I sit in my convertible as it flows down the asphalt veins of the back roads of Illinois. I bifurcate myself. Sitting in the passenger side, just outside myself, I feel the cool air whipping around the other me. Darkness is all around except for the fluorescence of the headlights and the neon glow of the odometer, speedometer, and other displays in the Solara. I see the surroundings, or the lack there of, and look up.
I notice I do not pay attention to the road ahead and swerve somewhat as I am enamored with the stars above. Out there, where there is no light pollution, where fields are random from below but from above have so much purpose, that place is where stars dwell. I see myself looking above at the massiveness of it all. The beauty of the stars and surprising absence of the moon. The stardust all around. The feeling that at the horizon is the end of the earth and beyond it is infinity.
The driver hears “Take Me To Church” by Hozier and turns the volume up as the piano keys hit hard. The passenger reflects. The passenger reflects on the past few months when he wrote papers exploring postmodernism and bystander effect. Empathy and socioeconomic status. Hyperrealism and commodification. Race and gender. So much theory and so little time.
The passenger recalls the writing and stress that kept him from writing. The work that kept him from doing those things he loved. The times when he could not recall what he had done day-to-day as time became a measure of tasks and not guided by sunrise and sunset and the time set by generations before. It had become relative. Relative to tasks accomplished and tasks needed.
The driver looks to the road as he laments a truck ahead. It spoils the emptiness that the driver enjoys cutting through in the blackness of the night.
The passenger ponders.
It is weary from lack of sleep. It breathes for the first time since January. The passenger reflects on the cookout he had just been to where one of his best friends had invited him and only him to come. He talked about life and its changes as hamburgers and hotdogs grilled and caught fire, laughing at the memory. He remembers seeing his friend’s wife and child and how exterior it all feels. Remnants of a lifetime ago and yet closer to reality. He sees them struggle with the child and how much trouble they are having financially and yet how they have a family unit. This tight cell that somehow becomes an antibody that attacks incoming diseases; money issues, illness, car trouble, time apart all of them taken down by the antibody.
“Ordinary Love” by U2 comes on in the vastness of nothing and the driver turns it up. He comes to a stoplight that seems blinding in juxtaposition to what he has just gone through. This is the first sign of civilization. The first sign of reality coming back.
The passenger looks away as the driver takes off, gravel spitting behind the vehicle. He thinks back to his friends. They were struggling, fighting to keep the cell, the antibody thriving and it was working. Where so many people would see that as miserable, they were truly happy. The passenger reflects on those around he and the driver and sees none of this. There ship is a vessel that goes through such turbulence in the sea and yet stays whole. The grand ship always reaches ports intact. However, others around him have boats that sail among, not the rocky waters of happiness, but the placid waters of content. Those waters where the boat does not bow to waves but is a steady course.
The large buildings come into view as the driver slows the steel and fiberglass horse.
The passenger realizes how his is a boat on waters so still and calm that it is not moving. The mountains high are beautiful but familiar. Just beyond the horizon he sees the large ocean of happiness as waves crash somewhere out of the cove. The passenger grabs the ores and starts to paddle away from where he sat and all of those others that float along with him.
He realizes that he is not happy but content. However, he wants to be closer. The two become one as the roar back into reality under yellow lamps overhead and trees are replaced by stone buildings that tower in the orange sky of night.
I may go into uncertain waters where the high tides of happiness are met with the low tides of sadness but where the highs and lows are better than the void of feeling. The highs and lows are what I crave. The void is left for the darkness in the country where the stars dwell.