I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I had taken a vacation. Not a day trip, a weekend jaunt, not a sneer-worthy “staycation.” An actual vacation. A GTFO-fest where you fly middle fingers at the city as you leave it.
Try as I might, I couldn’t quantify the time lapse in days; just events. It’d been long enough that I could feel these things starting to pile up, untended, like dirty dishes.
Three cities. Three apartments. Seven anxiety attacks. Two bike shops. Three funerals. Three weddings. Two hospital trips. One failed relationship. Eight failed-to-start relationships. One tax bracket jump. One dog acquisition.
It was a kitchen full of moldy cups and plates, bent forks, and rice-coated pots. Emotional procrastination at it’s finest, thank you. Unlike most people, I can’t seem to process on the fly. I have to take downtime so I can finally start shuffling the bent and tarnished flatware into the sink for cleaning. It was painfully obvious in every facet of my life that I was reaching critical mass, and I decided that I needed to do something before I was crushed underneath my inability to digest my own life.
I picked a week, told everyone important I was leaving, and left. I had no idea where I was going, but I had two bikes on the back of the car and some clothes and figured that’d about cover it for all the things I wanted to care about for 7 days. Arbitrarily, I pointed myself north and went.
The first day found me in Charlotte, attacking mountain bike trails with the grace of a blind butcher. I slammed hard enough to bring color back into my life, laughed alone in the woods, felt the walls recede a bit.
The second found me driving toward Wilmington. I needed to put my feet in surf immediately, but not so badly that I didn’t stop every time I saw something shiny. At one place, a picker shop somewhere between Charlotte and nowhere, I found a travel totem. It was a small, hand-painted boar with a bobbling head. I named it Bob, tapped it’s nose to set it to encouraging my rash decisions, and we headed for sand.
Midday, me on my road bike, filling my nostrils with the heady scent of churning salt. Twilight, trivia at a beer bar, making conversation with a slurring, stuttering man who was bitter about his health services degree. Late night, hunched over a slice of pizza in a tequila bar, encouraging the budding romance next to me to keep talking. Easy conversation is everything and should be cherished, I tell them. Drunk texts go out after I bike back to the sleeping spot, and I somehow manage to score a date on my next lap through Greenville. The walls were crumbling, or I was drunk. I face-planted to avoid any further introspection on this much porter.
Day three, somewhere between Florence and Columbia, the walls I’d been shouldering into finally come down. I’m completely overwhelmed with a backlog of emotion, experience, and thought that I’d been avoiding. I pull over on the side of I-26 for about ten minutes, sobbing, then laughing at my sobbing, then sobbing again. After blowing my nose on a stray sock from my overnight, shaking my now-loose shoulders out, I bee-lined for the mountain bike trail system in Columbia. I set at it again, blindly hacking through the trails, but this time my mind was clear, and I saw the colors without aid from impact.
Day four found me back home briefly, having lunch and the long, surprisingly easy conversation of the kind I was troubadouring in the tequila bar. That night, in Asheville, losing my shit on the front row of a show. I shook my limbs so hard that any remaining, clinging demons were flung from me, then eradicated by the wall of sound.
Days five and six in Atlanta, eating tacos. Drinking tea. Catching up with loved ones. I am relaxed, sore, and spent. Tabularasa.
I wind down in my apartment on the last day, wondering how I could have lived for so long carrying around that much weight. I honestly don’t know how I did it; I’m light now. I can breathe. My headaches from clenching my jaw are gone.
My counters are clean, the drying rack is empty, and I’m ready to set about the business of filling it up again. Part of me wonders, though, if this really is the best way to go about my life - a tumultuous cycle of hoarding, then purging. The other part, the sensible one, knows that it isn’t going to change and immediately sets a soiled mug on the counter to get things started.