A friend from LA was in town for a wedding. I don’t know the people getting married, but he told me he was coming, and we made plans to get together in Burlington, our home town. So I drove sixty some miles with R in the car and spent the afternoon wading in old spaces I used to visit daily. Around six, we drove to La Fiesta for dinner. A funny thing happened then:
I forgot how to get to the restaurant.
This is a place fixed in my memories. I more or less grew up eating out at La Fiesta and I think I’ve even blogged about it a couple times. From the highway, I could get there with my eyes closed, but M’ was staying on a different corner of town out by Elon.
I missed my first turn then couldn’t figure out the next one. It was dark, cold, R was in the car and he helped me navigate. Houses sprung out of the ground where they didn’t used to be and the streetlights seemed to blink like the beads on an airplane, far away. It was a strange feeling. Spend twenty years of childhood in one place consecutively and then one day you don’t even know how to get around.
I’ll be turning thirty this year. I’m neither stressed nor looking forward to it. But tonight that number felt a little more real to me, like I’m about to close the cover on a long, dusty book.
Novel Count: 16,427
Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami
There was a rock I used to sit on in City Park back in Burlington. It was big and out of the way, you had to climb on top of it and when you did there was this scruffy view through scruffy trees of the scruffy creek that floods sometimes. One time, toward the end of High School, I sat on the rock for a whole morning watching a groundhog consider jumping in the water. She was a fat, brown animal, pine-cone eyes. She was scared of me, I was in love with her.
Earlier that week, a girl from English class had kissed me outside her car, then stopped returning my calls, then got together with a close friend whom she’d later marry. In comparison, I liked the way Ms. Groundhog spelled ‘simple.’
At noon, families flooded the park. The rides spun up. I got distracted. When I looked back, the groundhog was nowhere. I checked the bank. I checked the water. I didn’t hear a splash, but groundhogs are slippery. I left without seeing her again; I ate an overpriced burger on the way home.
Like most people I’ve loved, Ms. Groundhog wanders into view sometimes. Something in the right kind of late summer light. I wonder what happened that morning – if she gathered up the straw-fire courage to jump.
“A thousand people freezing their butts off waiting to worship a rat. What a hype. Groundhog Day used to mean something in this town. They used to pull the hog out, and they used to eat it.” – Phil (Bill Murray), Groundhog Day
Coffee: Americano from The Blend, Burlington NC; honey covered pecans, a pie too early in the year, warmly unexpected.
I went home. Capital ‘H,’ Burlington, NC, where I was born. I sat downtown with my phone off. Guys in tank tops crossed the road; the amphitheater was setting up for a wedding.
I ran into two old faces: H, a high school classmate I barely remember, stops me on his way out of the cafe. Tells me where he’s working, he’s got more beard than ten years ago, cleaner eyes.
I saw L. Once, a different summer, years ago, bent into old-day memory like kneading dough, we went to an open mic in Hillsborough and I wrote a travel blog about it. Tumblr – it was a hot site back then – I kept the blog for three posts then forgot about it. Now I’m here.
Thanks for the belated inspiration, L.
Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich; FINISHED!! Will have a review soon
Coffee: Fair Trade Five County Espresso Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand
I take the highway at 65 high-school-track-fields per hour, faster than the 8-minute miles I managed fifteen years ago. Things sped up; times changed.
I’m working Raleigh, a branch I haven’t been to. Maps come out the car speaker anticipating twists and turns, turning the music down automatically, red lines for bad traffic, or lines in the eyes where I haven’t been sleeping, supplementing missed midnights with caffeine.
Crickets in the early mornings when I walk the two turnbacks downstairs to the parking lot, reminding me of that one night after high school when we all went to Cedarock Park and built a fire, grilled hot dogs, slept bare-skinned in sleeping bags, made reckless love with ticks and crickets and coal-cracking store-bought branches; or of nights lost to five-more-minutes with the four inches of my iPhone, a spaceship/rocketship sort of life, burning time like jet fuel; or of strawberry-cheeks and IPA lipgloss, the ways I wish I saw you, the ways I wish you saw me, but only the white walls ever see much of anything, even though I haven’t hung them with anything yet.
I’m a bill-payer; news-checker; chatbox stalker; internet lover; a Modern Man.
Coffee: Drip from Chik Fil’A; I don’t shop Chik Fil’A due to their outspoken anti-civil rights leanings, particularly when it comes to homosexuality. However, my office manager brought everyone Chik Fil’A this morning and insisted I have something. I had the coffee. It was sour like an old shoe. I appreciated the gesture, though.
I’ve been thinking about trains for no reason in particular. Four years ago, I road a train from Fukuoka to Kumamoto. It was a local line and fed the small towns dotted around mountains and valleys. There weren’t many passengers besides myself. I remember an old man who fell asleep reading the newspaper. I remember a boy and a girl who kept chickening out of holding hands.
My hometown, Burlington, was founded as a train stops. ‘Company Shops’ was it’s old name. There’s a tacky museum in the old carriage house and a lonely Amtrak terminal stuffed in a converted wheelhouse. Since I grew up across the tracks, I’ve got lots of memories of waiting in the car for trains to pass. Some were freight, some passenger, and I’d always try to get a good look at the faces as they whizzed by.
I haven’t been on a train since coming back from Japan. I don’t know the next time I’ll need one. Public transit can be a burden, but it’s one we carry together. Cars are pretty lonely in comparison.
Currently Reading: Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Coffee: Cafe Pajaro Extra Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s brand
I took the day off to deal with car trouble. The trouble’s not resolved, so I don’t have much to say about it.
Instead, I’ll talk about ducks: yesterday, we went to Burlington. My friend’s family lives by a pond. The pond must be doing well because there were waterfowl everywhere. A couple waddled up to us and we gave them old bread. They hung around while my friend shot arrows at some hay. At one point, the ducks got curious and stepped in the way of his archery. He had to chase them off – no-one wants duck-blood on their hands.
Ninety days of logging. Thanks for sticking around for the ride.
Currently Reading: Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson
“It’s a bird of some sort. It’s like a duck, only I never saw a duck have so many colors.” – L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz