On November 13 2009, I ended up in North Carolina and it was a Friday. The first line to a novel I probably won’t write, too busy trying. A few days away from 21, I was restless while waiting--though for what? On a visit of a dear childhood friend, a Libra. All my best friends are Libras.
This friend would be one of few who agree with keeping at pace through travel. Or rather, the one person in the world who would visit me anywhere. I visit her often, but this week especially, because this date in 2009 falls in-between her birthday and mine.
In the morning, we woke early with plans to attend a small Appalachian-side yoga festival. Or was it bluegrass? Both? There was a poetry reading, and we sat under a tent away from the southern sun. I might have fallen in love with someone wearing a backpack on stage. In a field, quiet puppets larger than the people who made them cast shadows while we had lemonade and made necklaces out of daisies. On our way out, we ignored a circle of hula hoops unattended.
By late day, I crashed the backseat of my dream car belonging to another friend while the Libra was getting her fourth lesson in manual transmission. Type B procedural fits found pleasure in dreaming what if. We craved strawberries out of season, not working another day in our lives, and naming our own cats. I ate a couple of handfuls of stale popcorn from the night before we walked into a movie theater only to buy snacks. Daylight goes on and on with the kind of laughter defined by past teens learning dirt roads, giggling.
Who knows what we really ate, for a meal, if anything, but we did drink that night. We smoked usually for no reason, but to be closer to earth. Otherwise, air, to, you know, fit in. Hairspray haze and the shortest skirts. Even ten years later, whenever my fingertips skim past textiles onto skin, I recall my mother’s eyes those years while trying on anything. How she said once, “Just don’t bend over honey.”
It was the first time I stepped into a bar. If you can believe it, I spun my Scorpio web about how I had just driven eight whole hours, mouthing every syllable. Did I whine? Of course I did. “I left my ID at a rest stop in Maryland while listening to some NPR episode about ghosts.” I told the bouncer, “I believe ghosts haunt more than the houses people die inside.”
He offered my stoned skirt and hot pink heels a big fat X on my hand and threw me inside. If I remember right, the place was called The Library despite not having any books. We played beer pong for as long as our camera phones could hold us, until later, which offered dark parking lot innocence for a youthful pack. I don’t remember the phone booth or the drunk stranger begging to be a part, but with the gift of a balloon, he was now. I was not yet 21, but my friends were.
The other side of the story: a decade ago, I was in college and lackadaisical. I spent my weekends on the road. Always leaving to arrive, to surprise, to take over and let go. I thought I had already done my time. I owned nothing but belonging in a car that was once my mother’s before she died, and god watched me put on miles and miles until she did. How could I have known a few years later to date would be the last time I would hold her face between my hands--what she had created--and kiss her temple. A worship, her angel skin. I return to that place often.
Unless driving, unless walking, what is this life if not moving forward? Not linear, definitely cyclical. Spell casts stillness in never, in death, so we age. I have been here before. This year feels different.
Karen Cygnarowicz is a writer and visual artist living in Vermont for the second time. Follow her on Instagram @thiswildlight
Karen encourages you to check out A Blade of Grass (abladeofgrass.org) which provides resources to artists who demonstrate artistic excellence and serve as innovative conduits for social change.