Laying back against the seat, zoned way out somewhere beyond exhaustion but before actual sleep, seeing the dull red of streetlights through my eyelids, feeling the warm bumps in the road, hearing mom and dad talking in low voices; that’s where I was when Thanksgiving break began. It was 5am. Dad, the road warrior, rolled us all out of bed and marched us to the van through the fog.
The fog was everywhere. Once or twice I opened my eyes and looked down the highbeams stretching out 20, 30 feet. Like bridges. Or, harnesses pulling us on into whatever was out there. On into long conversations with family we haven’t seen since last Thanksgiving, since the last long drive.
Somewhere in Ohio we hit a bump and I realize that I’ve been asleep. Lifting my head, letting my leg slide off the bench, feeling it hit…what? My bookbag, packed up with textbooks I won’t open but feel unarmed without along with a rumpled copy of The Great Gatsby. That’s the same copy that I read through twice in the week that, well. That’s something else.
Closing my eyes again I can see the frozen roads and the naked trees. Everything is hard and empty. The fields are full of shin-high corn stalks: remnants of another hot green year. One more street, now a hard turn and I’m there again. Not knocking or going in, just standing outside and looking through the walls into whatever there is. Speak, memory.
Another bump and my eyes are open again. The sun is shining down into my face now and how have I slept through so much light? If I took the amount of daylight I’ll have slept through by the time I die and added it all up, what would I have? A month or two? Six? Years, even? Enough time to fall in love or learn to dance. But that whole time my eyes were closed and I was somewhere else. Right now I’m the closest to hating sleep that I’ve ever been. Maybe I won’t sleep again for the rest of this trip. I could go back to school hungry and with heavy lines under my eyes to balance out all the rest of the well-fed and well-slept Midwesterners. For two hours of grey pavement, swelling green hills, and obscure towns my intention was set. I would take no rest. I would force myself to think through all of this, to be fully here for this long drive.