Monday, August 30, 2010

I thought that I knew the way.

I hate cats. I used to love them, and took few greater delights than leaving bowls of food for the ones that would loiter on our back deck when I was in junior high. I always got along with cats. I understood their fairweather affections (perhaps foreshadowing nearly every of my relationships to come) and didn't hold a grudge against them for it. It was in their nature and who are we to criticize someone's nature?

Whenever I would come visit you, Millie would purr with excitement at a visitor and then immediately hang her head and meow in disappointment that it was just me. No amount of bribes, scratches behind the ears, or yarn games were enough to get her to like me much. But that was okay: I wasn't really there to see her anyway.

After you died, we were driving from the airport to the hotel, and I was asked to hold Millie. I did, but quickly realized that I had very recently--as in, within the last maybe month and a half--acquired a substantial allergy to cats that kept me from holding onto her. Corey took her instead, and upon arriving at the Holiday Inn, Mom washed all of my clothes to try and remove the dander that had made my nostrils leak and my eyes swell.

I heard that Millie died a few weeks ago. Now all I've got of you is your car (which passed 100k miles on the way home from Colorado a while ago), your kitchen island, and the small black TV that whispers me to sleep on nights like this, allowing me to pretend that you're just reading me an episode of How I Met Your Mother and doing all of the voices really authentically.

Erica and I decided to make a late dinner on Friday night after cleaning my apartment. We went to Macey's, grabbed some steaks, a box of spinach, $3 worth of Zots, and the necessary ingredients for alfredo, which I haven't made in about nine months. As we drove back, we took the road through Pleasant Grove, as opposed to the one through American Fork.

I hadn't driven that road since you died in that stale hospital room almost three years ago. I had patently avoided it, in fact. There were plenty of other ways to get to Mom and Dad's, and all others let me avoid that little mini-tour of your final years.

"But," I decided in my brain as Erica and I debated the merits of the differing varieties of calorie-free Coke (diet, diet lime/cherry/vanilla, Zero, Zero cherry/vanilla, etc.), "it's been a long time. It'll be nice to see how things have grown around her old stomping [wheeling?] grounds." So we turned right at the H sign--stands for "hospital," of course--and made our way north.

The hospital was the first landmark we passed.

"That's where she died," I said during a lull. "My grandma, I mean."

"How long ago was it?" she asked.

"Just under three years."

"How'd she die?" I could see Erica's eyes open like solar panels out of the corner of my eye.

"Pulmonary aspiration. Result of surgery." I focused gaze back to the road. "She was old."

"I'm so sorry."

"It's okay," I said. "She went quietly. And then we shipped her to Alabama for her funeral." I could feel my eyes glaze over in preemptive self-defense.

"That was where she grew up, right?" she asked.

"Yeah," I said. "I like to think that they just put her on a train in the coffin and she was propped up in the front car of the train and she and the conductor had wacky misadventures crossing the country by rail."

"You should write that book," she said, the whites of her eyes merging with those of her smile-exposed front teeth and becoming an amorphous, passenger's side snowglobe. "I'd read that."

We passed the temple, the schools, and I knew we were getting closer. I pointed at a north-by-northeast angle.

"We're coming up on where she lived." The treads beneath us spun like clockhands against the worn pavement below and we felt every bump in our entire bodies. I saw the stoplight ahead, but it felt like it was too close.

But that was just because what was once an empty field across from the high school, where I would turn right to come and see you lay in bed, unable to move unassisted, was now a massive building.

They had built a Wal-Mart across the street from where you suffered through your final year. They may as well have dug up your corpse and hired someone at minimum wage to piss all over it.

I heard my voice change the subject of the conversation and hoped that my brain would follow suit.

I don't think I'll drive that street anymore.

Erica's from Muscle Shoals, and getting to spend so much time with someone from Alabama makes me feel like I've managed to re-forge a connection with your spirit, somehow. She was talking about a friend of hers that she doesn't really like; some guy from Georgia that grew up in a spoiled neighborhood and essentially believes that he deserves the world just because his rich daddy can afford it. I don't know why someone would be friends with someone like that.

"Because he's from the south, too," she said. "I just have to be his friend."

I think I'm beginning to understand.

I'm falling asleep. Since I started my job last week--I already have a bunch of work-related stories I wish I could tell you--I've been trying, with little/no success, to maintain a more stable sleep schedule. The fact that I'm heavy-eyed before 2 AM is a good sign, and hopefully I'll keep stabilizing to the point where a 9-5 daily itinerary isn't that difficult. My dreams have suffered, though, to the point where they no longer really happen. But tonight, I'm gonna do this thing that someone explained to me once, this process by which you can influence, if not control, the subjects and narratives manifested in sleep.

I'm going to dream of that cross-country train ride, sharing Jelly Bellys from those massive buckets you were never without, and the smile that'd surely come to your face when we'd hit the state line.

It's so strange how you can be so lost in somewhere you've been before.

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