Travels with Al
Because I am a reader and writer, I cannot imagine a vacation without books, paper, pens. This trip, I left my laptop at home, bringing just a journal and my Kindle. Read a little, wrote a little, but mostly engaged in the usual rigors and beauties of travel, including an all too brief visit with my beloved son Tim.
The writing I did was intensely personal, not about what we saw (the old adobe buildings in the town square of Mesilla, the gorgeous Guadalupe Mountains, the majestic bat exodus at Carlsbad Caverns, George Bush’s childhood home) nor where we went (New Mexico and Texas), nor the moment Al found the perfect silver cuff for my anniversary gift in the exact location where Billy the Kid was said to have stood trial for murder. (What used to be a courthouse now courts tourists.)
Travel with Al always brings out the excess baggage, literally and figuratively, in our marriage. If I was upset; I wrote it down. What I remember most about journaling is being so grateful to have this refuge when Al did something to hurt my feelings, like complaining that we had to turn in our rental car because a small black widow spider had climbed up under my seat.
“You wouldn’t have died from it,” he said. He knew this because he’d asked the ranger at Carlsbad National Park.
“But if it bit me, I’d have to go to the hospital, right?”
His nod clearly signaled how remote he believed this chance. His lack of empathy indicated he was still miffed that we had to detour into crazy-busy El Paso, thus missing the journey down into the caverns. I poured my crushed feelings about this and other slights, real and imagined, into my journal.
Lucky for me, after my initial siting, the spider stayed hidden in its web. Still, I had an anxious hour when my feet did not touch the floor mat where I’d first spotted the tiny terrorist. I’m not usually afraid of spiders. But this was New Mexico, and I’d heard stuff, plus its bright orange back was so unusual, a half hour out of Las Cruces my nerves got the best of me and I finally called the Hertz 800 number from the car. The guy on the other end of the line listened to my description, named the black widow, told me it was poisonous, and instructed us to exchange the car in El Paso.
Al does not do well with my anxiety, or any sign of weakness in me at all. He ignores it if he can, but on vacation, he is forced to deal. It’s not that he’s a cold bastard, he just believes all will be well, no matter what. He thinks I’m essentially a sissy. It does no good to complain to a guy like that about his lack of sensitivity, especially after he’s just bought me jewelry. It’s like trying to change a dog into a cat.
At least we arrived at the park in time to see the bats, or the dog would have been really morose.
Journaling, I had a clear epiphany that who I wanted Al to be was someone I could be for myself. The specific ways I wanted him to care for me, I could care for myself. Which is what I did. I got us the new car, with a free upgrade. Plus they paid for our gas and gave us a gift certificate for our next rental.
And when we got to the park too late to go down to the caverns, I said, “but we’re in time for the bats, right?” and the taciturn guy at the information counter had to admit that yes, we had plenty of time to make it to the bat cave.