On The Road

“All human beings are also dream beings. Dreaming ties all mankind together.” – Jack Kerouac

I hit the road in my beat red VW practically vintage that my parents had snagged from an expat for no more than a thousand bucks. They got it so I could get to my waitressing job three miles away where I didn’t make enough tips to ever get ahead and the owner was this old pervert who gave me all the wrong kinds of attention. Before daylight on the first day of “Y2K” when the media was buzzing about a massive computer meltdown that would strike at midnight presenting my generation with its very own end of the world moment, I scraped my icy windshield and revved up the old Jetta about five times before she came to life. I couldn’t have slept more than a couple hours though it wasn’t because I was celebrating like a sloppy drunk kid with no direction in life. It was my time and I was more than ready to get the hell out of this small town and drive without looking back until I knew nothing and no one and maybe things would get dangerous being barely a woman alone on the road not that I gave a damn about risking myself or my reputation.

I drove for 15 hours with one pee break and two gas stops and didn’t use a map because the only direction I cared about was away. The first hour I kept the windows down and howled like a coyote because I was wild and felt a fire in my throat that hadn’t been there before. The second hour I sang angry songs by Fiona Apple at the top of my lungs and I didn’t care that people were looking at me because fuck you I’ve been on the brink so long I can’t be bothered to contain myself. The next three hours I let my mind wander only forwards never backward in reveries that got me thinking my new life on the west coast would be better, hell maybe even great. But then the fourth hour hit me heavy with the memory of all the stupid things I’d done and the choices I didn’t make overflowing from my brain and twisting around my throat like a serpent that knows too much because misery loves company and I had to play tricks on my mind to keep from exploding into a full-blown panic ‘cause I needed to keep driving and there wasn’t time for this bullshit and I was over it already.

My thoughts wouldn’t get off this one memory which, as far as I can tell, is my first memory. It was a memory of a nightmare. So my first memory is of something that never really happened, so that’s great. I can remember it vividly and relive it every time I recall it. I was five years old alone in my childhood home overseas standing in the center of our large great room. I was walking reluctantly like a foolish blonde in a horror film towards the front of the house that was a wall of windows shrouded by dramatic floor to ceiling ivory curtains. I don’t know why I was alone but that seems about right. The room was an exact copy of the room in real life which was elegant and huge (at least from a child’s perspective) designed for hosting grand cocktail parties with important people who divulged secrets when coaxed by the right person like my parents who spent their lives getting good at such things. But in the dream I’m alone in this room and it’s late at night and something awful compels me to approach the large ominous window and I was certain there was no way I could resist the urge to swing open that curtain though I knew nothing good could come of it. Thirteen years later I still get the urge at times to do something ruinous like drive off a cliff or destroy a relationship though I have learned with age to suppress it.

I walked right up to the window and with a grand gesture ripped open the curtain to expose a ghastly darkness that any Freudian shrink would squeal at the chance to interpret. Inside the blackness a terrifying vision came to life. It was a sight so hideous that I could not bear to look away and it sends chills up my spine to picture it. It was my reflection but also a demon, and just the head, a floating detached head staring back at me in the window and the face kept switching out in revolving flashes like a beacon for ships from the underworld. I can’t describe the faces but I knew somehow they all belonged to me. It filled me with dread and I can’t imagine it was particularly advantageous for this to be a recurring dream for a preschooler.

But lucky for me my adult life would prove to be a more soul driven heart pumping albeit mercurial journey than the first one I embarked on and it felt like that began on the 15th hour. The sky was blacker than I knew possible giving the stars the glory they deserved and I almost drove off the road staring at them. I tucked my car in between some trees and walked clumsily with dead asleep legs past the “Do Not Enter” sign onto a secluded beach in Panama City, Florida. I collapsed onto the cool smooth sand falling back eagerly to continue my tryst with the night sky. The waves roared rhythmically and the air was sticky sweet and my skin was cold to the touch but I felt so warm that I fell asleep counting shooting stars.

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