The trip began on a Monday. We had to categorically un-build a life we had carefully constructed together and rebuild it within the confines of a Honda Accord. Everything had to go. Our bed, our clothes, our food, our creature comforts of all kinds scattered to the winds of Goodwill, yard sales, and friends. Yet somehow our little carriage of destiny still managed to look like a Disney-fied caricature of gypsy life: filled to bursting and probably harboring small, cheeky animals. One thing would be placed inside the car and another would fall out. A twelve inch dent in the pile served as a rear view. My poor worried grandmother would later claim to have nightmares from the dangers our packing alone might wrought upon us.
The day was hot. I hate hot days. Everything difficult is magnified to an uncomfortable hugeness, including goodbyes. We said goodbye to parents and friends, and I tried as usual not to cry, because the one thing worse than a hot day is a hot day with a snot-filled nose. Then it was time to go. We hopped into the dust and disarray of the car, and headed east for Grandma Barbara’s house. An evening of Thai food and laughter did not portend the night ahead, which was wracked with visions of failure. When I woke the next morning at dawn, I was a twisted, frazzled ball of anxiety, nipped at the ankles by terror. The weight had arrived.
The weight is everything you ignore that suddenly drops upon you unawares. A vulture whose feathers cloak you in fear before it begins pecking at your psyche. I lay under the weight and stared at the ceiling of my grandma’s guest room, a room that had brought me so much comfort for my whole life. A delicate watercolor of an iris that she painted years before I was born, a photo of her and her sister as little girls with hands clutched together, sporting matching buckle shoes. But as with most items of familiarity and comfort, I knew I was leaving it behind. In the space that bit of familiarity occupied in my mind a void was left growing in my heart. Many, many small voids had begun. What do you fill those empty spaces with? Me, I fill them with anxiety and dread, which is by far the most nail-biting, edge-of-the-seat way to pass the time. It works wonders for the stomach and the heart rate, too. Throw in some insomnia and you’ve got yourself a regular adventure quasher. There was nothing for me to do but sit and wait for the weight to lift.
We drove and drove. We cut around the teetering curves of Highway 20, which was lined with vivid redbud in bloom, and oaks whose lives in wind and drought had twisted them into wild, dancing old spirits. The sky suddenly opened and we were approaching Highway 1, that cruel, crumbling serpentine ribbon that runs along the Pacific Northwest coastline. Cruising through FortBragg we watched the sky try its best to mimic the sea.
It wasn’t until we reached our next destination, a tiny, forgotten port town in the mist and fog of the Northern California coast called Westport, that I could shut off my brain for a while. If you are familiar with punk shows and the effects of stepping outside of one for a minute and realizing how pleasant it can be to find yourself half-deaf, that muffled moment is equivalent to how I felt when I arrived on the doorstep of our hotel. Everything was soft. The din was at my back.
Now we are in Fort Bragg, staying at the house of my boyfriend’s family friends. They live among redwood trees and towering rhododendrons. Behind them is a dropoff laced in ferns, below which we can see the hunting of glossy-feathered birds of prey, the same ones that soar over our heads in the backyard, their wings sounding like fragile heartbeats. I won’t think of tomorrow right now. I’ll just listen for a while.