I miss the skyline already — running along the lake until the end of the pier and turning around to see it all laid out in front of me, the a buffet of picturesque culture, architecture, community.
we made it to pennsylvania. I’m not sure how we choose this state, this place, but we’re here now. it’s something new. the amish here act like the christians in the midwest, so I’m not feeling too lost. we buy their bread and butter and sweets and the men refuse to look at me while the women cast sideways glances at the hem of my dress and comment under their collective breath. still, I love it. we drove with the windows down all day; I sat in the passenger seat and held the pup on my lap. he leaned his head on the windowsill and captured the cool, clean air with his tongue.
is mom mad that I left so abruptly? we decided it would be better to get going sooner rather than later, but please tell her I promise to be home soon and I promise to call home sooner. has she made any progress? is she Mom? has she spoken to you? do you think she hears you? I don’t think she heard me when I told her we were leaving.
I want to tell you everything, but my mind is unfocused today. on the day we left, we stopped at the grocery store on the way out of the city and bought crackers and grapes. we stopped at a farm in indiana, one where it seemed like the cows were wandering freely, and bought the sharpest cheddar cheese I’ve ever had. we fed the cows hay and they let me hold a baby chick. it reminded me of summers with grandma and grandpa on their farm, holding the baby goats in my lap as I fed them their morning bottles.
I love sitting still in the car as we drive along — I’ll sometimes stare up at the clouds and three or four hours will pass and it will have felt like no time at all.
on the first night, we stopped at a motel off the highway, the first we saw. it was well after midnight, and we were exhausted. we choose a motel because we wanted to be able to bring the pup in the room with us, even though I know how unsafe you think motels are. we stayed in bed until noon — mostly because the carpets were damp and the bathroom was cool and the rainy sky was filled with clouds that drenched the parking lot and windows and cars with enormous raindrops. X ran out for donuts while I stayed under the blankets with a book.
we spent the rest of the day driving, and here we are, in pennsylvania. We’re thinking about heading to philadelphia — we heard there’s so much culture and history and beauty there — but we’re enjoying the country for now.
we found a small hotel, well, really a family willing to rent out a spare bedroom. they let us bring the pup inside, as long as he sleeps in his crate and doesn’t bark too much. they have a handful of dogs themselves, and one, a beautiful female, will walk along with me while I explore the fields and forests nearby.
anything within driving distance screams of suburbia so much it hurts — I feel the hairs on my arms rise up and the nerve endings under my skin start to tingle like the static between radio stations — so I’ve convinced X to stay close to the house. we take a backroad to a tiny convenience store and stop at a roadside produce stand along the way. the fruits there seem to be less dull and the proprietors less depressed than those in the city. the vegetables are crisper and greener. we’ve been hoarding these supplies in our tiny room with no refrigerator because I can’t bear to travel to a restaurant. we drag our crackers and bread and cheese and butter and fruits and vegetables out to the porch swing three times a day and sit and eat and contemplate our next direction. maybe we’ll head south. at least we’re doing it together. I suppose that’s enough for me.
I need to go now, dad. please tell mom I love her. make sure she hears you this time — look into her eyes when you say it. please. I miss you and I’ll write soon.
do you remember that night? we stood in the back of the bar, outside, surrounded by concrete that refused to allow a single breeze. sweat trickled down the back of my knees and curled the hair at the nape of my neck. you wore shorts. probably corduroy cut-offs; that’s what everyone was wearing.
do you remember when I sat close by your friends, when I tucked myself between them, clutching my drink, condensation trickling onto my knees and toes. kind and steady, they surrounded me that night — the humid and unforgiving air gave way to a calm as we exchanged our stories under one a.m. stars.
do you remember when they leaned close? do you remember what they said to me? did you hear them tell me all your secrets? everything they knew about you, distilled into a handful of words, spilled into the july heat, pooled beneath our feet.
“watch out for yourself. don’t let him go.”
“keep your heart close. don’t give it away too soon. don’t let him go.”
“be careful. don’t let him go.”
their advice became a series of drumbeats, meant to set me on a path. I never found the path, I never stepped in time, I never let you go. I didn’t have to — you did it first.
“what’s worse is the way you act as though it was somehow your fault, that you deserved it, that you’re not emotionally fragile and that this didn’t kill you.”
— a friend. may 2012.
today, I’ve been going through some of my old writing, and I found this sentence.
last may, the night before I left chicago, I sat on a friend’s couch, drinking whiskey and listening to records. he asked me why I’d been so unhappy. I explained, and we talked about what I’d said and what had happened. he ended the conversation with this sentence. a few days later, I wrote it down.
and what was interesting about our conversation was not what I said. I’d said it before to any friend who would listen. I’d said much of it here. the interesting part was how hard it hit, how much breath could be knocked out by one sentence.
Any civilization able to intercept Voyager in the depths of interstellar space…would know far more science than we do. Instead, we wanted to tell those other beings something about what seems unique about ourselves…Although the recipients may not know any languages of the Earth, we included greetings in sixty human tongues, as well as the hellos of the humpback whales. We sent photographs of humans from all over the world caring for one another, learning, fabricating tools and art and responding to challenges. There is an hour and a half of exquisite music from many cultures, some of it expressing our sense of cosmic loneliness, our wish to end our isolation, our longing to make contact with other beings in the Cosmos. And we have sent recordings of the sounds that would have been heard on our planet from the earliest days before the origin of life to the evolution of the human species and our most recent burgeoning technology. It is, as much as the sounds of any baleen whale, a love song cast upon the vastness of the deep. Many, perhaps most, of our messages will be indecipherable. But we have sent them because it is important to try.