I sit by Junction Creek in the immediate aftermath, sipping the remnants of the whiskey I’d bought in Lake City. I saved it for a reason – it suits my mood; the Colorado Trail’s trailhead is off to my left, the Creek’s softly flowing along, ushering my thoughts into and directly out of my mind. I’m content to flow along with it for the moment – what I’m thinking is too big to hold onto – while Crankster lets me have my space, making busy busy busy back back back to the real world. I’m not quite there yet, though I know I’ll have to be soon enough.
Soon, too soon, I pull myself away, if not into the real world, into a new liminal now-space – my whiskey’s gone, and my stomach is yowling to be fed. Of course it is. Of course it is now, now that calories are not a necessity. Jerk. At least there are actual toilets in my future for its inevitable rebellion.
Crankster’s car is full of pretty much all of her earthly possessions, and she’s thrilled that everything seems to be in order after leaving it there three weeks earlier. I settle myself into the super-comfortable passenger seat and we’re off, off at blinding-but-actually-just-normal speeds, down the winding residential road to Durango proper. We stop at Carver Brewing Company for eats and brews – we each get a Colorado Trail Nut Brown Ale on the house for having finished – and decide not to make decisions on housing, rolling the dice and letting Priceline decide. Before we head for the sleeps, we wander the main street, landing Crankster a new pair of kicks while I look at my bank account and wonder how I’m ever going to afford anything ever again – my first taste of the real world.
We stay at the Iron Horse Inn in Durango – it’s a strange loft with two beds, one upstairs, one downstairs, but Crank and I are used to sleeping together, and tonight – our last together – will be no different. We turn on House Hunters again, and lurk on the internet to see how it reacts to news of our finishing. House Hunters stays on until I can’t keep my eyes open anymore, and then it’s sleep, sleep with vivid dreams not remembered upon waking.
Crankster lends me a dress to wear for the day – so strange to be in a dress again – and we get a view of the actual Iron Horse train behind the hotel before checking out, heading to Oscar’s Cafe for breakfast on the pro-tip of the front desk worker. We drive up and down the main drag on our way out of town, seeing if there are stores we want to poke our heads in. There aren’t, so it’s back to the highway for the six-hour drive back to the Front Range.
I’m in charge of the tunes for most of the way – music, after five weeks without. I give Crankster a well-rounded picture of my music tastes, and while she also gives me some of hers, we almost exhaust all the music on my phone as we speed through the Coloradan countryside.
It’s so, so strange, seeing familiar sights from a different viewpoint on the way back: Salida, where we stop to grab Crankster a celebratory pair of pants; the turnoff for Mount Princeton; Jefferson from up close, rather than from Kenosha; Kenosha itself, leaves embracing autumn and an absurd amount of tourists embracing the crisp afternoon. My heart is full, so full, as we pull onto I-70, make our way back to Denver, back to my old stomping grounds, back home.
It’s a strange word on my tongue, stranger for the fact that no one’s home when I arrive; my keys are locked inside, and I have to call my friend A to let me in. He smiles as Crankster and I say a brief goodbye; she’s staying with a friend, but she’s going to meet us at a local brewery in a couple of hours.
Our time at the brewery softens the blow of re-entry a little bit, gives me time with the Programmer and A and Crankster in a semblance of a normal setting. It’s a jovial atmosphere, and we drink and talk the night away. I live close enough to walk – although I suppose anything is within walking distance now – but A insists on escorting me home, and we talk one-on-one for a little while after. Eventually, he heads for home, and I am left in the apartment by myself – normal, so normal – with the darkness telling me it’s past my bedtime.
The house is quiet, too quiet, as I fall asleep.