Last weekend we drove to Vegas to celebrate our friend’s 30th birthday. Wow, Vegas. I’ll put a post together about that later this week, but for now, here are some words I wrote while on the road.
Long stretches of road heading east get me. What if I just kept driving? What if I went back. It’s been a while, years. More than I care to admit sometimes. In my mind it still looks the same, although I’m sure it’s different now. New streets and buildings, more people from increasing urban sprawl I assume. I’d take the exit off the highway onto the back roads leading behind the Food Lion to the street I grew up on, then I’d drive down the gravel driveway and walk up the stairs onto the porch of my parent’s house. My mom and dad would be happy to see me and greet me with a hug. We’d catch up over iced tea and talk about how much rain they got this year. My dad would show me the garden he’s been growing outside and pull fruit off the fruit trees for us to eat.
Then there’s the part of me who knows how it all would really go. Things would be good for a while until they weren’t. I’d want to tell them about the rain forests of central america or chasing whales with a camera off an island in the pacific, but the topic would always find its way back to something more commonplace like the newest chain restaurant in town or my mom’s teaching job or how some person I went to high school with has three beautiful kids. We’ll dance around the subject of my brother who left and hasn’t spoken to them in ten years but still talks to me occasionally. Then my mother and I will disagree about something fundamental and instead of letting it go, it will sit and fester like an open wound that no one cares to dress. My dad will try to mediate in his authoritarian way and I’ll let him know that we can talk to each other like adults now which undeniably always pisses him off. He’ll remind me that it’s his house, just in case I had forgotten. Over the next few days we’d stop talking and I’ll catch their drift- they want me gone. And then it’ll be me who has to go, again. Like some plague that’s been introduced to an indigenous tribe and needs eradicating. Like clockwork I’ll gather my things and toss them in the back seat of my car. I’ll think about not driving away. I’ll sit in the car hoping my dad will come out and tell me that even though we’re different we’re still family and to come back inside. But he won’t. Instead he’ll hold his ground, sitting in his chair by the window in the living room, knowing me leaving is the best thing for everyone. And then I’ll throw the car in reverse, stubbornly wipe away the tears in my eyes before they have the chance to fall down my cheeks, and I’ll drive back to California. All the while reminding myself this is why I don’t go back. I know this is how it would go because it’s how it’s always gone. Until I just stopped going.
And there’s a big part of me that hates it, all of it. How the slight semblance of family we had to begin with fell apart pretty much the moment my critical thinking skills kicked in. How we somehow got to this place where we’re all better off without each other.
Driving east tempts me now, but not like it used to. I can romanticize about what a family should look like, or I can go to Vegas and hang out with my friends who are my family. And that’s what I intend to do.