neon : rubies

Denver comes with a blast of dry air and a welcome-back nosebleed. You call vaguely-new netfriends and get an offer of electrons and wi-fi from his place of business. You pick up a rental car that cost a fourth of your Detroit rental and head through industrial Denver for a temporary place to roost.

You celebrate your unemployment with a margarita and stuffed peppers at a Mexican restaurant.  When your turn comes to speak, you do it easily. No wings, no fear; it's just a room full of librarians, after all. When the opportunity for a mid-afternoon coffee run comes, you jump in the minivan with newly-minted colleagues for a cold shot of caffeine.

You are the voice in the back, recommending modules, making pointers to cheat sheets. You marvel that, suddenly, you sound competent; it seems a theme for this week. It is a joy to have your professional opinion taken without resistance or recalcitrance; you may sound like a Steely Dan member in the back row but secretly, quietly, you are grateful and appreciative that what you have to say has value to others.

The drive north doubles itself due to rush-hour traffic, so you slow down and dial your most frequently-called number. You want to hear his voice more than you care about the discomfort of your broken earpiece, and the call goes long and rambling before you decide to soak in the ambience of the mountains off to your left.

Fort Collins holds the same alien familiarity it always has; the too-perfect grids and the too-wide streets making you wonder where the movie set ends. Your nose bleeds when you rub it; you are not suited for high altitudes and it makes you miss  your spouse all the more, despite your Minnesota-cleaned laundry and your ability to call him at any time.

Upon arrival, you attempt to be awake and fail miserably; instead you bunk down in a blanket and whisper, "I don't think I'll make it to ten" before snoring by eight-forty-five. He takes your picture as proof, hair blonde and red and brown against the blue of the couch, and the grey skittish cat comes nowhere near you.

If you were awake at this moment, you would remember to be homesick, but your exhausted brain is too full to register new memories and you shut yourself off for the day. When you wake, ten hours have passed, and you have once again awakened in a new city, a new time zone, and you need those first few precious waking moments to decipher where, exactly, you have awakened THIS time.

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