.journal 2001.06.26
A tale of two journeys.

Now listening to: Delerium, Reflections II
Now reading: Poppy Z. Brite, Lost Souls
Now playing: Super Bust-A-Move (Playstation 2)

Some people take one big journey in a day. Today one just wasn't enough for me.

I should preface this by saying that the van is currently in for big-league repairs, because of course it's going to need heavy duty work done on it while we're in the midst of sorting out just what's going to be done with our house and I'm heading back to college. So dear old Jeff volunteered himself for driving duties today, and as is my usual behaviour I abused his kindness. Although I wasn't entirely alone in doing so.

Anyway, after the maids left the hotel room here and I got around, Jeff and I headed to the University of Toledo. Now, I had been there before, but that had just been for advisory meetings and nothing real academic; not only that, but that had been before UT had gotten any money from the Shannons that stated definitively, "Sean is going to be taking classes here." But now the money has been paid, I am enrolled, and in six days time I will be in a college classroom for the first time in over six years, learning in a public institution of education for the first time since I was nine years old. Anxiety? Yeah, just a wee bit.

So since I am so close to starting class, there was one thing I needed to do in advance of that: get my textbooks. With that in mind, Jeff and I drove over to UT so I could pick them up. Now, this was my second time setting foot on the main campus, but that first trip was a bit of a fluke because I was going to what was largely an administrative building. UT's bookstore is in its Student Union, and I hadn't been there in six and a half years, since one of my friends from the local BBSes I was in before I got an Internet connection took me to see the campus radio station. Not only that, but there really isn't decent parking close to the Student Union, so this meant walking. And lots of it.

And silly old blonde me, I go and leave my map of the campus in Jeff's car. This wasn't too much of a problem getting to the Student Union, because I knew in what general direction to go from the parking ramp, and what buildings I'd encounter. Getting in the Student Union was easy, but from there Jeff and I just seemed to circle the whole inside of the building twice, bouncing between floors, in an attempt to find the bookstore. Thankfully, through sheer luck, I found where I needed to go.

Mind you, you could have probably fit Antioch's entire student bookstore into the clothing area of UT's bookstore, but having walked on campus for such a long time at that point I guess I was starting to get a vibe going. I swear, there was almost a college-like smell to the place that I found vaguely reminiscent of Antioch. I trodded my way over to the textbook section, sought out the books I needed, and picked them up. Mind you, they were out of new copies so I had to buy used ones, and all things being equal I try to pick up stuff like that new if I possibly can. But with six days until class, I did not want to be beholden to Amazon to ship the books to me by Monday afternoon, particularly to the hotel room. I was also hoping to pick up my textbooks for the fall, but they only had summer textbooks stocked.

So since Jeff and I had gotten ourselves completely lost inside the Student Union, we were pretty much lost once we got outside of it. I was trying to remember the map of UT in my mind and failing miserably, and all the while Jeff is trying to convince me that this is a good thing, that I need to know these things, that I need to walk around the campus so I know exactly where stuff is. Mind you, Jeff was totally and completely right, but I still felt like a ditz walking around so cluelessly. And Jeff, typically, insisted we were not lost and we shouldn't ask for directions. Men.

Somehow Jeff and I ran into the building where my summer class would be taking place, and I did remember the room number for the course. So Jeff and I went up to the room, although the door to the room was locked so we couldn't go in. But the more I walked around UT, the more I saw the sights and the people, the more I saw the places I would be as a full-fledged member of their community in less than a week, the more real this all became to me. It's a scary journey to be sure, and the butterflies are beginning a slow, macabre dance in my pit, to slowly gain speed and violence these next few days until they become like a tornado Monday afternoon.

Thankfully once I was back outside, I was quickly able to regain my internal compass and guided myself and Jeff back to the parking ramp where we kindly got the heck out of there, only staying around long enough to drive by another building where the majority of my classes in the fall will be. And I wondered about all that lay ahead of me here, the end result of the chain of events that saw me leave the private sector so I could go back and get that all-important degree I forsake the first time it was in my grasp to help my father. And as tempting as it is to curl up into a foetal ball and hold myself as I shudder and whimper and bawl, and I've certainly been doing just that recently, right then and there I honestly thought I could handle it all. After all, after facing the horror of the fire at home, it's hard to think that there's anything else I couldn't take care of.

