The van comes swerving toward me but misses the curb. The driver hits his horn, as if I hadn’t seen him—but where he’s from, they do things loud that way.
Squirrels scatter. Maintenance men stare. The wife rolls down her window and holds up a map. The husband leans across her lap to bark at me.
“Sir you know how t’gedteither of thesotels?”
I want to laugh at the sir. It’s not the gentle nicety of the Virginian, but the pained formality of a traveler in a foreign land. His question collapses by the end, but he doesn’t mean it to; he bites each word as it falls from his mouth, and he just gulps down too much.
“Watch wanna do is,” I begin, and then I poin him and his wife back thway they came, and tellm to make the firs right, and go awlway down, south on Cneticit, and make thright on Calvert—kyean missit.
“Jus likon’ map,” says the wife, enlightened.
“Jus likon’ map,” I agree.
No smiles, no thanks, not even eye contact—he’s on a mission, and his missions long ago became her missions—and the van spins around. They roll up their windows and roll down the street. Squinting at their license plate, I smile to see I was right.
You can’t go home; after a while, it’s foolish to try. But sometimes, if you’re lucky, you receive a surprise, something worth more than a picture: the old sownds of home awl come cawlin f’you.