Even though I had joked that Georgia was Virginia with chiggers, it wasn’t, and even though this endless airport lot in Richmond is not my Virginia, it still smells close enough to mine to feel like home. My shoulders ache from carrying my messenger bag and decades-old backpack and my shins groan from days of walking, but I still take the stairs to the next level of the parking garage two at a time. I call him, and his voice makes me want to be home now, not later, not soon, not in two hours, lover, see you in a bit, but now.
I find my car and I put on my music — I cannot explain how much I have missed my music. I need it to run the machine that is me, and I’ve been running on back-up batteries for three days now. I have music that I need but its the music I want that I put on. I play Head Automatica so loud that the first sound out of the speaker blasts against the leg of my jeans.
I drive on the pitch-black interstate with a hundred other souls and bass is pounding so loud that I think in sentence fragments and the only thing keeping me from putting my foot to the floor is the flashing blue lights on the side of the road ahead of me. My eyes are blistering with fatigue. I pass a white car; the driver is smashing his head back and forth to his music. I know how he feels.
My mind is a split screen of the now and scenes from the days before. I remember a massive lobby stuffed full of people. Costumes jammed against one another, so varied and bizarre that I am the oddity in my jeans. There is beer, and music, and sexual tension crackling in fishnets and polyester wings and there is
It’s in my head and around me. And even though I am not sad, and even though I am not alone, it sounds like loneliness to me.
And now I am on the interstate again, not in my memories, anchored only by the digging electric guitar snarling out of the speakers. On a night like this, with everyone else’s thoughts loud in my head, I feel I am every character I have ever written, full of secrets, unknowable, even to myself. I feel suddenly incomplete, unfinished. For the past few weeks, I thought I’d picked the lock that is me, and now I find that the combination has been changed. The knowledge is both wearying — I have so far to go — and exhilarating — there is nothing worse than the idea than feeling I have gotten to the end. My life is a game that I keep playing to the end and starting over.
As I get closer to home, the roads narrow until they are mere suggestions of the highways I drove on earlier, snaking through moonlit field and crowding trees. My music is working and the wheel feels good under my hand. My tires cling to the asphalt, muscle memory taking me through turns that I’ve driven a thousand times before. I am thinking sadly about fossil fuels and greenhouse gasses because God I love driving and so much of my life is the feel of car shifting gears and the surge of sudden grip halfway through a curve and the growl of the engine.
Then I am home, and when he opens the door for me, it’s hard to remember what tired feels like.
Author’s Note: Not quite true to label this "fiction by maggie." Just flew in from Atlanta last night.
Image courtesy Andi.bxg