Just Joining us? This is a seven part series. Read Part I, Part II, Part II, Part IV and Part V here. If you enjoyed reading, Support this blog by making a contribution to our Paetron Page.
We were grounded for two weeks. The first was on purpose. A break from our travels, once we had arrived across the boarder in Texas into the Deep South. It was the Fourth of July- my mom and her boyfriend flew down to visit us and her friends, who had given us a place to stay. We left early on the morning of the 7th, driving through southern USA, Austin and then Houston bound. We had hardly made it inside of the first city when a horrible noise started out of our transmission.
It turned out that the bearings had gone bad. We had no place to stay in Austin and the cheapest hotels we could find were averaging more than $50 a night. The cost of the repair would already cost more than I had left in my bank account. Inside of the mechanics waiting room, I sat down and let the tears drip down my face. We had had the car checked out the day before, to makes sure it would be good for the rest of our trip. Besides a new battery, the mechanic said that everything was in good shape. Yet there we were, crumpled up in the waiting room like thrown away sheets of paper. The mechanic had tried to explain to me how he could take a credit card; how sometimes getting a new car is a better idea. He didn’t realise that our choice wasn’t this car or a new car – it was this car, or no car. That thing that was always going to happen, but what couldn’t happen, finally did.
Rained batted against the windshield, Alabama bound. We were two miles inside of Louisiana, and there were storms spattered along the gulf.
The same tain had streamed down my cheeks as I dropped the keys through the mail slot at the mechanic’s closed office. We had devoured vanilla milkshakes with whipped cream at a burger joint across the street while we looked through our options. Sally, an old friend of my moms in Houston, had offered us to come stay with her until the repair was completed. We organized a rental car at the airport – the only agencies that were still open that time of night. Then we loaded two suitcases, a cooler, the bag full of baby stuff, our stroller, the car seat, Noa’s bed, the dog food and our pathetic looking selves into a friendly Uber driver’s cerulean blue Jeep Cherokee and headed to pick it up.
All of the people we met that day were as sweet as cherry pie. The mechanic cut down the labour costs so we could – sort of – afford the repair. Our Uber driver helped us carry our many bags from our trunk to hers, and made no fuss over having Brisa in the back or Noa in my lap instead of in the baby seat. I even allowed myself to be up-sold on the car rental when the young attendant offered me “any car on the lot, for $15 more.” It turned out to be $50 more – added in the satellite radio when I wasn’t paying attention, but later we got that taken off the bill. I drove out of the garage in an Audi A8 – a sport lux SUV crossover. It seems like a robot from the future compared to Ed, our faithful Trooper getting his guts fixed back at the shop.
In the Audi, getting to Houston was quick and painless, minus having to put up with Douglas’ over enthusiastic driving. Normally, his speed limit measured up to that of a little old lady. The change was drastic, and I did my best not to look out the windows. Noa cried for a solid half hour, over tired from too many car changes and a long day with no real naps.
Pass over the bayou in south Louisiana. The bridge goes for miles. Twelve feet below, standing water and half-drown trees form a flooded wonder-land, speckled by fan powered fishing boats and lime green vegetation creeping out into the water. I started to think about ZA, who was somewhere in Israel, I think. The song he had tried to woo me with. His breathless photography that kept popping up on my Facebook feed. In another life, I would have been the model. He already seemed so old though. When he came to my apartment in Rio, he was so sure he was going to get what he wanted. Then again, so was DF, the real estate developer from the Middle East. He had flown to Brazil to convince me to marry him, but I said no. There was no amount of money I would have traded my freedom for. Not for the Russian millionaire from Moscow, who loved flash and hated underground parties, with his friend who wore Prada shoes to Lapa. We monopolised each other’s conversation at dinner, but I sent him off with the two bimbos from Leblon because, well, Moscow isn’t Rio. Bruna and I were slobs compared to the Russian dolls filling his phone with half-naked photos. It was sad, desperate even, but I didn’t want to compete with it. Worse, I was that girl to someone. I wasn’t about to trade my mess in the tropics for a Russian penthouse, or an Israeli one. It was a mess, but it was my mess, and my freedom, not their security, was what I had always been after. Of the dozens lives I could have lived, I always chose mine in the end.
We hit traffic, just past Layfette, on the ten east towards Baton Rouge. We had been grounded in Texas for two weeks, and it was our first day back on the road. Douglas pulled into the left lane to avoid the line of 18-wheelers struggling with the incline. Two brownies and a peanut butter sandwich had mellowed him out since the last truck stop. Hangry isn’t a pretty shade of blue for DG. Unconditional love is accepting that as part of the package. Friends in Rio taught me that. No matter what kind of shit I threw at them, they loved me back. Just like they did for each other. A closet drug addict and a bookworm cum swinger formed the couple was the first example of a functional relationship I had ever known.
The southern edges of the United States of America are flat. Four and six lane highways stretch straight across a flat, endless forever. The land is too lazy to even delineate itself from the water, so it lets the lapping gulf creep over, inundating the greenery. America, to me, is flat. There are edges, but they are grimy, unwashed and with a sense of pride in their unkept demeanor. There is rarely pride in beautiful details – just an obsession with being better than your neighbors.
My aversion towards the US runs deep. I might feel similar had I been born in Japan, where cultural expectations mandate subservience in women and lead men to literally work themselves to death. Perhaps, if I was Japanese, I would disown my heritage and move away to a place where my gender had an even footing and balance was applied in the building of a good life.
I am not Japanese, but I was still born into a country whose cultural values I balk at. Every coin has two sides. My extreme confidence is American, as is my belief that I am capable of – and have the right to – follow any path that I chose. My independence is cultural, although I believe my strength as a woman comes from Israeli lines, rather than the new world. I can fight. What I hate about being American, is that I feel forced to use that skill every day. Being in America, is a daily war.
I have a friend who tells me how terrible she is at saying No. She says this is a problem many people have. When you say “no,” politely in America, someone will question you. No one enjoys having to force a No down someone else’s throat. People, in general, like to be agreeable. It’s exhausting, in America, to have to constantly keep saying “No.
“No, I would not like to spend the evening drinking, or to stuff my face with sugar and cheese.” “No, I do not want to eat a hamburger, binge watch TV shows and stay up all night.” No, I do not want to defend myself because you feel the need to have my company to support your own bad decisions. And no, I do not want to live in a culture where these things are the way of life.
I have no desire to own more things than can fit into a McMansion; shopping is not a hobby of mine. Surrounding myself with people who live to consume, and who spend more in a two months than I do in a year, is not a hobby of mine. I do not believe that creatives should be regaled to counterculture. There is no shame in being proud of your body and treating it well. I should not have to apologize because my health, and care for myself offends you. My life is not concrete boxes filled with air conditioning. My life exists in the corners of the world, where the air is thin and the earth meets the sky. My soul is not American.
There is one main problem with not identifying with where you grew up. It leaves you, proverbially, out on the street. I struggled with this for ages. Everyone wants to belong; everyone wants to feel the impenetrable love of “home.” My mother used to get offended that I did not consider her house my home. I wish she wouldn’t. Through no fault of hers, I felt homeless. There was a lot of angst that went into this feeling; angst I could have saved myself if I had just turned the thing on its head. I wasn’t homeless. That’s bull. If home is where the heart is, and you have the capacity to love yourself, than your home is with you, always. You are not homeless. I am not homeless. We are Nomadic.
__________ [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] __________
The Journey’s not over! Read Part VII here.