Driving to Richmond.
I walked up the apartment stairs for the umpteenth time, sweat wetting my lower back, to lug the last remnants of my life down and throw into my car. We (me) were behind schedule. Usually packing is something I carry out with efficiency and care, almost taking pride in my quick work. Today, I’m stumbling to get things in some sort of coherent order, worried about everything fitting neatly into the car, about driving it all and myself safely across the country, about leaving. I’m leaving! The thought hit me like a surprise, which is dumb, when I returned to my room again. Almost completely empty, the space seemed dingier but easier to digest, ready now for another tenant to remake it over again, and again. A new start. One afternoon several weeks before I’m set to leave my friend James and I talk about my move. We come to the conclusion that nothing hits us until after the fact, even and especially Major Life Events. “But then it’s over and I think about it and I’m like, woah, I did that,” James says this with an almost incredulous tone as if the memories are still a jolt. I did that. Staring at the room I’m about to leave has that effect. I’m doing this. Eventually, yes, I made it into the car and then find myself driving past all the familiar staples (Brooklyn Museum; Prospect Park; Grand Army Plaza) and out of the city. The light made everything sepia honey amber, almost difficult to look at. The orange aux cord channeled Japanese Breakfast — shrill, luxe:
I came here for the long haul, Now I leave here as an empty fucking hole. Oh, do you believe in heaven, Like you believed in me?
I start to cry. What am I doing? I’m leaving. I’m leaving! l And then it flips like a switch and I’m laughing, the water in my eyes making the light sparkle. When I told people I was moving, it usually included my short little laundry list of contradictory feelings, about loving New York but needing to get out of New York, about leaving my friends but about it being the ‘right’ time, on and on like this. From everyone I got this recurring, cheery reply, simplifying my distress: “New York isn’t going anywhere.” Ugh! Duh. But still, with my body and every personal belonging I own moving at 70 miles per hour across state lines, despite all contradictory emotional information stirring inside me, despite leaving everything that had culminated, risen, and fell in the past four years, despite, in this moment, not being tied to anywhere or anyone, I did not fall apart. (Duh.) Here I am! Woah. It’s dumb, yes, undoubtedly, but only like returning to anything you used to be good at or love as a kid — rollerblading, Mario Kart, capture the flag — and finding yourself out of practice. The road gathered darkness. I listened to NPR like a guiding light, even when the signal got fuzzy and they start talking about economics. Nothing is a comforting as a human voice to nuzzle up against in an otherwise empty car, against a series of red and white dots and lines on that endless black backdrop.