Hauling a U-Haul trailer behind a Subaru Forester is going to cost $500 to rent the trailer for a week, decreased gas mileage, the narrowing down of lost possessions that won’t fit into the 6 x 12 hardshell rig, and the addition of a 2” ball hitch to the back of my Subaru Forester, but I thought that the hitch was only supposed to cost $50, maybe a hundred bucks because the dealer can charge more for our trust, which I kind of feel like they should have to pay for. The dealer should be cheaper than other fix-it places, to keep us coming back, but we’re all idiots and the hitch costs $700. Shit. Well, I need it, so I can’t back out. It’s going to take four hours to install? Gah, my book isn’t going to hold me in the waiting room for that long. They must think I am such an idiot that I marked the online registration form box for “wait on premises.” But the clerk’s not holding it against me. He seems to have real empathy for the cosmetic ding that some dummy with a grocery cart gave me.
It’s ninety degrees outside, so I wore flip flops, but my best friend who is also leaving Portland called me from the airport and asked me to run my spare key over to her real estate agent who had locked himself out again and needed to show the house to the assessor, so I was also rushed out of the house wearing crappy jean shorts and a smelly t-shirt that I thought would only be sitting in an air-conditioned waiting room where nobody would judge someone bougie enough to own a Subaru for still being in grungy morning mode. Now I’ll have to dust off my withered bus-finding skills and look like the douche who didn’t in any way prepare to leave the house for whatever more substantial mission is worth transferring from bus to bus to get wherever. I could take a cab, but it would cost more, and, what, am I genuinely that snobby now?
I call my Mom.
“I didn’t realize that getting a hitch added to the Forester would cost so much,” I say.
“Good morning,” she says.
“I know that dealers can charge more, but this dealer is really great and hasn’t overcharged me in the past for other things, so it’s probably the correct price, but I just wasn’t expecting $600 for the hitch alone.”
“I’m sure that’s the right price. We can ask your dad, but every time we buy a car, we negotiate the hitch as part of the deal, so it must be a worthy sum. Let’s ask your dad.”
“Dad,” I groan, “Everybody but me knew that adding a hitch to the car would be more than a hundred bucks. Even Mom knew.”
“Yeah,” he replies, “When do you pick up the trailer?”
“We’ll pick the trailer up after you fly in. I’ll take you out for dinner the night before, and then in the morning we can go pick up the trailer. But even if you weren’t here, I know how to hook it up. I’ve been watching videos about how to cross the safety chains and I know where to hook up the electrical.”
“And you have to be careful driving it. You’ll want to avoid backing it up as much as possible.”
“Yes, my goal for the entire road trip to Wisconsin is not to jack-knife, but I have been watching a lot of videos about how to drive with a trailer. I mean, you’re going to be here, but I have been studying.”
“It’s not just backing it up; it’s that the rear axles will cut turns closer than your car will. … … … You can handle it.”
“I can handle it, but also you will be here. I’m really excited for our road trip.”
“Talk to you really soon, ok? I have to go catch a bus. Bye.”
Now I need to find the bus and some cash, and then change for the cash to ride the bus. I am going to be a pain in the butt for whichever corner store I can see when I reach a big enough intersection. The first big corner and bus stop I see is the one that my soon-to-be ex-husband told me has been recently rerouting to another bridge, because the bridge was built incorrectly and can’t handle the weight of the buses with enough certainty. So I trudge another three blocks in silly flip flops, to the next parallel route, so that I don’t wait and wait at a stop that has been decommissioned but not labeled as such. As I walk, the re-routed bus that I could have caught zooms around the corner from the other, stronger bridge and promptly collects passengers from the stop that I declined. Dammit. I am no longer grateful for the casual, conversational information that my ex imparted on me as I drove him to our mediation appointment, an act of spontaneous goodwill that I donated when I saw him standing at a bus stop, about to be late to our mediation appointment. I couldn’t leave him just standing there, despite everything he’s done, so I picked him up and was polite about it. Also, if I hadn’t picked him up, he would have been late. I now regret the entire incident.
But I am still in some kind of luck and there’s one of my bank’s ATMs directly in my path. This is unbelievably good luck; much better than paying the $3 fee for a Plaid Pantry portable unit and then sheepishly asking for change after buying an incredibly cheap pack of gum. And, there, in the same block is a sandwich shop that I have read about and have been dying to try but haven’t gotten around to. I can stock my wallet with cash for the next couple of weeks AND check an essential item off of my Portland To Do list that otherwise never would have been considered. I happily march my book and wallet full of two twenties into “Bunk” and gaze happily at the real chalkboard menu board. I love that they are open at 9:30am on a Friday. Wait, why is a sandwich, even a really good one, eleven dollars? For a sandwich? It seems like too much to pay for an on-the-go, bus-change meal. My cash surge isn’t going to last me two weeks at this rate. But I’m in here now, and I’ve always wanted to try a Bunk sandwich. Taking a cab would have been cheaper at this point, but they really are notable sandwiches, and by the time I get home off of the bus I will probably be really ready to eat a pork belly rueben.
I tip the clerk an extra dollar for making me bus-worthy change without rolling her eyes and then try not to look to douchey as I take out my phone to text friends about my morning and to take a picture of the menu board for Instagram. At least I will have a book and sandwich and correct change while I stand in the hot sun and wait for a weekend-speed bus. I am going to look like such a jackass when I have to squint to read the fare listings, because that’s how long it’s been since I rode a bus; I don’t even know the fare.
