Thought I would take a shortcut of sorts, driving down 33E rather than subjecting myself to the mini-horror that is 29N and the mind-numbing sameness of 64E. Wasn’t prepared for all the ghosts floating up before me on the trip though.
It was a gorgeous day – something I definitely will NOT miss about Pittsburgh is gray, cold weather, even in June. This day was warm, summer-warm, and it seemed as if the Earth had turned green overnight. I drove past millions of antique shops and acre upon rolling acre of horse farms, wineries, the fencing rolling up and down, up and down like a wave machine in a Sharper Image store (how’s that for forced simile?).
Passed by the Barboursville Ruins and vineyard and it reminded me of a trip made long ago by myself, my cousin Kelly, and her roommate, Marnie. We were headed to see my cousin’s sister at JMU for the weekend and took the long way. Stopped off at the ruins and lay in the grass on the first pretty spring day of the year. Then traveled along 33W with Belly’s “Feed the Tree” blaring out of the stereo. Heard that song the other day as I was dropping off donate-ables to the Salvation Army. The drive and the song whispering, “Remember me? Remember that trip you took?”
At the time I was so up in the air, nothing solid, nothing stable, and I remember passing a white farmhouse with a cerise roof. “I want to live there,” I thought, “right there.” Big oak tree, big porch, sunny day. Bright red roof. That house promised stability, contentment, home, and family. My heart actually lurched and I wanted that and what it represented more than anything on this green earth. It felt like something I could hold onto.
The trip itself was great fun – Jenny was (and still is) a tremendous actress and her and her roommates at JMU had rented a farm house in the sticks. Huge party that night, everyone drinking, sleeping in the grass. We lost our keys somewhere. I remember a short guy on a porch playing an acoustic version of “Tangled Up in Blue”. Cows mooing along to the melody, fireflies bouncing. And that cerise roof. Still on my mind.
Now, driving to Richmond, I began to look for it unconsciously. That ghost from my past. Drove the whole way down 33E looking for it. Saw some that looked similar but weren’t quite the right shade. Me looking for ghosts.
I found them in Richmond. In the shops and the streets my sister and I walked in Richmond. We ate lunch in Nacho Mama’s and it was as crappy as it ever was. Plan 9 still around. Luxor still around. Saw glimpses of old friends, looking older, grayer. Saw my favorite professor walking into Barnes and Noble – same gray hair. Still with that childlike twinkle and smile about her. Didn’t have the guts to say hello. Had that fear I would see in her eyes something that said, “Wow, you sure have changed.”
Saw the most ghosts in World of Mirth as my sister and I shopped for my cousin Kelly’s baby shower next week. I felt them all around me swirling, hovering, like a hand on a shoulder or a breath on the back of your neck. Kept expecting Kathryn to walk out the back or to see Bryan slumped on a sofa which isn’t there anymore. It wasn’t creepy per se, or even unsettling. Just found I had to breathe a little more to get through it. I don’t care what people say – it’s always going to be a little tough for me to shop there. The altar at the front of the store startled me so much I dropped my bag and gave a little, “Oh!”. Didn’t expect to see that there, and it made me turn away…
I miss them so damn much.
Drove home late that night with an almost full moon above me, its light settling itself on everything I sped past. I felt the ghosts swirling, rising, and then settling again. Took 64W to Gordonsville, heading up 15N for a spell. The moon shining, I suddenly get this feeling that I’ve been on this road before, this very one. I know I have. Something tells me that this is the road with the red roof. I know it, but of course, even with the moon’s light I cannot see it. I drive on and out of 7,000 songs on my IPod, what comes on? House of Freaks song, “40 years” starts playing. Then my mother’s favorite – Rod Stewart’s “Reason to Believe”. Then Francis Dunnery singing about how he’s going to take my mother away so I can be broken down and then built back up again.
You can’t tell me the ghosts aren’t out tonight. I can feel them. I’m not scared, not comforted, just aware that they are about. And I just keep driving. And breathing.
A funny thing has happened since we have moved back to Virginia. The feeling I got from seeing that house so long ago has appeared again inside me. It’s like a seed, or a low, blue flame. I feel a little glimmer of something like contentment growing with each day I spend here. I still feel like a stranger – it’s so different from Pittsburgh, but that feeling lessens each day I spend walking our woods. Not to be too schmaltzy or anything, but I may have just found something. There’s just such a rightness to everything for the first time in a long time.
A week before going to Richmond, I had a dream about Bryan. We were in his studio, and he was telling me how excited he was because his new album was coming out, and Kathryn was pregnant again. I awoke smiling, feeling like I had been to another place, a better place…