About a month ago, Robin and I took our yearly (summer) vacation back to Fort Wayne, Indiana. It had been over a year since I had been back. A visit was long overdue. This time around, it was more than just a carefree, fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants kind of week. I had responsibilities. I was a groomsmen in one of my best friend's wedding. This meant some of my time was already spoken for. Regardless, it was easily the best vacation I have ever taken. It made me redefine my definition of home.
On the morning of our departure, Lairen picked the two of us up bright and early. I had packed everything I needed into a bookbag right before we left. I always travel light; light of heart, light of material possessions and usually on an empty stomach. I was hungry, but I just wanted to be on the road, in transit. I can usually fend off hunger quite well when traveling through different time zones. I rode shotgun, with Robin in the backseat as Lairen pounded the road. The sun was already in the sky, but the color of the highway matched the tint of the sky. It was peaceful and cool. We had began logging what would be thousands of miles on our bodies.
Upon our arrival at PDX, we hotboxed a cigarette and found our way through the concourse. We went through security in a record amount of time. We had enough time to get breakfast sandwiches and relax enough to brace ourselves for transit. We both enjoy traveling quite a bit, but when heading back to Fort Wayne, we just simply want to get there. The rest of it (security, layovers, etc.) all just seems like bullshit hurdles that slow us down.
We had a simple, two hour flight to Denver. Our layover upon arrival was about three hours. Normally, we would dread such a stagnancy in our travels. Denver's airport, however, not only has a bar, but it's one of the seemingly rare airports where you can actually smoke inside the terminal. Our first, and only, priorities were beer and cigarettes. That routine in that particular airport is a point of comfort for the two of us. Back when we had first got together (almost three years ago), we traveled to Portland from Fort Wayne and stopped in Denver. We had only been together for about three months, but there we were drinking beers and looking at the Rocky Mountains, weary from our travels but incredibly in love with each other.
We spent our layover drinking pints and smoking cigarettes. Our plan was to self-medicate enough to where we could sleep the whole way to Indianapolis. It's a strange sort of time travel that seems to work quite well for us. In what seemed like no time at all, we were flying over Indiana. We had both stirred awake and had our eyes glued to the window. The entire state looked dead. The infamous drought had ravaged the land. There was hardly any green anywhere. Although the drought and heatwave hadn't really affected us in Portland, we felt solidarity with our friends and family just by seeing the effects of it.
We landed, got off the plane and quickly headed outside. We were both desperately in need of a cigarette. The Indianapolis airport is (and I'm sneering as I type this) "a smoke-free terminal". Given the fact the sun was still high in the sky, segway cops were all over the place. We weren't able to sneak cigarettes behind the bushes like high school kids like we normally would. We told Sonia to get to the airport early because we had been making great time the whole trip. She ended up being an hour and a half late. It was an hour and a half of idleness. Without a cigarette, we both became quite cranky.
She finally arrived and we immediately gave her shit. She took it like a champ and we were back on the road. After calibrating ourselves with a few cigarettes each, we were in much better shape. We were heading into Fort Wayne a lot later than originally planned, so Robin had to cancel plans to see her family that night. She wasn't too happy about it, but there wasn't much else we would do. We wouldn't be arriving in Fort Wayne until after 10pm.
The game plan for the evening was to meet everyone at Peanuts, one of the best dive bars in Fort Wayne. We had a huge group of friends already there waiting. Our anxiousness was almost palpable. It seems to be tradition at this point to meet there our first night in town. Beer is served in glass mugs and peanuts litter the tables and floors. It's the perfect atmosphere for reuniting our whole gang.
We pushed tables together and crammed everybody around them. There was such a big group that we couldn't begin to hold conversation with everybody. We each had to big a smaller group and make them a priority. This was the first of many times on this trip that I felt truly home. The dynamics of the city had entirely shifted (although we wouldn't realize that until later in the week). Beers were being poured from pitchers, smiles became soaked in alcohol and my heart felt like it was going to leap from chest. It swelled with pride at seeing my brother and his fiance together. It skipped a beat with every new face that arrived. I could have stayed at my seat at the table, surrounded by all of those good people for an eternity.
As the night grew late, people began paying tabs and heading home. We were slightly bummed, but it was only our first night in town. There were guaranteed to be more nights like those for the rest of the week. Robin got a ride to her Dad's house and I headed to my brother's apartment with his fiance. Before we had even arrived in town, he was already stoked on giving me a place to stay and putting me up. I was happy to oblige.
We headed back to their apartment and immediately cracked more beers. They gave me a tour of their apartment. It made me incredibly happy to see them doing so well for themselves. What they had with each other and what they had in terms of living space was incredible. We stayed up late drinking beers on their balcony, talking about the future, their plans for marriage and so forth. My bad influence lent a hand in the both of them winding up quite drunk. The beer fueled our conversations and clarity of thought. I passed out on their couch with the air conditioning going full blast underneath a down blanket.