Today at Trader Joe's, I got carded buying Two-Buck-Chuck. I handed over my license to the fellow ringing me up, and after taking one look, he told me, "Huh. I used to work in Devon". And thus, we begin to shoot the Pennsylvania shit.
It's a game I like playing.
He grew up in Norristown, where half of my delightful Italian molto mafioso family lives. He knew the ancient department store where my grandmother would take us shopping. He knew the random bar across the street from her house. He knew the zoo, and the slightly creepy Christophe Columbus memorial my great Uncle Frankie helped fund. It was a pleasant, breezy conversation.
And then he said:
"So why don't you have a DC license?"
I just don't. This is something I have often wondered about. I move around a lot here. Apartment to apartment, job to job-- it just doesn't make sense. I'm 24. Pennsylvania is still "home".
So I told him, "Well-- I went to GW, and now I work around the corner, so I guess I just never really left." Which sort of hung in the air. Bitter, almost. Without intentionally meaning to sound anything specific, out of my mouth came bitter.
I've lived here for seven years and everything is a bit the same, though at least now I live in a different quadrant. Not that the same, is bad. But it's the SAME. I've spent my days in Foggy Bottom on and off for 5 of those years. I take the same subway. I wear the same clothes. I have a lot of the same friends. The only passage of time is the length of my hair and the addition of shoes.
Check-out guy said, "Oh. Wow. You must like it here, then."
I said "yeah" and heaved my backpack over my shoulder and carried out my things. At least this city has water ice now. A transplant of my breed needs water ice to live, since we don't have acceptable substitutes like New York's Tasty Delite. (Or a FREAKING Wawa. What I wouldn't do for a Wawa hoagie sometimes.)
I walked up Pennsylvania Avenue, thinking about the interaction. What a pleasant fellow. I wonder which high school he went to? I wonder if he knows that the Dunkin' Donuts at the corner by my aunt's house on the main thoroughfare is being rebuilt. Did he also see movies in high school at the Oaks 10 theater when it was still new and big before the King of Prussia 16 moved in?
Walking along, eager to taste my TJ's treats, I opened a bag of pretzels and took a handful, pleased with myself, and began to munch. I am easy to talk to! I bought healthy things! I had a breezy conversation with someone from back home. Water ice! Zeps! Steak sandwiches! Valley Forge Park! South Street!
And then, reality smacked me in the face.
And by reality, I mean the cold, hard pavement, because I had lost my backpack-heavy, high-heel wearing balance and had fallen flat on my face.
I laid there sprawled out on the concrete, my weeks' worth of groceries heavy on my back and my one grocery bag tossed a foot ahead of me on the sidewalk. I lifted my cheek from the ground, rubbed my fingers against my scraped palms, and began to cry in a way where you are trying REALLY hard not to be that crazy girl with a backpack laying face down on the sidewalk, but what can you do? You look crazy, and for the moment you are. My ankle hurt. My knee is bleeding. I had hit my head and my hands were scraped.
I felt like I was down for an hour, but it was probably about 20 seconds. I pulled myself up and reached out for my bag. A passer-by asked me if I was ok, and I nodded with my eyes closed in embarrassment and lips pursed in anger with tears rolling down my cheeks.
It took the walk to Foggy Bottom to calm myself down. So then, I suppose, I was the crazy girl walking and crying with bags. Like walking with tons of bags and crying isn't just CODE RED for crazy.
I can't tell if I was in shock about the fall and the throbbing of my knees and ankle, or whether or not it was the stark realization that sometimes I still feel like my lost 18-year-old self; standing on a corner in Foggy Bottom wondering if this was, in fact, the right place.