Friday night. I clutch my driving directions in one hand and refer to them in the glow of my car’s interior light. 16th Street to Florida, right on R, take 23rd at the roundabout, and so on. I’m on my way to meet friends in Arlington and decided to take surface streets rather than looping around the city.
I make my way on narrow side streets with cars parked on both sides, past charming row houses with pretty front stoops.
It’s my first timing driving a car in DC – I’ve taken the Metro countless times and been the passenger when someone else was driving, but it’s my first time navigating on my own. I have a sense that I’m probably in Georgetown, but when I turn on to M Street, I know it for sure.
It’s immediately familiar, though much has changed. Which is how it so often is when you go away and come back.
I’d have to ask my best friend since college how long it’s been (15 years? Longer?) since we spent long, aimless days shopping in that part of the city. She lived in Maryland for years and when I would visit, we seemed to end up there.
Walking and shopping. Seeing three movies in a day. Trying on oversized sweaters or finding funky candlesticks at Urban Outfitters. Checking out guys. Talking about where we thought our lives would go next.
Not looking at a map. Figuring out where we were as we went along. Doubling back to get our bearings if we had to.
Not knowing then that it would always, ever, be so.