Leaving the city I had called home for 17 years was difficult. Diurnal habits, the roads I haunted to get to the familiar places of business and pleasure, neighbors and other friends whose voices swam through the song of that place, the dwelling in which I raised my children and its quirky brokenness, and even the sense of sky from my front and back yard: all these are gone except as threads of melancholy set free to weave themselves into the growing quilt of memories.
Houston did not want me to leave, or so I imagined. My impending separation seemed to provoke the tentacles of that oil-fattened octopus. As if to keep me in place, everything seemed more difficult. Dysfunctional. A trip to Caliber Collision to pick up the car became a chapter from a Kafka novel: they didn’t accept our cash (who doesn’t take cash?), and when we returned with a money order, Caliber wouldn’t take that either because their check-reading machine didn’t like it. Fifteen minutes became three hours. Or Xfinity and Centerpoint Energy, both of which wanted to steal from us in the form of ‘early termination’ fees. Then there’s 24 Hour Fitness, whose system was unable to cancel my membership (although it worked fine when I signed up), and our short term rental property, the Terra Apartments, which tried to insist that, even though we signed a 90 day lease, we were required to give it 60 days’ notice and therefore we owed it an extra month of rent (we called the would-be thief on its own fine print through its parent company, Knightvest).
Maybe worst of all was the Texas Education Agency. I had resigned early from my job with H.I.S.D (through their website and procedure, with ample notice) which promptly tattled on me to T.E.A for breaking contract. T.E.A, being the fawning, obeisant I.C.E wanna-be that it is, sent me an eight-page legal document (complete with those stupid § symbols) outlining the ‘egregious nature of the acts committed” by me, as if I was a child predator or embezzler. Go ahead and suspend my teaching license for a year, I told them, closing with:
Rather than exerting the amount of legal energy you’ve exerted on my case, you might consider spending that energy on cases that are truly egregious, and remind HISD that although it would enjoy some retribution for my early resignation (that is what this is all about, after all), it should bring its house in order if it would like to keep qualified, experienced teachers in its employ. For your agency to act as nothing more than a hit man or bully on behalf of HISD is just simply sad.
Not to labor the point, but given the above, I had reservations about returning to Houston last week. We’d left Cindy’s car in Houston rather than tow it behind the moving van, and I needed to take care of a few other items of business before fully, and firmly, closing the door on Houston, so the trip was necessary. Maybe Houston didn’t want me back: my flight from Laramie was cancelled because the cargo door on the plane wouldn’t close; my connecting flight in Denver was reschedule to 5:45, and after a four-hour shuttle ride and an additional delay, I arrived in Houston sometime after 9:00 p.m. To travel 1,100 miles in 14 hours works out to about 79 miles per hour. Go, airplanes!!
Once on the ground, the second wave of assault began. Roads, even residential roads, were clogged with traffic and angry drivers with high beams on weaving too fast between lanes. All errands required a minimum of thirty minutes. And the heat. Turning the air conditioning to arctic while cleaning the apartment didn’t help contain the nine gallons of sweat I mopped the floor with.
The two-day drive back to Laramie was tiring, but as I crested the pass from Fort Collins and set eyes again on the Snowy Range and the valley, I relaxed, and reflected. By moving here, I replaced rats, lizards, and roaches with rabbits; here I don’t sweat when I get out of the shower; my places are five minutes away; getting a driver’s license or plates takes five minutes instead of five hours. And as much as the song might applaud the ‘stars at night,’ they really are bigger and brighter in Laramie.
The flowers are, too. On the trail near Happy Jack Road, the wildflowers were at full peak and sharing their nectar with flocks of butterflies. Now this is living.