Last night I was terribly close to a place called nowhere. In the middle of some interstate in the 'middle of the night in the middle of Tennessee, I drove.
I enjoy getting lost in the billboards. Places that offer realistic representations of Civil War experiences. Sorrowful people who claim that drunk driving or plastic surgery is the answer. God owns an awful lot of these signs.
He tends to fall towards the areas of guilt and blame. Often he reminds you how lost you are and this is not a message one wants to hear in the middle of nowhere without a working GPS.
There were many Fireworks stores. A certain amount of pride seems to be associated with the ownership of a building that could explode with the slightest application of heat. Rocket Rays. Big Daddy's. Shootin' Steve. Georgia/Tennessee Firework Warehouse.
Not much pride in naming that last one. Indeed it was the largest facility off the interstate that peddled bottle rockets and the owners clearly decided to market to bulk shoppers rather than brand seekers.
"Honey, you know the kids prefer them sparklers from Exploding Eddie's!"
More miles and more restaurants with names that reminded me of the sounds a body would make after eating there. Pop's. Squeaky's. Grumbles. I passed them all by, my own rumbling stomach rejecting the idea of biscuits and gravy in the middle of the night.
I was terribly close to running out of gas. One station took cash only. Two more were closed and now I was on a strip of interstate direct out of whatever the latest 'end of the world, people are gonna start eating people' movie. Was that that a mountain or valley that occupied the dark space to my right? I didn't know.
Why did I eat all that Indian food for lunch? So many rest stops without bathrooms and here I am a gay man in the middle of the night contemplating finding a bush to relieve myself behind. How would that sound in court when I'm arrested for solicitation?
Then over the hill, salvation arrived in the form of a gas station combination trucker stop with showers and Asian massage chairs. I turned in and promptly ran to the bathroom only to discover my belt was stuck which I yanked on in desperation until the buckle flew off and cracked the mirror. Relief at last.
After filling up the tank I decided to indulge myself in one of the Asian massage chairs for a ten minute back rub. The worries of my world melted away. The raw hum of tractor trailers and pinging bells of convenience store doors opening and closing provided just enough harmony and rhythm to call it a holistic experience. On my way out the door the attendant asked if I wanted any fireworks. Buy One Get One.
I woke up in a hotel room confronted by a sense of fakeness. Who was I to do this new job? Why did I think I was a writer? Why do I have so much trouble navigating a world where everyone else seems so comfortable and at ease?
After exercising and a quick breakfast in which I confused deep fried breadsticks for turkey sausage, I sat down to write and instead read about John Steinbeck's diary which he kept while writing The Grapes of Wrath. Do I have a story in me to tell? Do I have the courage to step back and stop what I am working on now to really discover what I need to write about?
Is searching for purpose a virus?