It was 3am and my eyes flew wide open. The silence echoed vivaciously through my empty apartment. I extended my toes over to the right, touched my husband’s warm ankle and found the brief comfort I craved.
The additional two hours of sleep I so badly needed for our journey that day were unreachable, so I surrendered to my restlessness.
Ungracefully I slid off the air mattress, tiptoed across the creaking floors, and turned on our crappy little coffeemaker. The cats rubbed my legs with uncertainty, and though I did my best to soothe them, they were not fooled by my rickety affection.
For the last time I drank a cup of coffee by my favorite window with the beautiful tree, one that I had seen touched by all four seasons for a handful of years. I sat in that bright orange camping chair and scanned the barren room, my eyes full of wonder and trepidation.
So much life had happened there. We laughed, we cried, we loved, we feared.
This place where we had lived for five years had become a ghost, its white walls exuding melancholy, scarred by the furniture that once rested against them.
After Mr. H took the two panic-stricken cats down to the truck, I had to be brave and say goodbye to our teeny home. I turned off the light in the living room, the kitchen, the bathroom, the bedroom and finally, the hallway. I locked the door and took one last look at the faded bronze apartment number.
I slipped the envelope with our keys into the manager’s mail slot and walked out the back door…forever.
Then, it hit me. We were homeless.
Mr. H, Aphrodite and Hazel, Ken Follett the cow, and I were about to drive for 32 freaking hours hauling a trailer. Everything we cherished was being thrust into the unknown, into the elements for three epic days.
And, it wasn’t exactly a piece of cake.
We had memorable weather on that first never-ending day. Snow and rain turned into endless grey skies and fierce 40 mph wind gusts. Golden flat fields lined the highway offering an eternity of boredom.
How we wished for that boredom once we arrived in the Nebraska Panhandle. We had three more hours to go, drawing close to midnight, and we took one more pit stop at a gas station.
It was pitch black and we were exhausted. But, this wasn’t the place to spend the night.
Above the gas station entrance, there was a sign: YOU ARE NOWHERE.
A man with long, filthy fingernails took my cash for my grape Gatorade, then called one of his goons on his crusty cell phone. I stood there, debating over whether or not my 87 cents was really worth it.
He was on something. Scratch that…a lot of things.
Eventually I got my change and we hightailed it out of there.
Soon after the tweaker gas station in Nowhere, Mr. H narrowly avoided a family of deer. Now I truly understand where that “deer in the headlights” expression comes from. I made direct eye contact with the mother as we missed her by a hair.
Though shaky we trucked on, visions of the hotel bed in Wyoming dancing through our fatigued minds, encouraging us to man up and continue.
Then, of course, the blizzard came. It was the worst snow you can imagine, the kind that blows right towards you and creates a psychedelic tunnel.
We were alone on a swerving road on some sort of wintry acid trip, our little home clutched in the hands of Nowhere. Sleeping on the side of the road wasn’t an option. Even in the darkness a generous drop-off was visible.
Those last hours, listening to the squeaking windshield wipers in the front and the grueling cat chorus in the back, were slow torture.
Every mile marker that came up lifted our spirits, little by little. And finally, we made it to the damn hotel in Wyoming.
Thankfully, the next two days were not as dramatic. We had sunshine and awe-inspiring nature to console us the rest of the way.
Naturally, the cats never settled into our movable home.
Aphrodite managed to cut her pink nose, because she kept pressing her face against the door of the carrier while crying out in deafening protest. Even outside of the truck I heard their incessant meows and wondered if I had completely lost it.
When we made it to Oregon, her lush green landscapes looked nothing short of heaven to us. And, I took a necessary moment to laugh at myself.
I had repeated one of those classic human mistakes. I was so focused on the move, the before and after, that I forgot about the middle.
As a writer, I should seriously slap myself around for this.
Though the first and last chapters are important to every story, the pages in between are crucial. That is where the reader is fully immersed, enraptured by the thoughts, feelings, and happenings of the fabricated world.
The idea that life is a journey and not a destination has been spouted off by many people, from Henry David Thoreau to Aerosmith.
When they thought up that brilliance, I bet they were hauling all of their shit across the country with pets.