When I went home for a summer break, I was met with the news of recent development: the four-way intersection down my street was being constructed into a roundabout, and I would not be able to take my usual way to town. I felt nothing but brief annoyance until later that night. I was in my bedroom, under the popcorn ceiling which had once made me feel itchy, and thought of it again.
For eighteen years, nearly daily, I had stopped at that intersection. But, I still do not know the street names. I had been driven there en route to preschool, elementary and middle school. I had driven myself through that stop when I turned 16.
It had been a point of transportation to learn what our state bird was, the five Great Lakes, to poorly play violin, grudgingly apologize and differentiate the wins from the losses and the wrongs from the rights. I had never realized that the car ride would be the easiest part. I knew nothing when I drove south, and when I drove north, back home, I had chipped away at the ice block. Maturity was gained through mileage.
While the cause of the construction was not unreasonable — between the hours of 8 to 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 to 4 p.m. traffic clogged the roads for school entry — I took it as an unwelcome reminder that the past was in fact inimitable — and the past had been a point of return during the disorder and inconsistency of college. Now, that was physically gone. It had always been gone in practice.
All I had of the four-way stop were ambiguous — possibly fabricated — memories. There had been no obvious reason for me to take a picture of the excitement or dread of going somewhere, going anywhere. It had been the perfect place to pause and think for a moment.
Roundabouts promised no such peace; you were forced into the anxiety of yielding.
During high school, when I felt aimless, I would drive around the neighborhood thinking about the things or people I wanted. I had never thought yearning was a virtue until I was finally satisfied. So I began to cry for the four-way stop, and I cried because I was no longer a child who melded reality and fiction. My father no longer read me the National Geographic while I pointed at the pictures because I could read it myself and I didn’t care for animals anymore.
Soon I would be older, whether or not I had children to drive through four-way intersections or if I had somebody to talk to in the passenger seat. No matter the outcome, nothing would matter as much as the things that hadn’t really mattered at all when I drove through the four-way stop for the first time — my hands shaking on the wheel, my eyes wavering with uncertainty.
Nothing would pass as quickly as the feeling of permanence that clings to you when the what-ifs of school politics are infinite, you still have baby fat on your face and you believe in life more than any zealot believes in God.
Now I had driven four hours alone to visit friends I had not known existed a year ago and old friendships I had once thought immutable could not escape the course of change. I was still open to the what-ifs, but in a lot of them, I knew the ending. As I ran out of firsts, I was met with the blankness of having nothing to prove.