deep in the heart

I spent the weekend reading a book.

Maybe not the most exciting way to spend my first weekend in the big city, but there you have it. I couldn’t have asked for a more fitting way to kick off my new life in my new city. A weekend totally free of work, a mind and body well rested, and eight-hundred crisp new pages waiting to be read. It encompassed a lot, this weekend with my book. And every bit of it wonderful.

I should probably back up a bit: I have a job, and a place to live, and have been in Texas for just over a month now. Most of that time spent in San Antonio, where I job hunted from my guest bedroom and spent my time with my very awesome friend in her very awesome and bustling household. I was blessed throughout my journey to stay with friends at every stop, none of whom I’d ever met in person, though I’ve known most for years. Anyone who would decry the internet as the enemy of community clearly hasn’t met the right online friends. Mine are amazing and generous and funny and lovely. Every one of them.

I left Maine on the fifteenth of February in the wee small hours of the morning. I was in Connecticut before the sun finally started to rise. I was nearly to Maryland by the time I actually saw the sun. Pennsylvania was cold and grey, as was West Virginia. It was also the last place I saw snow. February is February, though. The rest of the trip was brown and barren, even northern Texas, the only place where I woke up with my car coated in a thin layer of ice. I didn’t see a speck of green until I finally reached Austin, and if I hadn’t yet been convinced to lay down roots in that place, the green would have swayed me.

I drive to work now with the windows down, my sunglasses on, and the blue sky beating down on me. Texans tell me I’ll hate that hot sky come summer, and I don’t doubt they’re mostly right, but deep down I don’t think I could ever hate seeing the sun.

I drove from Maine to Virginia with a busted thermostat and the heat blasting, and after repairing the thermostat the next morning, I drove the shortest leg of the trip from Virginia to Ohio. I pulled into and out of Columbus in the dark, arriving late that night and leaving before dawn the next morning for my longest trek: Ohio to Oklahoma. I cranked my classic rock playlist a la Supernatural, and when that had grown old after several hours, I set my radio to ‘scan’ and just listened to the snippets of the Midwest.

I waved my hand to the St. Louis arch. I watched the clocks roll back as I crossed into the Central timezone. It was dark by the time I drove through Tulsa, and I don’t know if that made the city seem grander or smaller, but it was certainly the biggest city I’ve ever driving through. It went on and on in sprawl and gleaming neon lights. I have yet to fully wrap my head around it.

Oklahoma to Texas was a far shorter drive. Just a few hours to my friend’s place north of Dallas, and a scant five the next day to drive from Dallas to San Antonio (by way of austin, of course). I saw my first longhorn cattle there, outside of Austin. The city itself seemed so small and manageable next to St. Louis and Dallas and, heaven forbid, Tulsa. Sized just right for a small town girl.

The day before Austin, I had crossed the border into Texas, and felt a weight lift from my shoulders that I hadn’t even felt myself carrying. A physical sensation, like a heavy load being lifted right off of me, and I breathed out all of the tension and unease that I think I have been holding for a bit longer than a year. I was finally here, back to the place that I’d had never really wanted to leave. And no I didn’t get out and kiss the ground. It was as grey and rainy in Texas as it had been in Oklahoma. Just as brown, just as murky, nothing different and everything changed. I texted my mom. Stopped to take a photo. Kept on driving.

I was in San Antonio for three weeks. I spent hours on my computer and on the phone, I drove to Austin several times for interviews, and tried to let go of what was out of my control. I spent a lot of time with my friend and her family – kids, dogs and cats – which made the move from my own full house a little less jarring. We spent a lovely Sunday afternoon at the San Antonio Riverwalk, and even went to see The Chieftans perform at the Lila Cockrell Theater. That concert was the first time I felt well and truly homesick. I miss my family, and I miss my house, and I’m so very happy here in Texas. It’s the sort of contradiction that takes a while to settle.

I got a job, and more than that, the job I wanted, just two weeks ago today. Within three days I had a place to live in Austin, thanks (yet again) to a friend. This time it was my fellow wicked awesome friend Kayla, fellow Yankee expat, without whom I’d have never come to Austin in the first place. She is more amazing than she knows, and I love her to pieces. Kayla rocks the Austin life and I have to remind myself to give it time. I’ve only been here a week. And a sick, miserable week at that.

A cold hit me on Saturday. I’d come up from San Antonio on Friday afternoon, to go out with Kayla and her hubs to a friend’s family ranch. And by that, I mean a real, live, working ranch, with cows and cattle dogs and large tracts of land covered by mesquite and prickly pear, and passable only by pickup. Or horse.

We spent a night at the ranch, but I was well and truly ill by the time we got back to Austin. A bad chest cold that joined forces with the brutal allergies that assail all Austinites to make my first week in my new city a sniffling, hacking misery. I moved in with my new roommate on Sunday. I started my new job on Monday. By Tuesday I was voiceless. By Wednesday I had amassed a small pharmacy in my new bathroom. By Thursday the Claritin and Zyrtec finally started to kick in. Friday came and I was still froggy-throated, but feeling well enough to venture out to the movies. I’ve gone to the movies all by myself twice now since I’ve been in Texas. Just more in a long list of firsts.

I also saw my first cockroach today, and am proud to say that I freaked out only a little…though that was mainly for fear of provoking it.

I have a roommate now, and my own bathroom, and my own garage space that I pull out of every morning and back into every evening, just another commuter in the neighborhood. There are no pets in the house, which is strange, and I have yet to master cooking for just one person so I’ve been living off leftovers all week. My new job is interesting, and I really like my coworkers. The dress code is relaxed, jeans and t-shirts, and in two weeks I’ll have a cubicle of my own to personalize as I see fit. I have an hour long lunch break which I’ve taken to using as quiet reading time, hence the rediscovered appreciation for absorbing myself in a long book. My commute is easy, and a little long, but being in the car is pime recharging time and I find I don’t begrudge the traffic at all.

The sun may also have something to do with that.

In short, I am here. There is so much more to tell, and I will…once I read a few more chapters of my book.