Before leaving town yesterday afternoon I got a strange case of déjà vu standing in front of my friend’s door, which I always take to mean that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.
Saturday morning I slept in and then went to the farmer’s market where I picked up a loaf of zucchini chocolate bread for the first time in over a year, which seemed special in some way. I skipped over puddles and made faces at dogs before downing a pint-sized cup of complimentary rose-water lemonade and walking to grab a coffee, a spare chair and a table where I could enjoy a half hour of fiction.
A woman placed her things beside me and eventually we ended up in line at the same time, grabbing slices of lemon cakes and bagels and sharing details of our lives. She asked about my book and we talked about the now-defunct Borders and how there’s really no place like that around here anymore.
She told me she drove an hour to the Barnes and Noble on the plaza and it was nice but that she’s not there often enough for the drive to be convenient.
Maybe it’s that I’m on the precipice of another year, maybe it’s the fact that it’s the end of some things but when I get back to my seat that day I feel compelled to remember everything. So, like Zan McQuade I write it all down and for the next twelve hours I don’t stop.
I find pens in my car and take old ceremony programs from work and write it out in the five minute parking space in front of the dry cleaners. I keep one hand on the steering wheel and with the other I dangerously write down names as the next customer honks at me to hurry up and leave. I get the battery in the plastic one dollar watch from the antique store replaced for free and on the way out I run into my new dental hygienist—the one I share a history of small high schools and small towns with. I make a U-turn at the stoplight and head home for a twenty minute break where instead of reading what I’ve already written, I fill the margins with more and more notes.
Joshie has always told Post-Human Services staff to keep a diary, to remember who we were because every moment of our brains and synapses are rebuilt and rewired with maddening disregard for our personalities, so that each year, each month, each day we transform into a different person, an utterly unfaithful iteration of our original selves… – Super Sad True Love Story
After I finish my coffee and come to a stopping place in my book, I spend the rest of my Saturday morning running an errand I’ve set out to do for the past year. After I’ve finished the errand I see a sale sign and stop into the antique store I’ve passed countless times on 6th street and I buy an unused watch for one dollar. Normally, I would not have stopped but today is different.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The errand I ran involved an old pair of brown leather riding boots that needed to get re-heeled. I drive to the north side of Lawrence and unintentionally end up on a tour of the town.
The leather shop where I take my boots has a turquoise kayak in the yard, an old piano with keys that don’t move, piles and piles of bowling balls decorated with plastic jewels and paint that makes them seem like versions of the Earth if the Earth had been created by happy-go-lucky four year olds or Antoni Gaudi.
It takes the cobbler seconds to figure out what needs to be fixed on my boots and it takes me nearly half an hour to leave.
“Where are you from?” he asks and when I tell him “Kansas” in a general way he says “of course you’re a Kansas girl” with a smile. It’s the best compliment I’ve received in some time because I don’t think he would say the same to someone he suspected to be from Kansas City. I like his Kansas, I know it by heart.
I wonder if it’s the boots that have given me away—that I’d rather replace the leather around the soles where it’s too worn, that I’d prefer to keep an original, old pair of shoes with scuffs on the toes instead of buying something new and wearing them in.
Then I think that maybe it’s the way I take ownership of the entire state.
I suppose that it might be the way that I pivot from my spot, trying to see every inch of his workspace until he gives me permission to wander. Maybe he can tell by the way I pluck the strings of his mandolin and ask to hold his banjo, although I can’t play a single chord. Maybe it’s how I ask questions about the little girl in pictures playing what he refers to as a fiddle. Maybe he can tell by the way I absentmindedly finger the leather of the brown saddles in the back next to the rows of black motorcycle jackets waiting to be picked up. Or, maybe it’s that I ask questions and am happy to wait a half hour for the answers.
On the two second drive back into the heart of Lawrence, I pass a Southwestern style restaurant with outdoor seating and I can’t believe I had no idea that it existed. I almost want to believe that it has appeared just to surprise me, to show me more of what I haven’t seen but I know better. I’m seventeen again and I’m closing my eyes and wishing for more and more time like I don’t know that everything ends.
It’s not a war story, but it can sound like one.
To generalize about war is like generalizing about peace. Almost everything is true. Almost nothing is true. Though it’s odd, you’re never more alive than when you’re almost dead. You recognize what’s valuable. Freshly, as if for the first time, you love what’s best in yourself and in the world, all that might be lost. At the hour of dusk you sit at your foxhole and look out on a wide river turning pinkish red, and at the mountains beyond, and although in the morning you must cross the river and go into the mountains and do terrible things and maybe die, even so, you find yourself studying the fine colors on the river, you feel wonder and awe at the setting of the sun, and you are filled with a hard, aching love for how the world could be and always should be, but now is not. -The Things They Carried
My fear of auld lang syne compels me to write everything before time runs away from me and transformations that television high school valedictorians have warned me of for years begin to take place.
“Look to your left. Now look to your right. Remember yourself exactly as you are today.”