Tomorrow begins the new schedule. It’s my first official day on the campus just a few miles from my house.
The office waiting there is a loaner crammed with British academic journals belonging to a professor on sabbatical. Two other advisors will share the space with me on alternating days. The phone will remain our Oxford colleague’s line, and the computer being delivered this week lacks monitor and a printer connection.
My fellow advisors and I should receive an actual office assignment in January. That said, the building itself is so old, its cinderblocks and scarred linoleum are next up on the university’s demolition list. We might be in our “permanent” space for all of a year before the wrecking ball arrives. Then we’ll squat somewhere else on campus for the duration of the construction.
What fool would give up five days a week in an office all her own in a new building with reliable technology, functional windows, and a full kitchen just a few steps down the hall?
The fool who prizes time far more than space.
This is the same calculation that led me to withdraw my offer on a 2-bedroom, 2.5-bath, end-unit townhouse with a yard and a ridiculously affordable mortgage payment. That fantastic find was perfect except for its zip code. Another 10 miles west beyond the town where my son was in school, where we had begun building a life, might add another 30 minutes to a commute that was already taking 45. And that’s just one way.
The people who loved me helped me count just how many days of my precious life I’d be signing over to the VDOT highway system. Every minute in my car or on the metro is one minute away from my kiddo. Or away from my pace, my dance, my words, my breath. The true cost of all that space and grass was my relationship with everything I love.
That’s just a tad too pricey for me.
Instead I bought the condo within two miles of the metro and a few blocks of Bug’s school. I pay more money for less space. It’s been two years since I signed, and regret has yet to find my address.
Tonight, Bug buzzes through the house long past his bedtime. He’s laying towels to the dog’s crate as red carpet and lining the walls with nightlights. He piles extra pillows in under her blanket. Her food bowl and toys make their way into the room, creating a dining nook in one corner and a play zone in the other. He flips the blinds closed and clicks off all the other lamps. Shutting us in, he names my bedroom Noodle’s “Royal Palace,” and there in the shadowed light, he performs his karate kata for the recumbent queen while I intone an ancient ode.
On any weeknight before this, I would snap and fret. Get moving, Mister. Bedtime. Now. Because every minute awake is a minute less sleep, and that adds up to another morning late for work.
But tonight, I remember what waits for me tomorrow. Then I remember again when we’re brushing teeth. And again when I sit here to write. Each time, the realization cools and soothes, like air, like the grip of cramped wings unfurling from my shoulders.
Each time like the first time.
Tomorrow, enthroned on a busted office chair in my palace of mold, I will be exactly where I belong. The journey there has taken 5 years of muscle topped with at least as many months of luck. Doesn’t this happen on long rides? You see only when you’re well on your way that the landscape is changing right under your feet, and now you can map out a shortcut.
The race to the metro to grab a parking spot before they fill, to grab a seat on the train before the guy behind me does, to power the two blocks to the building before the clock strikes nine. . . That race is on hold. Tomorrow will be an easy shot to my son’s school where I can visit him in the cafeteria at lunchtime if I get the urge. Where I can arrive well before the closing bell to ferry my young prince home.
Tomorrow is the gift of inversion. Instead of giving myself to the clock, the minutes offer themselves to me.
This means the night is ours for wandering.
And the morning is mine for setting the pace.