That evening Sue allows me to take her out to dinner for her upcoming birthday. We go to a Mexican restaurant. It’s practically deserted, due in part to the weather, I’m sure.
Friday she and I meander around town together. She needs a few things for her house. The rain has stopped but the wind has not. I still need my sweater. I am heartily sick of it by this point. I’ve borrowed jeans from her and a warm pullover for when it’s really cold. I don’t think I’ve been comfortable since I left home. Missouri was hot, dry and sunny. Illinois has bounced from one extreme to the other with only the wind being consistent in both places.
Friday night I am meeting Monica who grew up in Ladd. We were friends in our school years there beginning in sixth grade and up until I left the area halfway through high school. I still don’t know how we lost track of each other. Somehow I found her again when she lived in Phoenix and lost her again at some point. I hunted her down a couple of years ago via the internet. She lives in Indiana now and we are Facebook friends. Her mother-in-law lives in Peru and she has suggested we meet at a restaurant in LaSalle.
I walk in and she is there and I don’t think she’s changed hardly at all from high school. I recognize her immediately and we hug for a long time. We decide to sit outside unless it gets too cold. Finally it got to maybe 70 today and the wind seems to have died down. I’m wearing my black sweater and black “skinny” jeans so I think I’ll be okay.
We order wine (shocker). I give her a brief review of my trip to Missouri when she asks and then we follow the same pattern Barb and I did yesterday. Taking turns eating and talking. Trying to catch up on forty years in a few hours.
Monica and I have a few odd coincidences in common. She is an English teacher and I am a writer. How did we end up where we are?
Monica tells me her memory of the first time she saw me. I had a very thick book with me that I was reading. (The original version of Heidi.) This was at the beginning of sixth grade. She was so impressed and thought maybe someday she’d read big books like that, too.
I leave Monica wishing I didn’t have to. There are six million more things I want to ask her and talk about. Maybe next time.
Barb and Monica have given me back pieces of my youth I thought I’d lost. Their memories of me help me find bits of myself. Yet the entire trip, the experience of seeing them is somehow surreal. I knew them not in another lifetime, but at a time in my life I’m so far removed from now it’s hard to comprehend that I was even there. But I know I was. They confirm it.
While Sue and I were shopping at the local stores I kept looking at the other people there and wondering if they were someone I might have known but now can’t recall or recognize. They could be. Someone from my class, someone I once knew. I keep thinking “this could have been my life.” If my father hadn’t changed jobs, if we hadn’t constantly relocated. If, if if.
By Saturday I am more than ready to return home. I fill Steve’s truck with gas and return it to him. He never acts like he wants to be hugged, but we hug goodbye anyway. He waves to Sue. We head for O’Hare.
We are rushed by a guard at the drop-off curb to get moving, there’s no waiting. Yes, sir. Right away, sir. Near the ticket counter I dig for my itinerary for check-in and realize I forgot something.
My black sweater. I left it on the passenger seat of Sue’s car. I don’t care. I don’t need it where I’m going. Back to the warmth of Florida where I’ve lived longer than I’ve lived anywhere else.
When I step off the plane and find my husband waiting to hug me I know something I think I’ve always known: No matter where it is, there’s no place like home.
This concludes all episodes of Family Therapy in The House of Dust. Thank you for following the thread. Look for A FOREVER KIND OF GUY, out in print September 4, 2012. The eBook version is also available.
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