This empty feeling

Putting Dallas on the plane wasn’t as hard this time as it was last time.  It wasn’t easy, and I don’t think it ever will be easy, but we survived it, and he should be on his train from Berlin to Jena right now.

I kept it together, for the most part, while we were at the airport.  I kept it together on the ride home.  I kept it together when we got into the house.  Then I came into our bedroom and fell apart.  Dallas’ sweats were on top of the Rubbermaid tote that holds my summer clothes at the end of our bed.  The t-shirt he wore on Friday was sitting on the top of our laundry basket, with one sleeve hanging over the side.  A pair of his sneakers is on the floor next to his side of our bed where he kicked them off.  The keys for his truck are in their usual spot on our bathroom counter, next to his aftershave; his towel is on the bar, and his body wash is sitting next to my shaving cream on one corner of the bathtub.  Almost everything looks like he’s just out for the day and he’ll be right back, with some exceptions.  His shelf on our shoe rack has just one pair of sneakers, his basketball shoes, and his golf shoes on it.  There’s an empty spot on his side of the bathroom counter where he usually puts his medication.  My toothbrush is the only one in the mug we use as a toothbrush holder.

It wasn’t as hard to go to sleep last night as I feared it might be, probably at least because I purposely consumed less caffeine than usual–just a half-cup of coffee yesterday morning and a grande latte from the Starbucks in the international terminal last night because Dallas’ parents and I stayed with him until he went through security at 11 pm and I was not going to stay awake otherwise.  I only slept about 5 hours last night, though, and woke up scrunched up on one side of the bed like I would have been if Dallas had been there, because he likes to stretch out and drool all over my pillow.  I was so out of it when I woke up that, when I rolled over and didn’t see him, I assumed he was in the bathroom or something because he never gets up earlier than me.  Then I remembered he was gone, and a little later, my flight tracker app sent me an alert saying his plane had just pulled up to the gate at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.

I got to talk to him for a little bit while he was at Schiphol because he had wifi, but not since then because he had to get from the airport to the train station in Berlin.  Once he gets back to Jena, he has to catch a tram back to his apartment.  Hopefully he’ll be there in the next hour or so.

He’s going to be doing some pretty exciting stuff this time around.  While he was home, he was notified that he was wait-listed for the Fulbright fellowship, which I don’t think any of us were necessarily unhappy about, because I did not want him going to Bucharest for a year.  I think he was a bit disappointed to have gone through the whole process of applications, letters of recommendation, and interviews, get to the finalist stage, and then not get it.  However, he recognized that it was a pretty big deal to get that far.  It is a really competitive program.  And as it turned out, he was offered another fellowship, one he really hadn’t expected he’d get.  He had to jump through a lot of hoops for that one, including having his department’s graduate coordinator tell the organization offering the fellowship that, while he had passed his comps and was essentially ABD, he didn’t have his master’s degree in hand yet due to a technicality, namely the requirement that he study abroad for a year.  Plus a lot of the people who have gotten that fellowship in the past have been at big, important universities, either in general or in his specific field.  So for somebody from a small state school with a small PhD program where just a couple of people are working on things even tangentially related to the Holocaust to get the fellowship is pretty special.

That fellowship has offered him an invitation to a workshop in Jerusalem to sort of kick off the research cycle, so he gets to go do that a couple weeks before he’ll fly home from Germany.  He’ll have to miss a couple of days of class, but the organization is paying for his airfare and hotel during the conference, and he’ll get to meet the rest of his cohort and people from the organization offering the fellowship.  I think he’s really looking forward to that because he’d like to meet people who study the same sorts of history he does, and meet the people who are interested in his research and believe in his potential as a scholar of Holocaust history so much that they’re helping to fund it.  Plus, it’s in Jerusalem.  Even though his work focuses on the plight of Romanian Jews, many of whom did not survive the war, it’s really important for him to visit Israel, so he can better understand Jewish culture and memory.

As for me, I’m trying to get everything back to the new normal I cultivated during the seven months Dallas was gone before his semester break, back to eating better and exercising more.  I’ll also, most likely, be handling an upswing in tech support duties at work: our main computers, including the one we use as a file server, are close to ten years old and still run Windows XP (yes, I know, ugh).  Windows XP, if you’re not aware, is no longer being updated/supported by Microsoft, as of April 8th.  Even if Microsoft wasn’t retiring Windows XP, the computers themselves are rapidly losing steam, and we’re pretty worried that one day the computers will just die on us.  (And knowing our luck, the last backup would be too corrupted to retrieve our files.)  Every time I can fix even the tiniest runtime error or get a peripheral to start working again when it’s suddenly stopped (happens a lot because one computer’s USB ports stop/start working at random; finding a working port is kind of like playing Whac-a-Mole), I feel oddly, stupidly triumphant.  I put together cost estimates to replace the server and one other computer in our office, but that was about two months ago, so more than likely redoing the estimates is on my to-do list for tomorrow.  I expect to be busy, and hopefully that will help the time pass and ease what feels like a rubber band around my chest.

We’ll only have to spend three and a half months apart this time.  We can do this.


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