"Hi, honey bunz! I'm home!"

Skylar screamed that on Tuesday morning at 10:30 as he walked into the house, his usual greeting, even if he's only just stepped out for a five-minute errand.

I, Man Who Works From Home, was of course in the middle of leading a zoom meeting for 15 other people, half of whom perked up in confusion when the yelling began.

"Hello???!!!" he called out, slamming a door and kicking off his shoes that sounded like they were filled with grenades.

I hit mute and yelled a quick and surreptitious "I'm in a meeting" without moving my lips. The greatest skill the Pandemic gave me was ventriloquism. Skylar was now standing at the door to my office. "I'm so sorry!" he whispered, consumed with unmerited shock. This wasn't our first rodeo.

"You've got to remember this is my workplace!" I told him after my meeting ended. "You can't just walk in shouting without first assessing the environment. Do you enter the hospital screaming a greeting?"

I realized that last question wasn't helpful the moment it came out of my mouth. He, of course, walks into the hospital, and everywhere else, screaming an affectionate greeting. I'm the only asshole who complains about it, which means the behavior is reinforced by everyone else in his life.

"Ok, I'm going to work on remembering this for next time," he vowed, the way he has vowed so many times before. Like last spring when he started blasting Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" through the Alexa speakers in the house while I was in the middle of court over zoom.

He was deep into a very long shift at the hospital when that one happened, and he thought it might be nice to send me a love note this way. He opened his Alexa app and asked it to blast this song on the loudest setting through eight speakers.

I repeated the subtle mute and surreptitious screaming of "Alexa! Stop!" multiple times over the course of the next minute. Each time I ended the song, Skylar would start playing it again, assuming his phone app was glitching and that was the reason the song wasn't still going. Eventually I rapid-fire shot off a series of texts. "Stop. Stop. Court. In court. OMG STOP."

I figured it was best to just try to explain. "Sorry," I told the judge and opposing counsel. "My husband likes to play music through our Alexa devices when he's away from home as a joke. He obviously forgot I was going to be in court today." They thought this was funny and charming.

"But that's not the point!" I explained to Skylar later that day when he seemed to expect credit for making a good impression during my hearing. "This is my workplace! You need to remember that!"

It's not that he doesn't care about disrupting me—it's that he forgets this is a possibility. When he knows I'm in a meeting, he's the absolute model of silence. He tiptoes through the house, shutting blinds so the dogs won't look out windows and bark.

A couple of years ago he walked into my office and saw I was on a zoom meeting. He needed to retrieve something that was behind me, but didn't want to disturb me by asking me to get it for him. So he got down onto all fours to crawl, which meant that instead of my coworkers seeing him walk by in his underwear, they saw him crawl by in his underwear. But the effort was still appreciated.

Yesterday morning he got up early to leave for yet another 28-hour shift at the VA. He's been doing these shifts for weeks and never seems to be around anymore.

I got up not long after him and started brewing some coffee. I sat down to my desk in my office a few minutes later, the dogs following me to curl up at my feet and begin their first of several naps for the day. I began working on something. Our old house creaked a bit, hit by a gust of frigid wind.

I looked down at my phone to see if Skylar happened to text or call me yet that morning, and was disappointed to see he hadn't. He was probably busy.

It's been too quiet at home lately.

~It Just Gets Stranger