Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Nowhere Fast — A Thanksgiving Lament



It is nine in the evening
The day before Thanksgiving
The busiest travel day of the year
There is a fresh pack of smokes on the dash
A six-pack is nestled between the front bucket seats
Road maps of the Northeast are placed in order,
Geographically, from nearest state to furthest on the passenger seat
A man sits behind the wheel of his car and quietly closes the door
He can be at the ocean —
His hometown of York, Maine — by dawn tomorrow
Thanksgiving.

There was a time that The Driver would have gone anywhere at the drop of a hat
At the utterance of a suggestion, he would have been gone
For a very long time he was gone
Friends and family could never decide just how far gone he was
Key words or place names could describe whom he was by where he was.

When he was in El Paso, he smuggled illegal aliens over the border
In Key West, he was an anthropologist. In Georgia, it was smuggled pecans
A trucker in North Carolina who had the Jersey run. A reporter in Toronto
Dated a movie star in Montana. Wrote poetry in San Francisco
Thought he died in Cascadia. Worked a television camera in the Rockies
Saved the whales in Washington and stocked books in St. Louis.

What he was, above all else, was someone who chased rainbows.
When the rainbow seemed beyond his grasp and he was failing, he would complain.
When the rainbow dissipated and he had failed, he would flail.
When he moved on…
He always looked back fondly.

He came from another time…zone.
Never resetting his watch unless a season had passed
Or a life lesson was learned.
A smile crossed his face
And he caught a glimpse of it in the rear view mirror
As a momentary triumph was recalled.
There was one particular rainbow that was caught, or so he says,
On a road trip with a daughter he had never seen.
He drove through the colors and cried.
He’s gone nowhere since. It’s been a year.
The smile is gone.

Every so often he thinks back to when he died
Or rather, where he died.
There was an old farmer he had met in Cascadia
Who kept a map of where he had been, when he was capable of being.
He too keeps a map of his past
And when he wants to come alive he sneaks into his garage On some false errand and disappears
While knocking back a few beers
As his finger traces over the routes he had lived.

To him there is no more tangible proof of his travels,
Of his existence, than the license plates
That adorn one wall of his garage.
They were collected scavenging through junkyards and service stations
In the idle hours when his car was being repaired en route to further.
The tags never took up much space on the road,
They helped to separate and press the clothes in his duffel.

Tonight, he wants more than yesterday.
He wants a tomorrow.
There is an ocean nine hours away,
he knows that it is nine hours away because he has plotted a route, retraced the route
and hopes to travel the roads he has traced on his maps.

He had given himself three months to prepare
To dream his dream of the ocean.
He is fully cognizant that if he does not chase tonight’s rainbow
It will be the first year in 17 that he has not tasted the salt of the Atlantic.
Or felt the embrace of his family.
He is of two minds — go to the ocean and continue
Or don’t go and begin anew.

There must be some how or some way to reconcile his thoughts.
It is nine in the evening
The day before Thanksgiving.
He has a fresh pack of smokes and a six-pack.
His maps are placed with care on the passenger seat.
He sits behind the wheel of his car and quietly closes the door.
He can be at the ocean by dawn tomorrow,
And tonight he will travel there
Without ever leaving the cold comfort of his garage.