Sometimes, when the freeway is open and empty and the night is dark and late, I imagine skipping my exit. It would be so easy; to go home would require a choice, a turn. All I would need to do is nothing at all. Sometimes I glance down at my dashboard and the lights that indicate the state of my gas tank, and I calculate how far I could get before I’d have to refill. There are beaches I could reach, the ones I’ve driven past a dozen times but never visited, the ones that I’ve seen from the window of a car on a stormy day when the waves crashed tall against ragged pillars of rock. Sometimes I tell myself that this is the night I’ll do it, and my hand slides towards the turn signal to leave the right-hand lane even as the sign for my exit passes green and white above my head, reminding me I only have a mile and a little more to make my decision.
Since I can remember, I’ve loved being in cars in the rain. The steady sound of a downpour. The rhythm of the wipers. The sense that there’s only inches between you and the wild weather outside. I think I enjoy the challenge of it, too: the knowledge that no matter how familiar the road is, you have to be on your guard. But maybe part of it is also how peaceful it can seem. It demands focus, and even a small storm can dwarf the worries of the day-to-day.
There was a time that I wanted to be a truck driver for a living. If I remember correctly, I got the idea shortly after learning about sleeper cabs and finding out that a pair of drivers could switch back and forth on a long haul. I thought it sounded like a lot of fun, especially if you got along well with your partner. Actually, my specific thought was that it would be really cool to be a husband/wife team: we could support ourselves while traveling all over the place, and we wouldn’t have to be apart for a long time while we did it. It’s possible that I was a weird kid. It’s also possible that I’d already figured out that it was the closest I’d get to living on my own spaceship.
Or maybe that’s just what it sounds like in retrospect. At the very least, though, I’d figured out that I enjoy long road trips. I don’t know that it played any real part in it, but it’s interesting to connect that old fantasy to the fact that I eventually got my license to drive small passenger buses: it’s not exactly the same, but it’s not so far off, either, and the idea of working by traveling long distances still appeals to me.
Well. Most of the time. Circumstances have me splitting my time between two different cities, so I’m sleeping on the couches of various friends (you are all incredible, wonderful people and I am forever in your dept) almost as often as I’m sleeping in my own bed, and there’s days that the idea of being so nomadic is a whole lot more appealing than the reality of it. But then, there’s also days when I realize that it’s still pretty cool. The drive between the two is unfailingly gorgeous, taking me past both mountains and the coast, for one thing. For another, it means I’ve got friends and connections in more than one place, and it’s a little easier to remember how big and small the world is all at once.