Friday, Apr. 26, 2019 @ 5:58 pm
The city falls away behind me, and I turn up the music loud and drive towards the rising sun.
I rehearse my presentation over and over, glancing at the clock on the dashboard to time myself. Cruise control set at one twenty, the highways dry, the sky clear.
City gives way to fields. Fields give way to forest. Forest gives way to desert.
I pause at a rest stop, gather a handful of sagebrush. I rub the leaves between my palms and inhale deeply. A cold, high plains wind sears my bare arms.
I arrive at the first city of my three-pronged journey. I eat lunch on the shore of a deep, sparkling lake, sitting on the broad and gnarled haunch of a weeping willow tree. I check into my hotel, wide-eyed at the luxury of the room, an unexpected expanse of space. I move in the sunlight, unable to sit still with overwhelmingly intense emotions.
I go to the venue. I introduce myself, shake hands, make the rounds of the reception area. Who am I? In the dim theatre, I walk to the front and present to the audience, clicker in my left hand, reassuringly heavy microphone in my right. I pull it off without notes, my voice shaking a little but with steady resolve. Nothing, I repeat NOTHING, is hard anymore.
A board member, one of my mentors, invites me for a drink. We share appetizers and talk about divorce.
After, I walk along the waterfront alone. This is the come down from the drugged state of unnatural extroversion. I walk slowly past a fancy bar and gaze longingly at the laughing couples inside. I let the longing wash over me. I stand on a wharf, the water slapping against the decking, sailboat rigging tinkling infinitely, stars above, black lake below.
I leave in the morning. I drive towards the town, the house, the epicentre of the abyss. The forest thickens, the spring green understory fades to a dry, post-winter, bleakness. I turn off the highway into town, and my heart beats deeply and strongly. Intensity. Fear. Grief. This was my home.
I meet friends for coffee. It’s a delay tactic. Forty-five minutes and four hugs later, I back the car up onto the gravel driveway. I pull out my house key. Close my eyes. Deep breaths. Open the car door and step out and walk up the stairs and onto the porch.
I open the door and step inside.
Things are different, he’s rearranged some things. Removed my art, my paintings, the hours of heart and hand-held paintbrush; to face those paintings every day must have been too much for him to bear. Where my owl was before now hangs a mirror. An appropriate replacement; a literal object of self-reflection.
The house also smells different. It no longer smells like me. No drifting coconut of my conditioner from the bathroom, no sweet spice of my fresh baking, no musk of my skin and breath.
As quickly as possible, I fill heavy-duty transparent bags with my summer clothes and sandals, the pots and pans from the kitchen, and stuff them into the back of the rental car. I run my hand over the black velvet of my riding helmet and in a flight of whimsy shove it into the mass of pillows, muffin tins, and Therm-a-rests.
This is my first time moving out, dividing the contents; I never lived with a man before him.
I go out into the backyard. The axe lodged in the chopping block. A half-finished roofing project. My garden emerging from the soil, tender green tips of ferns and hostas. I stand in the grass and mourn. I’d half-imagined being pregnant in this house, hanging baby clothing out on the line to dry like prayer flags in the dry mountain wind. I’d thought we’d be here for a few years, maybe more, maybe forever. I never imagined that this house - my dream house - would become ground zero.
I sign the real estate papers that he left on the dining table.
I lock the front door.
And drive away and into the setting sun.