Across Five States: Into Ohio

Night had fallen, my brother was driving, my mother was holding the rat-cage, and we drove into Ohio. Music was blaring out of the speakers from my brother’s iPod, and the two hours driving in the dark were an experience unto themselves. Lamps were scarce on the highway, we were surrounded by trucks bigger than us [several of which were swerving alarmingly at some points] and we were just driving and driving, the road seeming to go nowhere.

A curious thing about the highway through Ohio – there are lots and lots of bridges going over it. Low bridges, just over the height of one of the huge trucks, that seem to go through from one city to another or to lead from one part of town to the other. What we enjoyed about these bridges was the fact that they were all named, the green sign hanging on the bridge for all those driving underneath to see. We passed some boring ones of course, but we found one particularly road with a wonderful name: Bittersweet Road. It conjured up the images of tragedy and drama, a small town in crisis perhaps or a pair of star-crossed lovers.

As my brother and I sang along to the wonderful voice of Amanda Palmer, the cabaret music of The World Inferno Friendship Society and the hilarious lyrics of Jonathen Coulten, the miles went by swiftly. Eventually, around eleven at night, we followed one of the many blue signs pointing to wayside motels. We chose the Day’s Inn, parked,  and entered.

“Excuse me?” my mother called to the receptionist. He was a young guy who was on the phone. He spoke to us, revealing an Indian accent.

“Yes, hello,” he smiled.

“We’d like a room for three – with two double beds please.”

“Long day of driving, huh?” he asked rhetorically, smiled, and asked my mother for credit card information. Once the transaction was complete, he handed us our room keys – the plastic card kind – and explained that we needed to enter through the back. We did so, and stuck the key in the lock, a plastic box with a red light showing on it. We slid the card in time after time, but it stayed resolutely red. Eventually, we had to go back and get the keys reprogrammed. It didn’t help. Tempers were running high by this time, in the tired sort of way that tempers run when their victims are especially weary. Again, we walked to the receptionist, and this time he got new keys and came with us to make sure they worked.

Finally, we settled in our room, sneaked the poor rats in and fed them and retired to surprisingly comfortable beds.

Moving Out

A week and a half ago [and it’s incredible to realize that yes, it was only a week and a half ago] my brother, my mother and I sat in my brother’s apartment in Chicago and sighed. It was a situation which merited sighing. We were surrounded by boxes, heavy boxes marked “BOOKS AND CLOTHING” or “KITCHEN STUFF – LOUD, UNBREAKABLE” or “BREAKABLE.” Besides the visible boxes there were also bookcases, mattresses and chairs to be moved plus a  dirty old futon couch that was destined for the big garbage bins outside.

Slowly, piece by piece, box by box, we lugged everything down the wide wooden outside stairway. The mattresses and big furniture were a challenge – we had to carry them together and balance the big things along the turns in the stairway. We were tempted to simply throw down some items, but resisted – a near thing, once we realized how awkward the bed frame and the futon would be.

It took us about five hours, but at around three in the afternoon all the furniture and boxes were secured in the U-Haul we’d rented. Bad tempered, bruised and hungry, we began our road trip across five states to move my brother from Illinois to Virginia.

Storm

The wind has been building up for hours – howling and moaning and shaking the trees free of their leaves. A mass of grey clouds, impossible to see in the dark night sky, sits above everything, threatening to release more than the drizzle that has been making the world outside a wet, slippery place.

Then, suddenly, there is that flash. So bright, so sudden, like an enormous camera from up above taking a picture of this glorious, wild scene of winter. The lightning flashes quickly, piercing through eyelids and warning the sleepers in their warm beds and toasty homes of what is to come. The lightning is so quick that no-one’s really sure if it was really lightning or perhaps just a strange light coming from something else outside.

But there is no mistaking what the bright, almost audible crack of light was when the thunder roles in. At first, it rolls in softly, like the tires of a car crunching on a gravelly driveway. Next time the lighting comes though, the rumble of the thunder sounds closer, more threatening. Finally, as the storm reaches its peek, the thunder cracks loudly, as if something were whipping the storm into a wild frenzy, the wind stronger than ever and the rain and hail pounding down on any unlucky souls who happen to be outside.

The sleepers in their warm blankets roll over and smile at the loud noises, feeling secure and peaceful in their beds. Or sometimes they quake with fear, even knowing that they are perfectly safe. The storm outside doesn’t care though for what the people think of it – it will rage and billow and cover the world with wet until it calms, seemingly of its own accord, and goes to sleep itself.