In the late nineties, I took a lot of road trips. I mean, a lot of road trips. One was to Radford, Virginia.
I don’t remember it like this photo; I didn’t do anything touristy while I was there at all.
I went to visit my friend from mIRC. He was older than I was then, but younger than I am now: an interesting thing to think about. He seemed to know everything. Not everything in a book sense, everything in a practical sense. He knew how the world worked.
I looked up to him. I admired him. I possibly hero-worshipped him. I probably hero-worshipped him.
Anyway, he said that I could come visit him. So I was like, cool. Let’s do this.
I threw some clothes in the back of my car and hit the road. It was a long trip, but the leaves were just beginning to turn, and it was gorgeous scenery. And the gas was super cheap in Georgia. Less than eighty cents a gallon.
I failed to dodge a possum crossing the road. It was the first time that I hit something warm-blooded with my car. I cried.
I remember when I finally got to Virginia there were so many signs telling me that radar detectors were illegal. It didn’t matter; I’ve never had one. It seemed terribly unfair, though. It had never crossed my mind before that they might be illegal anywhere, let alone in the United States of America, the greatest country in the world.
Remind me sometime to write about the brainwashing to which we subject our children in this country.
Those signs were a slap in the face for me, the first in a series. It’s a challenge to overcome a lifetime of learning, but this was one of the very first times I was out in the great wide world all by my lonesome, far away from home.
But I finally made it, and when I pulled up in front of his house, I was floored. It was huge. Gigantic. Stupendous. Honestly, it probably wasn’t all that big, but I didn’t have any friends who lived on their own in a real house any bigger than a thousand square feet, and here was this two-story monstrosity with one single person living in it.
I was impressed.
I was pretty excited to meet him. But–and I should have seen this coming, since we hung out in the #depressed room on mIRC–he was so sad. Trust me, we can smell our own.
We did a quick lap around the house, and he showed me the room upstairs where I was going to sleep, since I’d driven straight through and was exhausted.
If I had to choose one room from all the rooms I’ve ever been in to spend the rest of my life, to spend eternity, it would be this room. I am not the nerdy teenaged bookworm that I once was, but that girl is still inside me, and her love for that room is still tremendous.
It was a mess, I’ll give you that, but it was the best kind of mess: a mess of books. I slept on the couch in the middle of the room, surrounded by teetering towers of books that I’d never read. Books that I’d never heard of. There were books on the floor and books on the end table. There were books in boxes and books in bags.
I immediately felt at home. I slept wonderfully.
I spent three days there, but I don’t remember much of what we did.
I remember that I cleaned the kitchen.
I remember that we went to the DMV because he had to renew his license. I was impressed with the technology there; heck, our DMV is still a completely disorganized circle of Hell, twenty years later. We went today, and it was closed for server issues. I also learned that some states don’t charge for vanity plates. He had one; it was his mIRC screen name, most of the vowels removed.
And I remember that we went to his ex-girlfriend’s house.
Everyone has that ex. The one that screwed up your life. Or the one for whom you screwed up your own life for love of them. She was his. And they still hung out, because he wasn’t over her.
She had roommates, other friends of theirs. They smoked some pot, and I declined.
There was this weird vibe that I didn’t understand at the time. It was months before I did understand, because that’s when he sent me a copy of his autobiography, and I found out that she was that girl.
And even reading what he’d written, and witnessing them interact, I went on to make the same mistake. Find someone, the wrong someone, waste time with them, lose them, pine over them, get them back, wise up, ditch them for good. That’s how my story went. I’m luckier than some.
I went to visit him again a few months later, maybe a year and a half. He’d moved to another state, a little closer this time, but still hundreds of miles away. He was better then. Happier. And closer to being over her. I was glad to see that.
I don’t remember who disappeared first, him or me. But it was perfectly in character for both of us. No goodbyes, just a never heard from again kind of ending.
He was secretive where I was open, but I did learn his real name. I’m afraid to look him up, though, because of Jeremy. I’m not so sure that I could find him anyway. He wouldn’t have a Facebook. Unless he’s changed so much I wouldn’t recognize him, in which case, I think we’d both rather I remember him this way.
Through the rose-colored glasses of memory.
Frank picked up his phone and called the pet store. The empty aquarium had been bubbling in his living room for far too long, and it was time to do something about it.
Some punk kid answered the phone with disinterest, and Frank simply ended the call. There was no way a part-time teenager would know anything about tropical fish. No way.
He pulled on a pair of jeans, shoved his feet into some sandals, and grabbed his keys from the table by the door. It was only a couple of miles to the pet store. He flip-flopped his way in and paced back and forth in front of the wall of fish tanks for nearly an hour.
All four of the employees had stopped by to check on him, more than once, but he waved them off, a fierce look of concentration on his face.
Finally, he froze.
“That’s him!” Frank announced to the whole store at the top of his lungs. Three of the employees immediately trotted over to find out which was the magic fish. Frank’s finger was following a beauty of a yellow tang, lazily flicking its tail as it circled the tank.
The pony-tailed girl wearing a name tag that said Deloris quickly snatched up a net and a plastic baggie for the lucky fish. She deftly scooped it up and tied the baggie before handing it to Frank. He cradled it lovingly and headed straight for the registers.
