It seemed like everywhere I went over the last four days reminded me of Katie.
It started with visiting my mom: surely doing so wasn't the most exciting thing for a teenager, but Katie was always engaged, contributed to the conversation, and seemed to enjoy it. My eyes kept straying to the empty chair she typically chose.
And she always loved visiting my friends and their kids. (And hearing stories about things I'd done that I might rather she didn't know about!)
One of the friends lives west of the city, in a smaller town. One evening several years ago, we left my mom's and had some time before bed, so we decided to drive by their house and drop in if it looked like they were still up. It had been several years since I had visited, but I had my GPS, so I put in the address and off we went.
I started to get suspicious when it took us far past the small town: that didn't fit with my memory. So we headed back, and stopped at the gas station/corner store to ask. They had never heard of my friends, and didn't think the address I had existed (the road did, but these are country roads and go for miles). So we gave up.
I called the next day, and it turned out that their street had been renumbered at least a decade earlier; the Post Office had happily delivered Christmas cards using the old scheme, so I never knew! And they actually live just a few doors from that gas station (where their teenage son now works, in fact).
Then when I got back and arrived at the conference, I realized that it was at the same hotel as the National Scholastic Press Association/Journalism Education Association conference in 2010, when Katie won the Design of the Year award. While the hotel looked somewhat different without hordes of teenagers scattered everywhere, I could still see them if I looked hard.
And then the second day of the conference it rained, and I drove to Vienna Metro via I-66, at 7AM—a time and a route familiar to anyone who attended Oakton, or whose child did. I fought my way through traffic and the film over my eyes, trying to resist turning to look at the empty passenger seat.
How I wish, how I wish you were here
We're just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl
Year after year
Running over the same old ground
What have we found
The same old fears
Wish you were here
– Pink Floyd