The Wide and Lonesome Road

Dearest Rachel –

Look, this is not the proof-of-concept, can-I-travel-on-my-own venture that you might think it would be. After all, I’ve driven more or less nonstop to Tennessee earlier this year, and that was twice the distance and length as this trip.

I’ve said it before, but it needs to be reiterated; it’s not that I can’t travel on my own, it’s that I really don’t want to. As quiet as the drive was from time to time, you were still there. You were a presence in the car.

Now… there is nothing.

Just me, looking straight ahead at a wide and lonesome road. No occasional chit-chat, or twenty questions guessing game. No companionable silence, punctuated by the odd soft snore as you might fall asleep next to me.

Just… empty silence.

Since I mowed the lawn yesterday afternoon (to get ahead of what I was told would be severe storms and hurricane-like winds overnight – I’m not seeing the kinds of sticks and branches on the lawn this morning that would confirm that, but hey, whatever), I showered immediately after; thus, I’m not bothering with the procedure this morning. Which should please ol’ Chompers no end, as I can respond straightaway to his six o’clock wake-up-and-bark routine by just throwing on clothes and taking him outside.

I figured it would be most appropriate to show up wearing an anime-themed shirt, so I went with Zetsubou-sensei today. Because if anyone has the right to scream out his catchphrase “Despair! I’m in despair!” wouldn’t it be a freshly-minted widower?

Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei (Goodbye Mr Despair!) | Sayonara zetsubou sensei,  Anime, Anime movies

You should remember this character (and the girl peeking from behind his extended right arm): this was probably the only cosplay I ever did, and certainly the only joint cosplay we did together.

Yeah, I never was as skinny as these anime characters, but that was my take on Nozomi Itoshiki, Mr. Despair, complete with the suicide kit in his briefcase. Meanwhile, you dressed up as the stalker girl, Matoi Tsunetsuki, and shadowed my every move. As you did throughout most of real life. For what it’s worth, I liked this picture well enough to use as the one accompanying my Twitter handle – @IwasRachels1

By the way – and I know how much you hhhate spoilers, but it isn’t as if you’ll ever watch the rest of the series or read any of the manga at this point anyway, but that girl on the back of my shirt? Yeah, the sunny-dispositioned, always-look-on-the-bright-side-of-life girl, Fuura Kafuka (Oh yes, the mangaka did go there: ‘Franz Kafka’)? Yeah, it turns out that she’s been dead all along, and the reason she’s such an integral part of the class is because everyone there has one organ or another from her, so her spirit infuses all of them. And this is entirely played for comedy.

Back to the preparations for travel. Since the sticker had apparently fallen off at some point, I’ve no idea when I last got the car looked at in terms of any oil/lube/filter issues. So, before Kris was to show up this morning to clean things upstairs (the better to make the yellow room livable for Ellen’s sake, particularly), I drove off to the local quick service place once Chompers had been satisfied and sleeping.

Turns out, I still have a thousand miles of oil to work with, although the guys there did offer to top it off for now. I’m guessing that the trip to Iowa and back will probably put the car in a state where it’s ready for this usual bit of maintenance.

However, the one guy pointed asked me about the last time I had my transmission looked at, and the fluid replaced. And I had to admit, I have no idea. He showed me a bit of the fluid; dark as dried blood, although nowhere near as thick. It’s not supposed to be this color, evidently. Naturally, they offered to replace it.

I confess, I don’t know how many times I’ve turned those sorts of ‘offers’ down in the past. Honestly, I always saw these kinds of things as something of an upselling scam. But it’s not as if the cost is all that impactful anymore; at least, not on a relative level. Amounts like this don’t have the same meaning as when I was a green college grad, newly out in the workfarce and making twenty-five or so a year. Besides, the last thing I need out there is the middle of relatively nowhere is a mechanical breakdown. I accepted the offer, and paid the price.

Now, of course, if there was a way to ensure that there would be no emotional breakdowns while I’m out by myself. But there’s no sort of preventative maintenance that I know of that can be done about that at this point.

It bears repeating that I really don’t know how this is going to go without you. I may have been the anime fan (once upon a time – these days, Daniel watches so much more with Logan and Kat than I do), but you were the one who loved the convention life. So many people, to talk to, to play games with… to turn from strangers into friends. And the fact that we had some interest in common like anime made that process all the easier for you; there were so many easy jumping-off points to strike up a conversation that could, unchecked, run for hours.

I don’t have that kind of skill. Or stamina, for that matter – there were a number of times that I would pile myself into bed around midnight (which has always been a limitation of mine), and you would head off to continue mingling with whoever you might find. Whether it was the dance party in Main Programming, a room party or another on the second floor, or just hanging around in the lobby or the atrium, you would have your fun, drag yourself back to the room by three or so, and tell me about everything the next morning. Sadly, I’d forget your stories by the next panel, so I couldn’t share all the fun you had out there all those nights. But at least you had it.

It’s why 2020 hurt you so badly. Sure, we could watch this or that panel on Twitch, but we didn’t go for the panels. We didn’t even go for the anime. We went to hang out with other members of Otaku Nation, and that didn’t happen last year – or even this year, when it comes to ACen.

Even AI is slightly in question, now, what with the sudden about-face on masking and whatnot. Granted, a lot of the cosplayers will probably have chosen characters that incorporate masks or face coverings into their costumes, but as for the rest of us?

Well, I guess I’ll always have Alfred E. Neuman.

Obviously, I’m sending this before I leave town; I can’t write about the travel itself, at least, not while I’m on the road. But I’ll do what I can to keep you posted. Stay tuned, honey… if you like.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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