We’d go to the St. Louis Zoo, where the oldest crocodile had milky eyes because people threw wishing coins into the enclosure and blinded him. Or up into the Gateway Arch to stare down at the city. We ate chicken nuggets for the first time ever, and thought they were some kind of miracle.
But the best part was the hotel. The huge indoor pool, and then the partition you had to swim underneath for the huge outdoor half. We were deep-sea explorers, braving the dangerous submersion. My tiny brother flipped off the diving board while I played Huck Finn. Up and down the Mississippi. It was the closest we would come to being a different family. One less inclined to camp or stay at Motel 6. It was splurge. Those rare times when my mother didn’t have to cook, not for the entire weekend. Decadence. A lobby where we could be spies.
I think sometimes that my body is a tarmac, and standing on the other end is the child me at various points. Here, in my green-sleeved baseball jersey with my unfortunate haircut. My wanderlust is for the way I felt in these cities. The churchyard in Edinburgh where god lived. The cathedral in Venice where the pigeons sprang and dropped sprang and dropped like nervous acrobats. The pool in Switzerland where I cried looking at a stone lion flanked by Swiss shields.
Settle. Settle. The urge to flee, to sprint through cities acquiring costumes, to be military. All of those impulses are gone. Settle, settle. I see that child on the other end of the tarmac and she’s never in a hurry to go either. To rush from dizzy thing to dizzy thing. The adventure isn’t place and character after all. The adventure is coffee brought at midnight by a girl who carefully avoids seeing you. A serving tray of apple crisp. Laughing until we ache, as though we’ll never run out of stories.