One night in Chicago…

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Motherhood is teaching me all sorts of things: pick your battles, keep knives out of reach, toddlers are weirdos, Kleenex is my friend…

It’s also taught me that I can’t be alone, apparently.

I had to travel for work this week. Three. whole. nights. I’ve never been away from my little Bubbalooshki Bear for that long. Ever.

The trip has been scheduled since May. July seemed so far away.

I arrived to my hotel room late last night. It was late enough that I had just enough time to be excited – giddy even – about spending a few nights alone. Just enough time to unpack my stuff, tweeze my eyebrows, inspect my pores, and think about how I could spend the rest of this well-deserved evening alone. I could watch TV! I could watch…cable TV! (As you may recall, we don’t have cable. Or local stations. We mime and play charades and whittle things from wood.)

Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad. Three nights with just me, myself, and the Lannisters.

This morning I woke up, went to my training class, and made plans to hit the amazing outlet mall right across from my hotel. I found myself shopping exclusively for Bubbalooshki. In fact, I bought him two outfits and two pairs of shoes in the next size up. If I couldn’t be with him, by God, I was going to clothe him in Gap and Sperry at a discount. But as I walked back with my wares, I felt empty. Annoyed even.

Why is it so goddamn windy? Why can’t I get into this shady side door with my key card?  I’m hungry.

“Um, yes, I’d like to place an order for pick-up? I’ll have the shrimp and grits.”

I sat at the bar, alone, surrounded by dudes watching the World Cup, waiting for my shrimp and grits…

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And there you have it. Also, I was not offered one drink. This could have been due to my wedding ring, my frizzy wind-blown hair, smeared mascara, or the look on my face that conveyed an air of talk-to-me-get-punched-in-the-balls. Who knows. But I could have used a Ned Flanders-type offering a friendly, “Hiya, neighbor! What brings you to town?”

I carried my to-go container of cheesy grits and shrimp back to the hotel and decided an ice-cold beer would make it all better. What goes better with shrimp and grits?

Me [sitting purse on counter]: “Hi! Can you tell me what drafts you have?”

Bar Maiden: “There’s someone sitting there.”

Me: “Oh. I wasn’t going to–”

Bar Wench: “Sure. What do you want?”

Me: “What kind of–”

Wench: “They’re over there.”

[A row of sub-par domestics and two “premium” drafts stare back at me, frightened]

Me: “I guess I’ll take a Heineken.”

Evil Wench: “Eight dollars.”

Whaaaat the what!?

As I made my way back to my room, I pondered how fancy this hotel is and how rude the woman was to me, when I really could have used a smile, or at the very least a polite conversation that didn’t involve being barked at.

I sat my shrimp and grits on the desk in my room, opened the bag, and stared at the pool of goo that had leaked out all over the place.

Great.

What is wrong with me? Shouldn’t I be living it up? Jumping on my micro-organism-covered-hotel bed? Or at least getting something productive done, like paying bills online, or making lists? Instead, I go through motions like an empty shell, without my family. I have no right to complain, really. For God’s sake, it’s only three days.

Get a grip on yourself!

I need to work on this – being alone. I will try to make tomorrow a better day. I have to get through tomorrow, then one more night, then one more day, and it’s over. I can go home. I can hug and kiss my chubby-cheeked little man (and his larger, bearded counterpart) to my heart’s content.

Until then, I raise my $8 beer to those moms and dads who frequently travel for work, to soldiers who sleep for months without their own little Bubbalooshkies by their sides, to anyone who has lost a loved one, or is just missing one.  I will nuzzle my son’s fuzzy, warm head with my face and never take for granted that I struggle with being alone.

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