Friday, December 7, 2012

The Way You Don't Look in The Rain

The ride back up doesn’t evoke any emotion. I didn’t think that it would so I’m not surprised. After what is beginning to feel like months of constant traveling, going back up to Arcata just feels like another long trip. The first few hours are engaging enough, but eventually, I tire of my book. I tire of being in the car and I start to feel annoyed that I decided to come up here. The further north we go, the more beautiful the scenery becomes and the more disinterested I feel. What I’m looking at is much more beautiful than a lot of what I’d seen in South America. The stands of pine sweeping up and down the remote hills induce a calm that is tinged with melancholy. I cannot look at an endless forest without feeling what it would be like to be lost in the middle of it somewhere. It’s a familiar feeling, yet I don’t pay it much attention. I concentrate more on the fact that it’s been four hours and we’re still in the car and how the road winds relentlessly and how I haven’t had a job since the beginning of October. Arriving in Arcata, there is only the relief that comes of arriving at a destination, and destination, after a long drive. I take a second to stretch in the garage and I look around a little. Yeah, it’s the old neighborhood; the last place I lived before I moved to Argentina. For a moment, I remember how I missed a few things when I left. The first month in Buenos Aires when I thought about the clerk at the grocery store and the hidden paths that surreptitiously connected neighborhoods. For a time, I had thought about these things a lot. Even after Gina came down and I had the most important part of my life in Northern California with me, she and I would still reminisce about the smells and the colors of certain trees at night. In the city of 12 million people, they were the memories that were unique to us and we kept them until we forgot what we needed them for. As I stood looking around, I only thought, ‘here is another place I have already been.’ I felt neither positive or negative about that. When I went to sleep the thought was still there, unchanged and almost oppressive. It’s always nice to have coffee ready and waiting in the morning. I waking up, I smelled the coffee in gradually cooling in the kitchen, a smell that had always reminded me of the early mornings of my childhood and, thus, of Christmas. I take a cup and settle into a chair. The sun had only recently come up. I have nothing to do. I contemplate reading and drinking coffee throughout the day. I don’t have to find a job here. There’s no reason to hurry into town; I know from experience that there’s not very much there. Everyone at my old job will be different. It will be awkward to go in and look around for the one familiar person. The sights will be more or less the same and thinking of going back to campus makes me feel ashamed that I have done nothing with the degree I earned there already over two years ago. I read on the couch for a while, listlessly drinking coffee. My concentration begins to bounce a little and by about eight I’m beginning to want a long walk for the air and for the introspection that I may find in it. Right now, I can’t even concentrate on this National Geographic article. Gina and her mom are going to a dentist appointment. I am going to take a walk. Outside, the fog is beginning to burn off. The smell is something that seems to clean everything. It provides all the satisfaction of throwing a bucket of mop water onto dusty concrete. Walking through the fading fog, I think it pulls at you a little as it evaporates; it’s a lifting kind of feeling. I begin to pay a little more attention. I pass the old house and decide to walk up the driveway and take a closer look. Without even trying to summon the memory, I remember riding my bike up this way and how happy I always felt to be returning. There is the sound of the bells on the front door. The feeling of ‘Honey, I’m home.’ There is the warm panel of light hanging in the dark and the wet stars always looking so new like the gauze that covered them for so long had finally been ripped away. I go back to the road and feel the nostalgia a little for the first time. I walk with that slow gait of recollection, in which you feel like you’re being ferried through a place. When I cross the major street and the sun is fully out, I start to feel welcomed. I feel the familiarity of the place, not as something mundane, but as something fruitful. The trees, the clop of my shoes on the sidewalk, the car exhaust in the morning, it’s like they all combine to make up one thing that I’d nearly forgotten about. At the end of Baldwin, my old street, the nuance becomes absolute and there, in front of my old house, there I am. The way I was. I’m looking at myself, writing on the front steps, having a beer on the curb, talking on the phone in the parking lot. I am sitting inside the room with the shag carpeting, writing my thesis, the books scattered around me. I begin to feel the cold air in the room and decide that it’s time for a break. I walk outside and am confronted by myself, standing there, watching all these scenes that have passed. There is a brief moment of irreconcilability and then we walk off together, my past and present selves, to view the town where we parted so long ago.

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