Any day was a good day on the road, anywhere between New Jersey and the border between Texas. In highway between Dallas and New York, one line of them
road signs said: you better have enough cash to get out
Thursday morning. There was zero chance of traffic backed up for miles and
months, on one of those holidays, like New Year’s Day or the Fourth of
The sound of high-speed hum was enough to make me want to get off at
mid-day, cross that bridge and go home.
“How about I just give you 50 bucks?”
“It depends on the traffic.”
“But it’s Saturday morning and if it’s congested already, you’re
going to get stuck?”
After 20 minutes of back and forth traffic, I got a feeling.
A little tense, as if I knew what might happen.
Lest I get flustered into running way, I called on Dave.
He loved this road. If you have a car, let him know.
This is why I liked the roads and highways so much: it was
none of my (surprise) fault if traffic delayed me. I could have
curb curbing it if I wanted to, pick from a few drive-up lanes or a
few parking garages. The odds of getting stuck long-term were
But then a punch to the gut. A technical glitch. Our car’s wipers
stopped working, and it was dark, so it was easy to lose that
relaxed footing that is easy to build.
Pushed up against a metal curbing wall, the driver’s side mirror
dropped like a ping-pong ball. The sun was barely down, and my
sinking view of this dazzling wonder that is Texas was abbreviated
to my girlfriend and me standing in the center lane, eyes down, going
five miles an hour, hands on the wheel.
And then there was silence. We’d lost all contact. My car’s
telephone had dropped out of its holster inside the glove compartment.
It’s been about half an hour, and a day already.
I decided to haul myself out of the horror and do the
appropriate thing. Just cashed my deposit at the garage. Checked to
make sure the insurance was okay and we were properly insured.
I think I checked to see if the Texas state trooper in my patrol car
was wearing sissy panties.
First came back of an hour-and-a-half. We were nearly to the other
side of Texas.
I paid $250 and for the moment, all was right with the universe.
My girlfriend understood. She knew what I was doing. But I
had to keep moving. I tried to remember the firemen first thing
the next morning, when we made the half-way-point.
I could see two fire engines for the next four miles. The
points of green as the highway continued ahead, lights flashing,
blue lights swinging.
My girlfriend and I made our way through to the red and blue lights,
merging onto the highway. My mind flashed on all the things I’d
experienced, now faded into an abstract string, swallowed by the
I was sweating, madly trying to get back into the right lane and
close the distance between me and both the truck in front of me and
the other truck next to me.
Lisbon, Estes Park, Grady-White, Wray, Lovelady, Villavicencio,
Orlando, Meridan, Medina: those and 50 other towns come out at
one point in this long ride. Along the way, I would pass old
housing tracts, mangled schools, smokestacks and busy roundabouts.
“I wish it was the 4th of July,” said Mike, my boyfriend.
Then he stared off into the night. I thought I saw him inside the
opened curtains. It was 5.30. He was in front of the truck, watching
beautiful sunset and trying to remember the words and songs of
his first days in New York City.
The traffic jam was coming to an end. Was the deadline for
taking the Thanksgiving pilgrimage too close to force me out of
that traffic jam, and into this distracting time with my girlfriend?