My adolescent home is ablaze in green: deep, resonant, prehistoric, jade, kelly, moss, olive, pine, sage, and a thousand other hues that elude language itself.
I am Homecoming King. I blow into town to wed off a buddy from college. It is a lazy afternoon. The air is cool and dry. The sky is blue and cloudless. My Great Aunt Rosalie, cousin Kalah, and mother discuss the Lawrence legacy and its participation in the Revolutionary War. Locusts bay in unison. Everything is slow, and quiet, and that’s just fine with me.
I drive the old roads past old haunts, and visit with the demons and ghosts that reside within. Over there, Scott broke my jaw. My lost tooth still rests in the ivy. And there, Amy and I made sweaty love in the vinyl seat of her tan Chevy Impala. There is the agony, there, the ecstasy.
In the morning, I purge, pushing up and over Valley Forge National Park’s Mounts Joy and Misery, well past my body’s wishes. I swear that each turn will be my last, but decide for more, and am rewarded. A white tailed deer bounds off before me. Birds scatter in my wake. And a red fox lifts its head, then disappears into the deep forest.
Sweat falls through my eyes, trailing my cheeks to my lips where each deep exhale sends it showering onto the forest floor. My heart pounds in my chest. I climb still further, tripping over roots and rocks, jumping entire trees. The air is heavy in my lungs. And sweet. Finally, I have ascended Mount Misery, and begin the speedy descent towards Valley Creek. There on the edge of Frisbee Field where we spent afternoons before prom, there in the shadow of the old forge where I kissed Kirsten for the first time, I step into the creek, shoes and all. I kneel in the cold water and facing upstream. I brace myself on the slippery rocks, and go under. I am clean, and cool, and calm.
* * *
I drive the narrow, winding roads back home. The soundtrack is as diverse as it is salient: ‘Rock’ and ‘Rest.’
Counting Crows – ‘Mr. Jones’
Peter Gabriel – ‘Love Town’
Matthew Sweet – ‘Girlfriend’
Postal Service – ‘Brand New Colony’
Ben Lee – ‘Something Borrowed, Something Blue’
Matt Pond PA – ‘The Butcher’
U2 – ‘Until The End Of The World’
Aimee Mann – ‘Red Vines’
REM – ‘Pop Song ’89 (Acoustic)’
Guster – ‘Homecoming King’
Death Cab For Cutie – ‘A Movie Script Ending’
Damien Rice – ‘Cannonball’
Coldplay – ‘Don’t Panic’
Snow Patrol – ‘How To Be Dead’
Colin Hay – ‘I Just Think I’ll Ever Get Over You’
Belle & Sebastian – ‘If She Wants Me’
The Shins – ‘New Slang’
Teitur – ‘Sleeping with the Lights On’
Simon & Garfunkel – ‘The Only Living Boy In New York’
Elliott Smith – ‘Waltz, No. 2’
I shower in soft water, shave with soap, and leave for the wedding. I am the last one to the hotel room. The groom reclines casually. I change quickly from jeans and flip flops into a tuxedo, and leave again. Kevin and I follow the best man to the country club where we nervously while away the waning afternoon at the bar. Two Bass Ales and years of summation later, we stand before a truly diverse congregation: black, white, Latino, Asian, we all represent. We are all family.
And he is wed. We meet and kiss and eat and dance and wave good-bye. I change, and climb into mom’s little red convertible. When I awake, I am on the highway. The sky above the headlights is black and strewn with stars. A line of airplanes prepare to land in Philadelphia. I accelerate onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and am launched into the atmosphere. There again amongst the planes and stars, the rocket ships and constellations, I accelerate into the ether, and disappear.