On Being Away From Home On BusinessThomas Beller
I write from a place far from home. I am out on the high seas taking care of business. Getting things done. It’s noble and grand during those moments when I feel like I know what I am doing. And then there are moments such as one that occurred on wind whipped Broadway a little while ago, shortly after I passed a harried looking mom holding the hand of a little boy. They drew my attention when she bellowed: “Jasper, why do you think it is all right to insult me day and night?”
I turned around to get a better look at the tableau–the mom seemed perfectly nice. The kids – Jasper was four years old, or maybe five years old at most, was with a friend, or younger brother, both mop-headed and cute – wore expressions that were abstract and bored, the way kids sometimes look when they have just been yelled at in public by their mother.
But a closer look at the mother revealed a woman who was totally exhausted and at the end of her rope. She looked like hell, in fact.
It was just a few minutes after this that I turned onto Broadway and passed a store that sells fragrant emollients. I suddenly thought, “I have very dry of skin! My face and hands feel like parchment. I need moisturizer!”
I went in and rushed around looking for free samples. I found a few. In each instance it felt slightly disgusting for reasons I can not identify, and I left the store to rush to my next appointment so I could wash it all off my face and hands. After I did so I felt parched again, but clean.
It was a tiny little Lady MacBeth moment on my part, with the difference being that it was not blood I wished to remove but some rose flavored face-cream. Also, it came off.
Still, I think that sudden need to moisturize was connected to that exhausted woman, and in turn crystalized some guilt I feel at being away from home while my wife is on the front lines dealing with all the responsibilities. If someone in my family is going to take three minutes out of their day to sample various creams, it should be my wife, who would not only enjoy it more but would be savy enough not to mix and match various products.
These little intervals of free time–what is important isn’t just that you have three minutes. It’s the ease with which you slip into and out of the three minutes.
This is the aspect of having little kids that is so difficult to convey, or even remember if you are away from it for any length of time–the unremitting, relentlessness. Each minute one after the other. That lady on University place was crying out for help!
I remember turning to look at them as I crossed the street. They were standing on the street corner looking marooned. The mother, harried and utterly defeated at 4:12 in the afternoon, seemed to be debating if she wanted to continue in her line of questioning. The little boy was sucking on a paper plate. His face was expressionless. My first impression was that he was cute but in hindsight that kid had the face of a killer.