Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Road

I will be writing, without editing, just stream of conscience. For the time being. I'd imagine at some point I will salvage these thoughts to some junkyard piece. But for now, here in the raw.

Is this really what I want?

The question would begin to throb, not gently, only after the first 45 minutes of driving. On the way out, Chicago was rude and aggressive, the highway mad with motorists bent on holiday cheer, damn the mergers.

The better part of my life, packed under dust, paint chips, and smelling slightly of ammonia, lay claim silently in the trunk.

How do I accept the dichotomy? To love the transience, the thrill of turbulence, even though my gut was bleeding, as just two hours ago I lay aching for stability. Age was catching up, but I still had some run in these old legs. 

A few hours later, lost, hypnotized. Serpentine, serene, mostly what I had been looking for. The moments seem large, then small, then forgotten. NPR was quickly becoming more static than posturing, so I leaned into the passenger seat to get my new music player. A Fiio, an affordable audiophile grade player with the trimmings of a classic iPod, but better guts. Fumbling to plug it in, for what felt like a second. The car veered, and I looked up quickly. A semi, to my right, was dangerously close and my car was now feet from collision. In motion, quickly. Panic.

But, I am aware. In that moment, right before I clip the backend of a behemoth vehicle, I become very aware. I leave myself for a moment and observe. I think, let's just see what happens. Will the situation just fix itself? And I realize I do this so much in my life. Right before tragedy, right before the moment someone falls backwards, or a ball flies right into someones face, and I can prevent it, I have that instant thought: let's see what happens. 

Of course, I grabbed the wheel and yanked hard left, bucking my car in the direction it wasn't counting on, almost over correcting too much to where we would spin gleefully(?) at 85 miles an hour. But we don't, and my heart pounds. But why, I wonder, does that moment of Cheshire curiosity persist. I breathe, and begin listening to Nietzsche.

Roads of overgrown broccoli and shy, shrinking farms are now commonplace. Occasionally the flat road winds up, then down, my ears pop.

Another hour. Oh, Nietzsche, when you so elegantly give pause to good, and evil, and truth, why must you then use the very such words just for yourself? How I wish you were riding with me, so I could argue ignorantly, debate, learn...The conversation now, in this moment, merely echoes. For moments I get lost in the validity of anything, it doesn't matter. It makes me think.

Then, underneath the existential, I notice a curious tone from my phone. I glance, cut the radio, and listen to an alarm siren. Severe weather alert. I look up once again at the windshield. The sky has grown ill.

The trees, once vibrant green alongside the road were now starting to bend and shed into the air. Lost amongst the dust kicked up. Leaves, sometimes even branches seem to snap off and suspend above the road. An imposterous night began to fall quickly under the dark, foreboding thick-layered clouds that brought thunderous claps of rain and scowl.

The dead bugs once smeared sloppy across my windshield were quickly washed away.  Lightening scratched the sky eagerly, angrily, as the violence seemed to close in on the world. My car was now slave to the master wind, as he toyed about. I felt my whole body tense. I had the distinct feeling nature didn't want us here. We had wandered down a path we shouldn't have, and it was going to made damn sure it would scare the hell out of us.

Visibility was zero. Driving has now, merely ten minutes later, become an exercise in educated guessing. Taillights could be 10 or 5 feet away? It was all prisms and illusion. Cars slowed to forty, then thirty miles per hour. What cars were left on the road anyway. 

Another fifteen minutes, I am now at sea. Semi trucks, now whales spouting and thrashing the tide against my windshield. The beacons, lighthouses afloat amongst us provide no assurance. My hands, glued to a wheel, doing my damnest to see anything between the blink of the rain. Only the bravest are left now, as from what I can tell there is one semi to the right of me, and in the distant past what may be a small sedan. Overhead, trees bend to the will of the wind.

The serene calm, or maybe existential calm of Nietzsche is a distant memory. I turn on the radio, switching to AM looking for weather report, anything. I tune to AM 500 and begin. Static. Click, click. Nothing. The numbers keep ascending. Static, constant. I reach the thousands and nothing. Either Missouri does not believe in AM radio, or the signal is interrupted. Finally, in a twist of fate, I get a channel to tune in. It's broken, but I can faintly hear something. It's I will survive. For real. Should I feel it's a good sign or slanderous?

Eventually the world becomes a clam shade of yellow. There's no one for miles, and I have to pee. An empty gatorade bottle serves me well, though impatiently. Soon I reach a rest stop and pull over. A short, yet full Mexican in an honest cowboy hat sidles over. 

"I thought I was gonna be blown off the road!"  He coughs up, good natured but obviously concerned. We smile together, share a tale of the wind. Once the weather talk is exhausted, we go our separate ways.


Back in the car, just outside of Memphis, I put on Chet Baker. Perfect, against a black yellow sky, pushing the world back in little distant figurines, a dangling long saxophone.