neon : culmination

Your last night away from home puts you in an unfamiliar place, across the table from a face you haven't seen in six years and forty pounds. He is older and bearded, and the baskets of wings vary from sweet to hot, and the pomegranate margarita is exactly the kind of sweet, fluffy drink you want at the end of the trip when beer tastes too much like effort.

You explain your life to his girlfriend, with all its complexities and oddities and self-determined ethics, and what should have been a completely substandard hot tub visit due to lack of 'hot' turns into utter hilarity when the preteens invade the tub. The four of you mock them mercilessly, their senses of self-preservation so woefully undeveloped they do not even recognize your mockery.

After pruning your fingers and splitting your sides from laughter they finally retreat to the pool at large, where they continue to be loud annoyances. The four of you have your revenge, throwing the circuit breakers before running, barefoot, cackling, back to the apartment. Behind you are choruses of "Aw, man!" while you chuckle to yourself: perhaps, next time, you won't spend your time splashing the adults in the hot tub, will you, kids?

Scattergories keeps you up late, and when your eyes close after stretching out on yet another non-bed in yet another state in yet another time zone, they lock shut until it's time for yet another airport.

You make what you suspect may be your last drive down Peña Boulevard and drop your car off, hoping beyond hope that someone, anyone, will meet you at your tiny little Huntsville airport. You swing briefly through an Atlanta layover if for no other reason than the feeling of coming full circle on this mad whirlwind trip, and the half-hour flight takes you through one last timezone before setting you down neatly in the sticky, humid, swampy air of northern Alabama.

When you see him, waiting by the baggage claim area, a quick check of your hands reveals a little of the phosphorescence that lit the room in Saint Paul, Minnesota.  The words don't come because you don't know where to start, because you know yourself well enough to be aware that once you start talking, you won't be able to stop for hours.

So you stop.  You breathe, your nose still raw from the sandpaper air of Denver, and you listen to his stories first. Yours will come in time, when they are ready, which is usually somewhere between erasing your sleep deprivation and actually acclimating to your current time zone.

You know yourself. Your story will come when you've had enough rest to be coherent, but not enough to be grounded. It is easier to see when you are still a little transparent from the airports. With familiarity comes solidity, and with that solidity comes silence.

On the way home from work you roll down the windows and kill a little of your hearing with the stereo on the car you adore and measure rental cars by. You wonder if tonight will be the night that you write.

The iPod, as usual, has a mind of its own.

She comes and goes and comes and goes like no one can
She comes and goes and no one knows she's slipping through my hands
She's always buzzing just like ...

... When it throws it at you twice in a row, first the electric and then the acoustic version, you know.  You come home, feed the cats, and turn on your laptop, because it's time to speak.