Ah yes, the fire. Normally the trip to UT would be enough adventure for me for a day, a nice entry for the .blog. But after Jeff and I got back to the hotel room, he went and called Heather at work to arrange to pick her up, take her to the house to feed Rowan and come home. After thinking about it for a bit, I decided to ask Jeff if I could come on the trip. After all, I was the only member of the family yet to go home after the fire, and I did miss Rowan an awful lot. But I was also worried about the emotions that might surface going back there. I had to go, though, I simply had to, so an hour later Jeff and I found ourselves at my father's office, picking up Heather, grabbing some necessities from Meijer and heading ... home.

I had been in the neighbourhood of home over the past six weeks, but not closer than a mile away, certainly not within viewing distance. And from what my father had said about the place being torn apart, I thought I might return there to see a shell of a building, charred and soaked timbers supporting nothingness. In point of actual fact, the exterior of the house was much as I left it that rain-soaked afternoon in May, the only difference being you could actually see through the front glass doors to the backyard, owing to the wall between the living room and kitchen being torn down.

We did not go into the house, but rather went straight around to the back porch where Rowan was waiting for us. Rowan and I haven't always had the greatest of relationships, but since Alex's death three years ago we've been getting along fairly well, and after rubbing herself on Heather she came straight over to me and gave me all the love I could ask for. I would have cried, but at that point I was still stuck with the surrealism of it all - to be home without really being home. Heather fed Rowan and the three of us petted her like there was no tomorrow, her coat still as plush as before, and some of that extra fat finally worked off her body as a result of all her activity outside. I also took pictures of Rowan because Ariel really wanted to see her, and I couldn't help but obey her request.

Finally I went back around to the front of the house, used my key and opened things up, so I could take some more pictures. Things were pretty threadbare, but because I was on the opposite side of the house from the fire things were at least solid there. All the recent (but incomplete) renovations father made to the bathroom were still there, and his and Mom's bedroom looked nearly the same, owing to father's spartan tastes in decoration.

My room, however, was another story entirely. Here was the room in which I had gone to sleep nearly every night from the moment my parents moved my crib out of their room, until the fire. The longest I had ever been away from that room had been seventeen straight days, my sophomore year in private school when I did a writing and drawing seminar in Grayling, Michigan. After thirty-nine days, I was finally back. Nothing much was left there save for a few stickers my sister forgot to peel off the walls for me and a couple of decals on one of the windows, but it was still my room. And no fire or flood or disaster will ever change that.

Looking around the room was when I came closest to breaking down, remembering where everything used to be -- my bed, the bookshelf that held all my magazines, the corner my entertainment stand used to be in, where my computer desk used to be. I swear, I wanted nothing more at that moment than to pull my nonexistent chair up to my nonexistent computer, track down one of my friends in chat and just explode in maudlin memory. But I couldn't do that. All I could do was look around at the bare walls, uncluttered and uncarpeted floor, gutted ceiling and the revenants of my entire life spent in that one house. And I thanked the room, and the house, for giving me that shelter for so long, for allowing me to maintain a threadbare grasp on some childish sense of security.

I had to kill off the roll of film, so I shot some more pictures of the house. Father seems to have found a builder he thinks he can trust to do the tearing down and rebuilding, so I wanted to shoot what I could of what remained of my house, while it was still there. It was only going upstairs, where the fire had completely ravaged everything, that the sour-sweet pipe smoke smell of the fire was still strong, and all that remained was blackened, bereft of whatever life and treasure it had once held. But I took all the pictures I could, and maybe if I finally become comfortable with sharing those pictures with the rest of you, I will let you all see this place whose destruction has shattered my conceptions and beliefs, has shook me to my very core and robbed me of whatever innocence and naiveté I once had.

Then after that, we all came back here to the hotel room. Everyone else calls it an apartment, and I've referred to it as a bungalow in the past, but whatever it is, it isn't home. The maids here always announce themselves in front of our front door as "housekeeping," but I always want to tell them that this isn't my house. I don't know what's going to happen next, but as the house hopefully starts getting rebuilt here soon, as I begin anew my journey into higher education, as I struggle to do all this in spite of the absence of the people I consider my safety net and security blanket, I find myself at a loss. I want to scream. I want to cry. I want to go home. I want to talk with my absent friends. But most of all, I just want the faintest taste of security's intoxicating nectar, the delusion that one day things really will be okay again.

I'll see you all again soon. Take care and be well.

- Sean