Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear

In honour of the new year, I’m doing an office purge/reorganization, and came across a folder of writing, not all of which is embarrassing. Here’s a piece about moving here from there:

The tape deck skips every time we drive over a bump in your new-old car, the car we’re both silently praying makes it to Thunder Bay. All the way to Thunder Bay, the phrase repeating in my mind as the wheels turn and we wind past Espanola, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie. All the way to Thunder Bay, a skipping-rope rhyme. Thirteen years old, this car, 124,000 kilometres, and just a bit of rust in the wheel wells. Very clean, like the ad said. The previous owner highlighted passages in the manual, paperclipped pages for future reference. Too good to be true, the mechanic said, didn’t even need a tune-up, and when we stop at Canadian Tire I buy new bulbs for the inside light. So you’ll feel safer when you open the door alone. Wawa, White River. Nothing wrong with the car, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed even as it hums along the coast of Superior to Leonard Cohen’s breaking voice. Searching together for the oil cap, that’s it, I say, and tip a new litre in while you hold your breath, convinced I’m wrong. Pancake Bay, Marathon, Terrace Bay. We eat deli and peaches at a highway picnic lunch stop and I don’t want to drive after lunch but it’s my turn, and I adjust the mirrors and pray that I won’t stall and that the gears will shift smoothly, dread hill starts and wonder who let me do this and why you sit so calm in the passenger seat, guiding me through fourth and fifth even when I get it wrong. Slowly, my stomach unclenches, and the car behind me at a stop waits patiently as I find the contact point and touch the gas, get rolling again. Stop for blueberry pie (local berries) in Caroline Beach, read the town’s history on the restaurant placemat. There’s a tent in the trunk and camping dishes, an air mattress, but we spent last night in a Best Western, watching cable TV and drinking the last two beers, warm from the cooler. You’re expensing it, we both have colds, and I’m stiff after seven hours in the little car. Is this what it means to be a grownup? Double income, two homes, and no more camping on road trips? You join me in the hotel bath but it was never meant for two. You can have it all, I say, it just has to be in two different cities. We play 20 questions on the road: Nana Mouskouri, Justin Trudeau, Lillian Hellman. While you drive, I keep one hand on your thigh, or pass you the water bottle, switch your sunglasses for regular and back again as the clouds pass or we pass them. At Marathon, it rains, sheets spraying across the windshield, wipers streaked on my side, and we take refuge in an Italian restaurant on the highway, can’t decide if I’m hungry enough for the lasagna or just bored. I settle for soup. You watch the weather channel on the screen behind my head until I slide over to your side of the table so we can watch together while we drink our tea. Drive through thunder until you pull over, exhausted, contemplate a solitary pale blue motel on the side of the road, and keep driving to Rossport, where the rumoured inn rises up like a miracle to give us a room, and there’s a pottery studio on an island. I buy a teapot, and the potter shows me the direction of the heat from the kiln streaking the glaze greeny brown. You buy a bowl, and we cover our heads with a piece of cardboard and race back through the rain to the car, to the inn, where there are quilts on the beds and fresh towels and rainbow trout for dinner and when we wake in the morning we’ll stop at the Terry Fox memorial on the highway and we’ll be two hours away from Thunder Bay.

The office purge/reorganization is, of course, all about the new year, but more specifically as a means of clearing mental and physical space to complete the shitty first draft (as Anne Lamott would call it) of my novel manuscript. The first hundred pages took about 12 years, the second hundred took two years, and I’m hoping that the final third — sentimental, clichéd and hackneyed as it might be – can be hammered out in the space of the next three months to meet a granting deadline of March 31, 2011. I’ve read that publicly stating your goals makes you accountable to them and therefore more likely to achieve them, and I’ve read that publicly stating your goals somehow acts as a substitute in your head for actually doing them and makes you therefore less likely to achieve them. Let’s hope for the former. Happy new year!