Tuesday, April 24, 2007

a view from the way here

I have begun to realize the vast amount of time I have spent in cars since I have graduated from high school. My fiance and I were long distance to start: I in the Twin Cities and he in Milwaukee. We would drive nearly every weekend, only missing one (a miserable one) those five and a half hours between each other.

- Getting a ride home from a stranger, reading Slaughter House Five in the backseat and wishing I could smoke. Driving to GB, then borrowing my parents' car so I could drive to Milwaukee, where I waited, trembling in anticipation, for K to come over to our friends' apartment across the street. I watched him walk across the road packed with parrallel parked cars, beneath the yellowing trees as the sun was setting. Later, he confessed he thought he was seeing a ghost when he first spotted me.
- K coming at six in the morning just before Thanksgiving break. The phone had gone out, causing me to walk several blocks to a convinience store to report it. My cell was roaming (and they weren't so common then), so I went to bed, knowing I'd call him the next day, without internet, a little bored. We called each other every day then. And when he tried me later and later still in the night and I did not answer, he got worried. So he left Milwaukee at two in the morning, driving through Twin Cities rush hour long after the sun rose, at my door, and I pulled him into bed with me, wrapped in his arms, safe.
- The snow storm that petrified me. And I learned to drive in Wisconsin and Minnesota, so this is saying something. (Memories of driving while Jen's clammy hands covered my eyes, Kristin at the wheel, careening through neighborhoods, Jen whispering in my ear, "Do you trust me?") This snow storm, as I approached Eau Claire, had roads slick with ice, a semi truck skidding behind me at a ten mile per hour crawl, unable to stop, my own car juttering off the edge of pavement, cars sprinkled in the ditch. But I was determined to reach him and would not turn back (it did get better, which is a faith I think most Minnesota drivers seem to have).

Our separation between highways continued: I remained in the Twin Cities for undergraduate (and eventually graduate) school while he finished his undergraduate in Duluth and his graduate degree in Winona. My car built up miles. White Neon became black Toyota, both hand me downs (gracious gifts) from my parents. I got two flat tires and learned how to change them on my own (though I have yet to remove the whatchamacallits... nuts? by myself). I've bought enough gas and destroyed enough ozone to thoroughly disappoint my tree-hugging self.

And then I had my teaching license and he had his full time job, and we decided we were through, after six years or so, of long distance relationshipping it. We could have gone on, but I was so jealous whenever I saw people holding hands on campus, twining arms as they walked down the street. My heart hurt to sleep next to him every night. Weekends weren't enough for me to be with someone who made me feel warm, who was the only consistently good thing, who helped me through some careening moods and terrible moments in my life.

We bought a house we thought would be halfway, but two months into the school year, he got a job in the Twin Cities. I wouldn't leave this place--it is becoming our home.

So I think about this, as my time at this high school winds down to an end (so much comes back to this: saying goodbye). I consider what will be different in my life.

I think I have often just "gone with the flow" when it comes to changes. Not allowed myself to be sad, to mourn, to find a way to move on but still treasure what is valuable about those memories.

But that long drive, fifty minutes within my juttering, hanging in there car, has got to go. I will miss the solitude, the time to think, the time to unwind. I will miss the long phone conversatiosn with Kelly and my father (don't worry--they won't end, just won't be so frequent). I will miss hearing new songs on a regular basis on the radio and being enveloped in a book on CD. I will miss the changing geography--the snow piling up in certain places, the Buddhist temple, the farms, the statue of the man in swimming trunks. (I'll include pictures of these last two soon... I have some, but I'm wondering if I can't do better!)

And of course, all of these things, I can see whenever I want, but this is a regular pattern of daily life.

When I was growing up in Chattanooga, my father would drive my sister and I to school every morning. We had routine. We would say hello to Philip D Glass each morning, the cut out figure on a water storage tank. We would sing, "Derriere l'ecole est la maison du chats" (pardon my poor French here since I am e-x-h-a-u-s-t-e-d during this "Hell Week" and have been out of French practice for centuries--feel free to correct me, though when I was eight with my father who doesn't really speak much either, we were probably wrong then too, so this is for accuracy) and I can even remember the melody and could not say that phrase without singing it in my pitch imperfect voice.

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