After the first day of ill-fated adventures and leaving the state we’d called home for nearly a decade everything became a kind of blur. The kind that happens around the edges of a photograph when you snap the shutter too quickly and the subject twirls in motion. That is what we were: in the motion of moving West. Each day we spent following after the sun, following until the sky turned to violet and then gathered up her skirts filled with stars, and then finding some small hotel to tuck into, our movements of unpacking for the night and packing again in the morning becoming more routine and efficient as the day wore on.
After the first day of leaving, a shift happened. We stopped being in the abrupt present tense of logistics that had held us so sturdily for months, and slipped instead into a more fluid state. I kept scattered notes in my molskeine, but never had time to sit with them, recording details in paragraphs the way I thought I might. Instead, I found myself simply becoming the journey.
I spent hours just watching out the window–or attentive at the wheel, and at night fell into whatever bed we’d claimed as ours for the night with fresh gratitude.
Here then, are the glimpses I remember.
Buffalo to Chicago
Bruce Springsteen singing Erie Canal. Crossing the uppermost corner of of Pennsylvania along the wide flat Lake Erie; so wide it looked like some gentle sea. The boys, rolling like puppies down the grassy hill at the rest stop. The sweet scent of petrichor, after rain began to fall. Bushes of singing birds at the rest stop in Ohio. Indiana slipping in and out of focus. Finding our way into Chicago after dusk and realizing immediately everything anyone has ever said about the city is true. It’s intensity and grit reared right up to meet us: Drivers hurtling past in their cars, merging without warning, road markings and traffic signals taken more as suggestion than regulation. Humans hurtling across the intersections without warning, strung out, running recklessly. Pitbulls. Boom boxes. Bright lights. Dark allies. Sweet music. Fierce beats. All of it. And still, the city begged to be loved.
At night from the 19th floor downtown, the city put on all her finery for us. Lights glittering in the constellations of loneliness and companionship all up and down the glass-windowed high-rises, and in the morning, while T went for coffee and to walk the dog, the boys jumped in giddy glee on the soft beds and the morning sun flirted with the rooftops, and blushed, finding herself reflected in every window-glass.
For the boys everything was thrilling from that vantage point in the sky, but seeing Daddy walking the dog two blocks away–and then having him turn and wave up at them at just that very moment, that felt like magic. And then the parks and the waterfront and the Little Goat Dine with it’s menu of brilliant collisions. It’s above ground subways with trains clattering overhead to delight the boys. The smell of chocolate brioche in the air. The confused circles we made looking for just the right coffee shop. The biggest Whole Food’s EVER. The overwhelm of it. The best fish tacos. Restocking on coloring books and sticker books and chapter books and mazes at Barnes & Noble, and then off, later than we’d planned to cross the width of Iowa.