The Long Walk Back
I couldn’t have asked for a more gorgeous day off work. Sky so crisply blue it seemed tangible, clouds high and fluffy, temperature in the low seventies. A perfect North County day, as all the days seemed during that spring so many years ago. Right after the other girls in the house went to work cleaning cabins and raking leaves, I dressed, filled my water bottle, and set out on the two-mile walk to the train station.
On my various walks to the Target or the Stater Brothers or the bank, I would shuffle through the music my boyfriend had loaded on an iPod he gave me for Christmas. Sometimes the playlists grew stale through overuse, and I’d skip through the unfamiliar San Diego radio stations, from rock to pop to indie to country, the music keeping me company as I thought about nothing and everything. Walking produced good thinking. I hadn’t had time to think in years.
After a short wait, the train appeared and I climbed aboard. The girls told me how I could probably reuse my ticket from last week, that no one would notice, but that’s not how I wanted to start this new life. I had lied so much in my previous life, it felt like casting off a filthy cloak. Purchasing my ticket, I took a seat.
Watching the scenery pass by felt like an adventure, so I left my book untouched and stared at the hills, the trees, the shops, the cars.
Distances took on a different meaning here, and nothing was conveniently located, so I had to plan every trip with at least an hour for walking time. No access to a car in California forces you to slow way, way down, every outing becoming an obstacle course. No car in tandem with limited money reinforces that slowness, shoring it up into heroic stretches of time and limbering exercise. Time to think, to stretch muscles that had grown stiff with disuse. I felt healthier than I ever had in my entire life.
This particular trip would take the whole day. It felt like a luxurious vacation. When I changed trains at the Coaster, my spirit soared with empowerment. Just because I had nothing left didn’t mean life wasn’t worth living, that I wasn’t capable of doing new things in a new way.
I got off at Carlsbad, and set off to the miniature downtown area, one block of restaurants and shops. Window shopping felt strange, but I had some money set aside from my tax refund and I carefully apportioned a bit for today, a much-needed break from the monotony at rehab. Three books went into my bag after an hour at the used bookstore. A tart mango smoothie from the health food store went down like liquid paradise after five months in a place where fresh fruit was coveted like contraband.
You see things you wouldn’t ordinarily see when you travel on foot. My pace around the town had slowed to a stroll, and of course while in the chocolaterie I saw them in a bin by the register, my eyes drawn to them as if by tractor beam. Chocolate liqueurs.
Did they count? Surely they didn’t count. People cook with liquor all the time; coq au vin, rum cake…chocolate liqueurs. You can’t get drunk from chocolate liqueurs. Did I have to abstain from everything?
I spent way too long staring at them before I left the store empty-handed. Way too long thinking about them on the walk back. The long walk back.
I love the double meaning of “the long walk back” in this post. Beautiful.
CC recently posted…The Howling Hourglass
I remember feeling this a few months ago, when I chose to walk 2 miles home. It was traffic and blaring horns everywhere, but I also got this fresh gust of wind that hit my face with such power that it was an incredible feeling!
Shailaja/ Doting Mom
Enchanted Seashells, Confessions of a Tugboat Captain's Wife
Enjoyed the walk(s) with you, come back to Carlsbad and we’ll hang out together, walk the sea wall!
Enchanted Seashells, Confessions of a Tugboat Captain’s Wife recently posted…Wordless Wednesday: Hidden in Plain Sight
I can’t wait to come back for another visit! I love Carlsbad.
I don’t know why, but I feel as if this piece has a different feeling to it. Lighter. Happier. Positive. Getting something off your chest and moving forward. I know the memory seems harsh, but the tone seems healing. I’d say this is one of my favorite works of yours so far.
It is one of my happier memories of being there. It really was a perfect day, in so many ways.
I feel bad for the girl who could not or did not want to buy what she wanted. These are valuable life experiences for every one.
They certainly are.
So, so well written Nat. I was on that train with you looking out the window. And ‘the long walk back’ is a beautiful and powerful analogy.
Linda Roy recently posted…Jesus! (Interviews Celebrities) Episode 2: Justin Bieber
Thank you, Linda. I’ve spent a lot of time on that walk.
This had such a crisp, renewed feeling to it and then a sort of reluctant strength. It is a long walk back but the destination is so worth it…
April C. recently posted…The end.
Completely worth it, and rewarding in its own way.
Samantha Brinn Merel
The posts you write about this time in your life are so vivid and so beautifully written. I love the metaphor here, and the optimism.
Samantha Brinn Merel recently posted…Summer Days
It was a lazy stroll down your memory lane, for us as well. Some phrases were really catchy like, “…reinforces that slowness, shoring it up into heroic stretches of time and limbering exercise”.
There is something in this that struck a real chord with me and I can’t explain it, but, well… yeah.
Also I love that area of Carlsbad. But that has nothing to do with the first part of my comment.
Michelle Longo recently posted…It’s Best Not to Wonder.
Loved this. I felt like I was right there with you, browsing books, enjoying a smoothie, making that hard choice on a perfect blue sky California day.
Pam recently posted…Birth Story: She’s Here!
Good for you! Loved this post and glad you stayed strong. It must be so hard sometimes.
Stacie recently posted…Loved and Cherished
So good! The long walk. The double meaning… love.
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You realize thus drastically when it comes to this matter, developed my family for my part consider this via numerous a variety of aspects. The like people aren’t engaged except it truly is think about complete having Women crazy! Your own personal products great. At all times take care of it!
Well played, Natalie. Enjoyed this glimpse into the past and a new beginning with you.
Daniel Nest recently posted…5 incredible special effects you won’t believe are simple tricks
I loved this because I felt like I was there with you the whole way.
Jack recently posted…What It Takes To Be A Writer
The metaphorical qualities are amazing here. It was so well-written, I felt like I was next to you.
Lance recently posted…Feel Good
This is how I feel about chips. Maybe I need rehab from chips. Surely Sun Chips don’t count, right?
Chris Plumb recently posted…Getting the Pink Slip Again: A Short Story.