Back home. It’s hard being here and even though the open space and clear skies should give me a sense of freedom, I feel like I’m suffocating. Even the stars feel oppressive…the passage of time is killing me. As I grow older and change, home grows older and changes. More importantly, so do the people who make this town my own. The threads that tie me here are breaking…I’ve only a few strings left and I wonder, what will happen to me then? Once everyone is gone, will I have a home to return to? Will I ever want to return?
There’s a lonely sound outside of my bedroom window, the hum of traffic going by on the freeway. It’s late and the town is quiet, so the whine of tires on pavement echo across the fields, invading my sleep. When I was little, the sound was an idea of escape. An escape from pain, shame, loneliness… I wondered where these people were going so late at night and if maybe they had room for one little girl’s quest for adventure.
Late night stops for bathroom breaks and coffee, someone smoking a cigarette or two…the smell of diesel and dirt, that first cold gulp of air after exiting the warmth of the car, cheese sandwiches and potato chips, boots covered in the melting, dirty snow of winter. Passing towns lit by eerie orange street lamps and the occasional window of someone still awake (Were they imagining places far away?). Making up the lyrics to Neil Diamond songs and humming along with the melody (love on the rocks, throw me a beer, stay for a while and I’ll whisper in your ear…mmmmm, mmmmmm). Puffing hot breath close to the window and watching the fogginess fade away (sometimes drawing a flower in it first), resting my forehead on the cold glass and pretending it was a giant ice-cube. My face sticking to the vinyl seats and the sleep that comes from feeling the car’s tires beating a rhythm on the road…bump, bump, skip, bump, over and over again.
It’s odd that I never imagined reaching a destination. My fantasy only went as far as the travelling. I’ve been re-visiting the idea again, only now as a grown up; running away from this place, from my life, and heading out on an epic road trip across the desert and over the mountains and through the plains…to end up where? The Mississippi and beyond? Maybe I would just keep going. Drive to the end of the continent and hop on a slow boat to anywhere. I’d never stop. And that’s a scary thought.
Sometimes late at night (like now), when the creeping subconscious thoughts pull their way out of deep, dark caves in my mind, I think about running away. But I never do it. It’s just one of those deep, dark thoughts that are better left inside of caves. And so, I turn over and fall back to sleep (eventually), waking up without really remembering any scary ideas…until the next peculiar night when my imaginings resurface and then I wonder, when will I stop doing this to myself? I can’t pretend to run away, I can’t hide from my problems. It’s better in the long run to face them, right?
But it’s hard for me now, being here, back home…knowing that my mom is so sick and not knowing how much time is left and whether she’s going to survive…she’s the only one who really knows me and loves me despite my irrational ideas and strange life choices. Coming to grips with finality is difficult. So, my little girl thoughts of adventures on the road are giving me comfort tonight. And maybe once all the threads have been cut in this tiny high-desert town, I won’t come back. Maybe I will get in the car and keep driving and won’t stop…until I’ve eaten the cheese sandwich, figured out all the lyrics to “Love on the Rocks”, and drawn flowers on a foggy window.