Friday morning I made the journey from the old life to the new. I said goodbye to my mom before I got in the shower, and when I finished packing up my car I said goodbye to my dad. I gave him a peck on the cheek and a clap on the back, the way a son would. I did not get upset or weepy, because Pop considers that a sign of weakness, and he hates weakness. I managed to keep that up for about an hour into the trip, and then my cousin Gwyneth got to me.
She made me a road CD that was the first thing I played once I got in the car. Abba to Bon Jovi to Counting Crows to Disturbed and then the Cranberries… well, it actually sounded a lot like a couple of mix CD’s I’ve made for myself over the years. Everything was pretty carefree until I got to Track 12, and it caught me off guard as though I’d reached the bottom of the staircase but thought I had one more step to go. We watched a movie together Saturday, and my favorite Joni Mitchell song is on the soundtrack. I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear it, but when the first notes from “Case of You” came on that was it, and I cried through the whole song.
I don’t think it was weakness. I think it was mourning for all the things I’d dreamed that did not come to pass. Mourning is a necessary act if you want to start moving forward, and I’m moving on with my life in the most literal way possible.
On my way out of Philadelphia I noticed the way the Comcast building disappeared into the morning fog; the windows melting into the mist like a painting, incomplete on the canvas and longing to have its whole form. It was like that all day on the journey from old to new, and I saw some of the most incredible things on the way. I shed the places I knew like an old skin, leaving the Schuykill for the Turnpike and heading to points west.
I took the scenic route, and savored the things along the way as though I was enjoying a new wine. Without warning I came upon fields and fields of sunflowers, lining both sides of the highway, golden and unexpected like beacons of sunshine along the asphalt for over a mile. Mountains rose in the distance, a skyline new and unfamiliar, cloaked in fog and mysterious. As soon as I hit Maryland I could smell the most incredible barbeque, and Puppy woke up from his nap and started frantically sniffing the air looking for the heavenly source.
I turned onto this twisting highway that brings you down through the mountain, past a campsite and through the most breathtaking countryside rising up on either side of you. The foliage is so close to the road that it’s like an embrace, a caress of green and gray and brown with mist weaving its way through the leaves like a sentient thing, bright and shining off the headlamps like moonlight. This is how I came to be home. At that moment I felt that I would never leave this place.
It was the shower that sealed the deal though. The water pressure in my new apartment is so incredible that the act of cleansing is like a religious experience. I felt like the embodiment of “The Ecstasy of St. Theresa.” If I’d known any hymns, I would have sung them. As it was the tile had to settle for “Seasons of Love” from Rent. I do what I can.
Mame came in for a couple of days to help me settle in. I took her to my favorite restaurant here (hey, I find all the important shit first), and found that they had customized our menus to welcome me to the area. Classy. They gave us copies and I hung mine on the fridge. Mame forgot hers, because it takes a lot more to impress her so she really didn’t care to keep it. Okay, I was kidding about that part.
The best thing about having Mame here is that the place automatically felt like home. She helped me rearrange some furniture and unpack some boxes, but it was really her physical presence that gave the place what it needed. Friends bring what you need to where you are. Friendship, like family, isn’t a place but a feeling.
So here I am, day three of my new life. So far, I love it here. I walk Puppy and everyone I meet is very kind, and I look at the mountains off in the distance and marvel at the view. The neighbors offer me tips on what’s around and how I can find important things, like the library and the hospital. Now I’m sitting in my new apartment looking out the windows, excited to be here right before the leaves begin to change, so that we can be in metamorphosis together.