“We’re lost aren’t we,” she said, the wind sweeping her hat right off her tiny frozen head. She looks at me with her glasses on the tip of her nose, she scares me when she has her glasses on the tip of her nose. “You have no idea where we are.” The tone in her voice prepares me for what is coming as I watch her clasp her walking stick in the angry manner I’ve become used to over the last couple of weeks. The blood disappears from her hand when she tightens her grip, it pours right out of her hand and into her mad face. I try to hold on to the image of her black and white smile in the album back home, the smile directed at her first born, at her husband, at the friends back home in Ireland. This angry lady was a happy lady once, with a life very similar to my own. She had crossed borders, she had fallen in love, she had dreams and goals and losing half of her mind before she turned seventy was not one of them. They say that in the end only the strong emotions remain; love for the faces she recognized, even if she no longer could connect any names to them; hate for the stranger that dragged her across the street in the cold. Except I wasn’t a stranger, but just impossible to remember.
I am watching people pass by on the interstate. Thousands of destinations, the sun lighting their faces. A woman in a black Dodge is drinking orange juice with a straw. A redhead in a white BMW is texting while she passes us by. A curly head grandma sips from a can of Mountain dew in a Honda Civic that once was white. When I was a kid I didn’t really believe in the existence of a world outside of my own. Life was like a computer game. The streets, the people, the buildings, they would all pop up when I entered the space they inhabited like slowly generating pixels just outside my view. A million destinations, a million beating hearts.
My grandfather was an adventurer. When his brother disappeared during the great war, my grandfather set out to look for him by working his way around the world on the Holland America Line. Before I traveled to the States, my father had told me that grandpa sailed to San Francisco during his travels. We docked at pier 33 yesterday and when we were heading there I noticed the letters on the wall of the warehouse in front of us. They were barely visible, touched by years of abandonment and silty airs, but I could still read what they said. They spelled Holland America Line and I wondered if my grandfather had once walked the exact same pier, years before, trying to find his brother.
M walked in front of me in the giant forest. it was the first time we spend some time alone. We had left the others behind on the paved road while we set out on a dusty trail through the mountains. We talked about the men in our lives. G and I had broken up ten months before we leaped across the great ocean together and it was strange to spend so much time together again on the road. M was a hair dresser and she touched my hair whenever she felt like it, ignoring the concept of personal space and I liked this about her. She didn’t know it, but I envied the love she had for her boyfriend, the peace she had to stay in one place with one man and one profession. “Are you guys back together?” M echoed the question which our travelling party had been asking themselves for a couple of days now. She still walked in front of me on the trail, the back of her head still turned toward me and her steps as quick as they were before. “No,” I replied, “we just love each other very much.” She turned around, the sun giving her an angel like appearance. “I guess it’s none of our business anyway.”