My mother says that when I was very small, after arriving home from long trips, I would walk all around the house and lovingly pat all of the furniture. I suppose it was a form of comfort, silently taking stock of my old friends as they reliably held their posts. I recall believing that everything had a “soul,” or at least was thinking about me the way I was thinking about it. To three-year-old me, all objects and beings that dwelt together in our small seaside cottage were transcendental totems of consciousness and feeling. This explains why I could not part with a stuffed animal; indeed, by the time my teen years rolled around I dreaded receiving such harbingers of love because I could not bear to get rid of them, even if I hated them, their little plastic eyes filling with sadness when taken anywhere near a trash can. (I had an “Exercise Bear” appropriately given to me in 1989, who sported a leotard and very quickly lost an arm; a panda whose paws used to velcro together but were too dirty to velcro anymore; a blanket- “Blankie” – that was just shreds of cotton calico and batting; a huge brown bear whose stuffing was mildewed; a host of plastic animals whose paint had worn off; a LightBright that didn’t light; an Etch-A-Sketch that actually leaked, and more. Much, much more.) The small garden; the turntable; the huge cypress in our sandy front yard whose roots held the bones of our dog Lila May; even the smells: ocean brine mingled with nasturtium, the dusty residue of sand that layered cypress and car and person alike– everything was difficult to part with because it was full of life and thought. It was like parting with a piece of me.
Now, perhaps a little later than I had intended, I am leaving, and it is a mark of my entanglement with the material world that I feel as though I am having to peel out of it, tentacle by tentacle, as from the hull of a sinking ship. This isn’t a destination trip ending with something chipper like college life or a new internship. I’m about ten years past that possibility if we are judging by tradition. This is simply a take leave. Lots of things are ending at the beginning: my job, my my ability to keep worried tabs on my family members and friends, my home. Some things are continuing: my relationship with my boyfriend (whose rash decision to drop everything and leave to god-knows-where for god-knows-how-long was both a near-breaker and a definite maker of this relationship), and my ability to carry unceasing worry within my head and heart. It is a pathetic, deeply disliked martyr dressed head to toe in weights, wailing behind me at the most inconvenient times. “BUT THE LIFE I KNOW! IT IS PRECIOUS! WHAT IF SOMETHING BAD HAPPENS, SUCH AS [fill in the blank]?!” demands the martyr. I hate her. Maybe on this trip she will get a grip. Either way, I am leaving.
With my boyfriend I am going to explore the coasts and mountains and hills and plains and towering cities of this great and terrible country, by car. Though perhaps we are more “companions”– as his great-aunt once referred to me as– than boyfriend/girlfriend, traveling along on two separate trips side by side. We have different goals and we have no idea how this is going to work. Perhaps the disagreements and mistakes will simply iron themselves out, or get squashed flat into unflattering pleats, or rip apart and leave us shaking our fists at one another. Either way it is an adventure.
I can hear the stone doors of this chapter in my life grinding shut as the month of March approaches. In like a lion, out like a…?