Don’t make me go
When I finished the first draft of my novel, Tom immediately had a new idea to torture me with: the book tour. Neither of us is a fan of travel, so my bright hopes of someday becoming a published author were dimmed by thoughts of being dragged out of my native forest to navigate the grey frenzy of airports and trudge the hard landscape of cities.
Sometimes I have questioned my own inclinations, feeling certain that the current effort would not result in feelings of dislocation, loneliness, and isolation. It never turns out that way, but I always feel I must try. The last time I traveled to Madison for a writers’ conference I arrived early to take advantage of cultural opportunities. I made a few forays out into the city, but kept fleeing back to my coldly sterile hotel room, bored and lonely. Which was better than being out there in that environment of hard and lifeless things, inhabited by masses of people stacked on top of each other. Like a giant termite mound, I thought as I looked glumly out the window, but with less warmth.
Tom is not generally any more successful when he goes to Google or Mutual Insurance conferences. Or when he used to, as he is now delighted to be able to take in all the classes from the convenience of his offi ce on Main Street. Previously, his forays to places like San Francisco or Vancouver were preceded by enthusiastic emails from the organizers telling him of all the wondrous opportunities of the hosting cities. The reality was Tom making a beeline for his hotel room with the words of the last speaker still hanging in the air, punching the speed dial on his phone to tell me of the day’s events. Or of the previous hour’s events. It isn’t as though this was the first time he had called me that day.
We don’t like being apart, so we call one another first thing on waking in the morning, last thing before turning in at night and multiple occasions in between. We duck out of social hours because they annoy us and we would rather be talking to one another. We avoid cultural enrichment opportunities because they are dull and we would rather be talking to one another. We find the least congested corners of airports and slump in plastic chairs with phones pressed to our ears because airports are the most desperately lonesome places on the planet and we wish we were together, at home.
I remember being at the height of pathetic at O’Hare airport on my way home. I was pacing back and forth in front of the departure gate for the last leg of my journey, watching with growing anxiety as the listing on the board pushed the departure time ever later into the night, until it finally squashed all hope with the notation “Canceled.” Even though the airline paid for my supper, put me up at the airport motel, and guaranteed me a spot on the morning flight, I was feeling some serious self-pity.
Trudging through the swarms of harried strangers, pulling my little suitcase behind me, I let myself feel all the weight of loneliness, dejected over one more night away from home. Then I saw a guy in Army fatigues talking on a pay phone, his bulging duffle at his feet. I thought that maybe I should just shut up.
With the Covid lockdown, Tom and I have a reason to stay home that even fans of travel find acceptable. Nevertheless, he has told me that it would be my duty to travel if I wind up publishing a book. All I can say is that if I must travel again, I’ll be packing sandwiches. I’ve given up on the idea that I will ever enjoy the experience of sitting by myself with a mediocre $10 cup of soup. Neither am I a fan of the “networking lunch” favored by many conferences--I have learned that I will never accomplish anything positive while chewing in the presence of strangers. Besides, I will need to use the time to flee to my hotel room. To call Tom for the seventh time.
Buttery Cranberry-Almond Granola
Granola is good for munching on in airports, hotel rooms, or those lonesome corners of conference centers, behind the potted palm.
Heat together until the butter is melted: 1 cup butter 1 cup water 1 tablespoon vanilla 1 cup honey ½ teaspoon salt Pour over: 10 cups rolled oats 4 cups chopped raw almonds (if using toasted almonds, add at the end with the cranberries) Mix together thoroughly and bake in shallow pans for 20-25 minutes at 350, stirring every five minutes. Stir in: 4 cups dried cranberries
Sally Rasmussen lives in rural Taylor County with her husband, Tom.