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The Long Way 'Round

Queen Anne’s Lace and an unnamed purple flower cut in a similar style tickle the roadsides I pass along the country highway. The cool air and exhaust combined unseasonably in August remind me of Guatemala in the morning.

I drive the country highway to my writing teacher’s house, the same writing class I took last year. When I took the course the first time I drove the most direct route, the interstate. I hated it every time. I had to drive in the left lane in crowded traffic in order to exit. It made me anxious but it was the only route I knew. It was the fastest route. It was the route that made sense.

What I notice on the black wrinkle of the steering wheel are my nails grown out. It’s not the first time since first grade, but it is the first time it happened unintentionally. Sometimes when you leave something alone it fixes itself or hurts less when you finally fix it. At least in the case of my nails, but I usually never have the patience for that. However, somewhere in the summer between the outside hours spent on the college kind of job I worked and my family’s visit from across the ocean, the nails grew out. Maybe have been growing out for weeks, months, years or really my entire life, but were bitten back at inconvenient times so as to give the appearance of never growing, nor really capable of growing, at all.

This year there is construction and the fear of the interstate becoming a parking lot causes me to take the long way round. I make my dog walk in the dark that has come back faster than September so I can leave extra early. This country highway is familiar, but how to cut across the city to the instructor’s home is something else, barely and vaguely remembered from another life. With each quick glance downward for each subsequent street name, I find the turns easy and my fellow drivers forgiving. Nothing seems to take too long. Even better, I don’t hate every second of driving there. I only make one wrong turn when I don’t realize that I’ve come from the other direction to the same destination.

I check my watch. I’m not late. I quickly find a parking spot in a neighborhood slowly waking up to Saturday.

The names on the mailbox and open screen door haven’t changed. They guide me into the same destination as before. I rest my bag down in couch position nearest the instructor’s chair and unpack my things just as I had the year before when I folded cracked and bloodied skin in a tight grip around my pen. A syllabus and stack of books are waiting for my eyes. Their greenness glances across the words. It’s a separate list of street names that I had greatly feared the year before. Eager fingers flip pages from front to back. I pause to slide a corner beneath a nail clogged with just a dab of gardening dirt. The cushion sinks in, and I’m where I’m supposed to be, even if I took the long way around.

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