Another form of separation anxiety during my wife’s business trip

“Get a cat,” people say when I tell them we have mice in the house.

“I don’t need a cat,” I say. “I have a wife.”

Except that I was three weeks, I have not had a wife. Ruth’s been on a long business trip, leaving me to find the mousetraps (were they not under the sink?), bait them (why does cheese never work?) and place them (in the drawer under the oven or on the kitchen counter?).

And should a mouse be unlucky enough to take the bait and spring the trap, it’s up to me to dispose of its little corpse, something Ruth is really good for. In fact, I tell myself it’s a job hun like do. As she sits in her hotel room in Paris, the Eiffel Tower visible from her window, Ruth is probably jealous all the fun I’m at home, walk all the dogs, take out the rubbish, pick up the vegetables, put kitchen scraps out for the compost people and chase the mouse(s).

But this is not a column about an unhappy husband who falls apart when left to his own devices. Well, it’s not quite about that. It’s about the strange ways we behave when we miss someone we love.

One of the weird ways is to resent them before they’ve even left. I have some experience in this regard: experience with the cycle of separation and reunification. When I was about 12, my parents divorced. Thus began the typical back and forth for my brother and I on weekends, along with extended stays with one parent or the other. I remember how irritated we all would get, not from any animus – but from the mental preparation we had to go through before this shift.

Mother’s house is like this, I believe. Father’s house is like to. I’m still at Mother house, but my mind looks forward to Dad House. I don’t think my mother liked the penumbra I cast at these times.

So that’s when Ruth gets ready to be gone for three weeks. She prepares in her way – lays out her clothes in the spare room, pulls out a suitcase – and I prepare in mine: bracing myself for solitude, hardening myself a little, getting a little squirmy. She’s not out of sight yet, but I’m slowly getting her out of my mind.

And then Uber comes and she’s on her way to the airport.

Sleeping is the hardest part. I stay up too late and wake up too early. I turn myself on. I’m starting to feel like an 18th century fur trapper wintering in a frozen corner of the Great White North. I just have to make it this spring.

And then, one day, right at the edge of my vision, something small and gray scuttles across the kitchen floor.

See, I’m not afraid of mice. I’ve just managed to be conveniently otherwise occupied when they find their way into the house. And, as I said, Ruth thinks so good by handling them. But Ruth is not here.

I find two classic wooden traps, bait them with cheese and put them in the oven drawer. I’m skunked the first night. I go online and read that mice can smell you if you’ve touched a trap with your bare skin, like I have, and that cheese is a lousy bait.

I find a third trap and – wearing gloves – smear its trigger with Nutella. It goes on top of the stove. I’m a skunk again.

And then one afternoon I go down to the basement to collect my drum kit for a concert my band is having that night. I unzip the wheeled bag that holds my cymbal stands and am hit by the thick funk of dead mouse.

On the one hand, the mouse – -one mouse, anyway – is trapped. On the other hand, I can’t bring this bag – ripe with the smell of decomposition – into a nightclub. I pull out the pelvic stands, put on rubber gloves, store one in a plastic newspaper bag, remove the mouse body and take it to the garbage can outside.

Then I jump in the car and race to a music store. I call on the road and, like the pilot of a stricken plane radioing ahead with an order to skim the runway, I request that they prepare some drum fitting bags for me.

Fixated as I am, I don’t think at all of Ruth, of resenting her, of missing her. But later that evening, after the concert, trying to get comfortable in bed, I happily realize that we’re past the halfway point of her tour. She comes home in a week and we have a lot of catching up to do.

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