My boyfriend, Andy, is a photojournalist, and sometimes he’ll come with me when I drive up to the oil patch on reporting trips. Last night we went to New Town, on the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation. While I listened to the candidates for tribal chairman debate, Andy wandered around town at dusk, camera in hand. He came across a guy standing outside a motel with a glowing “No Vacancy” sign, wearing sweatpants and cowboy boots. The guy, a truck driver, was leaning on the side of his pick-up which also serves as his home away from home. He sleeps in the truck. He was texting his wife, who’s back in Pennsylvania. He’s been doing this since March.
There are many things I have in common with this guy — we both came here for work related to the oil boom, we’re both originally from far away. But being separated from the person we love because of work is, fortunately, not one of them.
This morning, a friend called on his way home to Colorado from a drilling site in Wyoming. He’s a journalist who’s taking a break from writing to work in the oil and gas industry, and he spends weeks away from his wife and children. We said goodbye as soon as he pulled into his driveway. But he hadn’t hung up quite yet so I stayed on the phone, listening as his young son ran out of the house to greet him, his dog barked, and he saw his wife for the first time in a while. “Hey, beautiful,” he said to his wife. “Hey big man,” he said to his son.
After a few seconds I hung up and sat down at my kitchen table (I like to work from home sometimes). My cat was rolling on the floor in a patch of sun. Andy sat across from me, processing photos. I opened my computer, and went back to work.