“Where is that accent from?” the woman asks and I tell her. She smiles and asks me why I’m here and I tell her, “My girlfriend is in the hospital and I have got to find her.” I rarely give a company free advertising but Carol with Avis sprung into action, and not only printed out a map, but then gave me directions to where I was suppose to go, and upgraded my car for free. Love means something, even to people who rent cars, but it means nothing to the dark and the rain.
I found the car in a vast parking lot by pressing the key fob until a car flashed me. It was a Black Avenger with just a few miles on it. The car smelled new and it was nice and cool inside. I had legroom. I had music. I had a Quest. And for the first time since about three in the afternoon, I was on the ground. But where was I? I couldn’t see anything at all. The rain and clouds blocked out the moon and the artificial lights showed me little. I followed the map out of the airport and onto an interstate and then to another. The roads in Pennsylvania were not the same as those in Georgia. The potholes were bigger, the ruts deeper and the traffic markings unclear at times. I thought about getting a room for the night but no, this was a Quest, and I was going to find Michelle, and I was going to find her this night, no matter how long it took. The traffic was light but the rain fell and then did not fall and then fell hard then stopped. And began again.
Georgia is flat, nearly everywhere in South Georgia is totally flat, but here there were grades and curves and I did not know how fast to travel. I stayed behind a truck and hoped it was going slow enough, or fast enough, and even with just forty miles or so to go, I had no idea if I was in the right place or going in the right direction.
Being a Hermit means you really never miss anyone, and you’re always happy to be alone. Michelle had stayed with me for four days and it was heavenly. I did miss her. I missed having her around. I missed her input on my writing. I missed her laugh and her smile. I thought I missed my exit during all of this, but it wasn’t the right one after all, and I realized the fatigue of the day was taking a toll. What if I couldn’t find the right hospital? How many were there here? Where exactly was I anyway? During all of this thought, of all things, an ambulance passed me with its lights off. Lawyer like reflexes kicked in and I followed it. Suddenly a car cut in front of me and I had to slow down as we exited but I could still see the ambulance. It made a right turn so when I got up to the intersection so did I. A few blocks later there was a hospital.
Maybe in another lifetime I might have hesitated. Maybe, Mike the ground dwelling Hermit who lived alone in the woods might have been intimidated by the strangeness of the hospital and the comings and goings of the Emergency Room. Maybe yesterday I wouldn’t have parked a rented car in a reserved space and simply walked into the building and approached the first person that was there, but that is what I did.
“I’m looking for Michelle.” I told the woman.
“Are you sure you aren’t looking for Mary?” the woman asked. “My name is Mary, Michelle and I have the same last names.”
“Thank you, Mary, where is Michelle?” I hadn’t traveled though storm and air and clouds and screaming kids and Sandy to bandy words with a bored receptionist. Third Floor. Bed six in the emergency ward, but the elevators are weird so I missed the first time and had to backtrack.
The doors opened into a ward and I stopped the first person I saw and she pointed to a closed curtain. A dozen steps, maybe less, and Michelle was there, with tubes and electrodes attached to her, but smiling at me, alive and happy. I put my arms around her and life was complete.
The Quest, at least that part of it, was complete. South Georgia could not stay me. Screaming children could not delay me. I got on a plane and flew and then made my way through rain and dark, and doubt. It didn’t matter if she stayed in the hospital a day, or a week, all that mattered is that I was there with her. She would not be alone that night nor any other. The man she wanted had arrived, and in that, the man I always wanted to be had also walked through those doors. If you want to be the type of person who will travel a long distance through bad conditions just to be with the person you love then it is a lot easier than it looks. All you have to do is do it.
It is worth it, you know.