We drove around with five fluorescent lamp bulbs in the back of the Volvo and one of the two mufflers missing with the second one scraping the pavement and hanging there wrong like a bad organ, something that needs removed or adjusted but never would, like the lamp bulbs that need recycling and only one place will take them, across town.
I was a pulsating dot on the GPS creeping closer to a different colored dot, amid other dots and avenues lined with trees, sprinkler systems hissing, strip malls and churches, the suburbs.
When I got to the hardware store I used a broomstick handle to hold the liftgate ajar on the Volvo since the gas in the piston rods is gone, only works when the outdoor temperature is just right, like the sun roof that won’t close properly without the aid of a plastic spatula, something small in the assembly unit that doesn’t work and would cost too much to fix.
And they had a sign on the door at the hardware store; I knew what it said before I read it, they weren’t accepting returns because they’re going out of business next month. I dropped off the lamps and thought I should buy something as a sign of good faith, and also since we’d just finished reconciling every single belonging we owned now that we’d moved, it was time to start cranking it up and accumulating more — so I took my time browsing the lawn art items that were half-off, that really straddle the line of ‘art,’ blowing that line right out of the water at times with all manner of Green Man faces, frogs, bumble bees, Christian art — and I settled on a solar-powered hummingbird mobile that changes colors at night, plastic, made in China.
I drove across town to recycle the lamps as an excuse to get lost and listen to the new Mark Kozelek CD, and ruminate on this moment now that we’re finally out of our house and into my mother-in-law’s just a few miles away, with a view of the lake, a couple decks, and for the time being at least, an utterly spotless house.
And the sky wants to storm but it can’t quite: the clouds blot out the sun and it looks like a tail forming on some evil woodland goat deity, how the clouds swell and rub and make the tail move, how they turn to ribs, to brain matter and tissue with wizard faces, rumbles, a street fight dance, switchblades.
All the drive-thrus are open 24/7 and when you drive up they appear like automatons, like puppets in a mechanical skit that replays all day every day until the parts break down and need replaced.
I ran into a woman I used to work with at Starbucks and when I started in the mid 90s she’d already been with the company 10 years or so, was the first of the old timers to hit their 20-year anniversary, but for whatever reason she’d left the corporate office and gone back to work in the stores, now deep in her 40s, and it’s the same thing I’d considered myself, going back to where it felt more real, less encumbered by all the stuff that creeps up in a big company that wants to stay small but can’t, a corporation trying to not act corporate.
On our last night at the house we had a party with the neighbors so we could introduce them all to our friends who are now our renters, and everyone brought their kids and their dogs and we learned one of the guys across the street, of the band of four single men in their 30s, is on a reality TV show about treehouses that will run next week, and the English couple up the road are terribly funny, and the guy Andrew approves of the color green I have in my den, says it’s truly English, and admires my Youngs Snug Bar sign I hauled back from the UK, rests his elbow on the mantel and stays past midnight, all the kids getting into hot cocoa packets or doing god knows what — we leave at 12:30 for my mother-in-law’s and Dawn forgets her wallet and the other set of car keys, so I get a text from Chris the next morning and have to go back and get them in our house that’s not our house anymore, I have to resist the urge to turn off the lights and adjust things, and just go.
The hummingbirds are confused because Beth hung the mobile in the spot where there used to be a feeder, and they just sniff the butts of the fake hummingbirds, which are green, white and orange like an Irish flag.
They will lift the EXCESSIVE HEAT WARNING today, in all caps because it’s serious, and there’s dry lightning in the mountains and no water to fight the wildfires that will start soon, but we’re going east to the desert to my friend Brad’s cabin where it’s triple digits, a dry heat, and when we get there, just me and the girls, we’ll remark on the heat and maybe have a campfire, swim at the lake, trade texts with all the people who aren’t there, and then I’ll write about it and think what a good time we had.