The six guys sitting in the back of the truck at the Tigermart smiled when I pulled up and said something obnoxious. Having to do with my tits, I’m guessing from the hand gestures. I smiled at them anyway, because I was on my way to the interstate.
Ah, the interstate. Really, once you give a girl a car, how can you keep her home?
Being Thursday, it was pretty much me and the men of the I-24/I-57 corridor. There were the relieved looking firemen resting on the guardrails, one with his hands at his sides and his head tilted back, eyes shut, into the sun. And the two men who were exchanging insurance information, one on the phone, with his hand absentmindedly stroking the back of his own neck.
There were the old men in McDonalds, drinking their coffee and watching CNN. They looked up when I walked in, didn’t recognize me, and looked back to the television.
At the gas station, I pulled up behind a young kid in a big red pickup truck. He was tall and lanky, with his green John Deere shirt tucked tightly into his Carhartt pants. His ball cap sat far back on his head, like he’d lifted it up to scratch an itch, and not bothered to set it back in place. His boots were shit-encrusted.
I had some boots like that, stained in pig’s blood and worn, that I shuffled to work in every day for a summer, that I stole from Shug’s cousin–another farm boy.
Inside the gas station there were two boys, one tall with long brown hair and the other small and blond. The tall one was complaining about missing homecoming. The short one was mad that the tall one got the cute girl and he got stuck waiting on me. “Hey,” I thought, “Six Mexican guys were thrilled to see me this morning, so I don’t know what your problem is, dickwad.” But I smiled at him, anyway.
Because I was going back on the interstate, and away from him.
Being able to leave–what a blessing. And the interstate, like an emergency exit from all those crappy places people live and die in lonely*. I was tempted to keep going, just to see how far I could get**.
The whole way up was so beautiful and there’s something about seeing the corn, a dry gold in the fields, giving way beneath the hungry combines, that makes me happy.
I couldn’t come back here to stay. And as much fun as I had running away from my life back home***, I’ll have even more fun fleeing away from here on Sunday****.
It’s really the only way I can come back, if I know I don’t have to stay.
*”Places people live and die in, lonely.” That’s such a nice phrase I’m almost sure it’s not original to me. I must have read it someplace, maybe in a poem.
**But, you know, gas is $3 a gallon, which means that, under normal circumstances, I can get about eleven miles away and then have to turn around and come home.
***I had a bunch of the Butcher’s CDs to listen to, and I made my way through some of the Led Zeppelin box set, some great old Dylan, my favorite Liz Phair CD, the Resevoir Dogs soundtrack, and I tried to listen to Steve Miller–who I find I like better in theory than in practice.
At one point, I realized I was singing along with what surely must be Sarcastro’s theme song:
It’s nice to be liked
But it’s better by far to get paid
I know that most of the friends that I have don’t really see it that way
But if you could give ’em each one wish
How much do you wanna bet
They’d wish success for themselves and their friends and
That would include lots of money
**** Y’all, the littlest nephew is so cute, but he’s almost four and the lack of stability and regular discipline is obvious. And I’m sporting a nifty new burn from where I was fishing a potato out of the back bottom of the oven and he came up behind me and hit my arm.
“Are you mad at me?” he asked after I yelled “argh!”
If you aren’t paying complete attention to him, he’s worried that you’re mad at him.
It breaks my heart.
It’s true that kids need fathers, mothers, parents, grandparents; but most of all, they need some loving rules. Without that, it’s like he’s been raised by wolves. Shit, now they’re hauling me away to eat…
[9:15–edited to add: Whoever was betting I wouldn’t make it five hours before I was ready to come home, you win. God damn. There is togetherness, and then there is togetherness, and this is of the too-much variety. Slowly, the adult is being sucked out of me and I’m being reduced to a sulking mess who’s ready to bristle at any real or perceived affront. Our parents have told us to go to bed three times already. Yes, it’s 9:15. I’m about ready to stab myself in the eye with a pen. The Butcher appears to be in some kind of coma and his awesome moustache is sadly gone.]