This is an excerpt from my first travel journal, begun when I was rebuilding my life after a heartbreak. I had met a lovely man who would become my husband, but I didn’t know that yet. I also never dreamed he would become my late husband.
I stumbled on this piece this morning and its simple joy and excitement took my breath away then handed it back to me. That woman was learning to take risks–on paper, in real life and with her heart.
Friday, November 9, 2001
Every journey begins at home. I am lying in the narrow iron bed at home and all is as it usually is. Moxie is asleep downstairs in her crate; Gay coughs from their bedroom; Cassie whines at the door, just wishing she could be in here with Zoë and me.
I have a new travel clock and its ticking has captured Zoë’s attention. Maybe it is strange for her to be aware of time passing by.
My first trip since Gay bought me this beautiful journal in New Orleans. It is stiff and clean but the paper feels so rich as it slides beneath my hand. Tomorrow, Baltimore and two nights with Richard. I want to eat crabs, drink wine and sleep curled together with him.
So that is where this record of my travels begins—home, a narrow bed, a ticking clock.
November 10, 2001 8:00am
Flight 1044 Atlanta to Dulles
This is a haunted route. Any plane to Washington DC has that sense of foreboding, drums in the distance or the eerie wait for night to fall so you can see the location and number of your enemy by their campfires. Knowing one bad thing has happened and waiting for the next.
The dark-skinned man in the row behind me was stopped at the gate and his duffle bag rummaged while an embarrassed looking woman swept a metal detection wand over him, his outstretched arms and head dropped to his chest. His shining gold wedding ring made the wand chirp. We white women in line looked away.
Cabin lights dim and hands reach for the overhead light buttons, reflex. I cut it close this morning, just at the gate 10 minutes before we leave. Two flight attendants cut in front of me at the metal detector line, and when I said, “We can’t go anywhere without you!” they were thrilled to hear “someone nice.” Maybe things are getting back to normal–I said, “Fuck you” to a stranger this morning when he fussed at me for walking the wrong way.
One hour later and we haven’t moved an inch. This, too, is traveling—pointing yourself in the right direction and waiting for the wind to catch hold. The pilot has reassured us that it’s a mechanical problem with the plane’s attitude monitor. That’s so true.
Off the right wing of the plane, there is a round white glow, the size of a small pond, that follows us on the ground. I know it is our reflection, the angle of the sun, the same angle that makes the shadow of my hand across this page. But it is sweeter to call it an angel, to see something merry in the way it twinkles over rooftops, treetops and the flat shimmer of water in the Chesapeake Bay.
November 11, 2001 5:45pm
We had lamb in masala sauce with Mandy and Steve last night. Listened to Marilyn babble as she served us from a plastic tea set. Holding hands with Richard as we walk down the dark streets. Making love on new sheets.
This morning, we ate sticky rolls and talked about going to Europe next month. Watched a wreath being placed on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I felt sad for the people left behind and he felt proud for having gone. And lucky for coming back.
We walked around the harbor, watched the seals having lunch. One seal named Lady looked a lot like Zoë. We ate crackers and cheese by the water and watched the jellyfish sparkle when the sun hit them. We sat in the prow of the water taxi and the spray wet my feet, but we snuggled together, our ears touching. We joked with the gatekeeper about places for me to spend Richard’s money.
We drank coffee and lingered in the warm coffeehouse but suffered the clatter of the bathroom keys chained to old hubcaps. We talked about other people’s problems.
And here I sit with a glass of wine in my solitude…and just as I write that, R opens the door and he and the kitty spy on a real writer at work.
He carries things for me. He endures shopping for a Christmas ornament. The first thing I saw this morning was the vulnerable curve of the back of his neck. It’s been a good day. It’s been a “we” day. We started the day talking about football and we drove home talking about theoretical math and epenthesis. Sometimes he explains, sometimes I do.
This is supposed to be my travel journal and here I am writing about a person. But the best part of today was exploring the world with someone and exploring each other too. Inner world, outer world. Richard explained to me that theoretical math allows you to simulate reality and test variables. I told him that writing does the same for me.