Handoff: Saturday, October 3, 2020
Location: Kreische Brewery State Historic Site in La Grange, TX
Involved Parties: Martha Zink, Lisette Wilson
Best read while listening to James Bond Theme Songs
The mission was clear. Well, clear enough, anyway. The suitcase started here, arriving by courier in Houston, but it couldn't stay. We knew that and I was prepared to part ways with it, but while it was with me, it was treated with care. I'd lightly pass my finger over the initials on it - MJM. Who are you, MJM? Why did you let this suitcase go? Where has it been? So many questions. But I suppose it doesn't matter. It had a new mission. A new purpose. A new role in the Suitcase Protocol.
After some coordinating, Lisette and I agreed on when and where to meet. I unfolded the suitcase's map, confirming the route and reminding myself that Texas is too damn big. (Okay, so maybe the map was just used for looking at the size of Texas – Waze is where it's at for driving routes – but that sounds less fulfilling for the story.)
On the morning of October 3rd, I grabbed my trenchcoat and my beret (because what better way to be inconspicuous at a historic site) and I headed out the door. The air felt a little more crisp than usual; the sun a little brighter.
The drive itself was serene and how could it not be? No "mommy" coming from the car seats; no emails to answer; no laundry to fold; no one needing my attention. It was me, Carmen (that's my car's name, á la Carmen Sandiego), and whatever entertainment my phone could provide. And amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, this was my first real drive in a long time. An hour and a half of just me. Normally I'd scoff at any drive longer than an hour, but not this day and not in this climate.
I spent the whole drive singing too loudly, off-key, by myself; it was amazing. My condolences to the suitcase for having to hear that. But hey, it's part of the story now.
I trusted Spotify's algorithm for the suitcase's maiden voyage and it did not disappoint. It's fascinating how music can completely alter an experience. When Unpack Your Heart came up, I tipped my beret at the algorithm. "You've been listening to me say 'suitcase', I see."
When Billie Eilish's No Time To Die came on, I knew everything was right in the world. Like Bond, I had a mission to complete and I was about to do just that.
I was so engulfed by the music, though, I nearly missed my side mission: to stop at Buc-ee's. What is that, you ask? The world's best gas station. I needed to make sure the suitcase experienced the best Texas has to offer, so a quick photo opp was a must.
Once we were back on the road, it was more good music and relishing in the "me" time. Something that felt unique to these crazy times.
As I approached the meeting point, I realized just how excited I was for this. Sure, I'd play it cool but all of me felt like a student on the first day of school. Was I really about to meet up with another human?!
When Lisette showed up, I'm just not sure if she could see my big smile through the mask. But it was there! And even that smile didn't capture the excitement. Per our mission instructions, we'd first act like casual friends meeting in La Grange, TX, for a day of sightseeing. No big deal. The suitcase exchange was for later. First, we'd lunch!
Lisette picked up some awesome BBQ from Back Porch BBQ & Grill and it was wonderful. She even bought some beer named after the site we were on: Kreische Bluff Beer. We caught up – out loud! With words! In person! It felt like a totally new experience, but really it's just the type of stuff that I miss dearly.
Lisette ran back to the car to drop off some stuff and when she came back, I heard her yell my name and point toward the deer running by. That's not something I see in Houston very often (read: ever).
As we wrapped up lunch, we did a quick walk around the historical site's trail. But the time was nearing. It was almost time to do what we'd come here for. The suitcase needed to make its way to new hands, to have new experiences. To bring a little joy to others the way it did for me.
We thanked each other for a great experience, knowing that it wasn't over, but we had to be discreet, of course. We parted ways...to prepare.
We tried to make little eye contact with anyone else on the site. We didn't want to draw too much attention. Luckily the masks helped keep us even more anonymous. I took one more minute to thank the suitcase and to bid it adieu. I knew Lisette would take care of it as I did. The mission had to be completed. And so with my head held high, my beret slightly angled, and my sunglasses hiding any emotion, I was ready. We did just as we'd planned.
Once the handoff was complete, there was a sense of accomplishment. The time to leave was getting closer and it was odd to think my cargo would be one less suitcase on the way home.
My playlist on the way home was less memorable, but I think I was more in my brain of how the mission went. Were we discreet enough? Did I forget anything in the suitcase? Did I leave my phone in the suitcase? That last one almost happened.
The sun was setting in La Grange, TX, so I pulled over for a quick golden hour photo and to take a minute to take in what had just happened. My contribution to the physical suitcase was complete. Where will it go next? What other missions will it face? Who will it impact? So much to wonder about now.