Please enjoy this post where I tell you a story about an event from my life. Nothing more, nothing less. Today’s story: driving clear across the country.
Maybe this is a mistake.
It’s hard to tell which part is a mistake and maybe some mistakes take longer to reveal themselves than the present but somewhere in the middle of South Dakota, it dawned on me that I have no idea what I’m doing. The things that had felt so certain in my living room in Pittsburgh are now nebulous. It felt natural to pack up all my things up and shove them into a truck in order to move 2,500 miles to a city I have never seen and an apartment I don’t have for several days with a three digit amount of money in my bank account. Maybe less. It might have been a mistake but it’s one I can’t really take back now. Not with this truck parked in the greying lot of a gas station halfway between from where I thought might have been home and where I think home might still be.
At least that’s what I tell myself when I try to explain what is happening. More accurately: I drove for the past two days for fourteen hours a day in a 16 foot truck that is filled with all my worldly possessions while towing my piece of shit car behind it and now I am sitting on the ancient leather couch in the belly of the truck, as if it were a great beast that has swallowed me whole, desperately fishing through the boxes strew about me looking for a specific CD that I want to listen to.
It’s a mistake, probably, I tell myself opening yet another hurriedly packed box whose label and contents barely match. All of the boxes are filled with things I thought I loved and needed but I didn’t have the time or energy to sort or take a real inventory before packing. After enduring surgery and misery and a long summer of humiliations both personal and professional I found myself unwilling to really take the time, instead simply throwing every items I owed in a box and then throwing those boxes in a truck and hoping that on the other side all the contents will make me feel whole again.
Sitting in the hold of the truck, looking at the vast expanse of flat dry land and heated concrete, I let myself wonder how people end up in these situations. I wonder if this is how my mother felt moving out of the house from my father all those years ago where she got more and more fed up as the hours rolled on and eventually just skipped packing things and turned to throwing them into the back seat of the car, face red, shoulders tight. The boxes tip around my feet as I push them aside. Face red. Shoulders tight. But I’m not escaping my father, instead I’m escaping the equally oppressive things that had suffocated me in Pittsburgh. The economy (which I don’t know is a wave that will keep crushing me for the next ten years). My mental health (which I already know I cannot outrun no matter how far I go). My loneliness (which will haunt me like a specter). Austin (who I don’t know that I am running right into the arms of).
And, I begrudgingly recognize even then, I am still running from that day.
With the heated air in my through I plunge my hands into a box of clothes, moving them to and fro like a washing machine. Bumping the edges of the cardboard and the solid things buried inside of the clothing. I can’t find the CDs though. I go through box after box and I just don’t see them. I don’t see anything really. All these things I own and not one of them meaningful, not one of them solving my problems.
I thought that a road trip across America was supposed to bring out life revelations, that my skin would peel back across my body and reveal its depths to me but instead we stayed in shitty motels with creaky beds that I hardly saw before losing consciousness for six hours only to load my dead weight body back into the truck and do it again. And again. And presumably for the next two days.
We ate sandwiches made from things bought at a local store in the cab of the truck, starring out at the endless flat nothing of the highway. It was nothing like television. It was empty and sad. It wasn’t hopeful or cool. There were no roadside amusements, no tumbleweeds, and no moments of revelation. There was traffic in Chicago, there was corn in Iowa, and now there are rocks and bugs in South Dakota. Nothing is new and exciting, everything is the same meaningless shit that it was in Pittsburgh now it costs me more money and sometimes I don’t know where the next gas station is.
Worse, I don’t know if I’m making a mistake.
It’s so hard to see it, sitting in a truck starring at an actual crossroad. Sitting at an actual crossroad in my life. Waiting for my life to start once I find this CD, once I start this truck, once I cross this country, once I figure out what I’m doing.
I kick over a box and out tumbles a handful of jeweled CD cases. I pick them up in my arms, pack the box back up, close the gate on the back of the truck, and climb back into the cab and up over into the driver’s seat.
“You got what you needed?”
“No, but I found the CD.”