(Days: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, 11-14, fifteen)
1/ix/04: Richfield, OH and thereabouts
15 miles/24 km
DAY 16 (Wednesday):
A fire alarm jerked me out of deep slumber. I looked around my hotel room, my drawn curtains holding the sun at bay, willing the alarm to stop. It didn't. I quickly pulled on my Skechers, grabbed my wallet, cell, keys, my room's key card, and threw my Kodak messenger bag o' important paperwork over my shoulder. I looked through the peephole and felt the door with my hand; there was no sign of fire, so I entered the hallway. The alarm was much louder there.
No flurry of people, fire or smoke, just a few abandoned maids' carts down the long hall. My room was on the ground floor and only a couple of doors away from an exit. Waves of radiating heat rose from the parking lot as I walked outside in my boxers and t-shirt, running my fingers through my bed hair. As the door clicked shut behind me, the alarm was finally muffled to a tolerable loudness.
The night before, I had parked outside of my room's window in the hopes that I would notice if someone was breaking into my car. I opened the driver's door and window to let some trapped heat out and then sat down wondering if I should move my car away from the building. I knew they were doing some construction on another wing and figured it was a false alarm, so I decided to wait. From there, I'd be able to hear if the alarm stopped.
A guy came out of the exit and gave me the once over as he walked past. It was possible he knew something about the alarm, so I watched him in my rearview mirror, but he just got into a car and left.
After about fifteen minutes, the fire alarm finally stopped. I called the front desk and confirmed it was a false alarm before heading back inside. L had the day off, but she'd made it clear she needed to "Accomplish Things," so we weren't due to meet up until after lunch, hours later. I showered and then killed time watching HBO, flipping through my Ohio AAA book only to find no places of interest listed in the immediate vicinity, and checking my email at the local library. I felt progressively restless because I wasn't getting anywhere. On a massive road trip, mileage equals accomplishment. Without it or something cool to do instead, all the regular life stress oozes back in.
When I showed up at her house at the appointed time that afternoon, she reiterated (yet again) that she still had a lot of things she needed to accomplish. I understood and was content to tag along, offering help where I could. We picked up some more boxes from her old place and brought them to her new house. Standing in the kitchen, we surveyed the piles. She looked overwhelmed.
"Is there anything I can help you unpack?" I asked.
"No," she said, looking around. "I just need to figure out where things go."
"Ok. But if you have any dishes that need to be washed, I'd be happy to do that."
"Hmm? Oh, that's all right. I packed most of them in dish towels and we've got a dishwasher, so it's fine. I just need to think."
"I totally know what you mean. I'll leave you to it."
She was startled by the suggestion and quickly assured me, "You don't have to go."
"I don't want to get in your way."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. I've got some stuff on tape if you're interested," she said, leading me into the next room where the tv was set up.
"Sure," I consented in the way you accept a beverage from an eager host to put her at ease. I can't for the life of me remember what the show was. It was something I used to watch but had lost track of, I think. A few minutes into a second episode, L poked her head in and said, "Hmm. I haven't seen this one."
"Did you want to watch it later? Cuz I have maps to look at and other stuff I can do."
"No, I can follow it in the background," she said somewhat exasperated, "I just can't talk."
She disappeared back into the kitchen.
I looked over at Tiger and Friday nearby on the couch and shrugged. It was good to see them. L had gotten Friday and later Tiger when they were kittens back when we first lived together. They had always been her pets, but I was still rather fond of them.
A few minutes later, the phone rang. As I sat watching the rest of an episode I did not care much about, L stopped what she was doing to shoot the breeze with someone for over twenty minutes. After being told all day that she couldn't take a break to talk or hang out with me, I was pissed. I was ready to let it go if it was someone calling long distance, but it turned out to be someone she knew locally.
"It's been 2 years since I've seen you and you can't make time for me, but you can make time for someone you see every week?" I demanded.
She was stunned, uncomprehending.
I reverted to relationship lingo she'd introduced back in the day, "That was a massive withdrawal."
It triggered immediate understanding but also tears. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to, I'm sorry," she choked out.
I wanted to remain angry, but it pained me that I'd made her cry. "I know you are. I was just upset. Please don't cry." I was careful not to say it was ok, however, because it wasn't. An emotional response doesn't make everything right.
"I love you," she sobbed.
"I know," I said calmly. She's the only person I know who can consistently and accurately read my inflections and body language. It's not fair to always be called on things you haven't even said, but that's just how it is with her.
I set my anger and resentment aside. It felt like letting it go, like I had done on other occasions for reasons large and small, but this hurt was placed in a vault amidst many others. It was the last thing I put in there, though at the time I didn't quite realize I was still storing so many past hurts or that there was even a vault for them. Months later when old anger started resurfacing, I'd come to realize that this one event had maxed out the vault's capacity, overtaxing its structural integrity: I couldn't stand being taken for granted anymore.
For the moment though, the vault held steady. She sensed my energy shift and calmed down. We stood quietly for a few minutes, and I started to wish I'd made plans with Boo in Pittsburgh for the next day instead of Friday.
"I'm hungry," I stated. "I saw a Subway up the road. Why don't I go pick us up some dinner while you do some more unpacking."
"What would you like?"
"Lettuce, cheese, mustard, salt and vinegar chips, and a coke?" I recited in case her tastes had changed.
She smiled and said, "Yeah."
"Do you know what Ed would like?"
"Oh, he has to work, so he's not going to be home for dinner."
"Ok, I'll be back in a bit."
Over dinner, I told her I was going to drive up to visit the Cleveland Museum of Art the next day. Since she'd previously expressed interest in it, I asked if she'd like to come, but she turned me down as I'd anticipated. We made plans to have dinner together instead since I was leaving on Friday.
I went back to the hotel, wrote out driving directions for myself, and watched Garden State and The Goodbye Girl.
One year ago at TTaT: Night aerobics, Did I just say that?
tags: road+trip, travelogue, travel, driving, Ohio