It’s been an awful, dirty ragged sock of a winter. Already we’ve had more thaws than I have fingers to count them on, and not just because I’ve gotten careless with the table saw. 40-degrees one day, a dozen below the next. Rinse and repeat. Snow in sporadic bursts, hardly enough to cover the detritus emerging from the previous thaw. The damn dog dug out a front hoof from one of the lambs we slaughtered, and then the rain revealed it, and when my wife tried to throw it back to the compost pile she instead hit the truck mirror and broke it to bits. So now when I’m trying to hitch up to the trailer I have to keep getting out and walking around to see how close I am.
(In case it’s not obvious, this whole hoof/mirror anecdote is supposed to be a metaphor for this frigged up winter)
I drove 20 hours over the weekend, to western PA and back, and I couldn’t stop wondering about the lives of the people in the cars I passed. There was a Lincoln Continental, early 90’s era, headed east on I90, dragging so low in the hind end I just about had myself convinced the trunk was full of bodies. Or drugs. Or guns. Or maybe all three. When I passed, I scarcely dared glance over lest I get shot. But I did anyway (curiosity killed the cat and all that), and just as I passed the Continental we both passed a cop and I looked down and saw I was doing 85, so I hit the brakes hard, and the dude in the Lincoln watched the whole thing and was laughing his ass off. Then he sort of tipped his cap as if we were in on a joke. Which maybe we were, and I was reminded of that wonderful line Jason Molina wrote in the equally wonderful song “North Star.” Half of that was my kind of joke/But I don’t remember which half. (Molina died a couple years back, age of 38. Drank himself to death, basically. Broke my heart a little when I heard)
Honestly, it’s a bit of a curse to be so damn curious. For instance, I’ll never know what was in that trunk, and it’s still bugging me a little. I’ll never know about the guy driving that car, what he does, where he lives, where he was going, and so on. And all the other people out there, like the dreadlocked white woman with the “I love dirty hippies” bumper sticker. Or the tanned couple in the little Ford Feista with Georgia plates. They came by me at 90 +, like they were in a real hurry to get somewhere it wasn’t 37 degrees and spitting rain, and who could blame them for that. The guy was wearing a cut-off shirt, had some sort of tattoo poking out from beneath the frayed edge where his sleeve used to be. That much I could see.
And all those houses right on the interstate! The old abandoned farmhouses, the little ranches with lights in the window and sad old cars in the driveway. One story after another after another, but I can’t know what they are and never will, and it’s really none of my business, anyway. So I guess I’ll just keep my eyes on the road, keep the pedal down, keep pushing toward home. In a couple hours I’ll stop for another coffee, drink it fast and ride that jagged surge of caffeine all the way home.