When I stepped out of the sliding doors at the Philadelphia airport, I took the greatest sigh of relief. I could breathe! I could breathe soft silky clean air! I could breathe it through my nose, down into the pit of my belly and then out my mouth! It didn’t feel like a “warm hug”, it felt like casually brushing shoulders or a tap on the ass. And when I was sitting in the passenger seat of a smooth rental car with the windows down, passing through downtown Wayne blasting “Solsbury Hill” because it happened to be on the radio, not because I queued up my iPod or anything like I usually would have done, my chest filled with huge gulps of dry early September air. It was my birthday. Zack sang “happy birthday” to me when we got to my house in Devon, because I asked him to. I had realized, that despite receiving so much virtual/physical love that day, no one had sang to me.
When I was little, I lived in Chesterbrook, in the Quarters, one right hand turn before you pass the Genuardi’s (or where Genuardi’s used to be). I remember winding down Chesterbrook Boulevard, passing the middle school and the patch of woods where I have this weird memory of ice skating with a girl named Diana Skelly (it might have been a dream, I really don’t know) and my parents singing just three syllables. “Home again.”
Now, at twenty-three, there are exactly three locations where I can pass and know I’m “home” in Devon. The first is the two stone pillars at the head of my street, which are the most important detail in giving directions to my house. The second is the minuscule “Devon” sign on the right side of 202 South, right before Gateway and the exit to Valley Forge Road. I always find myself looking at T.j. Maxx and wondering if it’s open. Third, and most importantly, the pass from exit 13 on the Blue Route and the drag of Lancaster Ave. Rotating stores have a semi-short shelf life in downtown Wayne, and I can always tell how long I’ve been away from home judging upon how many storefronts have changed since I was last there. On my birthday I noticed that our Blockbuster had been replaced by a seasonal Halloween store.
The Blockbuster went out of business early in the summer, I guess. I’m not sure why the closing of some big name who put all those little video rental stores out of business affected me so much, but I’ll just chalk that one up to “being me.” At this point on the drive home from the airport, Peter Gabriel was still blasting from the radio and goddamn I got all teary-eyed and shit. That Blockbuster, the one Sara and I called at a sleepover and fifth grade when Titanic came out on VHS at midnight and we wanted to know if the store was busy and we thought it was the funniest thing ever. That Blockbuster, the one I spent forever in walking the perimeter of New Releases, arguing over which movie to pick with my brothers. That Blockbuster, where I had a terribly cinematic confrontation with Evan Wattles who as an employee was “helping me find something to watch.” It was a big ugly building, closer than the Paoli location and with a greater selection than Berwyn’s. It still is a big ugly buildling- that’s why it turned into a Halloween Adventure.
This past week in Hilton Head, Hacker asked Zack a question. “So what are you going to miss about Texas?” I answered before Zack could, stating the first image that came into my head. On Westheimer, heading towards downtown. The exact part of the road where to your left you have the shitty Thai place and the sex toy store; on your right is Half-Priced Books and a Spec’s. The curve in the road is just ending and there’s a four-way intersection when you get to the light, which takes fucking forever every time. You can see the sunset there, where the pretty pink clouds meet the dimming blue sky and the Houston skyline sits right below it. The sunsets here are unlike most I’ve seen. That stoplight- that’s when I know I’m “home” in Houston, even if it’s only for four more weeks (!!).
When we got out of the car last night at 2 a.m. after the 17-hour drive from South Carolina, it didn’t feel like much had changed for the split second in which I had yet to to take a breath of fresh air. There were the crackheads, the prostitutes, and the queens, all in a row on the corner. Home sweet Montrose. But then- the air- it felt different. In a mere ten days of vacation, the “warm hug” humidity had turned into a “tap on the ass” slight breeze. There was an sense of newness, freshness and most importantly- dryness. Welcome to October. I would have slept with the windows open, only the windows never stay up and we don’t have screens, anyway.