Something like 7 AM in the Frankfurt airport parking garage and the lift is out of order so we take the stairs and right away, it’s that Cold War vibe from the paint tones and the little signs and starkness of it all with no one anywhere, the sense the stairwells have a logic that’s detailed and ominous and foreign, with doors accessed by badge only and the stairs terminating suddenly and leading to another set of stairs where we startle people in sleeping bags who appear to be airport employees jerking to life when we throw open the doors — and when we emerge in the terminal at last and Dawn gropes for her papers, her ticket, I realize we’re starting to really look older now, we’re starting to look befuddled at times, and that’s when it starts.
Leaving the hotel room I have to double-, triple-check my pockets for where I’ve put things because I’m getting cocky about putting things in different pockets when it used to be that certain things went certain places and now that I put them anywhere, I can’t keep track of anything.
We make reservations for the hotel restaurant and have a drink in the bar first, try to find somewhere we can sit without having to look at images of Donald Trump splayed on the flat screen, a seat in the corner, but still, Dawn can see him in the reflection of a mirror on a pillar by the buffet table and he’s leaning in and mocking us, saying hateful things, making me say hateful things, making me want to shove back and wave a baseball bat but instead, we wait for our drinks and complain about how much they cost: almost €30 for a Negroni and a Hugo, which only has like Prosecco and mint, and elderflower syrup, and the bartender has her three-ringed recipe binder out looking up “Negroni,” serves it with a plastic sword speared through an orange wedge and a cherry, and when I’m done I feel better, I’ve forgotten all about Donald Trump.
We put our faith in Colin Firth, in an action spy film in our room, but someone gets cut in half like an apple in the opening scene and it’s hard to recover from that, and even though it’s comic book violence, what they call stylized, which seems a kind of excuse for being gory but in an artistic sense, it’s unsettling to watch him in a church full of hateful southerners in a mass shooting spree, and when it’s over it’s 9:40 already and Dawn has to get up at 5, and I feel like we’ve wasted our last night together, when we could have just talked.
My navigator has me wrap around the airport in a purple umbilical cord and spool off into space on the A3 to Basel, the A5 to Würzburg, the A6 to Stuttgart, stopped on the A67 with everyone gripping their heads in a stop-and-go hell, two men on the highway out of their cars shouting about something until they start stiff arming each other and it moves in stills we’re going so slow, everyone can watch as their faces stretch and their glasses twist and one gets the other against the guardrail and wraps his arms behind him and says hateful things that look almost sexual how he’s holding him, and we’re in the traffic so long we get to see it all, and wonder how it was for each of them afterwards as they walk away mumbling, licking themselves like cats.
It’s a long drive for someone with nothing to think about, Frankfurt to Besigheim. I stop at a roadside eatery, a gas station, and wonder if I’ve stopped at this one before but they all look alike, and the play area is empty and the sky almost nice, but not, and I know I should feel different after all this time away in Europe, we talk about it driving up to Frankfurt, Dawn and I: how we did this and why we did it and where we stand now, with it almost over, and think back on how it came to be and if we’ll come back, or how we’ll do it again, and I say something like, “this is probably the last time we’ll be able to do something like this” and Dawn reminds me not to sound that way, to sound so self-limiting, she says, and she’s probably right.
That’s getting old right there, that’s when it starts.