The entry fee to Appomattox Court House is $3.00, but if you arrive after four o’clock or so, the park rangers will waive it, since you won’t have enough time in the hour you have to explore it for them to feel right charging you. I said thanks and dodged dead June bugs, or cicadas, or whatever they were. A sign of the Apocalypse, anyway. The air was hot, and the whole time on my drive from Richmond to Lynchburg, I watched the clouds threatening and thought about tornadoes. I have an unreasonable fear of tornadoes, given my sales territory and the city where I live. Compared to my old co-worker Josh, whose hotel outside of Tulsa narrowly avoided a strike last summer, I am ridiculously paranoid about tornadoes. I thought about what I would do if I saw the funnel, but all it really boiled down to was driving my little rental Nissan Versa in the opposite direction. Which isn’t exactly the stuff of great genius, I know, but I remained vigilant anyway.
It was eerie when I got to my hotel and saw the news and wept and watched the disaster porn all evening long, yeah.
But first I was in Appomattox, thinking about heartbreak, the stupid things I had done to lead me there again, her obstinance, the months-long back-and-forth of being in-and-out of love, surrender. I stood in the room where Grant and Lee made their peace, and the ranger told the people in there with me that Lee had only surrendered the Army of Virginia, that there were still some cells in the Confederacy that would take weeks to disarm. But the thrust of Appomattox was that it was over, and that it was time for everyone to go home now.
I took pictures of the site and dawdled for fifteen minutes and thought about how horribly hungover and alone I was. Then I left. The park is just a gaggle of old buildings, really, with some plaques. All I wanted to do was breathe it in and retreat. Because I had just lost and I appreciate overwrought symbolism. And because I suddenly thought I might cry, and that would be embarrassing in front of the charming older folks with the Midwestern accents.