I’m sitting in a train station food court with a Styrofoam cup in front of me, and the buildings are different and the sky is different, but I am myself and my feet are on the ground and time ticks onward. The people threading around my table, beneath these old wood beams, are Tacomans, as are the construction workers banging away outside and most of the people in the train hurtling into Freight House Square from Seattle. I am a Tacoman..
My flight back from Switzerland was uneventful, which is exactly what I’d hoped for, given the debacle on way in. No pseudo-strokes or wheelchairs. No dirty hospitals or IV bags. Just smooth sailing over calm skies as Iceland stretched out beneath us in all of its fjord-y wonder. Deep black rock, milky blue water, snow, snow, snow. The adventure of travel had worn off on in that crowded, but orderly, Basel airport and by the time we were wheels down in America, life had taken on its quality of being checks on a list and steps in a plan. Get the bags. Check. Pick up the car. Check.
We collected a thoroughly happy dog from his dog sitter and we assured our neighbors(whom we had forgotten to tell we were leaving) that we had not died quietly in our house, and that we would do something about the dandelions ASAP. We ogled over the lovely photos from my parents as they continued gallivanting around Europe, but for us, the trip was over. The excursion concluded. The quest completed.
With one exception.
One week before, when I stopped by Roger Martinho’s kiosk to pick up the macarons that I would be taking with me to France, I asked him if there was anything that he wanted me to bring him back. A souvenir? Something he missed? He could think of only one thing.
“This,” Roger says, “This is France.” And he motions at the cup in front of him, the muted crackle of bubbles against Styrofoam. He takes a sip and I watch it hollow out a space in him.
“I’m back,” He says. “It’s like I’m back.”
He is not back. Around us, the food court moves in its gouts and spurts of busy people, beneath the neon lights of this odd little station so far away from hospital wineries, and black burgers and pale wieners.
And yet, as I swish my foreign drink and breathe its breath out through my nose I know exactly what he means. This taste of Ricard, will forever be a bookmark for me, same as the smell of schnitzel and the sound of old church bells. A placeholder for the rest of my life for standing barefoot in front of a hospital in the sunshine. For cool blue light on sandy white buildings. For bawdy laughter in a rattle trap van with good, good people. A chapter in my story about the first time I went to Europe, and the adventure that followed.