It rains or it snows, and the slap of the windshield wipers is a metronome, a song with no words, an unchanging tune the band is bored to play this one more time. You have to remind yourself to look through the rain, not at it, look through the chip-scarred windshield, not at it. It gets dark and your headlights show the countless vertical streaks of water, drops elongated by their falling and the lights cutting through them, turning your eyes into little inorganic machines that do not seem connected to the task of moving forward, diving through the water toward another dock.
The rain stops, but it is still raining in your mind. The rain and the miles have a hold on you, and you are missing the steady slap of the wipers and the effort to see through the next few feet out to where you need to see to stop in time. Sometimes you trust too much there is nothing out there beyond the rain. The sun comes out and the rain in your mind dries up. Your soggy eyes and your brain come back, and the sun feels good. It has sweetness to it, almost a taste. Maybe you smile a little in relief, and your eyes squint over the upturned corners of your mouth, looking out over your hood and down the road. You can see the end of this trip, the beginning of a new thought, a time returned from timelessness, and you know where you are again. You know where you are going.
Somewhere behind you, the lost yardsticks become visible, the road stretches out in your mirrors like a ribbon into the past, into the space from which you have come, and you know that if you have been somewhere there is somewhere to go. There is still a present place and a present time that will become the past and make the future. There is a place in your mind where you have gone for the last few minutes, the last few hours, the last few days, that is getting bigger, the way the day gets bigger when the sun starts to rise in front of you, and the world shows itself again after 10 or 12 hours of cold concrete moving under your truck, filling the windshield, filling your eyes and your brain until the sun turns and the road begins to smoke with new heat.
You are headed out, away from the connections that give purpose to every journey. Every journey is a round trip except the last journey and every road, every rain, every sunrise, is a yardstick on the way to turn the corner and go home. But the connections you have, the tentacles that pull you back time after time, are also the tentacles you must escape.
So you spend a lifetime coming and going, never really understanding what it is like to sit still and be comfortable with the people you love, who love you, who understand more than you just how much your wanderlust costs.
You love the road, the rain, the little space, the power of constant movement, the time the road gives you where nobody can reach you, where the troubles and the connections become just tenuous enough to keep you in the dream you have, the dream of completeness away from the spider web and the love knot of connection. You live out there, away from all that and go back when it suits you for a hint of home.
You are the soldier with his duty stretching out like a war waiting to be fought. You are the patriot of your soul, loyal to yourself while you do your duty to the world that waits to see if you will come back one more time. You do not say these things to yourself, and when someone else says them you think perhaps it is so much junk, so much romantic junk and that all you’re really doing is making a living the way you want to make it or have to make it. Well, maybe so.
Then again someday maybe you will believe for once that real freedom is not the freedom to come and go pretty much as you please. It is seeing far enough down the road to do the flip for somebody’s sake besides your own.
An owner-operator has been sentenced to life in prison for his role in ...