He doesn’t get out of his truck as I pull up beside him, on time, at our designated meeting spot off the highway. Huh. He doesn’t get out when I climb out of the brown CRV I said I’d be driving. Oookay. He’s clearly convinced that I’m not who he’s waiting for. I walk to the side of my vehicle, looking in his direction but keeping my eyes unfocused. I don’t actually need to expend the energy to see him to give the non-verbal signals required. I lift my arm in greeting, smiling and giving him a half wave and a nod. After another pause, he gets out of his truck.
“Hi there, I’m Charlie” I say with a friendly smile. We shake hands. He’s got at least six inches on me and is probably in his 60s. He’s clearly flummoxed. “You were probably expected someone a bit taller than me” I say, grinning, giving him an indirect way to acknowledge that he expected a man, and I am a woman.
He pauses. “You are a different sex than I expected.” He still hasn’t smiled, and he doesn’t offer his name. His wife sits in the passenger seat and stares at me… glaring, actually, if I wanted to allow myself to notice.
“Yah, I get that a lot these days” I say and shrug. A few moments go by.
“So, you’re a beekeeper” he says, and we chat a bit. I needed to meet early because I’m picking up bees today, also. After a bit of social nicety, my eyes flick to the back of his truck. He catches the hint and we head around his vehicle. “Here it is. It’s best if the legs sit on top of it when you travel” he says as he unhooks the equipment. He takes the legs off and I move in to get a look at what I’m buying.
Yup, it’s a small table saw. Looks to be in decent shape. No way to test it, of course, because no electricity. Good enough. I pull out my wallet and count out his money. “Sixty five, right?” I ask.
“That’s right” he says. I give him the money, and he picks up the table saw and hauls it to the back of my car for me. Bonus. I hustle around and open up the back end, moving a bag of water softener salts to make room. He places it, and I go back and grab the legs. After a bit of fiddling, it’s all settled into my car.
He goes and gets a small bag of stuff from his vehicle. He shows it to me. “It’s all there. The manual, the blade guard and all the parts that came with it.” He fiddles with a little arm of plastic I hadn’t noticed before attached to the table part of the saw. “And this here slides off easily when you want to use it.” I have no idea what that is, but I nod.
“And there’s nothing I need to know about, no quirks or issues with the saw?” I ask one last time, just to give him the opportunity to point out any issue, now that he has my money.
“No, it’s great. Just have to get rid of it. Downsizing”. With that, he clearly feels he’s told me enough. I thank him, I put my hand out and he shakes it, and we climb back into our respective vehicles. I wait a moment, but they don’t leave. I feel too awkward to sit there and rest like I need to, with them right there next to me. Instead, I start the car and zoom off like I have a purpose. I mean, I do – bees. But I need a break.
After the 1 ½ hour drive to our meeting spot, I’m not doing too bad. I stopped twice along the way, with my last break just 20 minutes ago. The change in activity, though – stopping my drive, interacting with a stranger, then starting to drive again – requires recovery and transition time. I didn’t take it at the appropriate moment, instead I drove off for my own comfort. The headache starting to blossom between my eyes and the deep ache starting at the back of my skull tell me I’m pushing myself, my brain, to handle too much change without rest. I stop a few miles north and take the time I need. I park, close and cover my eyes, and let my brain rest and reset before I continue my journey.
As I drive to pick up my bees, I make sure to acknowledge my success with the table saw purchase. Good on me. I contacted the guy, figured out a time and place that were within my ability, and bought a good piece of equipment at an excellent price. I am succeeding. I still have 30 minutes to bees, then 45 minutes to friends and brunch, then 40 minutes home. Still a long way to go. But this first part went well. Yay me.
When I finally get home, around 1230 pm, I am double dog dead tired. I am exhausted. My limbs hang heavy from my body and I drag myself and my new package of bees through the house. My eyes ache, my hip aches, my head is pounding. I put my bees in my writing studio to stay cool, then I head directly upstairs, lay down, and sleep for two hours.
All told, google tells me I drove about 3 ½ hours in one day. Wow. I used a few reasonable accommodations – stopping every 30-45 minutes, using caffeine and having proper food on hand. But still. Being able to drive 3 ½ hours opens up the world to me. For the first time in FIVE YEARS, I can drive to Albany, NY (if I want to for some reason). I can drive to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MOCA). That’s on the table again. As I look at google maps, I consider where else I can reach now, at least with some caffeine and on a good day. Brattleboro, VT. Utica, NY. Manchester, NH. Maybe even Portland, ME with Mary’s help. Montreal, Quebec City, Sherbrooke. So many possibilities.
If I can do 3 ½ hours, how about four hours? That brings Boston, MA into my reality. How nice it would be to visit a proper city again. I mean, overwhelming and exhausting, probably – but to have the choice, the ability to get myself there. Yes, that’s something precious.
My time in a cage is coming to an end. For so many years, since my first mTBI, I have been trapped. Trapped by my limited mental and physical energy. Now, today, I feel that cage finally falling away. It’s not all fun and games – it still has to be a good day, I still need accommodations, it still takes me a while to recover afterwards. But now, well, now my leash is a lot longer. Almost – almost – I am free.