January 17, 2011

From the Department of I Can Do This

[Note: I am very exited and happy to be starting this "next chapter"; regardless, I really hate goodbyes.]

He ties the canvas roof carrier on tightly enough to make it to my mom's, but not so tightly that I can't undo it myself.  At the end of the day, I untie, stuff the carrier, re-tie, if only so easy. I'm hours behind my carefully planned schedule (why do I even bother?), perched on a stepladder, one foot on the car seat and a toe on the top rung for balance. The dim garage light casts only shadows. I can't see the knots I'm untying. She's behind me in case I fall. I wonder who will catch me on the other end of the move.  Without his wind chapped hands, the step ladder from my grandfather's garage, her hands lifted up, just in case. I suck in a mouthful of cold air and pretend it is a deep breath. Repeat over and over again: "I can do this." and "This is good." It doesn’t make me feel better, but it keeps my mind focused, so my hands can stay busy.

Finish what must get done.  Find my empty bed through tired eyes.  Crawl into my sleeping bag and put my head on the pillow.  Close my eyes to find the familiar, but realize that despite the empty room, this is the familiar. Count to twenty over and over again coaxing sleep. Tense every muscle in my body tighter, tighter, and let them go. 1, 2, 3… Open the blinds up so I can fall asleep under the watch of the moon the same way I did when I was a teenager and didn’t trust the morning to arrive. Tell myself that the moon will still be there 300 miles south. I can do this. This is good. Tighten, release. 1, 2, 3… sleep overtakes.

The morning light makes everything better, except the goodbyes.  I'm on my knees trying to scoop her into my lap, but she isn't having it.  She's on her hind legs with her paws on my shoulders. Her soft tongue against my cheek. She hugs and kisses at the same time and I don’t let myself worry if this means she’s not properly trained. She's saying hello and I'm saying goodbye... It turns out that she's the easiest goodbye of the morning.

The road is empty. Intentional timing, unintentional loneliness. Pop in old CDs and sing for no one. Sink into familiar notes and the hallow feeling in my stomach. Promise myself not to cry through every state.  I keep a watchful eye on the rear view mirror and concoct disaster plans to implement when I see my clothes flying out of the canvas roof carrier and sprawled on the side of the interstate.  A blue sweater clinging to the antenna of the car behind me.  A disproportionate flag and pole. Unnecessary worry - I finally decide mid-way through PA, as I pull into a rest stop.

Walk into the bathroom to see a mother hugging her daughter. It comes in waves, homesickness.  This I remember as suddenly as I'm engulfed. I'm frozen for a second, my eyes locked on their embrace, my breath held. I know what will come with release and dart into the first stall.  The dam breaks.  The toilet paper's rough across my eyes. I stifle a sob, disguising it as a squeaky hiccup but wait until the toilet in the stall next to me has flushed and the sink water has run its course. Come out with tear stained eyes, but you can’t tell unless you look at me directly. Divert my eyes from the restroom mirror and keep my head down through the parking lot. Wonder if the cold wind could carry the blame, but climb into my car and let my shoulders heave and the tears fall. Plump, noiseless drops, I just have to wait for them to pass. And they do.

Pennsylvania seems to never end, but delivers a burning sunset to the west.  I greet Maryland in the dark, but my life feels bright.

I have to follow the directions, word for word, to get to my new apartment. I surprise myself by not getting lost.  And pull in to the welcome of my kind landlord and an offer to help that I refuse.  Untie the canvas roof carrier in the dark without falling.  Carry almost everything upstairs and chug two bottles of water. Find my floor lamp and declare, "Let there be light!" to the darkness, but not loudly enough for my new roommates to hear. Inflate my bed and locate my bedding. Thoughts come only in segments. Locate toothbrush and pajamas. Fall into bed.

My landlord calls to check in on me as I'm crawling under the covers. In an effort to hide my exhaustion, I answer with too much bounce to my voice.  I say hello, he says hello, and then I ask him, “How is it?” A question that makes absolutely no sense and leaves me wondering which words I actually wanted to use. He glides by my exhausted nonsense and asks me how everything is going. I tell him "It's great!" "Perfect!" and refrain from asking him to come back and give me a hug.

They can say how much they love me over the phone, that they’re proud of me, but nobody saw the seventeen knots I untied to get the carrier down or the way I moved my entire car’s contents inside in under thirty minutes. That I was the only one standing outside in the dark and I didn’t recognize the faces up the stairs and behind the door. It has been years since everything has been so unfamiliar. If he could just come back, maybe he could wipe away all this unknown...

I fall asleep in the dark, not even bothering to look for the moon.

1 comment:

  1. This made me teary. I love you best friend.