After a few spurts of hot and then wet weather, our oats were ready for cutting. Lately on the farm, the air is thick and sweet with harvest, and three of our fields have been organized into neat rows of cut hay. Jon and his guys have been pulling twelve or thirteen hours a day (“make hay while the sun shines!” says the old adage), trying to get everything cut and raked and dried and baled before another storm rolls through. It’s a lot of tractor driving up and down in line after line, and it’s easy to see both the pleasure of senseless repetition and the pains of simple monotony.
Or, perhaps, simple monogamy.
Because with the harvest, I’ve noticed an increasing snippiness in our day-to-day life. Last night over dinner, I commented to Jon that it’s easy to get irritated with another person when you know they’re still coming to bed with you at the end of the night, and you don’t have to put into words over a long-distance phone call what a simple shoulder squeeze will solve. He laughed, agreed with me.
It’s tough to remember, in the redundancy of plain, every day life — under the irritations of misplaced pajamas and tossed razors, the wilted hanging plants, crummy radio stations, unsorted laundry, when you peel back all the passing conversations and idle, snippy comments that sound, hours later, far testier than intended but still manage to contribute to general feelings of mutual disregard — how for months I craved just the pleasure of Jon’s proximity this whole past year, when I was hundreds of miles away, and all I wanted was him near.
But now we’re in the same city, same house, same rooms, working in adjacent fields, adjusting to what James Salter so elegantly phrased as, “the worn stones of conjugal life.”
But still. Beyond the oats and the hay, there is a garden growing in our shared field. And it takes work just to make the thing beautiful. Every day I go there, part the dirt and dig up weeds, maneuver around the fragile leaves of seedlings. And in the next field over, I can almost always hear Jon’s machinery running. Or breaking.
In recent days, it’s tractors rumbling in rows through the oat fields, the crash of bale after bale onto the ground, the lurch of gears shifting. Things go wrong a lot — levers snap, engines burn out. I can hear the clinks of tools as the men shuffle around through toolboxes. I can hear their voices, hot with irritation, shouting at each other, and even on the days that follow the most irritating mornings (“I told you I wanted my eggs over easy!”) I find myself holding my breath, posing my ear for the sound that I, for so long, wanted to hear most, above everything: the sound of Jon’s voice.
One sweetness in being apart this past year was the immediate and urgent need to make it known, very clearly, how much he was missed. “I miss you, I miss you,” I’d say, but when distance is no longer an obstacle, what replaces saying the missing?
The answer came over me yesterday morning. I was standing at the sink, scrubbing burned grits off the bottom of a pot, and Jon wrapped his arms around me and pressed his mouth to the hollow at the base of my neck.
Whether separated by five hundred miles or just a field apart, it’s never the missing that’s important, but the wanting. And every day, still, the knock of my heart thrums to the chant, “I want you, I want you.”