It was 112 degrees F when I left home. I opened my car windows and within moments could feel sweat collecting on the backs of my legs: I regretted the oil moisturizer I’d put on after showering as my calves began to glisten and when the angle of the sun was just right to land on them because the oil ran freely toward my ankles. It felt like fly feet.
Ten years prior, I’d been somewhere in New Mexico, I think, driving cross-country with my family: a husband, a son, two trucks with no air conditioning, two cats. I was starting a job on the opposite coast from where I started this life journey and was excited to drive across the country. By the time we arrived at the house we would lease for a few months before finding out how expensive boxes to live in are in California (we packed and moved out almost immediately since there was no way we could afford it if we somehow broke the house, what, on a recently hired academic’s salary coupled with a retiree’s monthly check? No way), I had to have been suffering from heat stroke. Or something.
Yet here I was, a decade later, subjecting myself to the heat. This car is two vehicles after the one I drove cross country in. It has air conditioning that works. But I needed to feel the heat, to remember so I could mark that life as truly done.
So I could say, without apology or hesitation, that the past is just that. So I could, if we were to meet, look the Creator of the Universe in the eyes and say, ‘Thank you for giving me a new groove’.
Ah, the Creator: what a sense of humor right there. I coast along, smugly rocking to the beat as I look at the northbound side of the highway, where weary travelers are stuck in bumper to bumper chaos. Until I hit a similar rift on the southbound side; yet I do not relent. My windows are still open and the sweat runs along the backs of my legs to make the black leather seats feel scooshy. I imagine the Creator smiling as I defiantly make circles with my nose and move my head in a subtle ‘uh uh’ like we used to do when we would hear Sam Figueroa on the turntables back in my DJ days in college. I was going for a short weekend get-away to the beach after a couple of weeks filled with 17-hour days. I miss the ocean and am under no illusions that I’d ever be able to afford to live there (I might joke about it, dream about it, and plan to maybe have a time share again one day …). However, putting my body in the ocean, allowing the salt to soak in, to feel the ebb and flow of the planet, gives me back a piece of myself.
I envision the Creator nodding as I remember the last time I drove the stretch of hot highway I am on. I had family then. I pass the exit we took to go to a different beach, some 60 or so miles north of where I am headed, where I will refresh, where I will look deeply into eyes I am grateful for. I thank the Creator for memories past and those yet to come. I breathe deeply as the temperature inexorably falls from 112: 109, 105, 100. It creeps back to 109 and plummets to 98 before dropping closer to 90. I smell the sea as I take a left toward the place I will renew myself for two days.
This time, there is no husband, there is no son, there are no cats. One cat remains at home, the child of one who made the trip west in the back of a burning hot SUV. The son is in his own space, experiencing semi-independent adulthood with others who have special needs like him. It is interesting to realize my own offspring is grown. The husband is on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge, happy I think for the life I’ve carved out for myself since he Left, the life he wanted me to have: he told me secrets before he crossed, secrets I could not believe I heard come from his mouth; he knew what was in store for him and did not want me to commiserate that there was nothing left for me to do on that Path. He told me to seek the new Path that the Creator had for me, to walk it until it crossed and joined and gave me an opportunity to step into new grooves.
I walk to the ocean and the Creator as I wait. A few hours and will look deeply into those eyes and smile.