to make every minute you have with your partner count.

In my undergraduate years I was involved with a woman who lived about an hour and a half away. We spoke on the phone quite a bit, emailed almost daily, and saw each other on a fairly regular schedule of alternating weekends.

One of those weekends we drove up to Boston to visit a friend of hers and catch a concert. It was a long show to cap a long weekend, followed by an even longer drive back to New York.

We sat side by side in the car that Sunday afternoon. It was autumn, but too late to see the foliage change, too soon for snow. Bare trees lined the sides of the road, swaying with the wind, just waiting for something to happen.

My partner and I were starting to get serious. We punctuated all of those phone calls and emails with “I miss you”s and “I can’t wait to see you”s and countdowns until our next time together. I spent hours perfecting mix CDs for her and, for her part, she seemed to spend hours listening to them on repeat.

But on that southbound highway, we didn’t talk. There’s the simple reality that two people--particularly two people not so adept at small talk--only have but a finite number of things to say to one another, especially after they made another six-hour drive north two days earlier; even more so when they’d spent a cumulative couple hours on the phone in the week leading up to these drives.

I cursed myself. For how badly I’d missed her leading up to that trip, and for how badly I knew I’d miss her again in 24 hours--to be fully cognizant of the before and after, and yet unable to think of a single thing worth saying in the here and now.

I held her hand. She rubbed her thumb over the hair on my index finger. She let me go to turn the page of the Rolling Stone splayed across her lap, then laced her fingers between mine again.

I drove on, racing nightfall, riding out the hills and navigating the gentle twists and turns of the road home.

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