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just driving

Dead End Sign

Dead End (Photo credit: Susanne Davidson)

I’m driving my car alone at night. It’s very dark: black like midnight. There’s no one else, no other cars, no other people. The darkness is palpable. It has a texture. Smooth, but not exactly soft. I think of wool, but that’s not exactly it. Let it go.

I have no sense of what I’m wearing or the feel of the air against my skin. All I’m aware of is driving, moving, the motion of the car—and the darkness, which is an envelope that contains me.

I’m driving along an empty road, alone in the middle of the night. I find it odd now, but I used to do it all the time in Michigan. I was much younger then. I often drove home late, late and alone, on River Road or I-75. It was unremarkable, comfortable, familiar—although sometimes bittersweet, depending on where I had been. And who I had been with.

This is a different empty road I’m driving on, in West Marin, maybe near Olema, but I know it very well. I have no specific destination, no particular sense of purpose. Then I come to a stop sign where the road dead-ends, and I have to turn. I have to make a choice. Which way should I go, left or right? I should know which way because I’ve been on this road many times before. Why don’t I know which way to turn?

Consternation. Even though it’s the middle of the night and there’s no traffic, no one behind me, no one with me, and I don’t need to be anywhere by any particular time, I feel a sense of urgency about deciding. I must choose. I must choose now.

I choose to turn left. I don’t know why. I begin driving down the road on the left and soon find myself in an unfamiliar place. The road goes up and down hills, twists and turns, and runs between buildings. The buildings are brick, the size of houses or a little larger, all the same pale color. The area is deserted, but the pattern of streets and buildings is very busy.

I now know I have made the wrong choice. I decide to retrace my route back to the point of choosing and choose again. It’s surprisingly easy to do it, to go backward. Even though I’ve made the wrong choice, I haven’t gotten lost. I can find my way back.

How have I recognized that I’m in the wrong place? Is it just the strangeness of the surroundings? I don’t know. When I return to the point where I turned left, I continue traveling straight. Now I feel that I’m moving in the right direction. It feels like alignment, balance, correctness—not all that remarkable. It’s the absence of that feeling that was noticeable and even disturbing.

Night Sky, Moon

Night Sky, Moon (Photo credit: thisreidwrites)

Now I’m driving on a country road that curves gently here and there. I’m still the only one traveling on it. I can’t really see very much, but I know there are trees and hills alongside the road. I feel that I know where I am. As I come around a curve, I look up and see the moon in the dark sky. It’s a half or three-quarter moon, and I can see both the dark and the light parts—a complete circle of moon surrounded by a thin ring of light. It is very large, three or four times larger than normal for this late at night. This moon is so compelling. I stare at it for several seconds, caught by it, surprised by it. Why am I seeing it? What does it mean?

When I look back at the road, I see only black in front of me. I blink my eyes a few times to clear them, but nothing happens. Now I’m driving down this country road, alone, in the middle of the night, and I’m blind. I don’t slow down. I don’t veer off the road. I just keep driving.

This is dangerous, but I’m not afraid. I still don’t slow down. I have been blinded by the moon. Blinded by the light of the moon, and driving, driving, driving in the right direction. There’s no one else in my midnight, moonstruck world, and nowhere I need to be. I’m just driving.

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2 thoughts on “just driving

  1. Great post, J. I was with you all the way.

  2. Pingback: word pictures | give me a daisy

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