Jazmine and I are shivering in the middle of April. The temperature in Fayetteville has dropped to 40 degrees Fahrenheit practically overnight. Driving my dad’s truck for the weekend, I crank the heat up as high as it goes. I greedily jab the button that switches the seat heater on.
Jazmine guides me as I take a left onto Ruple Drive, then a right onto Wedington. The GPS on her phone leads us to a neighborhood I didn’t know existed. She thanks me and jumps out of the warm confines of the truck. “Let me know if you need a ride home later!” I say just before she closes the door.
I find myself back at the stop sign where her friend’s street intersects with Wedington. If I turn left onto Wedington, I return back the way we came. I return back towards her house, towards a coffee shop where I intended to go write, towards the rest of Fayetteville.
However, If I turn right onto Wedington, the road would lead out of town. It would lead to Lake Wedington in only minutes. Pulling up to the stop sign, there is a lane to turn left and there is a lane to turn right. I find myself unable to automatically decide which direction to choose. I slowly roll up to the intersection of the two streets, the enormous Chevy Silverado pickup truck straddling the line separating the two lanes. I check my rearview mirror and no one is behind me. I sit here for a few minutes thinking about where I am, thinking about where I was in what seems like a separate lifetime. Thinking about where I want to go.
If I turn right at this sign, would I remember the short drive it takes to get to Lake Wedington? To get to that dark, deserted parking lot? That night in December was the only night I found myself in that parking lot. He drove. It was dark. I was exhausted. There would be no way I would remember how to get there. And honestly.. why in the world would I want to revisit that parking lot?
My brain contemplated my options. I wondered why I even considered the option of revisiting at all. Do I want to cause myself pain, anxiety, panic, or grief? I’m not sure. That sounds a bit crazy and a bit self-destructive (which I do admit, are two adjectives I have often used to describe myself). For some reason, there was a small pull to turn right. There was a pull to find that road to Lake Wedington, to turn left into the total darkness of the parking lot, to park parallel to the road, in the same spot that he parked in that night.
I don’t know what I wanted to do once I got there. Or how I’d feel or what would happen. I don’t know what I wanted to do after I left.
Why? Why did I feel this pull?
I felt a pull to sit in that same place. Alone, no one knowing where I was. In my car. With my calming, apple music playing. Warm, cozy, safe. Total control. I would drive there. I would decide what I did. I would decide when I left. On this chilly night in Fayetteville. Like that one chilly night in Fayetteville.
Since seeking treatment, it feels like I constantly have to face my demons in order to recover, to move on. I need to look them straight in the eye, open, bare, and vulnerable and tell them, “You have no power over me.”
Is that why I yearned to return to this scene? Maybe. Maybe I wanted to face what feels like a demon waiting for me in that parking lot. Maybe I wanted to sit there in the same place, yet a different life. The same person, yet so very different. To tell that dark, empty space, “You have no power over me. I am in control. I have a voice. I am safe.”
Regardless of the reasoning, I ignored the pull. I turned left, back towards town, away from the unmistakable darkness.
I drove on Wedington until reaching the turn to Starbucks. I walked in, ready to post up and write. “What time do y’all close?” I asked the barista who was already packing up the glass case of foods and pastries.
“10:30 tonight,” he replied to me.
I checked my watch. It was already past 9:30 pm. I would barely have an hour to write. I looked up closing times of other coffee shops close by and they all read similar. Without ordering, I exited Starbucks and climbed back up into the truck. I pulled out of the parking spot in front of the building.
I drove past the Walmart Neighborhood Market. Memories of roaming this store’s aisles returned to my mind. Memories of grabbing chips, cookie dough, gallons of ice cream, cookies, peanut butter, and bags of Reese’s. Of trying to hold all of it in my arms without a cart or basket. Memories of grabbing maximum strength laxatives to keep in my purse. Memories of walking to the register. “Sweet tooth?” the cashier asked me once, laughing incredulously as I emptied the mountain of junk from my arms onto the conveyor belt.
The memories continued to roll in. Of wandering the same aisles scanning every single nutrition label, obsessively, filled with fear. I would find myself in this little Walmart, knowing I needed to eat. I needed food. I needed something, anything. But everything was too much. Too sugary. Too many calories. Too expensive. Too fatty. Too good. Too dangerous. Too risky. Bad. After an hour of scanning every piece of food, I would leave with a banana and clear, vacuum-sealed package of two boiled eggs.
I reminisce on these trips to Walmart as I pass by. There was rarely a trip like anything in between. All or nothing.
Tonight I kept driving.
I passed the Freddy’s I had frequented on binge nights. The burgers and fries and frozen yogurt topped with banana and peanut butter and chocolate. I turned right to drive towards the house I lived in last year.
The streets felt so familiar. I arrived to the intersection of Persimmon and N Broyles. August of 2017 I totaled my car here in this intersection, with Beau in the front seat.
As I drove, I found myself glancing over to the small piece of field where a large, graphite blue chunk of my Nissan Sentra used to lay. The day of the accident I went to try and pick it up to put it in my totaled car and the policeman told me, “Don’t worry about it.” It was there for months, a small reminder every day when I drove to work, to class, really anywhere.
I kept driving, taking a left onto N. Broyles. I’ve run so many miles on these sidewalks. I take a left onto my old street. I remember when I moved in and 80% of these houses weren’t even built yet. I remember taking Beau on walks in the summer, still tiny, not even a year old.
I get to the end of the street and I have an instant urge to reach up and press a garage door opener. I linger half a second, then take another left, then make my way back to Jazmine’s house, where I’m staying this weekend during my visit to Fayetteville.
A different world. A different lifetime. It felt as if I was in a drive-through history museum. It really wasn’t that long ago, in the grand scheme of things, that I was in this past life, but it feels impossibly far away. The girl who drove these streets, who pounded her feet on this pavement, and who experienced these things feels so, so far away.
If only she knew, these things have no power over her. They’re just circumstances. Just streets. Just parking lots, grocery stores, sidewalks, and houses. If only she knew, she’d be driving these streets again having faced so many demons. If only she knew just how incredibly strong she is.