Prose: Driving Home


I try to see, but not. It’s 6:14am. Nana slings open her bedroom door. She’s later than normal. I pop out of the twin bed in what should be the dining room and limp my way into hers. I’m still feeling the effects a fairly middle-aged woman might after too much dancing, whatever that means, three nights prior. After shutting the door and waddling into the en suite to have my morning pee, I fall into her bed.

It is now 6:36am, 48ºF outside, so says my cell. The heat inside has kicked on, the ceiling fan spins at full speed and the birds are tweeting outside, that same song. If I close my eyes, I can go back in time to the dusty front room of the old house. Its cool dampness consoles me. Windowsill dust tickles my nose through time, and I sneeze.

I should get up – the clock clicks 7am – but I don’t feel like it. I sink deeper under the covers. I drift off into lucid dreams nearly mingling with what thoughts consumed me prior to 6:14am. And then I remember the photo of his arm. I was being sincere when I said it was beautiful. Yes, it was a nice-looking arm. But it was more than that. There was a message. “To hold you tight with.” It’s what I wanted to read, what I needed. I woke up early that morning too. I check my phone.

It’s nearly 7:30am. The birds have stopped singing. Now only cars hum, no swoosh, past on yesterday’s stormy road. There aren’t many out. It’s a small town. I should get up. And I do.

I sit up on the side of the bed, lean over to switch off the nightlight, tug the fan string so the overhead comes on, pull the covers over, straight, patting everything in place, even though I know she’ll fix it the way she likes after I’m out of the room, and proceed to the bathroom to wash my face and brush my teeth. My hair could use a good patting down too.

He texts me a pic of his lips and neck. I respond, sincerely. He makes another joke. I try to take a close-up of my own lips/face, but overhead lighting makes my eyes look dark and puffy, taking it from below makes my nose hairs stand out. These allergies, or whatever they are, don’t help me one bit. I give up. I look like shit. Though now peering into Nana’s bathroom mirror seems a bit kinder than my camera phone.

Back in the main room, I greet Nana. She’s being lazy too, after breakfast, lounging on the twin. I massage her shoulders, gently. She’s 90 and fragile. She tells me to lie down, and then rubs my back. When she’s done, she always pats me a few times. I used to hate it. After I was all massaged and relaxed, it would jolt me back to reality too quickly. Mom did it too. “Why do y’all always have to do that?” I’d whine. Now I wait for it. It’s endearing. And I don’t want to ever not know that feeling. She starts to leave to wash her own face and teeth, but I ask her for a favor. I can smell the remnants of her morning coffee. And even though I’m on sort of a diet and am avoiding caffeine – and btw, it’s Folgers – I ask her if she’ll make me a cup. She seems excited about being able to do this for me. I am too. Certain roles have been reversed in time, but now she can this for me, even this small but treasured gesture. I’m sure it will tighten my chest and make me slightly jittery, but I welcome it. I get scared, because of her age, I may not have this luxury for much longer. I worry about that a lot these days. I don’t want to think about it though because in some weird superstitious way I feel I’m summoning something bad to happen. And I really do want her to be around forever.

Even before I take a sip, she asks how it is. She has always done that too, with coffee or food. She wants to know. Is it ok? Does it make you happy? The coffee does in fact make me a little jumpy, and it tastes nothing like say a latté from Lighthouse Coffee in Seattle. But it’s bittersweet to my lips. Oh yes, Nanyla, it makes me so happy. If only to feel this way forever.

After I drop her off at water aerobics (don’t worry, she has a ride back), I turn on World Café and leave town. My trip back home will take me approximately an hour and a half. Although the music usually puts me in a free state of mind, I hate having to leave Nana behind, to say goodbye. I don’t like goodbyes. I once worked for Club Med and had to say goodbye every Saturday to those I’d lived with, ate with, danced crazy signs with for seven days, sometimes two weeks if they were French. And then turn right around an hour or so later only to greet new friends I’d eventually have to say goodbye to. I had to say goodbye to Mom without her hearing it, say goodbye to boyfriends, some voluntarily, some not, friends, other family members. And it never gets any easier. It always hurts. What if there was no loss, no goodbyes, no heartbreak, would, could, humans live forever?

I am a little disappointed to hear Talia Schlanger’s voice on the radio. I don’t like it. I find it peppy generic, and it annoys me. Nothing personal, Talia. Well, I guess not liking someone’s voice is personal. But I’m sure she’s a nice person. I’m not sure I’d like to hear my own voice on the radio. But each weekday morning, aside from Friday because it’s boring Blues day, I am comforted by David Dye’s northeastern drawl. I look forward to it, even if I don’t agree with every song he plays.

This morning, Angel Olsen talks about her album “My Woman”, and about liking her own voice. Ha. Touché. Who is “my” woman? Why am I not more one with “me”, with being a woman, with my voice? Why am I not owning it, accepting it all? Whether or not she knows this, or cares, this 29-year-old singer is inspiring me.

I hear a smidgen of David Dye’s voice, and am reassured. Every little bit helps. “No Rain” by Blind Melon chimes in and I am struck by the connection, its lyrics bleeding into my own life – I won’t go into details – right here and now, causing me to wonder about Shannon Hoon’s and if he was hurting, if he meant to overdose that night. 28 years old. It gets harder to hear the voices of the musicians who’ve died. There are so many now. I miss them. I wonder about my ex, if he’ll get the help he needs, if he’ll give in to living life, and learn to be happy. No one should have to hurt that much. If I could fix it, I would. He’s a beautiful man. I want him to be happy and healthy.

My teary eyes focus back on the road ahead. I’m still driving. I open my sunroof and feel the heat hit my cheek. I turn up the volume and journey down the winding road, past the rain-soaked rice fields, around from the boudin shop that I decide to nix this time around and onto the interstate. I continue the ride home, even though, really, I’ve been there all along.

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