highway, circa spring 1998

The phone call comes so early in the morning, I am not sure, for a moment, if I am dreaming. It is B. He is at the airport, but he has forgotten his passport. Will I bring it to him? Of course.

It is the spring of 1998. We don’t know it yet but our marriage is ending. Z. is curled up with me in the bed, her round body radiating heat. The wispy hairs on her forehead are damp. I slip out of bed, dress quickly, find a small blanket to wrap her in.

His passport is on the kitchen table and I take it and tuck it into my purse. I scoop up my sleeping daughter in the blanket, and carry her out to the car.

We had stayed out late the night before. Dinner and too much wine. We had argued about faith, our lack of it. He was willing to go to further extremes than I was, which is also a fair statement about many aspects of our marriage.

When we leave the restaurant, there is nothing resolved – another fair statement – and we stumble home to the graduate student who stays with Z. a few hours a week and the occasional evening. “We did yoga together tonight,” she tells us.

On the ride down, it is still dark. The streets are empty. Z. remained asleep through all the buckling of car seat straps and the car is quiet except for the occasional snuffling reports from her dreams.

B. is standing at the curb when I pull up. He reaches in through the passenger side window and I hand him the passport. He is sheepish. He looks back at our daughter sleeping and then at me. Says thank you and then disappears through the automatic doors.

He will return from this trip to Japan, three weeks later. He will bring back tiny notebooks that unfold into long wide ribbons. Bags of jelly candies. Squares of silk. He will talk of the lingering business dinners and the plates set before him. He will tell of how he impressed and delighted his hosts by trying everything, everything presented to him. He will tell me of the long evenings in the smoke-filled bars.

He will be the same, but different. He will return with a different hunger. And I – for my part – will have developed my own appetites, too.

On the ride back from the airport, the sky is getting light. Streaked with pink. In the back seat, Z. is just beginning to stir. I turn the radio on very low – some soft music for her. The forsythia is in bloom along the highway – great drifts of yellow – the slender branches quivering. I feel as though I could drive like this forever – the gradual light, the forsythia, my daughter drifting in and out of sleep. The gray highway – endless.