Leaving Kansas City tonight, where I gave a poetry reading, I headed west on 87th Street, first missing the turn onto I-35 and then purposely ignoring the turn to I-435, either of which would have brought me south to K-10, the highway home. The street I drove west on turned into a new, shiny road, bracketed to my right by new beige houses and to my left by new beige-framed storefronts (“Johnson County Beige,” I once heard this color called). At one point, I was pleasantly surprised to see a three-story, brand-new brick apartment building with Mission-style touches — the kind of building you might see in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood.
I drove on, not sure when and where I would find a road south toward K-10, the road I was on dropping and rising in a sudden series of small hills. New houses, an occasional old farmhouse, and a lot of woodlands flashed by. A baseball field, outfitted in hundreds of daylight-inducing lights, lit up reality for a moment, and then it was back into the darkness of this new road. The sky brightened into a darker blue ahead.
How new is this road? I don’t know, but it’s brand new to me, and I reminded myself to keep both hands on the wheel, turn on my brights when the coast was clear, and try to feel out the contours of the turns or small valleys ahead. At 45 mph, the speed limit, I had to pay close attention rather than traveling home on auto-pilot, having seared most of K-10 into my brain over the last 25 years or so. I also reminded myself that it was likely I would find the way home eventually, and if not, I could always turn around and retrace my steps.
The speed slowed. A town seemed on the hoof with more houses coming closer together. The road twisted and straightened, and then I saw a sign for “Kill Creek Road,” something I recognized as a turn-off from K-10. I turned left, saw a few buildings, a school, and then a sign that said “Golf Course,” pointing to a long dark drop. The road rose up toward what was the inevitable turn back to the familiar.
Within a few minutes, I saw the sign for Evening Star Road, another mystery to explore another time. For now, I watched the old stars rising over the new way home.