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Janis Jaquith
janis@radioessays.com
569 words

ALONE AT LAST

Believe it or not, I was a little nervous. You know how you feel on a first date? Your stomach is kind of fluttery; your heart is beating a little too fast for comfort. It was like that. I didn't know what I would say, I didn't know what he would say, but I was anticipating a sparkling conversation.

I was in the passenger seat of our minivan as my husband and I cast a final look out the window and waved good bye to all three of our children.

For the first time ever, all of our kids were at summer camp. It cost a fortune, but that didn't bother me one bit. Why? Because, for the first time in twelve years, Harry and I would have an uninterrupted conversation. For two weeks, we would be without children. Now, I would have a good look at what life will be like when the kids are grown and gone, when we will go back to being our authentic adult selves. People who don't have to be stern - people whose heads do not reverberate with the unending, high-pitched complaints of kids reporting who hit whom, with what, and where.

But what would we talk about? Politics? Art? Existentialism? The words bounced around in my empty head. I used to know about stuff like that, I swear. But now, all that knowledge from books and lectures...entire semesters had been wiped out of my brain. Harry pressed his foot to the accelerator and we barreled down the camp's winding gravel driveway, leaving a long cloud of dust in our wake.

Before arriving at camp, the five of us had stopped at a country store for cold drinks. As we drove away from camp, Harry still held in his hand a bottle of root beer. He slowed down some as we approached the end of the driveway. One hand was on the steering wheel; one hand held the bottle aloft.

And, like Hamlet contemplating that skull in the graveyard scene, he gazed at the bottle. I could tell by the expression on his face that he was about to say something - he was gathering his thoughts, organizing them.

I was relieved that he would speak first - what would we talk about? What kind of marriage-affirming conversation would we have, now that we had left our distractions behind in the dust?

And who had I been, anyway, before all this childbearing stuff had overtaken us? I was a graduate student of linguistics at an Ivy League school - so sophisticated. And Harry was a graduate student of theatre and dramatic literature. Oh, what a reservoir of intellect between the two of us!

We were at the end of the driveway. Before uttering a word, Harry took a swig of root beer and did his best to stifle a burp. He stopped before pulling out onto the road, turned to me and said, "Do you suppose you burp more when you drink soda out of a can, or out of a bottle?"

I don't know what happened to those sophisticated people we used to be. If we keep driving long enough, maybe we'll track them down.


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