continued from part I
We woke early the next day – fortunately with all limbs attached – and headed out immediately to cover the second half of road to Texas, car eating up the miles as we sped down deserted highways. We were near to embarking on the part of our trip that, for me, would be a series of uncharted cities; some I never thought I’d have any reason to visit in my lifetime.
Austin was one such city.
We arrived late in the afternoon, after a pit stop at an Amish grocery in Oklahoma for an in-car picnic lunch of chive-and-garlic cheese on crackers, and unpacked at N’s apartment in north Austin. It was the first time in seven months I’d seen her – the longest we’d gone without physical contact in the 14 years I’ve known her – and we spent the evening catching up over dinner about her second semester as a first-year PhD student, my cousin’s wedding and my last few weeks in DC, L’s Fulbright in Mexico. I felt that peculiar sense of sadness again then, nostalgia for the simplicity of school life and anxiety about an uncertain future. It passed quickly, though, when N took us out to a favorite bar for the night and we arrived back late and fell into exhausted, dreamless sleep.
I hated long car rides as a child. To be fair, I was an ornery child and found fault with a lot of things, but long car rides were high on the list. (The only time I grew to bear them was after we bought a minivan with a pull-down TV for me to hook the Nintendo to.) I also loved to argue as a child. Especially with my parents, about anything and everything. (The reason for which dad is still convinced that I was born to be a lawyer, a point that, incidentally, I continue to argue with him about to this day.)
In short, I was a menace on family road trips. That was difficult for all involved, as dad loved taking us on road trips when we were kids. Though, I realized later that it was not so much the ‘taking us’ as it was the driving itself.
I was born to argue against him on law school; he was born to lose himself on the road.
It’s ironic then that as I’ve grown older, I’ve grown to love the road. Trains, buses, cars. All bring with them a sense of inner peace and comfort in anonymity, watching the world with fingers pressed to the glass without thought of being watched in return. I love driving, especially. I forgot how much, too, after living in the city with my car parked at mum-and-dad’s a hundred miles away.
So when L suggested that we take a summer road trip upon her return from Mexico – during one of our many gchat dates a few months ago – it took little convincing to get me to agree. (Dad would’ve been proud.) An epic trip, we decided, since it would be the last bout of free time either of us would see in a summer. Three weeks, from Canada to the border of Mexico, stopping for barbecue and old friends along the way.
As a twenty-something young professional, it should come as no surprise that approximately 50% of my internet time is spent on Buzzfeed. Lately it’s a result of inane personality quizzes, which Roods and I have co-opted into this odd ritual of soul-searching every few nights when it’s past dinnertime but minds are still too restless for bed. Take a quiz, evaluate the response, decide to what extent our entire existence can be penned down to words and sentences.
(Frighteningly often, apparently.)
I Buzzfeed for the articles, too. Most recently a story about a young man from Notre Dame who tore through the walls of a spa in order to eat every hot-pocket in their kitchen. Which he also heated up using the kitchen oven, if I’m not mistaken. (Truly, I admired his dedication.)
But Buzzfeed is nice in that totally-stupid-waste-of-life sort of way. Like, I’m pretty disturbed that I could be spending my excessive internet time taking a walk or writing a novel or something. But I also work with current event analysis on a daily basis, and it’s a nice escape from wars and climate change and human rights abuses.
“I was reading this Thought Catalog piece titled something like ‘Signs your Friend is a Badass’, and you fit them all.“
My phone chirped brightly, signaling a message from Roods. Having lived together for over half a year, it was disconcerting not having seen her for
four so many days. The distance apart left us communicating via text and the occasional FaceTime chat – though mostly so I could help her remove the attachments on the stand mixer – and inciting looks of incredulity from my mother for our unanticipated bout of codependency.
I glanced at the screen and scoffed at her message before typing one of my own. “Did it mention getting into fights with pieces of wood and losing? Because if so then I can understand the sentiment.“
A few seconds later, another chirp. “You have a BLACK EYE. That is SO badass.“
I winced and absentmindedly reached a hand to brush at the cut near the corner of my eye. “That’s because I SLAMMED MY FACE into a kitchen cabinet, in case you’ve forgotten.” I pressed the ice pack gingerly against the still-bruising lid, feeling the coolness wash over the blinding stinging in a wave of relief.
“Whatever. Still badass.“
I snorted and tapped the screen off, stretching off the couch and slinking back toward the kitchen for the day’s third round of pain pills.
