Meeker Street/Morgan Avenue Exit — It wrecks me.
I’m driving home from an amazing weekend when, suddenly, I see it coming. I pump the brakes. — But, it’s too late. — The horizon hits me hard. Breath knocked from my chest, I gulp for air. The thick, orange sky cracks me open, impales me, my guts spill out across the console, soaking the floor mats, seeping into the metal frame, and drip out onto the highway.
Our old Lombardy Street apartment, still remains, unimpressive and industrial, a concrete ghost hiding behind McDonald’s golden arches, staring at me, the highway level with its window eyes.
This darkening sky is a memory I’d long forgotten. Sitting in traffic on the expressway, the smell of gasoline and rubber — the smell of the city. I remember this. We were always returning. From weddings and weekends and snowboarding trips, tired and achy, with blisters and bruised knees, longing for the comfort of our big, red couch. — Drinks in front of the television set in my baggy, black sweatpants. Meeker and Morgan was the exit I waited for, my socked feet propped up on the dash. Meeker and Morgan announced us — we are home. We were home.
The sign is the same. Green, with peeling white letters. The sky too. A color that mixes the blues and whites of winter, but where its line meets the Earth, warm reds and yellows pool beside the sun, warning me that in just a few weeks, days, moments — Spring will arrive. Too soon. All this time. Gone. All this pain. For naught. And you, erased.
I think about the past too much. I know that. I probably talk about it too much too. How things looked and felt. How the air smelled. How, back then, home was a place — not a feeling. I beat myself up for doing so much wrong. Wrong jobs. Wrong people. Wrong comforts in the the wrong places. But, this highway can’t be blamed for any of that. There is nothing to change in this place. Nothing that makes it better. Nothing that can make it disappear. Nothing that can make it right. It is its own place, free of my assignments. I cannot erase these miles. It will always be here, this stretch of road. The sign is just the sign. The sky is just the sky. And, neither of these things will bring him back. Nor I.
I tell myself — This is it Sarah. The moment that, for better or worse, you need to just let go. I pick up my phone off the passenger’s seat and snap a photo. Capturing it in my hands so I can try to release it. The light. The traffic. A deep breath. The exhale. — He’s gone. — Let go. Please. Sarah. Please. Just let him go.
The sun sinks lower. And, I have passed the worst of it now. — Metropolitan Avenue. Wythe Avenue/Kent Avenue. Tillary Street. Cadman Plaza. Atlantic Avenue.
Now, it’s just me and the BQE. Gasoline and rubber. My blood dripping thick drops onto the dividing line. Driving away from the feeling I called home.
Without him, the sign is just the sign. The sky, just the sky.