calculating distance

by bam

i was feeling faraway the other night, so i pulled out my little jar of pushpins and made me a map.
that would be my village, right up there, sticking up from the puzzle piece of the fine ol’ u.s. of a. a piece i could trace with my eyes closed, the little stocking foot for florida, the turkey neck of maine, the round smooth back of the california coast, and, i guess, the dangly belly of the lone star state. poor texas. poor dangly-belly texas.
i just now did the math. if i hopped in my old wagon, if i packed a case of water bottles, threw in some granola, and a banana or two, if i started driving, heading north, north-east for starters, and kept driving ’til i waved hello to all my brothers–there are four, you know–i would clock 5,304 miles. i would be on the road, without potty breaks, mind you, for 81.6 hours, or 3.4 days.
and that’s clippin’ along at 65 mph, not catchin’ a single wink. not even a Z. let alone a little string of zzzzs.
no wonder i hardly ever borrow a cup of sugar from the one who lives in maine. or long beach. or prescott valley, arizona. or, heck, not even toledo, a mere 215 miles, door-to-door. because blessedly my baby brother picked the toledo in ohio and not clear off in spain.
now, once upon a time, we all lived in the same area code, but that was so long ago the area codes hadn’t been broken into a hundred little chunks per metropolitan area. and as recently as just last year, when i put out the call for family dinner, i could count on my doorbell ringing a full three times. i set nine places at the table. we were a raucous noisy crowd.
but now, one year and two days later, i would call only my mother. at eighth-grade graduation last week, we did our very best to keep up the noise. my mama, thanks to a fine sauvignon blanc, had us in stitches, she truly did.
but some times, some times when i hang up the phone, i feel so very far away. and it gets me to thinking how odd it is that the very dearest souls in my life are spread across the map.
i’m not there to bump into them on the sidewalk. can’t look into their eyes and see the heavy load, the one that’s wearing one to the bone. can’t reach across the table, and give a hand a squeeze. geez, i couldn’t even see the sparkly ring one just gave his true love. i had to twiddle my thumbs while the airlines took a reservation, cleared two seats, flew them clear to here from the desert far away.
too far sometimes.
and then there is the circle of oldest, dearest friends. heck, you would think someone took my heart, tossed it in the air and watched the pieces come down coast-to-coast. there’s the one i love in key west. another handful in new york city and environs and two off in the city of angels.
of my best old friends, two, i kid you not, do not have computers. fool me, falling for the types who would do without technology in a world that’s nearly wholly hard-wired.
that means we are left to letters. oh, yes, let me sit right down here and squeeze some letter-writing into the day. and phone calls. and i don’t know about you but even a phone call these days is pressed for chance and time.
some weeks, when one of us is feeling lonely, the back-and-forth phone messages can last all week. can constitute a hyphenated sort of stringing together verbal bits. the pressing matter spit out in 60-second sound bites, or longer if the phone machine does not rudely cut someone off in the middle of a heartache.
and, fool i am again, i barely use a cell phone, so to catch me you have to catch me in my kitchen. before i am tossing around a skillet in the narrow window of 5:55 to 6:25.
how, i ask you, in a world in which to circle the wagons is to operate in four time zones, countless area codes, and even more ZIP codes, is a soul supposed to be there for the silence between the syllables? know the joy of hearing the other’s footsteps come bounding up the walk? catch the raised eyebrow that hints, this here is a tease, or a really important point, one you might want to lean in for, one you do not want to miss by getting up to clear the plates?
i miss the ones i love. i miss them deeply and achingly. i miss, most of all, the waking up to the possibility that on any given day i might take a taste of one’s fine balsamic dressing, hear the other one pounding out some bach or brahms, find my boys climbing over them like ants to a popsicle.
this long-distance needs a spin through my dryer. maybe i could shrink it. reach out and hold on tight to the ones i love.

how bout you, people? how long and far and infrequently do you connect with the ones who truly make you who you are? do you, like me, have a global village that takes a dsl to bring you close? do you miss the plain old touch of a hand across the table? the spontaneity of a long tall glass poured there at the kitchen counter, walked out to the front stoop, where, together, you can watch the world go by? i know we’ve spent time talking about the little things you can drop in the mail, and the way you can fuss when someone’s coming in from out of town. but heck, some days there is no substitute for the real live thing. and right in here, as one school year ends and a summer begins, it can get a little lonely, eh?