"Go straight," I advised, eyes squinted in the most intense focus I can achieve - which is, in fact, considerable - while I looked out the windows and back down at the map on my lap. "Maybe left," I replied when Friend pointed at something on her side of the car. "Go left," I stated decisively when she told me I had to pick one.
"Oh, there it is!" I cried upon seeing the large fountain within the park. "I want to see it!" While Friend muttered about one way streets and parallel parking, I stared out my window at the flowering plants and twisting tree branches while a small crowd of people milled about the space I coveted. I lost sight of it and sighed wistfully as Friend selected a street that "wasn't too narrow" so that we could return to look for parking again. Upon finding a spot, we dug cameras out of the bags in the trunk and walked until Friend's toes got cold.
A feeling of dread settled around me even as I admired my surroundings. We were going home and had only stopped because there was a too much time between checking out of the condo and in for our flights. I haven't even made my list of topics requiring attention - the very thought leaves me torn between exhaustion and panic.
"Breathe," I kept reminding myself. "You're capable and talented and can figure this out." When that failed to achieve the desired results, I went with, "Look at the pretty flowers!" And somehow the profusion of color in the thousands of delicate petals loosened the tension in my chest and shoulders and allowed me to relax, at least a little.
But the worry returned as we made our way to the airport and returned the rental car. As we touched kiosk screens to acquire boarding passes and cleared security. While we found books and t-shirts and bottles of water then waited together at the gate. As I hugged Friend and blinked back tears while she went to catch her plane and tried to focus on the pages of my book. I arrived home and climbed in my Jeep, parents in the front seats, and had dinner out while we caught up.
"Creepy," I decided as we spent our last moments before the airport at the cemetery. A surprisingly somber place in an otherwise bright city, the moss seemed heavier on the trees here. Friend and I had debated descriptions of the dangling plant matter upon my arrival Wednesday evening and I had conceded that it could be called pretty at the park as it draped toward the flowers and swayed gently in the breeze.
"I think it's attracted to death," I frowned, walking away before she could roll her eyes and wandered slowly by tombs and markers, reading of men who painted miniatures, owned publishing companies or fought duels. I nodded when Friend announced she was cold, caught somewhere just before an epiphany regarding the meaning of life, I'm sure, and walked out the gate.
"I don't want the company logo on my grave," someone said to me before I left the office. I wondered what the men buried would think of theirs and soon decided it didn't really matter. Decisions have consequences and while I've made a number of questionable ones lately, there - given family history and general health - should be a number of years where I can correct any missteps. Even as the return to work looms darkly before me, the puppy snoring across the room in her chair provides some comfort as I sip water, take a last look a photos and prepare for what's next.