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"We arrive home just to feel gone all over again."

ReEntering exacts the full price of absence. The longer-anticipated any repatriation, the greater that price. Twelve days gone returns to find a backlog. The place smells odd. The cat-sitter didn't take out the garbage. The dishwasher we thought we'd left running had not been turned on and had become a smelly science project in our absence. The place seemed knee-deep in cat fur. I lit a stick of that piñon incense The Muse had found in Arizona, though The Muse cautioned me to burn only one because it kicked up her allergies. Better to offload the suitcases in the laundry room rather than schlepp them upstairs full of stuff that would just need carting downstairs again. The Muse sets to sorting laundry, an activity I've learned to avoid lest I offend her delicate and mysterious sensibilities. She's still never successfully explained her sorting algorithm to me. I unload the car, perfectly packed after so many days on the road, a precise place for everything and not a single item out of place. A great undoing commences.

The kittens, predictably, do not rush to greet us.
They eventually appear and I toss a treasured wine cork from that memorable Winslow dinner. Molly goes nuts, batting and carrying around the damned thing in her mouth, performing like a four year old might when visitors appear. Max watches from in front of the fireplace, finally warming again after our over-long absence. The Otter disappears into her room until I call her out for suppertime an hour or so later. By then, the overwhelming aroma's been transferred to the garage and the light scent of a piñon fire sparks warm fresh memories of the Santa Fe Plaza and that derelict roadside restaurant we'd stopped in earlier that day to use their bathroom and left with a warm slice of green chile apple pie. We're so overfilled with recent experiences that we're temporarily numb to any present. Nobody eats much supper. We head for bed even earlier than early.

I wake the following morning to find my usual rituals rusty from disuse. I usually move around the place in pre-dawn darkness but find that I simply cannot manage that this morning. I crank up the heat, light the fireplace, and wander around like a weary dog circling his favorite resting place. I sit in the unlighted front window to watch the wind whip the frozen landscape. The kittens join me, Molly taking a perch to nose the frozen window, Max flirting with sitting in my lap. They disappear before I'm finished sitting. I finally remember that I'd have usually fed them by then and blush with embarrassment at my oversight before resolving the situation. Kittens do not do appreciation. I finish my small act of stewardship before going invisible again. I begin planning my day with the same precision we'd employed while traveling, but though convenience surrounds me, I can't find the moxie to muster a finger toward the effort. I feel fuzzy and supremely disconnected.

I crawl back into bed and stumble into a vivid dream sequence. I'm exploring a new city, but I'm carrying too much baggage. An overfilled and ill-fitting backpack accompanies me. The sharp end of a drawing compass protrudes from the pack's side and snags on stuff as I pass. I'm seeking secret passages and wander into a succession of places where I clearly do not belong. I open a door to find that I've entered an ROTC dormitory room. A young captain in dress blues escorts me right back out again. I wander into some sort of compound inhabited exclusively by women, activists by the look and sound of them. They welcome me but also give me the third degree, apparently distrusting my motives at being there. I had no motives. I cannot determine how to leave, each exit I try dead ends me again. I finally stumble out onto a busy thoroughfare and melt into a sauntering crowd, compass point still threatening everyone I pass.

I feel every bit the stranger from my dream. I wander around the place seeking my old familiars. I drive The Muse down to The Lab and attempt a few errands with disappointingly limited success. She departs remarking that she sure wishes that she could take a day off to recover, but nobody ever receives any days off to recover. ReEntering swamps those first few days. The usual places seem less familiar than did that smoke-filled derelict restaurant we happened upon, and normal seems to have been recalibrated to more closely resemble Green Chile Apple Pie than any old reliable. Adventure has yet to leach out of any of us. We're still exploring, but more like Wylie Coyote, unaware that we've over-run our mesa-top, toodling on clear, thin air now.

I expect that one day we might touch ground again, probably following a non-fatal crash of some sort. We'll struggle to stand upright again, dust ourselves off, then move back into regular time. Ash Wednesday served as our first full day back, a reminder that even our extraordinary traveling has already turned into dust. Forty days and forty nights of fasting should properly commence following those toodling feast days when our eyes gorged exclusively on extraordinary sights. The nights might seem longer as a result and the days much shorter than they seemed even at Solstice. Our trespasses successfully forgiven, we're enjoined to move forward without further sinning, an unlikely prospect. Piñon incense will not successfully blow the stink off our ReEntries. We arrive home just to feel gone all over again.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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