There's nothing better than driving alone at night on an empty highway. The thought roared past me on the road, followed quickly by a semi-truck for emphasis. I shifted on the seat, already aching. I wasn't sure how long I'd been driving and I didn't care to know. The tank was still half full, and that was the only thing that mattered right then. This was the only place where there was any sense of purpose: to get to a station before running out of gas. The world shrank and became manageable, something I could grasp, the more I relaxed into the getaway. My wheels pasted the ruined remains of a skunk further into the road. I hate skunks, anyway. One of the few animals can't stand.
No other cars were in sight as I sank and rose smoothly with the hypnotizing rhythm of the hills. Another thought, soft this time, rocked me like a cradle. There was no better method for breaking out of a rut, a malaise, a depression than tricking myself into thinking I am running away.
I could not make this same drive by the light of day: I would reach the same point, but not by the same means. And the destination didn't matter, just that I drive and drive, far away, without stopping. I couldn't see anything beyond the hundred foot range of my headlamps, anyway. In the daytime, I would drive the entire way, and I didn't want that. I'd driven myself up to this point, but knew, giddy like I was a kid again who couldn't wait for Christmas, that the moment when I could lose myself in the drive was fast approaching.
The night had settled in comfortably. It gave the heady sensation of an escape. Transformation lay at the end of my escape, at the end of the roads. I couldn't quite articulate what that transformation was. I only felt that there had to be more to everything than what I saw and felt and experienced. That was it, I realized. Vision, Sight, Perspective lay at the end of it all. And running away like this, even pretending to, in the night, with the world asleep, implied there was something I was running away from. To merely go would be frivolous and dispersive, to escape is freeing and unifying.
The reflectors on the shoulders glowered at me as though to threaten should I decide to turn back prematurely, before I completed the ritual. I'd never been on this road before but it was taking me where all the roads took me. I had to have a destination- that was part of the ritual- but all the destinations ultimately took me here. My eyes relaxed and the windshield opened into a portal leading to a familiar place. This particular rural two-lane highway was new but the sense of it was ancient. Sharp curves hurtled at me yet the faster I went the smoother my driving became. Something rose up from within to seize control of my body, something alien and terrifyingly calming. It gripped me by the spine. I could have been a patient awakening from anesthesia glimpsing the surgeon at his most heroic yet most concentrated, at the climax of the operation. Who the surgeon was, I couldn't say. And that was the infuriating paradox, the lock that could open all to me (or was that sensation merely another form of escape? What was I running from, again?).
The paradox was this: the moments when I was most alive were the moments when I felt least in control, when I felt the surgeon tugging this way and that on my muscles as though giving an anatomy lesson, or more terrifying to think, discovering these forbidden mechanisms Da Vinci-like in some dank forgotten cellar. The trees were one black blur and passing cars seemed only to be streaking fireballs. I was now being driven, and though far from my destination of New Orleans, I could feel myself arriving to where I wanted to go.
I thought back to all the voyages that had carved deeply into me, even the simple and unexpected ones, as this drive was. In each I'd delayed, hesitated, feared, worried, and almost turned back before even starting. And in each I'd reached a moment of breaking loose. Of stepping into, of embracing, of perfect aliveness and unity. That, I realized, was the mechanism that wound me, that filled me, that regenerated my commitment to coming back. And I always came back. Desperate I left, and filled with bliss, I returned. Before, it had been a dream, a fantasy that had sustained me. The fantasy was no more, and the hunger for these brief moments of unity was all I had left. Could I simply hold more of it, I would keep driving. I thought of when I was a kid and would try and stay up as long as I could. No matter how much I never wanted to go to sleep, and in fact was terrified to do so, eventually sleep always overtook me. Defeat came one way or another, usually far before the dawn. And one can only fight so many pitched battles. But who knew what waited for me just another tank of gas over the horizon? What kept me coming back anyway? I had to hurry, before I forgot that I shouldn't ever turn back around.
I felt my feet, sweaty in my shoes, firm on the accelerator. The speedometer slowly climbed clockwise. My pulse quickened. I leaned forward as though in a charge. My grip tightened around the repulsive feeling plastic of the wheel and hurled the car around the quick bend in the road.
But, of course, I always decided to come back. It would be obscene not to.
Unless, one day, I were to take a corner too hard. Losing traction, wheels clutching uselessly for purchase, I might just fly off the road. I could keep flying and just float on for- who knew how long? Maybe all the way to the end. I would never have to come back.
...sees much and knows much