A nighttime storm is approaching and the air hangs heavy against my chest like a lead-filled x-ray apron. We're heading to town for some late-night grocery shopping. In the garage, I open the car door and squeeze behind the wheel as Tyler buckles his seat belt next to me. Pulling away from the lengthy wooded drive of his mother's home, we cruise into the countryside at dusk.
The fields around us are a sea of grasses blowing in the breeze, lighted by our headlights they dance and shimmy to scratchy classical music on our radio's not-quite-in-tune NPR station. Rolling down the windows, with cool air in our faces, we drive along deserted country roads.
With one arm dangling out the window, I scan the horizon and begin to wonder if it's not the weather that feels like a stifling weight. Perhaps it's the growing presence of a voice I've been trying to ignore, darkly breathing down my neck, haunting me like a specter, whispering: you do not belong here.
We're nearing our old neighborhood now, a cookie-cutter subdivision where Tyler and I used to live. We pass the nursery where I bought basil and lemongrass, and the street where I used to go jogging. I remember getting lost in this maze of sameness when I first moved here. "Why don't we drive by our old house?", we ask each other, making a slight detour, pulling onto a street that once held our home.
As we roll through the community silently, we look on, agape at a life that could have been ours. Rows of nearly identical box-like homes line the street, seeming to us for all the world, like enormous gravestones. Neatly fronted with identical manicured lawns, sliced into pieces by swaths of concrete, with scarcely a tree in sight, this place feels like another planet, an alternate universe in which everything is wrong.
"I feel like a ghost" I say, and Tyler quickly agrees, offering that he feels it too, comparing our visit to phantom Scrooge observing his life in The Christmas Carol. "Ugh, let's get out of here", we mutter in unison, as if shaking off a bad dream.
Arriving at the local grocery store, we pass through the establishment's pride and joy: an automatic rotating door the size of a small house. As we shuffle at a snail's pace in a half circle through the opening, I feel like a cow on it's way to slaughter. Stepping foot inside, I am struck with the realization that the door behind me has probably been turning non-stop since we left. Shaking my head as we grab a hand-cart, I remember when the unveiling of that pointless carousel was the talk of the town.
Standing at the entrance of Coborn's, at 11:00 PM, Tara and I exchange a pair of wide eyes, feeling like aliens. Together, we walk through towering walls full of bright and shiny packaging. Most of it is, as Tara's mother would say, "unfit for human consumption!"
We make our way to the produce section where we feel slightly more at home, only to reel at the prices of organic food. A bunch of organic kale: 4 dollars. Organic beets, 3 dollars. Real cheese, 12 dollars. As we browse, tearing off flimsy plastic bags to hold each and every fruit and vegetable, Tara and I collaborate on a mental checklist: Must cultivate garden ASAP. Must learn to make cheese ASAP. Must make or buy reusable bags ASAP.
I cannot wait to have our own land, to be building our own home, and to be growing our own food.
At last, we hop in the car and crank the radio, trying to wipe the experience away by playing music louder than our thoughts. With the windows down, cool, fat drops of rain begin to fall on our forearms, and the sky is lit with a jagged flash of lightning, crackling down towards the ground. Suddenly we feel alive again, driving into the night.
We could just keep driving, I think, and in that thought is a feeling of freedom. How far would we get by sun-up tomorrow? We could just keep going, straight through Mexico, down towards the ends of the Earth. We could just keep driving forever.