Riding east towards Florida and a mix-up

Tomi Ungerer, 2003. 
He is an author, illustrator, sculptor, inventor, and architectural designer. 


I drive away. 

On my way out of the neighborhood, I stop and ring the bell of the first friend I made when I moved to Denton. Nancy’s golden retriever greets me at the door with an upward glance and a gentle snuggle. 

Wordless, we weep those tears that say I’m so glad we met, you’re in my heart. I’m happy for you, travel on, dear friend.

It’s the same exchange shared with other friends over the last weeks.

“Here,” Nancy says as she cuts a huge magnolia blossom from her tree. I hold it, look her in the eye, and leave.

I set the magnolia on the passenger seat.

That fragrance. It's hard to describe—sweet lemony lightness with a tinge of night jasmine. Wrapped in warmth, the scent becomes a symphonic accompaniment to the roadside wildflowers as I drive east. In farewell, I goodnight moon call out the names of the wildflowers as I pass: Goodbye Texas Paintbrush. Goodbye Indian Blanket. Goodbye Green Thread, Winecup, and Firewheels. I finish and ride on my breath in silence.

My husband and I drive separately. He left an hour earlier. Before parting, we share the address of a hotel we’ll meet up at around dinnertime, which becomes the source of a hearty laugh when he calls later in the day.

“Where are you?” he asks. 

“I’m in Jackson, Mississippi about 15 minutes from the hotel. I can't wait to see you. Are you there?”

He isn’t.

He’s in a small town outside of Baton Rouge. That’s Louisiana. A different state and about 300 miles away.

I wonder how that happens and then remember an earlier conversation about how he found a catfish lunch by punching a side trip into his navigator. And there you go. He's driving south and I’m heading due east.

Perhaps the wildflowers distracted him.

We meet up in Tallahassee the next night.

And find a massage where I beg the masseuse who speaks no English for gentle. She laughs at me! She is not gentle. “You’re tight, too tight.” I laugh-groan and erupt into a laugh attack, kicking one leg up and down. She chortles and deepens her effort. I feel like she's going for a release of every muscle in my back and neck.

After the vigorous workout, I am ready to call it the best massage ever until I see the red line on my forehead from special attention to my face and head. That henna-colored red line lasts for a half week.

Terry says I woke him laughing in my sleep that night.