The steam from the shower rolled across the room, fogging up the mirror, obscuring my reflected image. I was forced away from my morbid thoughts as I watched the steam creep down the mirror, blurring and then hiding the freckles on my nose. I batted my eyes in my best imitation of a Southern belle, convincing myself that I came off more like Scarlett O’Hara than Blanche DuBois. Hazel eyes, instead of green, notwithstanding, and red hair, closer to chestnut than black, though. Okay, so what if I was born in Connecticut, was presently working on the coast of Maine, and had never been within spitting distance of Georgia—it doesn’t matter. Every girl needs to believe she’s belle-quality indomitable. As the steam reached the bottom of the mirror, I made a kissing noise and bade my image farewell—y’all come back now, girl, y’hear? With that I slung the hat out of the bathroom door, shucked off my underwear, and prayed that the shower would work its magic.
The moment when that hot water hit my back was like my own private revival meeting. A moan escaped my lips, and I thought, if my muscles loosening could feel any better I’d be speaking in tongues. In fact, I realized I was already. I was chanting “Oh god, oh man, oh man, oh thank you—“ as the water hit my head and worked its way through the sweat to my scalp. With another sip of the cold beer I thought my knees would buckle with pleasure, and as I got down to the serious business of trying to scrape the remains of the day’s labor from my body and troubling thoughts from my mind, I began to believe that I might just make it.
When I’d finished, I stood under the water for an extra five minutes; not only was it one of the few moments of privacy that I would enjoy all day, but it was getting physically harder and harder to tackle this kind of work. I couldn’t move around as carelessly as I did when I was eight when I started this work by trailing after Oscar, my grandfather and first mentor in archaeology, and I couldn’t bound in and out of meter-deep pits the way I could when I was eighteen and starting my own small-scale digs. It was all Oscar’s fault, I decided. If he hadn’t introduced to me to fieldwork, got me addicted, I’d be working in a nice air-conditioned office somewhere. A nice boring air-conditioned office.
At thirty I was in great shape for your typical American adult, but it was clear from the way that I was hitting the Advil this field season that I had to be better about delegating work if I was going to oversee things the way they deserved. I was just having a hard time convincing myself that the students could dig as well as I could, and for no good reason. After all, I’d trained most of them, except for Meg; it was just that I wanted to do it all myself. My role as project director was to organize and to synthesize. Archaeology is no place for the incurious or the perfectionist: I couldn’t dig the whole site by myself and expect to get the big picture. But who can resist trying?
Tomorrow, I thought as I groped for the taps. Tomorrow I’d definitely practice delegating.