I woke up early, couldn’t get back to sleep, said to hell with I, and got up and got on the road. I took the back way, down US221, down to Greenville, Florida. There was enough fog for it to accent the morning without being a hazard. I was heading into the sun when it got up, and made the seventy-five mile trip to I-75 from I-10 in just under an hour.
Haywood has been a friend of mine since the 80’s and he once lived in Valdosta. I’d drop in on him at least three or four times a week, and we would play Halo. Well, he would play Halo, I mostly wandered around and got killed. Haywood lives in Orlando now, and that’s where I’m going. It’s about two hundred fifty miles, and at the pace I’m going, I’ll eat that sort of distance up in just over three hours. It’s a beautiful day. The temperature is perfect, hovering around in the upper sixties and for a Saturday morning, the traffic isn’t bad. I’ve got a three disc set of The Emerson String Quartet doing “Beethoven: The Late String Quartets”. The set is an awesome collection of music. The mood is set for the long drive down.
But there is also a sense of dread riding with me, and ignoring it is the best I can do. I can’t, or I won’t tell you why I went to Orlando other than to touch bases with an old friend. Rarely do human beings seek my consul and even rarer still do I offer it to them. But Haywood has problems and it is in my nature and my background to help if I may. On the down side, driving on the Florida Turnpike is like being attacked by parakeets. They’ve got toll booths set up along the way, and I don’t like stopping. Tell me what sort of money you want up front, I’ll pay it, and I won’t have to stop. Is the logic a little too much? But they quarter and dime me to death along the way, and I’m out the better part of five bucks, in six stops, including the big $2.50 just to get on the damn road.
There’s new cats to meet, and old cats to greet. Hershey is still hanging in there. Harley is getting plump in her old age, Otis didn’t know what to think of me and Rengy made it a habit to go charging across the room, leaping on me and running up to within an inch of my face. He’s a kitten. He’ll get over it one day.
We talk about my problems in life, but we both try to find a way to talk about his without absolutes popping up. I realize, misanthrope that I am, that his asking me my advice on such a subject gives us both an indication as to which way he might be leaning already. He admits that there might be some validity to this. Once upon a time we were young, and we had no such problems in out lives. We partied the night away when we were young, and decided to grab a few beers for the evening. Back in the day, a twelve pack was considered an appetizer. This time it’s more than we can drink in one night. I have a hard time sleeping Saturday night, but only because I can hear people. Cars, music, all things I so rarely hear in my world surrounds the apartment. Here, where I sit right now, writing this so that you may read it, there is no sound but that of Sam, snoring softly. Orlando is filled with the auditory detritus of human beings, and it drains me. Sunday morning arrives and I feel very bad. I don’t drink that often, get drunk rarely, and do shots of tequila while drinking beer never.
We sit and talk and I wonder if the words I say will sway him one way or the other. I am careful to try to present facts and not emotions, and I wonder where this will all end. But I must reenter my own world now, and after making plans to leave at lunch, I wind up leaving closer to two in the afternoon. The rain flogs the Interstate and traffic slows down to a crawl. The rain is coming in sheets, sideways, and I begin to lose the truck in front of me. Visibility creep down to almost nothing and the traffic keeps pace. For the better part of an hour I’m doing thirty-five miles an hour in the fast lane of I-75. Cars get slower and slower and closer and closer. It’s bumper to bumper with a Monsoon on the side.
When I finally make it home Bert and Sam are ecstatic. They howl with pleasure and both dance around as if I’ve been gone forever. I lay on the floor of my bedroom while they lie on top of me, snuffling me, and letting me know that they missed me, terribly, whole heartedly, and canned dog food would really help make up for it. It’s good to be back home again, but the burden of having so little skill with human beings weighs on my heart.