I flirted with the familiar yesterday, twice, because I’m tired.
Outside Roanoke, Virginia, last night the campgrounds were full by the time I was ready to stop. Seems that people live in them here, rather than being geared as much to tourists. I really wanted a good night’s sleep, and a day off the road, but here we are at another truck stop, and shall move on soon.
I doubt it’s just me who, no matter how unsatisfying or even unacceptable something was that shaped my life, finds that the familiar exerts the strongest pull of all when the will is weakened. This may explain so many things.
Asheville, North Carolina is one of those anointed towns that a certain class of people gravitate to in their search for the good life, along with a list I’ve heard from arrivals in my own native ‘nirvana’. Boulder, Colorado; Madison, Wisconsin; Santa Cruz, California (although not so much lately, have y’all ruined that too?); Bend, Oregon; Brooklyn, New York; Portland, Oregon; Austin, Texas (though again, not so much lately). You can find locally-sourced food, craft beer, yoga classes, good coffee, recycling, attractive surroundings that double as your gym, and jobs in health care, education, government, and tech or other services. And not diversity exactly, but certainly the embracing of the idea of it!
That means a gay bar, especially if you’re male, and lots of outdoorsy women in certain breakfast cafes who are just as eager for fresh meat but don’t say it out loud. Did I need to experience Asheville for myself? Not really. But for an experiment, I put the phone away and let myself follow my instincts from the interstate to a place where I could get what I call decent food. Unerringly, I piloted Janet through the tiny but proud ‘arts district’ to the street lined with cute shops, cafes and a bookstore, and got a locally-sourced burger, beer and ice cream–and paid double what I paid for my down-home Southern fried dinner the night before. Then I walked out the door and almost instantly ran into a woman coming around a corner. She looked likely in all the right ways, and as I apologized in surprise, she stopped, smiled, and said ‘Hi!’ I kept going, returned the greeting with a laugh, and did not look back.
Oh my god, had I really been thinking that I would find love and contentment in Asheville, North Carolina? I decided I must be lonely, and so it was. I have been depriving myself of quality time, with myself.
The other place I stopped was the place in Yadkin County, North Carolina, where my ex-husband’s family goes back for generations. I found I had accidentally routed us through there without realizing it. I went there many years ago as a young bride, and remembered the homes and relations we visited in the vivid way that turning points in one’s life can be fixed in memory. At a gas station in Jonesville I saw an old farmer in overalls, with a heavily creased face from outdoor work. I knew he would know of the family, and thought I might inquire when he came out. As I waited for him, looking on my phone for the best way to the interstate, I realized that nobody in that family had shown the slightest interest in me back then, and that any nostalgia I had was manufactured as a way to find strength in my past. The only thing that truly moved me about that visit was seeing fireflies for the first time. Inquire about what?
Well, enough of that. I have used my past to strengthen myself, and don’t need to toy with it. I peed in Yadkin County, and left without taking a thing.