It is simply understood that you don’t leave Kansas City without some of the city’s famous barbecue sauces, which is why when I went there to visit my brother and his family, I announced I was going to the grocery to get my own stash of the famous stuff.
‘Do you know how to get there?’ asks my brother. I say sure. But I wasn’t really. My brother’s place is outside the city along chip and seal roads, stretches of asphalt here and there and winding highways like Y that slide into other winding highways named YY. And no, you don’t call it Y-Y, you call it double Y.
My nephew announces that he would like to come along. My nephew can’t see. He wore glasses and contacts for a time to enhance what sight remained, then sight left him completely. It’s probably been a decade since he has seen vague outlines of forms.
‘Do you really know how to get there, Aunt Lori?’ he asks, buckling his seatbelt.
‘Sorta kinda,’ I say.
He chuckles. ‘Let’s do this.’
Everything in the country usually wears thick layers of dust that cars and trucks kick up in the summer as they barrel down the road, but a noisy rain has passed through this afternoon. The land and vegetation, freshly showered, are so green and lush you suspect wet paint on everything in sight.
‘We’ll pass some big pipes up the road,’ he says. ‘After that turn right.’
Seconds later, to my surprise we pass large industrial pipes, the sort used for drainage. ‘Pretty sky,’ I say. ‘It looks like orange and lemon sorbet swirled together.’
‘Nice,’ he says.
We round a curve and are on a straightaway when a small herd of goats in a low-lying pasture comes into view. ‘They are fainting goats,’ the nephew says.
He has a phenomenal memory and uncanny sense of place and direction.
We approach the edge of town and he asks if I see apartments at the exact moment we drive by them. ‘One of my good friends used to live there,’ he says. ‘Turn by the gas station up ahead.’
‘There’s a road before it and after it,’ I point out.
‘Turn after, not before.’
We’re in the business district now and he names all the stores as we pass them, correctly and in sequence.
We leave the grocery with bottles of barbecue sauce jostling in plastic bags stretched thin.
‘Want to take a different way home?’ he asks with a grin.
‘Go down to the end of the lot and turn right. When one of my friends and I take this road we can get from my house to the McDonald’s parking lot in 10 minutes.’ He laughs and slaps his leg.
The sun throws its last long rays of golden light across a field of wheat. The clouds and the sky are so beautiful, they’re distracting. It’s good to have a guide who knows how to get you back home.