Well, here I am, the prodigal blogger, returned home with significantly less money, but much richer in general happiness and mental clarity.
I'm no longer teaching and am now working for a major publisher, slowly learning my way around the world of publicity, of author events, of quiet offices and cubicle decor. It's strange: one thinks of teaching and imagines the omnipresent, ever-watchful government eye like something looming and Big Brother-adjacent, while corporate life appears much more independent; the employee a free-ish agent, one of many worker bees within an air-conditioned hive. But I'm finding the transition from isolated classroom to densely populated office not...difficult, really, but jarring. All of that classroom space felt sometimes overwhelmingly vast, an apt metaphor for the chasm I often felt between the kids and myself. At my new job, I'm smartly contained, stationary, useful. The faint simmer of a headache after hours of computer glare, dulling the edges of my newfound contentment. It's a price I'll pay for belonging. For surety.
I miss my kids sometimes, all-too-aware I no longer hold any claim. I'm on board the train long after they've shoved and laughed and sang their way home. I snap my book open and read furiously, until the lines blur and straighten and curve again, my eyes drooping shut. I have so many books to read, a endless stair of pages to climb, but I still fall asleep on the train.
Eve is a golden burst at the end of my day, every day. Wild laughter punches out when she sees me, as if she is both shocked, yet wryly expectant. I thought I'd be seeing you again, her eyes sparkle, teeth gleaming - all six of them - as I pepper her tiny face with grateful kisses, swallowing sour guilt when she is last baby at the sitter's. I curse the May chill as I leave, annoyed that I have to cover her up on our walk home. I want the sun to shine on her head, unfettered. I want to take her to the park so she can clutch handfuls of dewy grass and get the knees of her pants matted brown with good dirt, but she needs dinner and her Elmo toothbrush and bedtime is in an hour. An hour.
Eric is new at his job, too. We exchange breathless details about our coworkers, our bosses, our work, like teenagers sharing a desperate crush. We're glorious in our exhaustion, our clothes are everywhere, we defrost chicken in a weak show of responsibility and frugality and end up ordering from Oaxaca, again. It's 9:48 and how did it get so late? Bare feet slide together beneath the throw my mom knitted, the cool black night waiting silently for us to retire, find the sheets and set our alarm. And always, the realization of this new reality, this new journey I take every morning, like sliding off a heavy coat I'd forgotten I no longer needed. That lightness. I touch my mouth to Eric's smooth head, a smile-made-kiss, and sleep.