Nearly 3.30 in the morning. I have to get up at 6.30.
Today she sounded different, a distant twenty-something woman with a deeper, professional voice and an unfamiliar, bemused laugh. As can happen during separation, the generousity of closeness has for an afternoon or two been mislaid.
Sometimes talking to her is just like it always was, like reaching out and touching her, like she’s not that far away at all, and then I can’t help but smile in spite of myself. But other moments, it’s clear that we’re separated by a lot of highway and a lot of new experiences, that she’s on the phone because she cares about me and has a vague understanding that I miss her and that it’s important to me. But at those moments there’s no getting around the fact that I’m thousands of miles away, in every sense.
Sometimes I tell her when she sounds different. I know it makes her uncomfortable, though she doesn’t say it, and then I feel guilty and strange because I know it accomplishes nothing. It happened last summer, too. I remember when I first arrived for my midsummer visit and saw her in a new place with new people that she was sharing a lot with, and in a way we were strangers, awkward and uncomfortable. I was suddenly there where she and her travelmates were, two competing worlds that neither she nor them were quite prepared to integrate so completely. The strange new guy had stepped unexpectedly out of the safety of “back home” lore to invade a comfort zone to which he didn’t belong. I was suddenly the unfamiliar thing, and I stood fifteen feet away from everyone that day and well into the next.
By the end of the week, though, everything felt good, and I knew that I loved her as always. I think that visit carried us through the summer. I feel bad or nervous about wanting something similar once again for some reason, but right now I’d kill to hear the voice and see the face of the girlfriend that I know and love. And lest I forget, this summer’s scheduled to be longer and more stressful than last.