94 East

I am not going to write about that night.


In general, I have never been a fan of secrets. They far too often transform into a malignancy that burdens the better angels of genuine intent. But, every once in a while, it is okay to squirrel moments away for just yourself.


And that Saturday night hidden away in Porter County is something just for me.


I will confess that despite the lack of an audience, I did my best to make a joyful noise. Because it has never been about the attention. Or, the accolades. It is about putting the words on the fucking page. Although admittedly, the occasional ego boner is appreciated. In fact, my four favorite words in the entirety of the English language are: “I like your writing.”


So, I chased words.  


Then danced alone. Wandered a familiar wood. Sat in the cold, wet sand beside the big lake and dreamed about summers yet to come. I sang my songs. The ones that others think are pollution. I chain smoked my way through the unique abandonment of another Indiana sunset; I cried my way through bottles ferried across state lines inside a black backpack.


In the morning, when the birds sang their own songs in celebration of another day, there were words on the page. Not the ones which I intended to find when I raced down hard out of the Mitten’s grip. But they were the ones that wanted to be found. And, the birth of a new novel isn’t something that just happens every day.


So I guess the room rental was worth it.


I felt bad for the housekeeping staff, though. While not destroyed in traditional “rock n’ roll” fashion—the television hadn’t been jettisoned off the balcony and unlike the last time, the curtains remained free of fire and I didn’t pee in the fake topiary—the room was still a mess.


The remnants of a blanket fort looked deflated in the first rays of that Indiana sun snaking through the uncharred curtains. There were cups and bottles in varying degrees of fullness sitting on every surface. Papers and notebooks were strewn across the floor. Post-Its on the mirror. I am still not certain where exactly my underwear ended up. The sauna, maybe. Because there were quite a few nocturnal visits to the pool area.


Overall, the king room with the woodside view exemplified the outward appearances of ferality. Because quite clearly I had regressed hard within the confines of my rented den. And I wasn’t going to apologize for that—in my own twisted way, I was treating myself.


But not wanting to be that kind of asshole guest who abandons their messes for some poor member of the housekeeping staff to tackle, I forced myself into a cursory tidy before packing up my kit.  


94 East was calling and the sooner my tires were back on the road, the better off everyone would be. I still had to turn back north into the bellies of too many beasts—some made of tin and others more feminine in nature; I couldn’t afford another night. Despite the security that impromptu blanket fort provided, there were ghosts still lurking in that hotel room. And I suspect they were conspiring with the Shadow People.


Experience has taught me that the only reliable way of getting rid of both is to just outrun them.  


So I had to get in the fucking car and move.


A few cups of mediocre coffee; a few bites of a mediocre breakfast. More than a few trips out to a little green car. Chain smoking in a parking lot ahead of a nervous drive north. A few goodbye moments sitting in that gazebo tucked in by the woods overlooking a little creek. Sitting singular on a swing chair built for two. Counting the rocks. Trying to remember what her tiny hand felt like in mine.


But being in that quirky part of Indiana, with their weird approach to time zones, I didn’t know which clock to trust. And that uncertainty made it difficult to remember.


So I could only try my best to just fucking ignore time. 


Because the world is different now. And that new world demands fresh memories. Ones unfettered. Clean. Free of the accusations. And, the abuse.


A final room check before checking out; one last pre-trip cigarette.


Then it was a few turns on some state roads. A quick pullover to top up the tank ahead of the interstate prices, just because I knew somebody would inevitably ask how much I paid for gas on my trip.


Frankly, I’ve always found that an annoying quirk of adulting. One that I just don’t understand. Because when the hell did gas prices replace more pertinent conversation? Or hard questions about truly important topics? Like what’s your favorite dinosaur?  


$3.40 a gallon in a 9 gallon tank still a quarter full. Some bubbles for the road to help settle a stomach churning from the nervousness of simply existing. A few yellow packs because tobacco is cheaper in Indiana and, given how much I had already been smoking, I wasn’t really in a place to punish myself with black pack perique shenanigans. Then the hunt was on for the first exit sign for 94 East that I could find.


Despite racing in the direction of dawn’s crack, the sky remained gloomy. Weather had blown in from the big lake on those big winds the day before, making everything feel heavy. At times, it was difficult to tell with any certainty exactly where the road ended and the sky began.


The flurries started literally just across the Michigan state line. The freezing rain, shortly after the snow. The weather dropped in fits and starts from the jumbled tapestry of swirling grey above.


The freezing precipitation didn’t stick to anything but memory. It was the kind of precipitation that you can actually see dropping in from miles away. So at least I was afforded that opportunity of anticipation.


What I didn’t expect was Casey Kasem.


Having run through the prearranged playlists on the drive down, I was at the mercy of the scanned radio stations on the way back up. About ten miles into the Mitten I caught it, that literal blast from the past, digitally remastered and re-released, counting down the Top 40 hits of that week back in 1981.


And I have to confess, that week’s number one song hit a lot harder at fifty years than what it did when I was nine. Because most nine year old boys lack the musical appreciation necessary to admire Dolly Parton’s body of work. Generally because most nine years old boys are too busy looking at her boobs.


I could only push on through a song lamenting that 9-5 existence. Just to get myself back to my part-time, tin-kicking existence. There was an already clean apartment to clean. Things to unpack. Both from the car and from inside my head. There was laundry to tackle. Words to write; art to create. Streets to stomp.


94 East was more kind to me than 94 West. Or, maybe I was just more kind to myself. I am still not certain. I just know that the drive seemed to go a little smoother. And, despite the uncooperative weather, a little faster.


94 East eventually hooked itself into 69 North. But they looked exactly the same. Only the numbers really changed.


It has become a familiar route of clutter and congestion; consequence and construction. And I couldn’t help but wonder, slinging around a familiar curve onto 496, just how many more times I am destined to run these roads.


Then it was the three stacks in the distance. Exit 5. Merging clumsily across four lanes back onto MLK. Because almost everything here lacks elegance. Or, convenience.


As I rolled back into it, I came to the realization that it isn’t my home, this strange Capital City. It’s just where I’m drinking living.


But maybe one day, if I am lucky, and I keep putting myself out there, I will find that right combination of roads.


The roads that lead me home.


About Typewriter Fox

...author, fighter, lover, typewriter fanatic, and unrepentant Fenian bastard. Known to few, hated by many, but still typing the good fight.

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