Just as it did after every airport goodbye, life went on. Saying goodbye wasn't the end of the world, although it felt like it. It was almost like very time he left felt like another earth-shattering break up. But I didn't fall into a black hole and disappear off the face of the Earth. I woke up the next morning with puffy eyes and no warm body in the bed next to me, but the sun was rising. It was a new day. One day closer to his next visit.
Summer tried to turn into fall. And by that I mean the temperature dropped from the 100s to the 80s. Every now and then I'd have flashbacks to the fall seasons of my childhood in St. Louis. The leaves on the trees would change to bright yellows, oranges, and pinks seemingly overnight. Then they'd free themselves from the restricting branch and dance to the ground in a zig-zag motion, turning the ground into a painter's pallet. I remembered how my parents would turn the tedious task of raking the yard into a fun Saturday activity with me and my siblings. Dad would rake the Crayola-colored leaves into huge piles, and then we'd take turns jumping into the middle of them. We loved hearing the leaves crunch beneath us. Then we'd scoop up as many leaves as we could fit in our wiry, little-kid arms and stuff them into giant bags that looked like oversized Jack o Lanterns. That memory felt like a Willy Wonka Wonderland compared to Texas's green, dark green, light brown, and poop-brown tree leaves that clung to the branches for dear life, determined to stay in place until at least December. I tried to picture what fall was like in England. Every cell in my body urged me to jump on a plane to London and take a three-month sabbatical. Anything to cheer me up.
The weekend before Halloween, Joyce and Joey took a weekend trip to Oklahoma City for Joyce's best friend's wedding. I stayed home to dog sit Axle. That same weekend, Chaz and Rae had weekend plans, as did Carson and Geoffrey. It was just Axle and me for the weekend. I considered driving to Keller to spend the weekend with my family, but instead decided to spend the weekend lounging around, catching up on my TV shows and talking to Cayden on the webcam. Friday night, I opened a bottle of red wine and I never left the couch. I watched Private Practice, Rules of Engagement, Modern Family, and Jersey Shore, followed by at least 10 episodes of the Big Bang Theory. Axle kept me company, resting his head on my lap and nudging me every 30 minutes for attention. He was a sweet dog, but I wanted to be spending the weekend with Cayden instead.
It killed me that I couldn't just call him. I would have been fine if I could have just talked to Cayden on the webcam all night, but he was fast asleep 5,000 miles away. I sent him a quick email and headed to bed.
Date: Fri, Oct 21, 2011 at 11:47 PM
subject: I looooooove you
I'm just off to bed after a really lazy night of watching my shows. It's just me and Axle this weekend, so I'm missing you like crazy. I just wanted to spend the evening with you. I almost killed an entire bottle of wine. My bad. Sleep time.
Love you sooooo much.
I let Axle sleep in my bed that night. I tossed and turned all night. The bed was too hot. My pillow was flat. Axle was hogging the covers. I grew more and more frustrated; not just frustrated that I couldn't sleep, but frustrated that I was alone, frustrated that all of my friends were with their boyfriends or girlfriends, frustrated with my entire situation. I checked my phone every time I woke up to see if I'd gotten my Good Morning email from Cayden yet. Eventually, I dozed off and woke up feeling groggy and drained. I saw the email notification, and I couldn't stop the smile from spreading across my face. I absolutely loved my Good Morning emails.
Date: Sat, Oct 22, 2011 at 8:47 AM
subject: re: I looooooove you
Good morning baby
I love you sooooooo much too.
Sounds like you had a really chilled out night last night. Wish I was there doing that with you. Was Rules Of Engagement good? Excited to see that :)
We're just having coffee then heading to the thanksgiving place. Went to a BBQ place for lunch which was goood.
I'll call you a bit later on
Love you lots and lots
My smile disappeared just as fast as it spread. I completely forgot he had plans to celebrate Thanksgiving with one of his Canadian friends. That meant I wouldn't get to talk to him until late afternoon. So much for my plans to sit around on the webcam with him all weekend. I poured myself a bowl of cereal and climbed back in bed with my laptop. A little online shopping would cheer me up. I went to amiclubwear.com and clicked through hundreds of boots, booties and dresses to try to weed out the slutty options from the acceptable options. About 80 percent of that site is stripper clothes, but if you search long and hard, you can find a few gems. Two hours later I'd purchased four pair of boots and a cardigan for only $99 with shipping. I felt like I'd defeated the shopping gods.
I should have gone to the gym. I should have cleaned my room or reorganized my closet. I should have driven to Keller. Instead, I took Axle for a quick walk and then reclaimed my spot on the couch, sans wine. I watched another Big Bang Theory marathon and then sent a few texts out to a few other people, desperate for someone to hang out with. I couldn't spend another night on the couch. Shanna had plans with a coworker. My sister Noelle was going to a going away party. My sister Meg was in Austin for the weekend. Emory had a date planned with Jennifer. Every time someone responded saying they had plans, my mood worsened. I felt like the biggest loser on the face of the planet.
I dialed Cayden's number hoping he could cheer me up.
"Hey, baby!" he said when he picked up. I heard a lot of people talking and clinking glasses in the background.
"I'm so sorry to interrupt your Thanksgiving. Are you in the middle of dinner?"
"No, we're all just hanging out. Let me step away for a minute."
The background noise faded and soon enough it was just me and Cayden. I broke down. I bawled.
"I just miss you so much." [sniff] "And it's not fair. This isn't fair." [sob] "Everyone has plans tonight and I'm going to get stuck on the couch again doing nothing." [hiccup]
"Oh, baby," he said. "Please don't cry. I'm so sorry. I hate knowing you're upset. I wish I could jump on a plane and be there with you."
"I wish that, too."
"Did you call Shanna? Is she doing anything tonight?"
He ran down the list of all my friends and I cried and hiccuped as I told him each of their plans. When he'd exhausted my list of friends, he asked why I didn't just go to Keller.
"I might. But I have Axle and there are already four dogs at mom's."
I had an excuse for everything.
He comforted me for another few minutes and then I promised him I'd be OK. I wanted him to enjoy his Thanksgiving dinner, and I didn't want his friends knowing his lame girlfriend had just called him to cry about being a loser. He told me he loved me and wished he could be there, and then we hung up.
I got dressed and jumped in my car. Axle rode shotgun. We drove to Keller, which is what I should have done the night before. I felt so much better just walking through my parents' front door. I was no longer alone. I had my parents and five dogs to make me feel at home. It was the best I'd felt since Cayden left.
"Hey, can you meet us in the garage?" Joyce said on the phone the next day. I was back at our house, and they were just returning from their weekend away. "Joey bought something in Oklahoma and we need help carrying it in."
Was it a big flatscreen TV for the mancave? A kegerator?
I stepped outside and saw them standing outside his car waiting for me.
"Well? What is it?"
There was nothing in their hands I didn't see any oversized boxes in the backseat. Then I felt something lick my ankle and I looked down. It was the cutest, tiniest, most adorable puppy I'd ever seen. I fell in love.