America’s bus we still truly ride; yet struggle’s beauty has been lost to Ford’s Focus and Chevy’s Cruze. Knoxville, Tennessee, to New York, New York; to Atlanta, Georgia; to Washington, D.C.; to Jacksonville, Florida; to Lexington, Kentucky. Lit with landmarks on lands that made, and make their mark. Transit full to the brim.
I bump along the purring hum of traffic, dozing to its sighs. I love the long, winding road carrying commuters on its back. Passing as fledgling entities, those fish darting downstream that you wonder if you really saw. My eyes flicker to fleets of street lines, each hash a frame of old film roll, headlights a whirring projector. The ensemble misses a beat. Motorists ghost past, eyes rooted ahead. Streetlamps glide and brights crawl on asphalt. My body’s rhythm takes twists, turns, decelerations, accelerations. There are routes, but no tracks whose hand we may hold.
Customs craft distance down this slender aisle. A test tube of combustible elements, boiling to sun’s heat, bracing to night’s cold.
Three generations of truckers talk Tom Brady and America with the crop-top-clad blue-haired lady who just made parole.
Carlton stands beside me in Lexington, “I haven’t seen this girl since Chicago, 1991”, he enthuses at night. “She said she’s put on weight, it has been 26 years!” Maybe she fell asleep before we arrived.
There might be answers if I follow, to a feathered pillow sitting on a perch at the centre. Thoughts meandering from a stream of distractions to an ocean of daydreams. Sleep is a stranger shining a light into a dark cave, approaching but never quite seizing the darkness. Fatigue, my uncle who loves the family, shrugs off chills and minds the heat with a wistful, battered stroke. Crouched in my crevice, I relinquish the weight of my head against the rattling window, feather pillow still at large. Engine you shudder and those aches, they sputter tales of a thousand cross-country trips. My back tightens its grip on my spine, begging for an expanse which does not exist. Arms and legs pervade fractures of space hidden from sight.
Humanity’s presents felt. Love’s lot lit up in ceremony. Electricity blooming, bounding nocturnal lights. Families set footsteps down aisles of candy-coloured confections. That scrawny, chivalrous teen sipping neon Mountain Dew on the hood of his washed-out Camaro, celebrating plans for a night already passed. Truck drivers in red and black plaid stroll through swathes of old Toyotas, to another fill at the buffet.
It’s my battle, sometimes I stand just to stand. Recalibrating in ceaseless motion, long windows share moving pictures I adore. My soothing blood flow, my limbs synchronizing to a flow my body desires. Bright lights accost my eyes, thumping my vision, pulsing and throbbing at my tired mind. America’s infinite highway.
But these moments exist in quiet contemplation. Where to be here, every exhausted soul, from every corner of nowhere, binds to anonymity.
It’s every ember of a flame, dying in roaring colour. My eyeballs eject from their sockets, who sit as holes bound to this carcass. Lonesome mountains weeping waterfalls along the border between road and nature. Rain and snow crashing beside my face, cushioned by 3 inches of glass. I love this solemn carriage, cradling passengers as a mother would her child. Gushing sunlight seeping through, a leaking pipeline in the night’s fading clouds. It blinds, it scolds. It remains breathtaking. Mountains fall lower, as landscapes give way to cityscapes, blanketing the wild. Interior tedium fades to exterior’s dance, to exterior’s colour and change. Sealed in our chamber, the world evolves around us, and soon it will be ours.
It’s that rush to be somewhere. Restless traffic flooding lanes. New faces straddle Mustangs, leering to windows just like me. Stop-motion anarchy, bustling a dainty tide to concrete shores.
Journeys to journeys. Temporary pauses, a world motioning us forward as we stop and look around. A stone, silver and streamlined, skipped across a lake, leaping and bounding before waning from perception. I love the big green signs above, teasing new towns under fog-lined breath. Towns with homes, with families sat around a fire eating chicken and laughing, for tomorrow will be the same. Are those towns there at all? Exits drag cars through new branches of lost communities. Neighbourhoods glisten in isolation, a speck on the highways’ broad canvas.
Everyone has a reason to ponder when and where, time and place. We are a tin of anchovies, hoisted off an ocean dock and shipped away. There is no destiny awaiting us, no paradise but that which we make for ourselves. Solitude is a drug, it fuels me and rocks the bus. I love the ride.
George Cant is a burgeoning young Brit breathing in the human experience. Part-time athlete, full-time lover…of writing. He is a force of nature often found at the end of a wine bottle.