R. was on-call Saturday. I spent the wet day lounging around in bed before finally getting out to, basically, eat. After my dinner at 2130, I decided to take a drive.
When I was barely a teen, junior high was within walking distance. I remember many times on the weekend just taking a walk to the campus. I didn't think of anything particular; instead, I'd let both thought and non-thought clamor to and fro in my mind. Over the years that no-mind walk has evolved into drives in my cars.
For Saturday night, I jumped onto the 22 freeway westbound and exited Beach Boulevard in Huntington Beach. I drove down to Pacific Coast Highway and headed northwest toward Long Beach. Between tailgating drivers and "I'm too sexy to use my turn signal" idiots, my mind and heart filled with thoughts and emotions of where I was during that drive.
I felt primarily sad and depressed. Why haven't I achieved more in my life? Why haven't I spent more time with family/friends/the world? Why was I still out of shape? What the heck happened to my hair? These and other thoughts crowded my brain, then would vanish like cards in a magicians hands only to be replaced with more of the same, each time tearing a little more of my already precarious emotional state.
I reached 7th Street in Long Beach. Here, I'd normally turn around and jump onto the 405 freeway to return home. No, I thought. What's past here? So I continued following the highway. Thoughts of Jack Kerouc(?) and those famous writers flashed through my mind as I sped into the new territory. And new thoughts emerged, thankfully replacing--for a while--the more depressing thoughts.
I observed the radical change in the neighborhood. Whereas before I watched shopping malls and business, now I saw ranshackle building with bars on their windows and doors. Houses buttressed the cracked streets. I saw very few people at that hour and none whom I'd want to meet unless the area was well-lit.
Cars changed as suddenly as the neighborhood. Where before zoomed Hondas, BMWs, Mercedes, and lots of SUVs, now I saw old Hondas, Fords, and brands I hadn't known existed, many looking like they hadn't seen a paint job or--worse--style since the 70s.
These changes reflected my thoughts. I remember still in college living in such places. I was with J. at the time and when we weren't having sex, I was either at school or work. Money was tight and an outing to the local fast food Chinese restaurant was our dining out.
But it was one of the more intense times in my life. Besides the sex, there was the lack of knowledge of the future, of consequences. Skip a class to meet someone for a tryst. Volunteer work. Speaking in front of a crowd and getting wet palms. Working graveyard shift then school the next day.
I reflected on those years as I entered the more industrial areas of Long Beach and, later, San Pedro. The steaming, steel towers of the refineries illustrated of what I thought of my life back then: fire and passion, barely contained within civility. It's funny; I barely ever gave much thought to those years. J. and I had parted on bad terms but, instead of totally surpressing my feelings, I channeled the energies to eventually reconnect years later. After a rocking start, we finally ended as friends of a sort which I ended this time.
I yawned. It was time to go home. The scenery had again changed, this time to hills and houses. A silver Jaguar S-type pulled along side at one stoplight. I reflected, as my eyes grazed its sleek sides (such a contrast to the more European boxes of today), of how my life had radically changed. I could buy one of those, I thought as it fell back as I sped up at the turn signal. The thought saddened me.
For I realized that, after becoming thoroughly--but briefly--lost in San Pedro--one of the major reasons I hadn't been happy since last year: I missed my youth.
Rain began to fall as I headed back to Orange County on the 405 and 22 freeways. As the rain sprayed across the car's windshield, I reflected the lack of intensity that I felt towards much of my life. It wasn't my activities were boring (well, maybe my job), but my feelings had become numb. Is this what it was like to be an adult? To constantly be on watch on what one does and say, supressing those fires in the name of responsibility and civility?
I knew the answer as I entered more familar roads. I called R. who was enroute to a hospital to deal with a would-be patient. After hanging up, I looked at the odometer: 99 miles. As the car's motor rumbled to stillness, I just smiled.