The morning rose as promise quickly succumbed to the extravagance of the mounting sun. Five of my best friends and I were headed west through the high plains near Lubbock under the cracking brilliance of a Texas summer morning. This was the fulfillment of our pact made almost a year before to drive to San Diego and back after we graduated from High School. The road and its rushing welcome beckoned us westward into the long journey that would echo through our lives for the next ten years as we would return again and again to the road together every following summer.
We passed into New Mexico in the early afternoon and found ourselves in the middle of nothingness. Clouds like clots stood against the oppressing light casting shadows onto the speckled desert. Our car passed as a breath through the dry cavity, and in it, the green roots of deep friendships were growing deeper.
I often wonder if my home is the road. Upon Texas highways I have experienced more beauty and joy than anywhere else.
The countless sunset drives where every sunset original in its peculiar quality grabs the deepest pieces of me and puts them together. Nights under stars uttering mystery in the tongues of ancient light. Late shadows cast sidelong by trees only glimpsed but caught in my memory forever. Middle of May wildflowers, Bluebonnets and Indian Blankets, painting a canvass of glory just outside a middle-of-nowhere Texas town. The rushing surprise of spring bursting forth in a shade of green I had almost forgotten in the winter. All of these are visions of the road, hints of home in a passing world, and the passing only makes it sweeter.
Nothing awakens in me the poetic sense of experience more than the road. The road as an archetype signals a new hope, and when I drive, I hope for home.
Somewhere along our first day’s drive in New Mexico, we stopped and ran around naked through a boy scout campsite for a while acting as if the world were really all here for us to romp through. This led to a speedy getaway back into the summer evening. When we finally caught our breath and reminded each other what we had actually done, we smiled and began to speak to one another in a new way. The night took us as I drove us west, and each of us conversed with the other slower and deeper.
Night closed and there were no lights. Nothing before us, nothing behind us. There was only blackness and our meagre headlights. Our car was a mere passenger clinging to the two lane road. The space of the car and the 20 feet our headlights pierced in front of us were all we had, yet we twisted through the dark world with joy.
Each head in the car slowly nodded off, and I drove on alone. The deepest darkness I had ever known enshrouded our now seemingly miniature vessel as it forged deeper into the nights mystery. I had never been so alone with others around me. After ten minutes of driving silently and looking around at the void on all sides, I stuck my head out of the driver’s side window and caught a glimpse of the high, moonless, New Mexico sky.
The sky was softly illuminated with a million stars buried on top of one another in the deep ocean of space. Their light was far away, but the stars tangled the entire sky with their white shimmer. I rolled the window all the way down and climbed out of my seat keeping one hand on the wheel as I sat on the window with most of my torso out of the car and my face free.
I drove this way for a moment before climbing back into my seat. The widow rolled back up and the space within was still and silent once again. I looked down at the glowing green clock reading 11:54 P.M., and I felt a wave of exhaustion creep up the back of my neck. The road passed in twenty foot increments as I drove wearily on, and I turned inward to my own deeper thoughts for the first time all day. I was alone, and my mind recalled the weeping nights I had spent on my bed the past year feeling the caving in of my own heart.
We rolled on westwardly weaving our way as a narrow passage of light through the darkness. Above, we were being watched by the infinitely interwoven stars.