Frank nestled to bag into the crook of his elbow to use one hand to open the drink cooler and snag a blue Gatorade, which he placed on the conveyor belt. He paid and brought his new friend home.
Frank never took a break from the upkeep of his saltwater tank, so he popped the fish right on in there and stepped back to see how it liked its new home. He gasped, appalled that he’d nearly forgotten the most important part. He unscrewed the Gatorade bottle and used an eyedropper to collect a bit.
And then he counted four drops into the aquarium.
Frank wasn’t quite right in the head.
Caroline smiled approvingly down at the scale, happy to whittle down her waistline like the tortoise, not the hare. She stepped off and grabbed her toothbrush to fill it with minty freshness from a tube. Teeth properly cleaned, she washed her hands and put her contacts in. She blinked her eyes rapidly, making sure everything was in place, and cinched her bathrobe belt around her waist before heading for the kitchen.
With the kids gone, and Kenneth long since kicked to the curb, Caroline loved a good peaceful cup of coffee while catching up on her Facebook feed. She drank her Folgers black, and with the cup steaming like a house afire, she carted her laptop out to the back patio to take in the sunrise.
She chuckled at cat videos while sipping her morning joe,and suddenly remembered her desperate need for corn tortillas. She pulled her ever-present notepad and pencil from her bathrobe pocket and flipped to a fresh page. The pencil felt a bit odd in her hand, so she held it up like a pistol, and she sighted down the barrel. It looked fine. She shrugged and precisely printed corn tortillas on the first line.
Nothing was groundbreakingly new in Facebookland, so Caroline gently closed her laptop and leaned back in her chair, crossing her left leg over her right. She held her mug with both hands and took a long sip of her now-cooled coffee, letting the steam bathe her pores. The clouds in the sky blocked her view of the sunrise, so she sighed and tucked her notebook back into her pocket as she rose to go inside and dress for the day.
TBP OLWG #27 15 minutes, I choose 17.
I want to use adjectives ending in -ent that contain odd combinations of consonants: lambent, nascent. But none of them are pertinent.
I want to wrap my body around the dollar fifty bottle of Wet n Wild Basic Beach I bought at the dollar store and let it fill the hollow inside me.
I feel slow, like a personification of the art project of people covered in honey. The CD skips in blatant opposition to this feeling. Mindless Self Indulgence stutters along.
I had stories to tell but they’ve changed their minds.
The air smells of poverty and mud.
Not going to the grocery store for garlic feels less like self-care and more like petty, misplaced passive aggression. I don’t care; I’m not going.
Karla looked across her former workspace at the scattering of dried and once-fresh flowers and assorted scraps of paper. Everything in the tiny closet of a room was exactly as she’d left it eighteen years ago, as far as she could tell. She reached out a hand and caressed a petal as it crumbled to dust, and a tear slid down her cheek.
Running away had been her best choice, her only choice, but that didn’t mean that it didn’t hurt. That didn’t mean she didn’t grieve for the family that might have been. The fairy tale that everyone else had.
She was thirty-two now, and happily pursuing art two states away, but of course there was no one else to come clean up the mess when her grandmother died. Karla didn’t know her parents’ names; she’d lived with her grandmother and her uncle until she was fifteen and couldn’t take it anymore.
The years of agonizing psychological torture seeped from the walls like a greasy stain. She hadn’t been surprised when her uncle shot himself when she was nine, and she hadn’t been surprised when her grandmother forced her to clean up what was left of him after the body was gone. There was no funeral. Grandmother scoffed at the unnecessary expense.
Even now, after so many years of therapy, Karla was amazed that the younger version of herself had enough personality left over to spend collecting wildflowers, carefully pressing them, and gently decoupaging them into beautifully individual greeting cards. The box still waited patiently under a single folded bath towel.
Grandmother must have deemed cleaning out this room another unnecessary expense. She probably never set foot in it again when Karla never came home from school that Friday afternoon.
Karla knew on the drive here that opening any other doors in the house would be an unnecessary expense from her bank of emotional stability. Without touching anything else in her room, she closed the door behind her and retraced her steps back to the front porch. She sat down down the stairs and pulled out her smartphone to begin googling local liquidators to clean the entire house out. Anyone who would accept the contents as a fee would be acceptable. Karla didn’t need a single thing.
Her second phone call was profitable enough; he promised to be there within the hour. Karla reminded him that she would be leaving in exactly one hour, and he reiterated his promise. She hung up, and prepared to watch the sun set as she waited.
It was only twenty minutes before he arrived, and Karla walked to the street and handed him the set of keys. He stuttered, holding his hands up in refusal. “Don’t you want to do a walkthrough with me so I can give you an estimate?”
She met his confusion with a shake of her head. “No, thank you, it’s fine. I don’t need any money, I just want to be done with everything here.”
He was even more taken aback at that, and rifled through his pockets to offer her the $481 cash he found. She took it.
“The house is yours too. If you need me to sign anything, you have my number, but the deed should be in one of her filing cabinets, along with the receipt for every single item in there. Good luck.” Karla began to walk away, but paused to ask one more question. “Where’s the nearest bar?”
He pointed down the street. “There’s one about a mile down there. Just take a left on Third Street.”
“Thanks,” she nodded.
strawberry sauce dribbles down
coconut flakes too