I usually leave work at 2:30 to pick up my kids. But on days when I ditch the kids and work to go to the farm, I allay my guilt by staying at work well after 2:30 so everyone will think I stayed late. I call the farmer when I'm on the road because I always leave a little later than I say I will and he never believes I'm on my way until I am.
I have written before about how insane it is to have a long commute. In case you’re wondering, the average commute in the US is 25 minutes each way. Newsweek describes the population of people who travel at least 90 minutes each way as “extreme commuters”. That is me, twice a week, on farm days.
Before I leave work, I line up five calls at twenty minute intervals because if I don't get a lot done on the drive then I question whether it is responsible for a woman who struggles to find time for her kids and career to also have a boyfriend ninety minutes from civilization.
I wonder a lot if the guys at work know how often I go to the farm.
When I lived in Los Angeles, I had a 50 minute commute each way, and I had a panic attack on the 405. So I know a bit about long commutes. Mostly, that they are impossible. So I try to pretend I’m not actually doing a commute. I make a list of stuff to think about and tell myself it’s thinking time. I do Kegel exercises and tell myself it’s Pilates time. (Because most of Pilates is Kegel-based anyway. Really.)
At the one-hour point there's a gas station. It used to be, when my company was out of funding, I wouldn't buy gas until the last minute. And I worried that I'd run out of money before I got myself home.
That actually happened once, I took the farmer's credit card to get home. And he didn't blink. Because we both know that I take home 25 times his salary but he always has more money than I do.
I used to stop at the gas station to put on makeup, when I was nervous and trying to win him over and showering extra, because farmers are nuts about being clean. (Way more than city people because, let's face it, city people never get dirty if the standard for dirty is working knee-deep in pig manure for a day.) At the beginning I was clean and fresh-faced and stopped at the hour point to put on makeup.
After a while, I just touched up makeup from earlier in the day. And now we’re close enough that he takes me to the free dinner from the seed manufacturer on farmer appreciation night. So now I just stop at the gas station to buy staples, like Power Bars, which I need to eat for breakfast when I need comfort food. The farmer says I'm addicted to carbs, but I noticed that when he has to deal with anything beyond the farm—like my kids, or me having a crisis —then he eats carbs, too.
So I pick up three Power Bars, in case he wants one, and the woman at the counter asks me again, “Where is your farm?” I know she knows. She's already asked once. So I give her more information, which I know she's looking for because the farmer has told me that people in the country don't ask directly for what they want.
“I have my own company in Madison,” I say. “I come here to see my boyfriend.”
“Oh. What kind of company?”
I check myself out in the bathroom. I want to look hot. I just don't want to do a lot to get there. And I pee. Because what if the farmer wants to have sex right away when I get there?
He rarely does. But peeing at the gas station is my expression of my hope.
I get back in the car and listen to music. The transition is important. If you have a bad commute, your bad mood permeates your whole mood after the commute. I am determined to not let that happen. So the gas station stop is a separator. I have to rest there so the last 30 minutes is all that counts toward the post-commute mood.
The last 30 minutes to his house is through rolling hills hiding large corn fields and small vegetable gardens, and every driver who passes by me waves like I’m a neighbor.
I have been talking all day. The farmer has been quiet all day. So when I pull up the dirt road, I go straight to the porch, lay my head on his lap, and I listen. I listen to his voice above the wrestling wind through the tall corn stalks. He reports chicken and cows and hay for thirty minutes while I rest.
And then Moby Dick. He's reading that. He tells me about Ahab's antics from the three nights since I have been there. I am stuck on the fact that Ahab got crazier and crazier chasing his whale and he spent his whole life in transit, looking for it.
I tell him my commute is insane.
We go running in the hay field. He serves steaks as finger food. We sleep on his bed on the porch, sort of under the stars.
In the morning I tell him again that the commute will never work.
He tells me he sees we’re at a big decision point in the relationship and he needs time to think. Alone.
Just a week.
How about six days?
We make a plan. And I set off for the commute to work, wondering what will happen next.
He leaves me with two dozen eggs, some just-ripe squash, and a bite mark on the inside of my thigh.