Its neon lights once illuminated the night skies above my hometown.
Now, it leans against an oversized shed, nearly forgotten.
It wasn’t the original sign that once towered above my grandparents’ diner.
The original sign was faded brown, with the name of the restaurant on all four sides of the towering cube.
I wonder if any fragments of that sign remain.
The restaurant doesn’t.
It burned down a few years ago, but the memories didn’t.
The memories survived, rusted like the green and white sign before me.
Rusted, but still surviving.
* * * * *
The wind howls, and my car seems to lurch on the road, trying to maintain its course.
I don’t even bother to stifle my yawn.
I pop open another can of Coke, remembering how shocking it was to have a can explode as I drove down from the mountains a few weekends ago. I had set a lukewarm can of Coke in my cupholder, which would allow the AC to cool it down. I approached the cattleguard, and with no notice, my ears started ringing. I looked around panicked to find the source of the ear-splitting noise.
It sounded like a gunshot, but when I finally figured out the source of the explosion of volume, I was surprised to find the metal of my Coke can erupting upwards from the base of the can in violent protrusions of metal. Caramel colored liquid dripped onto the leg of my jeans, and I pulled my car to the side to reorient myself.
Although lukewarm, this can of Coke tonight does not explode.
It just provides the needed caffeine.
* * * * *
The plot that formerly held my grandparent’s restaurant now holds their building but not their diner. The building’s color almost resembles what once stood there, faded earthen colors, browns and yellows.
It matched the color of the towering wooden and brown sign that marked the old-fashioned burgers and ice cream served there.
A very different color scheme than the one it held after my uncle took irresponsibility of the burger joint.
A wide window now takes up the upstairs and can be seen as I pull up to the original and, at one time, only stoplight in town. Tables and chairs now sit up there, but it once held an arcade. It was once wall-to-wall pinball, Galaga, Yo-Yo Masters, Pac Man, and others.
Now, those bulky games are lost in time.
* * * * *
I snapped a picture of my margarita to send to a few friends to let them know I had made it my sister’s graduation.
The room was a cacophony of voices. A long table for my family took up most of the dining room, but to the left of us held a bachelorette party. By the end of the dinner, my head would be pounding from the noise.
As I send the picture, my screen pops up with a message from my mom saying, “U better not be blogging”. I laugh and grin as I write my responses to her.
“So much blogging.”
“And . . . posted.”
* * * * *
Along I-40, there isn’t much to look at, and even if there was, I’ve taken this drive so many times that nothing pops out as interesting.
The towering windmills, the signs for the free 72oz. steak, and the numerous intermixed adult toy store and pro-Jesus signs have become commonplace by this point.
Yet, there is one thing that still stands out to me along the ten hour drive.
In an empty and nearly barren field of grasses, patches of trees seem to sprout up in the middle of nothing. In any one field, it can be three lone trees together or batches of green too numerous to count. Yet, always, the trees seem lonely in a vast field.
How did these groves of trees thrive in such a barren field?
Why so few?
Why so many?
And, when I finally did it, when I finally came out as transgender, what landscape stretched out to the horizon as I drove down the highway?
For some reason, it bothers me that I don’t remember.
* * * * *
As I drive through my former town, I remember a piece I wrote for autobiographical writing in college where I called it “Tintown” and described it as located on “Dirtywater Lake”.
The description still rings true.
The small town looks almost exactly the same as when I lived and grew up there. The only difference is an added stoplight for the new grocery store and a McDonald’s. Everything practically stands still in time.
Yet, as I drive over the bridge, I see the beauty of the water. Even though the lake is occasionally closed during the summer for toxic algae blooms, it still looks beautiful, especially now.
The edges of the water raised significantly, lapping at lawns, mere feet from someone’s home.