On getting lost

As we drive, we pass so many exists on the highway — some lead to medieval villages, others to fishing towns — but we ride on, and on and on. The windows are down, the wind is warm already. We drive with a place in mind, but occasionally, we stop off somewhere else. Hunger, crying children, curiosity lead us off course. And we often run into something new– a market, a music shop, a bookstore. Together, we indulge in the novelty of stumbling on someone else’s world. We hold hands as we stroll through cobblestone streets and take shelter inside cool churches. The baby marvels at the candles flickering in the dark. My big boy stands in front of an emaciated statue of Jesus for a long time and then asks me if we can have ice cream. “That would be nice, right mama?” he asks me loudly, slipping his hand inside mine. “Maybe we can look for a lemon one. Ok, mama?”  We give in and eat ice cream together. We try and push the scoop into the cone, and he finds that amazing and sings a song about us saving his ice cream from melting on his hands. We shush him, and tell him not to be too loud. We don’t want to disturb what seems to be so securely set in place. Everything is ancient here: The stones. The wells. The merry go rounds. The expressions on local faces. Who are we here? Who would we be had we not stopped here? I catch myself wondering if things happen for a reason. One minute something doesn’t exist, the other it belongs to us, even if temporarily. Most often we make plans, but sometimes they don’t work out. Today, we try to see a city from my childhood, but we get lost. We drive three hours and end up having lunch at a roadside bistro while the kids run in and out of a gourmet food shop. The baby marching strongly forward while his brother coerces him into slipping inside the restaurant kitchen. They laugh when I chase after them, and this goes on and on and on. “I’m sorry we didn’t make it there,” my husband tells me over a second espresso. We look at the cars passing us, heading places we’ll perhaps never know. I wanted to have checked this place off my list — to sit by an old port and share a fish stew. I look around at the empty restaurant, a cool breeze pushes the scent of my husband’s coffee toward me. The baby’s face is pink, tinged from the strawberries he somehow devours with his five teeth. My big boy is picking at his steak and French fries. He stops, hands his brother the salt shaker, and together they pour salt and pepper into a water glass. My husband and I let them do it. Somehow, our journey took us here. Not where we wanted to go, but somewhere else. And in that moment, I tell myself that perhaps it is fate. And either way, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

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