Singapore Adventure

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Plodding Along
by venitha

Out for my morning run from my childhood home, I plod along the deserted highway. The lake is glass, and while I appreciate the view, I'd prefer a breeze: I'm running, not water skiing, and Wisconsin in late July may as well be Singapore.

In less than a mile, I'm drenched in sweat and have arrived in town. In spite of its population explosion since I left twenty years ago, from my vantage point, it's definitely shrunk. It took my adolescent legs forever to walk from the high school to church, to bike from my house to the pool, to be picked up when I called home after junior high dances; as an adult, however, I run circles upon circles around the entire town, astounded by the apathetic progress of my watch.

I nod a greeting to Vickie, an old neighbor. I wonder if she recognizes me and marvel that she looks so young. My mother has informed me that her son, one of my brother's fellow delinquents, just had an angioplasty. I pick up my pace and hope that Jim, halfway around the world from me, is getting some exercise of his own.

I run past the church where my brother got married, then the pharmacy where his bride used to work and where, on his wedding day, I bought him hairspray to quell his fears of a last-minute bed head attack. He looked great.

The bar that would lead to my older sister's sure divorce if she ever moved back here belches a cloud of stale beer, and the restaurant where she worked as a waitress oozes a haze of stale grease. Ah, the scents of Wisconsin. And you thought it would smell like cheese.

I leap clumsily over the just-cock-eyed railroad tracks that led to my first crash on my first ten-speed bike, then jog through the park where I ate dozens of chocolate ice cream cones thanks to year after year of June Dairy Days celebrations. I backtrack toward the beautiful white church where my siblings and I were all four confirmed, but where not one us was married. Now sold and stripped of its incredible stained glass windows, it looks soulless, lonely, unloved, but no less so than the nearby hockey rink, deserted in summer.

I continue on past the middle school, from which my class was the first to graduate. It still looks like a prison after 25 years of tree growth. I round the corner to my high school, unrecognizable after a major expansion. It still sports the same unflattering-to-everyone color scheme, and it still compensates with the same super cool panther mascot.

Another block takes me past the healthcare facility where Tammy used to volunteer. Both dateless for our junior prom, we went together. She died of cancer last summer. Then past Stacy's house. We played piano duets for contest. She's now a lawyer, a partner in her father's downtown practice. Then past Shon's. He was always a jerk to me, a spoiled brat. I half expect his graduation present, a royal blue Pontiac Grand Prix now faded and rusty and missing its hubcaps, to be parked in his driveway.

I turn my back on my classmates, my memories, the inexplicable twists and turns of our lives, and I head toward home. Along the highway, my rhythmic breathing and my steady pace clear my mind, and I feel a slight breeze before I see the ripples on the lake.

I spent several days in July with my parents in my hometown of West Salem, Wisconsin, USA.