The Thrilling Conclusion!
I woke up in my darkened hotel room, disoriented by the blackout curtain. The alarm on the other end of my king size bed was beeping and I rolled over to turn it off. As with the previous morning, I hopped out of bed and did some stretches and lunges before throwing on pants, a blazer, and the shirt I bought the night before at SuperTarget.
While I lamented the small selection of breakfast foods at the TownePlace Suites, I was ecstatic at the selection of items at the Hampton Inn. Biscuits and gravy, cereal, fruit, oatmeal, waffles, coffee, juice, tea. How could I pass up a breakfast that had both oatmeal and biscuits and gravy? I grabbed some items and sat down at a table with a copy of the USA Today and a cup with a mustache on it.
After breakfast, I called my mom who had been watching my cats for me. We talked about the final leg of my trip before I packed my things and checked out, grabbing a “happy kit” from the front desk before getting in my car. I drove to Hy-Vee again, looking for a beer called Jesus on a Forklift brewed by Exile Brewing Company in Des Moines, but I found out it is only available on tap. I made it out of Hy-Vee, but not before buying more snacks for the road, some Chinese food, and a six-pack of Exile’s Ruthie Blond Lager to share with people in Milwaukee.
I sat in my car and queued up Too Bright by Perfume Genius.
“It’s time to go home,” I said. I backed out of my parking spot and headed to I-380.
Let’s face it: There is no route across Iowa that doesn’t feel boring. I have a friend who once told me his family wants to abolish Iowa because of how dull the drive is. I usually scowl at him or roll my eyes, but the next time he points it out I will probably agree.
As I drove past the harvested fields, I kept wondering if this drive was me doing penitence for the arguing I did with community elders earlier this year, or for not really appreciating someone who really seemed to care about me until I was on my back in the ER, him by my side.
I eventually made it to Walcott and went to use the bathroom, but because of how many travelers there were, I ended up going to a McDonald’s–did you think I would go to the I-80 Truck Stop?–and then eating the Chinese food from Hy-Vee. As I shoveled the lo mein noodles in my mouth, I started crying because I forgot how good Hy-Vee Chinese food is and I cry when I eat really good food.
I got back on the interstate and nothing happened until I got to Rockford, other than me contemplating my place in the universe. Shortly outside of Rockford, I was trapped in really bad traffic as a result of trucks breaking down, which meant I spent about an hour in the Rockford area. I drove past the exit for Rockford University and wondered what would have happened with my life if I had accepted the scholarship I was offered and gone there instead of DePaul University.
By the time I got to Beloit, I was pumped. “I made it to Beloit! I’m almost home,” I told myself, before debating if I should stop and get pizza at Domenicos. (If you’re ever in Beloit, you need to stop at Domenicos and have pizza.) I decided to keep driving, the rain pounding on my still-dirty car as I played Middle Cyclone by Neko Case.
Music: “Finale” from In the Heights
I did it. I made it back to Milwaukee. The traffic was lighter than I was expecting, although that might have been because it was the day before Thanksgiving. I got back to my apartment and happily walked through the door, although my cats only seemed excited to have me back to feed them.
And then it hit me.
I didn’t listen to the original cast recording of Falsettos the entire time I was driving.