The Uninvited Hitchhiker

So, I am driving along, completely minding my own business on my way to my massage appointment, when, out of the clear blue sky flies a giant alien-esque beetle-bug. It lands just inches below my slightly open window, lucky for me, and not inside my car. All of this I see, out of the corner of my eye, at first, as its shadow crosses the sun, dancing into my line of vision. Only then did I peer to the left to find him just sitting on the pane, as I sit in my car, now waiting at a red light.
We stare each other down immediately, trying to bait each other, like in a wild west shootout, testing each other’s nerves to see who would give in first. That little bastard gets me, and I flinch, rolling my window up all the way. The thought of him crawling inside my car for a ride is just too much to bear. I watch him move with the window, his steely, beady little eyes looking almost through me in some sort of satisfied way that only an alien-beetle can.
One point for beetle, zero for me.
Now, I have never been one to pick up hitch-hikers. No way, not me. My mother taught me better than that. Plus, I’ve seen all those movies where a girl is riding along, minding her own business, when she foolishly picks up some n’er-do-well on the side of the street. Sure, he looks innocent enough, actually, she thinks, he’s a bit attractive, so she lets him in. And that’s when all hell breaks loose! Oh yes, I have seen those horror films!
So, as you can imagine, I am pretty perturbed at this point. I mean, who wouldn’t be? This little bugger jumps on, uninvited, not bothering to ask me if it’s okay, or which way I am headed, or at the very least if he can offer some gas money! But nonetheless, he holds on, just staring me down. I honestly don’t even think he blinks. Oh yeah, he’s good.
But then I think to myself, is he that good? Don’t I have a trick or two up my sleeve? Would I really be able to relax at my massage appointment knowing that this little alien-bug got the best of me? Hell no!
So, I give him that sideways glance, you know the one, the one that means things are about to get sketchy. But still, he does not blink. In fact, he raises one of his little sticky bug legs, and can you believe his nerve, he waves at me! Not the polite hello, or the friendly hello, no. He lifts that tiny little black leg and waves that condescending, look at me, I-am-hitching-a-free-ride-and-there’s-nothing-you-can-do-about-it wave. So damn smug. Ugh!
I have just about had it with this little freeloader! So, I reach over, all slow and sneaky-like, to my passenger seat, where lo and behold, there sits a racing helmet. How’s that for preparation? I pull it over my head slowly, for affect, of course, and once I have it on snugly, I turn to face him again. Still, he does not blink. No bother. I lift my hand and grab the protective face shield at the top of the helmet and pull it down over my face. Oh yeah, things are about to get hairy. But still, he does not flinch, nor blink, nor even move. I reach my left hand across my lap to my belt buckle, assuring it is securely fastened. Yeah, I mean business now.
I have my right foot on the brake, keeping the car still at the light. I shrug my shoulders, trying to stay loose, and casually, (yeah bug-a-boo doesn’t even notice I am so stealthy,) slide my left foot over to the brake, letting my right foot free to seek the gas pedal. While holding down the brake with my left, I press down on the gas with my right, revving the engine. The little free-loader knows I mean business now.
If his feet weren’t so small, I would have been able to see him digging in, finding some new sturdy purchase on the glass, anticipating my hasty take-off. But, alas, I cannot see such a small thing, and so…
The light turns green and off I go with a screech and a howl! Oh yes, I am a madwoman, obsessed by one goal; to remove this vile creature from my vehicle! (One might ask, at this point, why not just roll the window back down and give him a little flick, goodbye?) My answer, simply, how ridiculous would that be?
So, wheels tearing, I race down the street, one eye on the road, the other on my intruder. Still, nothing, he does not budge. Sure, he leans a little to his right, catching the wind that howls past him as I speed along, but that is all he does. Oh, he thinks he’s so clever, but I am not done yet. I come up to an intersection, and without putting on my signal, I abruptly make a right turn, giving my own self a flash of whiplash. I let out an evil little cackle, assuming that this must have bested him, and to my surprise, there he still clings.
How was I to know that before this beetle-y type bug left his house this afternoon he put glue on the bottom of his feet? I mean, how else would he be able to pull this off? Okay, if not glue, I bet it was some of that two sided tape. You know the kind that women use when they wear a revealing dress that they can’t wear a bra with, ya know, to hold their boobs in place? That’s probably what he used. Yep. Oh, he’s crafty, I will give him that.
Nah, I’m not done yet. I find a nice long stretch of road and push the pedal to the metal. I mean, I am really flooring this thing, breaking speed limits and possibly the sound barrier too. I feel my mouth turning upwards, just in the corner; the right side of my face, that devilish little grin is coming. I shake my head, full knowing that no bug could keep up with this, and yet, there he is, still, clinging on. In fact, he’s not even breaking a sweat. I, on the other hand, can feel the sweat beading up on my brow, slipping down the side of my face. But I look at him, and he’s just chillin’ out there, swaying in the breeze. He’s got some kind of nerve, I tell ya.
I am running out of good ideas, tricks, you see. And he doesn’t even seem fazed. He must be an alien beetle bug, because nothing on this earth could hold on like that as I race along, speed demon possessed. Otherworldly, he must be. I am convinced.
My destination is so very near now, so I speed up, even though I have to take a left turn, across traffic. I say a little prayer and hope my timing is right, and without slowing one bit, I whip across traffic and down the street towards the spa. I don’t even bother to look at him, knowing the odds are he made it through that too, that crafty little insect. So I speed into the parking lot, whip into a spot and slam on the brakes. My teeth clenched, my jaw tight, I squint my eyes maliciously and turn to glare at him.
Yes, he is still there. This whole time, this whole wild ride, he doesn’t budge, doesn’t seem to put up any struggle at all. And so now he were are again, car stopped and staring each other down. Deja vous.
He waits until I turn off the engine and pull out the keys and then he lifts one leg, and then another, and yet another, walking upwards and across my window towards where the door opening would be. Can you believe that little bastard is challenging me again? He’s daring me to step out of the car. I place my hand slowly onto the door handle, ready to fling the door open at any second, and yet I wait. He stops, looks down in on me, and I swear, though I can’t be sure, I swear he grins at me. Shameless, he is. He starts to move his legs again, and moves dangerously close to the edge of the door, waiting.
I have to admit, at this moment, I feel a sense of defeat. I let out a big sigh and roll my eyes, knowing there’s no way I am getting out of this car with him so close to jumping-on-me range. No way. I wonder how long we are going to do this. Like a terrible stalemate in a chess match, he has me, with nowhere to go. So, I wait. It’s his move. And then he does the rudest thing, really rubbing my face in it…
He crouches back on his hind legs, and lifts one of his front legs up, flips me off, and flies away.
I shake my head in disbelief. That did not just happen. Did it? I feel abused, taken advantage of. Who can I tell? Do you call the police for this kind of thing? No, I would never nail the description. Even if they did catch him, would I be able to finger him in the line-up? I’d be too intimidated, again.
You win, little bugger. You got me. Free ride.
Now, I really need that massage.

