Monday, May 28, 2018

Gretchen's Last Ride

Everything about tonight is smooth—I think the poet would describe it velvet, but it is (thank God) not quite so heavy as that, the sun's delayed setting finally pulling down the mercury in the thermometers. Finally full, the moon shines through a slight halo, which means I can dub the evening "gossamer" and not be guilty of egregious romanticizing.

I guide Gretchen down the freshly-paved street (there was so much construction on these roads last summer), her exhaust pipe leaks creating an unintentionally disruptive roar. The radio is playing Taylor Swift, so that sort of dampens the muscle-y rumble, I guess.

I drive Gretchen (who is my car, by the way) through the moonlit navy blue sheet of night being pulled down over this little Rust Belt Nowhere, USA. This miniature city is a joy (aren't all cities?), and as I try to observe the necessary, proper rites of leaving, I find myself flooded with the impossible debt of love of belonging to a place.

College is a particularly blessed and happy time, but I wonder if our encounter with wherever we go to college is so intertwined with our own encounter with ourselves, that we cannot see the place very clearly. To return to this place where I became a human for four years is an unexpected joy. Because this place's sacredness, although not focused on, is not negated or obfuscated. This becomes another place where you can just live in, visit, and belong. The place becomes more apparent as it becomes less identified with your own experience or past and stands against you as its own entity, entirely.

As I gaze at the St. Joe's river, trying to stamp the sight of the shimmering lights and the roosting ducks in my heart, I am so glad. So glad that this river claims me as its own. That I have memories entrusted to it, which I cannot remember wholly on my own. A part of me is left here—and that, I believe, is the essence of belonging: to entrust yourself to an impermanent world and its contingent story. To link your own narrative with those of others, to weave your story into the same tapestry that others have begun. Where to love and who to love seem to be such risky endeavors with no guarantee—are we really in control of which places and people we fall in love with?

But we do. We catch small glimpses of home, if we are watching closely. And we turn our boats upstream, even, to follow them.

I cannot summon all the proper gratitude in this moment, to say goodbye to this small river. But the dryness and the effort are, in themselves, an offering of love from a heart stretched past capacity. I turn back to the car, remembering.

I drive Gretchen back up to the small fairy-tale house where we lived last summer. Cut the engine, and tuck her in underneath the trees which arch over the sidewalk, reaching toward the road.

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