Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Hop, a Skip, a Week, and a Drive

(Authoress’ Note: This column is a little out-of-order-and-line with the next one to be posted that I’ve been working on for longer, but this one just begged to be written and posted today, so here it is. I’m such a sucker—it’s hard for me to deny anything.)

Today was one of those days that I swear to God I rose awake like I’d levitated out of my bed from 0 to 60 and was basically screaming that I needed to get out of the city, out of the rut I’m in, and out of everything I know. These four walls (actually, taking the recesses and odd angles into account, these eight walls) of mine that I sit in day after day have closed around me so hard and so fast I’m searching for the sign posted somewhere that cautions to “please, do not feed or try to pet the girl.”

My apartment is a loaded and ticking time-bomb full of both happy memories and memories not-yet-made. I can’t look at my bed without thinking of the boy who so nonchalantly walked in and plopped down on it, stretching out so that his massive body took up most of the space, or how he rolled over to make room for me as we laid side-by-side and talked for hours. Or what else we did in that bed, in those sheets, on those pillows. Those pillows, which when I bury my face in them at night, still hold a whiff of him—soap, clean laundry, country air, and musk. On my closet door hangs that damned scarf I carefully slip-knotted for future use, (what use that is, I’ll let your over-active imaginations fill in the gaps. If you know me, you’ll get there.) Opening my closet door, I’m hit by a double-whammy of sensory grief—the scent of the soap I bought because my magnolia-scented shower gel wasn’t manly enough to share were he to spend the night again, and the bags, yes, bags of lacey, pretty, sexy, extravagant things bought at Victoria’s Secret. (The money I bled to them has me on first-name and friendship basis with all the sales associates in both locations in Burlington.) Under my bed, the condoms on my stereo that taunt me, asking when I thought they were going to be used? My laptop—he said it was nice and used it, his fingers on these same keys I’m pressing on right now. Every time I look out my window, I see the bridge we stood on and talked, just the two of us. I’m starting to distrust my very decorating skills because of how he looked around said, “I like this room. It’s comfortable. I like that you did with it.”

There are more things, more memories—how he sat on the sofa, propped up against the throw pillow, how he bounced on the ball in the living room like an over-grown, hulking child—us standing side-by-side in front of the bathroom sink and vanity, both of us brushing our teeth and looking at each other in the mirror. I love my apartment, but right now, I want to break up with it. Home is supposed to be my haven; where my heart is. Right now, my heart is elsewhere, and not residing in this little borough of Burlington. Right now, Melancholy has moved in, bring her roommates Despair and Frustration with her. Some women would take all these things and get rid of them, a sort of detox of the relationship and heart and home. I am of the grin-and-bear-it type, myself. I figure if I have made my bed, slept with him in my bed, and spent afternoons with him on my bed, I can damn well lie in it and contemplate what I’ve done.

The scream of frustration, boredom, pain,—whatever—that threatens to rip out of my vocal cords has been growing larger and larger every day that I come home, turn my key in the lock, and see these things. The urge to scream because I can’t do anything else to fix, change, or alter this in any way other than by discussing it with him has become almost overwhelming. But of course, I’m sure the rest of the apartment building wouldn’t exactly like that, and you best believe I have a set of lungs on me. (Thank you, Mrs. Harlow and eight years of choral training, six years of projection teaching from theater, and smoking and exercising for lung capacity.)

Today was one of those days that I couldn’t sit still or stay in the same place for the life of me. I wrangled Alli into agreeing to go on a road trip with me to Stowe, a town I’d never been to and was a comfortable enough distance away for me to feel like I was escaping without using tons of my non-refundable gas. It was the perfect day for a drive—sunny, with rain showers that turned the valleys between mountains misty and serene. It’s true, what they say—you can take a Vermont girl to the city, but you can’t take the Vermont out of the girl. I needed the sort of country atmosphere I grew up in—I needed the familiar sight of a small town, a white church steeple, a clapboard old one-room school house. I needed sugar shacks and cows and dilapidated barns. I needed badly paved roads fallen into disrepair that made my Little-Honda-That-Could’s long-gone shocks groan as they came back down to earth after being launched into the air by the remains of frost heaves and pot holes. I needed long stretches of road that ran alongside sandy rivers without any other car in sight, but possibly, a moose hiding somewhere in the swamp. (Moose crossing signs—another thing I love about Vermont. To me, a moose crossing sign for the next 15 miles would be a great way to get kids in a car to shut up and focus—bribery mixed with a sly, “Hey, what was that?” when they start to lose interest would achieve amazing results. And who said I’m not good with children?)

