T-minus seven hours and counting until I leave the mosquito-fest and blackfly bonanza that is my home for the summer staple roadtrip. Over the years, it’s been a complex event, going to my hometown, filled with the whole catalog of emotions and psychological confusion that one could reasonably expect in this our frenetic modern era. I left home young and with few resentments. I just drove off one day when I was supposed to be on a week’s paid vacation from work. I drove to Amherst and drove on. Cleveland, Council Bluffs, Denver, and I just kept going. But I owe my family everything, and I knew that then as well as I know it now. I just wasn’t cut out for the East Coast. I hate traffic, the Joneses, and the curious ability of people from my home city to sincerely believe they not only invented urban life but have perfected it beyond any point of debate.
So, when I go home and catch up with my friends, with the boys who are men now, I never feel quite exactly home. Rather, it’s almost home but as close to home as I can ask for. It’s a dreamish blend of reality and memory. For it is memory we’re acting out. Except we’ve traded the high school classroom and pool hall for the bar, for the nightclub, we’ve traded the study hall for the “so how are you doing? Another Yingling?”
And I’m doing well. I’ve a good life here in the middle of nowhere, in a place my friends are convinced is Canada. If pressed, they’d have a fifty-fifty shot picking my town from Kuala Lumpur. But I live here. I’ve my work, my dog, and a lake. I’ve got 300 inches of snow a year. I have good snow shovels and scoops. And I know that I can never come home again in any way that matters. I’ll take my few weeks off, I’ll enjoy my friends, my family who I love, and I’ll know, as I drive out of the city, the interstate on-ramps blinking in the rearview, that those who said they’ll visit, won’t. I’ll know that my life and theirs are seperate, and there’s no reconnecting. There is no way-back machine strong enough to erase the intervening years. And I’ll be grateful for what I have, for the radio and the sleeping dog in the back of the truck, and for the cigarettes, for the coffee, for the last city lights fading like so many ignis fatuus I’ll be glad to leave to their own messy devices.