There’s No Place Like Home

Just recently, I got an invitation to my upcoming 20th year high school reunion. And like any major markers in life, it got me thinking… deep… hard… I did some serious introspective digging through my ‘history’.

What I found produced a strange combination of both an ‘a-ha moment’ and an ‘I knew that’ moment all at the same time. How could that be? Dig deep with me and we’ll discover together.

It all began, where this story should logically begin, with school. I never went to pre-school, so when I got to kindergarten, it was all brand new. Most of the other kids knew each other because they had attended pre-school, so when I showed up, I was the new kid. And I was welcomed with a sense of awe and intrigue (as most things show up to kids that age.) Everyone wanted to know who I was, what I liked, disliked, and so on. Everybody wanted to be the new kid’s friend. I got invited to every birthday party, after school playdate, and any other social gathering that a 5 year old has. And it wasn’t that I didn’t want these things, or like these other kids, but there was always a ‘something else’ looming. So I occasionally went to these gatherings and made friends, but my heart wasn’t really in it.

Flash forward to high school. I was the kid who was in no particular category: not the coolest kid, not the biggest dork, not the bookworm, nor the stoner. I didn’t have a category. I was the square peg that knew I didn’t fit into the round hole, but just liked being near it instead. And that was a-ok for me. I had friends, friends from every single group from the above-mentioned. But I had no BFF. I don’t think I wanted or needed one.

Flash forward once again. Bear with me. I am 21 and moving across country, moving away from family and friends for the first time in my life. Was I afraid? Excited? Nervous? Sure, all of the above in some way. But I wanted to move on, because, because you see, there was always a part of me that knew where I grew up was not my ‘home’. So, in this new place, I got a new job, and new friends, and new hobbies, and really branched out. But again, I felt kind of square peg-like. So after several years, I moved almost across the country again, to another new state to start once more, because, that place was not my ‘home’ either.

Now, here I find, I must interject something.

I was not unhappy. In fact, I am a pretty happy person. I think if I had to describe myself, what comes to mind is a chameleon. My colors change to adapt to my surroundings. But all those colors are shades of me. Oh yes they are. So here I am, the happy chameleon, finding that it is time to move again. So I did. And I changed my colors, I fit in and made it happen. But again, I wasn’t ‘home’. I just knew it.

So, I did a 2 year stint in this new state, and then decided to try another state, once again, clear across the country…. and here I sit, about a year in. I love the place I live. I love the weather, the people, the food, the culture. I am happy here, but as you may have guessed, I am not ‘home’.

Now this may sound dreamy, or romantic, or just downright foolish, but I will tell you, home to me has always felt like Italy.

Yes, I said it. Italy.

I am an American, whose grandparents are from Italy, but I have never been to Italy myself. But every time I hear people talk of Italy, or see movies, or pictures, or read articles about Italy, I feel this overwhelmingly deep sense of homesickness. It may be hard to truly put into words, but there is this ache, this knowing sense emanating from somewhere within that says, “go home”, Italy is home. Call it what you will, my heart, my soul, my connection to the Universe… all signs point to Italy. Because, you see, there is no place like home. I know this. I just haven’t gotten there yet.

And I find, writing this, I could end this blog entry here…but I won’t. I must come full circle.

So, back to that 20 year reunion that looms in the very near future… should I stay or should I go? There is a part of me that thinks it would be cool to go, see where people ended up, how they ended up, if they ended up. But then there’s that part of me that knows it was never home, so if I should ever go home for a reunion, shouldn’t it be to Italy?

So, in light of all my introspection, instead of traveling across the country to go to my 20th year high school reunion, I am planning a different kind of reunion. This one is home, to Italy.

Because, there truly is no place like home.