on monday i got the call that my pappy had died, and four hours later i was on an amtrak train, going home. we have one saying in my family about death, and that is death is weird. it’s weird. what else can you say about it?
i’ve been here in the suburbs of pennsylvania all week, waiting for the funeral to take place. it is one thing to plan a trip home; it is another to be yanked from your brooklyn summer and thrown here, among family turmoil and drive thrus and the sound of lawn mowers everywhere you go. below is a photo i took from the car window when my brother and i drove to the mall. the town i grew up in is a mash up of farm land and parking lots, shopping centers and tractor crossing. i may only be one state south, but new york couldn’t feel more far away.
on tuesday, i tried to find a good cup of coffee. while the regional chain wawa offers something decent, i was otherwise at a total loss. i wanted a cappucino. i wanted a macchiato. i wanted to hear the sounds of an espresso machine, to watch the barista pull shots on it. there are few vices i depend on; coffee is one of them. the one independent coffeeshop i found in my mother’s town (also drive-thru) only invoked macchiatos in something called a carmel macchiato, and this came in small, medium, and large. it wasn’t the same.
pressed for time that morning, i had to settle on a dunkin donuts, and nearly had a panic attack as i entered the drive thru. i’ve never had to make a decision at a drive thru. you’d think it wouldn’t be much different than stepping up to a cash register and gazing at the menu above, but it is. they didn’t even list beverages on the giant board that accompanied the speaker box i leaned toward. it was just egg and cheese croissant things, flatbread specials, combos 1 2 3 4 5 6.
‘welcome to dunkin donuts,’ someone intoned from the box, ‘how can i help you?’
‘um,’ i said. ‘um.’ it was hot outside, but the air was on in the car. what did people in cars drink in the summertime?
‘can i have an iced? latte?’
i cringed. ‘vanilla?’
‘one french vanilla iced latte,’ he repeated, my coffee now a four word monstrosity. i spit out my order for a chocolate sprinkle donut and pulled along to the pick up window. my latte came with a dome lid, a dollop of whipped cream on top of it. it looked like a milkshake. i found a cup holder and drove back to my mother’s house, discontent.
i always feel like a stranger when i come home. i even have trouble calling it ‘home.’ when i was 18, my parents were planning on a divorce, and going to sell the house. so when i packed for college, i packed everything–i dismantled the bedroom of my formative teenage years, kissed everything goodbye, and vowed to never live at home again. aside from these week long visits, i haven’t. i love my life in brooklyn. in brooklyn, i have terrific friends, a swell apartment; i have coffeeshops, bookstores, places i like to go and where i’m known; i have a bicycle, i have an awesome cat; i’m known as the queer, funny, creative person i am. here, though? it all feels less dimensional.