Back from dad’s. Interesting time. Fun with dad and one of my younger brothers (I’m one of four boys). Lots of uncomfortably nostalgic moments–gut-wrenching, nausea-inducing, though not always in a bad way. Seeing houses I used to pass every day, now painted different colors with different owners. Visiting the family farm, very different from when my grandparents were alive. Seeing their barn torn down, a new man living in their house, all the livestock sold, nothing but acres of lumber now. All in all: weird, but bearable. At least the people don’t change.
My dad bought some new land–that’s cool. A place for a new house, with a small lake. It’s beautiful, covered in poplar, live oak, and pecan. When I got home, I found three ticks on my leg.
I change when I go back to Mississippi, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. I become more prone to small talk, and a Southern accent I never really had as a kid creeps into my speech. On the one hand, it’s easy to talk to my family that way–when in Rome, right?. On the other hand, it feels vaguely schizophrenic–worrisome because schizophrenia runs in my mother’s side of the family. Luckily, I’m adopted.
On the drive back to New Orleans, I had another odd moment. I’d gotten to a point on the interstate that’s fairly isolated–no major towns for several miles in either direction. It was there that my old Bronco broke down about a year and a half ago (bad water pump). Anyway, today I’m driving down the interstate, blaring some old skool Nina Hagen or something, and when I get to that point in the trek, I see a car on the side of the road–a green Volvo, windows down, flat tire. A few yards further, I see a guy, mid- to late-20s, walking along, thumb out. He’s wearing a white t-shirt, jeans, horn-rimmed glasses. Exactly what I was wearing when the Bronco gave out. He looks like a thoroughly nice college kid having a bad day, in need of a jack.
I tried to stop, to pull over, but I was in the passing lane, and couldn’t squeeze over just then. And by the time the other cars had cleared, he was nothing but a small disgruntled speck in my rear view mirror. To him, I was just another guy in another car, rocking out to some guitar-laden music and leaving him in the dust.
I felt awful. I started to panic. I knew how he felt at that moment, alone on a Mississippi highway as the sun’s going down, plenty of cars passing but no one stopping. My anxiety was made worse by the fact that it was so clearly some kind of cosmic, Shirley McClaine-style sign from goddess; my sartorial twin, frustrated, angrily walking the very same stretch of gravel shoulder I’d traveled a few months back. When it happened to me, I was picked up by a woman in a compact car with her two kids. I could have been anyone, Charles Manson’s little brother for all she knew, but she took a chance, and I told myself then I’d try to repay the favor someday.
Someday was today and I had my chance and I blew it. I felt awful all the way home. Wherever you are kid, I hope you’re with friends, warm and full of food.