The bus that arrives first – really quickly, actually – isn’t one of the five bus lines that I know from passing them while driving in my neighborhood, but I’m familiar with the street listed on its big display, so I decide to be super carefree and play my cards fast and loose. It takes me to exactly the intersection that I suspected it would, just a few blocks south of where the familiar bus would have plunked me. And at this bus stop I have the extreme pleasure of gazing unabashedly at a cute blind guy with a dopey smile on my face. Because he can’t see me, and he doesn’t appear to need any assistance, I can freely admire his adorable physique, his ability to be very sharply dressed, and his supreme skill at navigating despite his disability, all without having to avert my eyes in order to acknowledge my own privileged perspective on his average daytime routine.
On the down side, he can’t see the book I’m reading and ask me about it in order to flirt until he notices my smelly shirt. The book’s pretty good so far; all about people and their own velocity in love, careers, and life. I am horrified to admit even to myself that I had previously only seen the movie and that I knew it was an awesome book and knew that it might help me better navigate my horrific love life choices, but had been too busy to prioritize it until now. I really could have used this book sooner. I can now only picture Parker Posey as one of the main characters, but it is still nice to have this small moment with print media on the bus; to feel like my younger, more carefree, more competent, child-free self. A moment of freedom.
The kids would have been a huge pain in the butt with whom to unexpectedly walk ten hot blocks to find an ATM, then change, then the bus stop. I am now shockingly relieved that their father surprisingly decided to exercise his last parenting time episode before the kids and I leave town. He’s probably not taking great care of them, but at least I get a jump start packing without the toddlers’ “help.” I already used up the five small-sized boxes that I had purchased to hold the heaviest of our belongings. Why did I think all of my books would fit into five boxes? I knew that none of our bigger furniture would fit into the trailer that we will pull through Yellowstone all the way to the Mississippi. I was planning to just fit what I could into the trailer, and then place all of the bigger items on the curb with a Craig’s List ad for “Free Stuff.” I was already prepared to mention that “I’m leaving town, so I can’t take this ad down when the Free Stuff is gone; you’ll just have to risk driving past to find out.”
Now, with a $800 hitch expense, maybe I will have to decide which big furniture to sell for some petty cash, as one of my besties suggested. But I hate Portland Craig’s List. Everybody loves used things so much here, that Portland Craig’s List is the most expensive Craig’s List I have ever encountered. If you charge more for your rickety used stroller than some rich lady in San Francisco would, that’s how you know you’re too hopped up on Portland spirit. Your stuff is used; stop asking almost full price!!! I will give you $5 for that at a garage sale; not $40, you Portland hipster ass!!!! It makes me want to give things away for free. But now, now maybe I will have to take advantage of it, admit that none of this big furniture is going to fit, and sell that cute little baby rocking chair for $5 instead of free.
Eleanor loved that small, cloth rocker that came with a safety belt just in case things got too wild six inches above the ground. But she’s almost two now; she’s kind of over it and really only wants to follow her big brother into the adult-sized rocker that dwarfs them both. I should just suck it up, take some pictures of the merchandise, and let them go for a few bucks to replace my lost sandwich cash. I can say something witty about how Craig’s List is like a garage sale except that you have to come carry it down one flight of crappy apartment stairs all by yourself.
That one flight isn’t going to be fun for whoever gives me $50 for this queen bed frame. I’m going to miss all of this cheap IKEA stuff that helped make Portland my home. And I am going to miss all of the far-left hippies, and bike lanes, and over-priced ice cream with bacon inside, and the mild winters, and all of the profound weird. I will miss my good friends. I will miss the city chickens and relentless moss. I am NOT going to miss Portland drivers. I am going to scoff at them as I ride another two buses back to the dealer to pick up my stupid Subaru in two hours. I will rage at them and their unsafe temerity as I drive home and stop to pick up a few more small packing boxes to hold all of my expensive gluten-free flours and baking supplies.
I almost step into traffic with my nose in a book, instead of in a text message like a more socially appropriate, modern Portland walker. It’s a good book, though. I know that I should have read it sooner, but my own personal velocity stopped me. This book and the other emotionally well-rounded books my besties and family recommended could have helped me prevent needing an $900 trailer hitch. They all knew that I should under no circumstances gamble again on my n’er-do-well ex, not even for the kids, especially for the kids. Even my mom knew. Especially my mom knew. But I rolled the dice and my kids are now stuck with their dirtbag dad while I schlep around in the flip-flops that I foolishly chose in a rush this morning before I knew I’d be hiking around with them carving a bloody rift between my two front toes.
At least my keys feel light if a little empty without the spare key that I gave to my bestie’s real estate agent in anticipation of our mutual defection, but the probably delicious sandwich bag is appropriately heavy in my sweaty fist. I am excited to stuff it in my gob and weigh it against my past sandwich experiences, in spite of the immense heat that makes a grilled lump of warm, buttery meat and cheese unwise. I proudly hold the chubby, crumpled bag a little higher and show its proprietary Bunk stamp to Shut Up And Eat as I walk past. I flip off their equally or maybe even more so expensive sandwiches. I enjoyed them, but they cost me.
I wonder what my kids are doing. I hope they’re ok. I hope Dirtbag isn’t explaining anything to them. His attempts to make them understand would be wholly negative and infuriating. All I can do for them at this point is let them have a little time with their insane biological connection to their genetic legacy while I gingerly pack their sweet little belongings safely into well-taped boxes. I will get them ready to haul across the country, back home, to Grandma and Grandpa, Uncle Jon, and everybody else. When they hug us and squeeze us and tell us that they are sorry for our troubles, I will pull away and smile and point to my expensive trailer hitch. At least I’ll have a trailer hitch.