i was living in boston and was supposed to let my doctor know any time that i was planning on going out of town.
One night ceilia called to say that she and Kevin were driving to Chicago and that i should come along.
They picked me up the next day in her battered red beetle with the oval rear window. i had the back seat all to my self. i watched the scenery, slept and made sandwiches.
i don’t remember too much about the first part of the trip. i remember we stopped to watch a small town parade and that further along we were tail gating a big 18 wheeler that turned into a giant manta ray which flapped it’s wings and effortlessly arced away from the road when we finally got too close.
i slept on and off and enjoyed the vibration of the window against my face.
And then there was the part where i woke to the absence of motion. We were pulled over. Ceilia and Kevin said i should stay with the car and they’d return with gas. i went back to sleep and woke again feeling light, refreshed and wanting to stretch.
i circled the car a few times and then headed up the road. It was woodsy and as idyllic as the cover of a coffee table book. i walked and walked. i’m not a great whistler but i remember that was the feeling of it. i cut through a field with big black and white spotty cows. i crossed some train tracks. More fields. i kept being able to find the same stone i had kicked so many times i finally lost the count. Eventually i needed to rest and just laid down in the magic of the day.
When i woke up i didn’t feel quite so good as i had, but not so bad either. The sun wasn’t where i’d seen it last and it had cooled off a bit. i wasn’t positive which way was back.
Okay. i’ll go this way and if i don’t hit the train tracks i’ll go the other. But that got weird cause even after i had walked a long long way without reaching the tracks i still had the feeling they could be up ahead. And on top of that the truth was that i’d seen everything the way i had just come and really didn’t want to see it for a second or third time – something in me just didn’t want to turn around - i felt like i was done with everything in that direction.
The next thing that happened was “significant”. i bent down to tie a shoe lace that had come loose. In my life discovering an untied shoe lace ALWAYS means something is about to happen. i bent down wondering what it would be.
It was a big station wagon driven by this couple with two kids. They pulled over and asked if everything was alright and did i need a ride?
i sat in back with the kids. Turns out they were locals and it was the first Saturday of the month which was their day to have diner at their favorite restaurant attached to the service station not far away. It was a family tradition and i was welcomed to join them. Their treat.
i saw the bible up on the dashboard but they never mentioned it. They were just plain sweet. i awoke to the little boy tugging on my shirt. We were there.
The menu was like what you would have imagined. i was tempted by the spaghetti plate but went with an ice cream sundae. the mother’s brow momentarily knit but she softened right away. The kids were talkative which was making it easy on me. And then two things happened at once.
The waitress rounded into the isle and i could see my sundae coming in a fancy glass bowl with five inches of whipped cream and a cherry. Whoa! And - simultaneously i thought i heard someone call my name.
There at the cash register by the entrance was ceilia and Kevin.
Ceilia got to the table fast. “where the fuck have you been? We’ve been looking for you all day”.
Everyone at the table winced with that. i didn’t know what to say.
“come on man we gotta go now!”
the waitress had arrived with my sundae and i was torn, i felt conflicted and at the same time sort of sleepy.
The mother spoke. “you can take it with you. We know the owners and it’ll be okay”.
i will never forget her eyes.
And then i was in the back seat again. Only now ceilia and Kevin weren’t talking to me. They were acting like i wasn’t there. Which actually made it easier for me to enjoy my ice cream.
i woke up in Chicago.