And moose crossing signs I got. And covered bridges. And cow after cow after cow. And ice cream. And a very speedy and white-knuckled drive through Mr. Perfect’s hometown.

I swear to God I wasn’t planning on it. It was one of those things where after driving to Stowe the first time to scope it out, and through Stowe to the outskirts of town (not hard—Stowe is far smaller and more touristy than I expected), I looked over at Alli and said, “Hey, do you want to keep driving?” When she said yeah, I called to mind all the maps I had looked at in detailing this excursion. “If we continue on 100, we can pick up 12, which will take us into Montpelier and then back to 89 and Stowe for dinner at Emily’s Bridge.” What I failed to remember until we were well on our way there was the fact that we would be driving right though Perfect Central. ‘Please, please, please,’ I prayed more fervently than I ever had in any church in my head, ‘Be at work. Be at home. Just don’t be on the road.’
I thought I was hiding my anxiety well until Alli piped up. “Wow, even I’m a little bit worried.”

I looked over at her. “If I see a 4Runner, I’m ducking, and you’re going to take the wheel and steer. Hopefully, he’ll be too shocked that there’s apparently no driver that he won’t notice the car or who’s in it.”

“I’ve been on 4Runner patrol for the past few miles,” came Alli’s response. “And I was planning on ducking too.”

Let me tell you: I’ve been that girl in awkward situations like this before; been at the receiving end of a highly skeptical “what are you doing here?” look or speech before. This is why I generally don't go to hometowns before I'm invited by the resident. Life just likes to fuck with me this way—if I can run into someone at an inopportune time, I will. Another lovely quirk I live with. Sometimes, it’s amusing. When you’re being called a crazy bitch, not so much. Thank whoever or whatever was watching out for me today and giving me the “get out of jail free” card, be it a manager who scheduled work, or a stop along the way for a few minutes that made our paths impossible to cross, but it remains—I got out clean, and unseen. My dignity, (what little there is to begin with,) remains. I didn’t have to make any (truthful yet shaky) excuses. I didn’t have to do the awkward wave of shame and see those familiar eyebrows raised in surprise and shock.

The drive home infuriated me. It’s ridiculously, stupidly, mind-numbingly easy to get from his place to mine. In fact, Montpelier itself is probably the most wheel-and-teeth-clenching part of the entire 45 minute drive, and that’s only because I don’t my way around. For someone who does, it’s probably cake and easier to drive than Burlington. As I ruminated over this fact, I made another realization—the time and mileage it takes to get from Point A to Point Me is almost exactly the same as what I used to drive three or four times a week to and from the barn I board my Super Pony at. Granted, I am far more in love and committed to my horse than I am to this guy, but still—the point remains the same. I’m used to this kind of drive. Hell, I’m a road warrior; the kind of girl who just wants to drive and drive and drive off into the sunset. I live for the kind of quiet and reflective time this sort of drive allows for, when it’s just you, the road, and something or someone at the destination you can’t wait to see. It’s the kind of drive I’d do for fun, let alone for someone I liked. And here I am, with no reason to do this drive or now know the way because we decided to bail out before I was able to say, “hey, it’s not fair you’re always driving to me—why don’t I meet you for a movie or dinner or something?” Life is kind of funny like that—I always seem to find the way after the fact it’s needed.

After an afternoon eating hummus and cucumber sandwiches in front of a covered bridge supposedly haunted by a young girl who committed suicide after her lover stood her up on the night they were supposed to elope, I returned home to my apartment to discover that the exorcism wasn’t quite perfectly executed, and I was returning to all the same old ghosts I had left. There’s nothing quite so sad as a woman left hanging.

(It’s 2 AM and Perfect will probably be waking me up in 6 hours with a good-morning text. I need to sleep. This beast needs editing, but I also promised a post tonight, and I keep my promises. If you’re reading this before noon on the 28th, please stop by again shortly, because there will probably be edits and revisions made to this that I’d love you to see. Thank you!)


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