Day #12 of 2014 is coming to a close, and I can safely say that I’ve thrown out most of my resolutions. Much of this was a result of list-making – a top OCD tendency of mine, below only washing dishes immediately after I’ve cooked with/eaten in/accidentally touched them – and seeing in print the things that I will not accomplish. Which, you know, I’d usually be upset about, but certain friends have been urging me to be less like April Ludgate and more like a normal, cheerful human being. Not in so many words, of course, but I can tell.
(I mostly blame the pending 2-year hiatus following 4.5 hours of new Sherlock, which, honestly, is just criminal and actively ruining my life.)
New Years is always somewhat underwhelming to me. The days and hours leading up to it are so full of possibility, of resolution-writing and vows to make yourself better with a fresh start, of an almost-mystic or spiritual fog that seems to blur reality a bit under a soft glow of anything can happen.
Much of it also likely has to do with the fact that I neither showered nor left the house on New Years Day, so the 48 hours of New Years felt like some kind of extended, suspended reality bringing with it the thought that I could spend the next 364 days in the same warmth of PJs and hermitude and new Sherlock episodes.
But then January 2nd rolls around, and it’s back to button-down shirts and the bustle of morning metro rides and the deeply tragic realization that 1/3 of the new season is already over, and nothing feels like it has changed at all.
I know it’s a great time of year when my two favorite pastimes – spending an afternoon strolling around the city with a constant supply of overpriced artisan coffee, and staying in bed, under the covers, for the entirety of the day – are totally socially acceptable. Especially the latter.
Take today, for example: I woke up at noon, threw off old pjs, took a hot shower (which consisted of equal parts Broadway singing and equal parts leaning against the tile wall and falling asleep), changed into a fresh pair of pjs, and sat on the couch watching chick flicks and bemoaning the difficulties of adulthood with Roods.
Now, I’m sprawled on the bed (and let me tell you, it took considerable effort to move from the living room to my bedroom), typing this up, and feeling so lazy that I’m not even sure I’ll muster up the strength to cook dinner. I may, in fact, just meld into the mattress and die here.
You might notice that my laziness has also extended to my food photography, though this is mostly because there is no natural light in my English basement, and I’m not sure I’m really about placing dessert on the stoop outside as passersby watch me hunch over in a pair of gloves and scarf to snap some shots of friggin’ cookies.
“Ah, but remember that the city is a funny place
Something like a circus or a sewer
And just remember, different people have peculiar tastes
And the glory of love might see you through”
-Coney Island Baby, Lou Reed
I hate taking hiatuses from baking and blogging, because they tend to stretch on for eons. Time escapes me and days get lost among the neat boxes of calendar pages. What I’m left with is a slew of photos and nothing to say. Nothing that I could fathom into any sense of coherence, anyway.
(That’s the problem with time. Each moment holds a horizon of infinity that no words can adequately paint.)
I’m the type of person that prides herself on having her shit together, so to speak. Typically level-headed, rarely emotional, a stoic wall of realism and rationality. So the last few weeks have been a rather unwelcome change in my routine.
It’s as though the world is resting on a different plane; a mirror of reality tilted a few degrees past the point of comfort.
Turkey was a month ago, but it feels a lifetime away. I haven’t had as much time to dwell on the loss as I feared, though, since my days following arrival back in the States were spent flying from city to city; transporting crates of furniture and boxes of a life haphazardly printed on coffee mugs and pages of unread books; catching up with family and old friends; trying to assemble a picture of the upcoming months from puzzle pieces cut like shards of broken glass. It has been exciting and nerve-wracking and utterly overwhelming.
I’m the type of person that needs a routine; a list of things to check off as they get done throughout the day; a sense of accomplishment to feel as though time doesn’t pass by wasted. After I graduated from uni, I went straight back into work at Digital Services full-time, taking care of the apartment in the evenings with a vacuum cleaner and a background of Hannibal and Arrested Development on Netflix. I left work a few days before flying abroad, a bridal henna order dispersed in between and a few drives up north for interviews to keep me focused.
Then, I was in Turkey: two months of 20 hours of class per week, homework in the evenings after afternoons spent exploring Bursa, each weekend spent in a different city, familiarizing myself with the sights and people alongside the language. I felt as though there was never a free moment, and I loved every second of it.
I’m back home now, free of obligations for a few short weeks before moving to the city for a while, a new position at a research institute and fresh anxieties about graduate school to look forward to. But that’s for later. For now, I have nothing on my plate but unpacking suitcases full of clothes mum and dad brought back from Cville a few weeks ago and sorting through boxes of knickknacks collected over the years. There’s no deadline, no order, no feeling of necessity, no routine.