Unlike Most Things

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
or Commuting! A How-was. Third person perspective on a first-hand account of a life-change. What is simple and what isn't is not always so clear...

Submitted: December 20, 2011

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Submitted: December 20, 2011

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Unlike Most Things, or Commuting! A How-was

It was surprising to her how enjoyable the long drives home could be.

Almost without exception, whenever anyone asked her where she lived (Lisbon), and when they then asked her how long it took her to drive to the university each day (45 minutes to an hour), the person with whom she was speaking would exclaim, “That’s a long way!” or “That’s far!” Because, as she knew, in California, distance was measured in time. Logistics aside, it was the surprise of the speaker at the distance which, well, surprised her. This surprise (of the acquaintance) was often increased if the whole conversation began with their query of, “Which dorm are you in?”

Somehow, the few exceptions annoyed her more than the general rule. If someone responded to her stated length of travel time with something like, “That’s not bad,” some part of her mind would frown and think, “No, it really sort of is.”

Bad, for the most part, because of the reason she had to commute in the first place. The reason she’d had to leave the university only three weeks into the last spring semester. But she didn’t like thinking about that.

In its own way, the commute was a gift. Unlike most things, it was simple. Get out of her housing tract and go left onto Old Callaway Ranch Road, past her former elementary school (Ranch View, home of the Wranglers). Continue on Burro Avenue until she hit Callaway Avenue, go right. Pass the Ralph’s and the Rite Aid and Christy’s Donuts. Pass all the gas stations and fast-food, making sure she’s in the left lane to go west-bound on the 50. Drive, using the lane just before the fast lane, to get past those stupid semis. But get back into the slow lane sometime after the overpass tangle, because she’d need to merge onto the 27, toward Santa Ana. Lane change to the right to make it. Continue on like before, staying in the fast or next-to-fast lane until Albert Street is just 4 miles away. Get in the right lane. Enjoy the panoramic scenery. Then exit Albert, because it wasn’t as busy as taking Nouvella Highway. Keep going, past the middle school and the industrial energy and the place where those two twenty-somethings died in an auto accident. The votive candles remained.

Make a left turn onto Beach, then a right onto Nouvella, and she’d go past golden-leafed trees and Savers and, finally, sometime after that, she would hang a left on La Loma Boulevard and the university was soon on the right.

The complexities of this route didn’t take long to become second-nature to her, and the most significant issue she faced, more often than not, was which CD to listen to next. She preferred listening to albums, to real compact discs, better than using her iPod (and, actually, she didn’t know where her iPod was). It was more tactile, more substantial. She blasted Sleeping at Last, From Indian Lakes, Corinne Bailey Rae and Sufjan Stevens, letting the final song fade back into the first time after time. This most often happened with From Indian Lakes. For the others, she’d listen one and a half times before awkwardly, manually changing to something different, sometimes guessing because, for whatever reason, she had never labeled either Turn Off the Stars or Corinne. TOtS was more yellowed, so she went off of that.

This was all good, as far as she was concerned. The time flew, and there was something liberating about going 70 past Diamond Bar with the strains of Chicago trailing out of her open windows. She felt beyond anyone else’s influence. Utterly unreachable.

For most of the time, as far as she let herself be concerned, it was all good. However, there were moments when this change felt illicit, almost, because she realized how far removed she was from the life she used to lead. The life she lived in a dorm, becoming a person on the cusp of great friendships with a small group of exceptional people. Now, as it were, she was an exile of all that spilled opportunity. Cut apart from the woman she never became.

But she was being histrionic. Nothing was ruined. Everything was just altered. There was a difference between the two. Whichever, it was all because of a little something in her brain, norepinephrine, that got out of hand.

Long drives were like forgetting. She never really wanted to recall anything from home, or think about class. Just simply drive, and agree with Joey as he sang, that the world was only beautiful for so long, and how could she dream again?


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