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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Those bygone days

    Driving down a long lonesome highway in the middle of nowhere, the engine hums out the same old song. I turn up the radio and start to hunt the stations to drive the boredom away. Finding nothing of interest, I turn my mind tries to find things to drive the boredom away. I guess it had been snowing since early morning. It had started with a light flurry and by the time I reached some nameless town, it had turned into a medium strength blizzard. The icy cold winds from the north were already rocking the truck and I could feel it sway back and forth. A full scale storm was predicted for tonight and the truck was already groaning under the strain. I felt a feeling of unease and I think it was a combination of factors like the increasing strength of the blizzard, the suffocating feeling in the cluttered, slow moving road conditions and the deserted towns that I had travelled through.

    After travelling what seemed many long hours, my weary legs seemed to give out yet I drove on as the distant town lights grew brighter with each passing mile. The tank was near empty when I pulled into what seemed like another deserted gas station. I wandered into the bar, a smoked filled dimly lit room greeted me and I could hardly see the crowd inside. The tiredness slipped out of me as I heard the boisterous sound emitting from one corner of the room. The smell of the food made my mouth water and the stomach grumbled demanding its share.

    While waiting for my food and drinks, I looked around the room. In one corner, they had giant old fashioned juke box which was belting out some Willie Nelson song and at the other end was an empty stage. While turning towards the bar, I noticed someone was sprawled across the table in one of the booths while two people were having an argument about who ate whose food. The sound of overturning chairs and tables had woken the man out of the sleep. Upon seeing me, he warned me to be a bit careful about loose stools and certain nuts in this place before wandering down the room falling back asleep near the exit door.

    I finished of the last remnants of the food and gulped down the drink before it got warm. It was getting late, the moon was rising higher and higher and it was time to hit the bed. I found my way to a room upstairs and took a long shower to wash off all the dust, grime and sweat off me. The weariness fell off me and I felt refreshed. I sat awhile by the window and smoked the remaining part of my cigar. The sounds of long haul trucks were heard humming by below and a lonesome train horn went off somewhere in the distance reminding me how far from home I was. Sleep was overtaking me and I fell asleep as soon as I hit the sack.

    Waking up from a deep sleep, I got out of the bed. My body was stiff and muscles sore from the long journey. I ran my hand across my face and thought of getting a shave and a bath before heading down to a hearty breakfast. I needed some food to fill my empty stomach but that will have to wait a bit. Heading down I got myself some lunch as it was late in the day and the place was dead empty. A few flies buzzed around and the food was as listless as the place. The few people who were huddled in the corner whispered amongst themselves. There were occasional shouts, a few angry words and the worked up men were seated down once more when told to hush up. Heading out the door, I glanced back wondering what new adventures were in store for me as I hit the road once more.

    Pulling out of the joint, the truck ate up the miles as quickly as the swift winds above. The tow trucks were seen pulling the cars out of the ditches and the dead cars to the service centers. A few sirens were heard on the highway and I guess someone needed some help. The snow plows were lazily plowing and salting the streets. The icy roads in some areas slowed down my journey and I was getting sick of the constant slipping and swaying of the semi. The radio blared out some song as the weather man moaned about the snow storm which might hit the town in the night.

    The constant chatter of the radio jockey kept my mind away from the grim weather. He talked just about everything under the sun and I really seemed to enjoy the monologue which consisted of how awful the weather was, the food joints, who bashed whom last night at the bar and how much the town had changed in the last ten years.

    Time flew by and the morning soon turned into evening. The old warehouse loomed ahead and it seemed no different than the others next to it. One of the dock gates was open and light outside was burning bright. Each warehouse had two docks and a side entrance. Pulling the cap down firmly with the warm woolen gloves, I got out of the warm interiors and ran towards the steps. My body became stiff with the cold as soon as I stepped out. I was glad to see that the steps had been shoveled, salted and sanded. An old man cannot afford slipping on an ice patch no matter how young he feels inside. Pretty soon, the semi was backed into the now empty dock for it to be unloaded.

    The warehouse was dimly lit except for a few pools of lights that seemed to flicker every so often. I eventually found my way to the sitting area where I was pleasantly surprised to see a few others which I had not seen for many months. Coffee was offered and gladly taken as we exchanged stories of our travels around the country. I always loved going on long hauls for the company and had been coming here for many long years whenever the opportunity presented itself. It had become a routine habit which I had never skipped no matter how bad the weather. We spent our time telling old man’s stories that seemed so surreal and maybe it might be due to the fact that this place seemed older than the hills.

    Time used to stand still in this place and one only realized that it had flown by the fact that the logs in the small fire place had burned down to cinders and cold was creeping back into the room. The grandfather clock down in the hallway boomed and the hand had struck twelve. It startled me out of the deep thought I was in. The tobacco in my own pipe had burned to ashes and I got up to leave as it was late. The guys in the shipping department were hollering at us to move the semis and clear out for the new arrivals.

    As I drove off, I turned around a final time to look back and wondered when I’ll be back at this place. I was getting old and I just cannot do these long hauls much longer. My mind always ended in turmoil as if stuck in a loop whenever I left such meetings. The journey back home seemed longer than the start. I passed through a few dead towns and many dying towns. The empty dark streets devoid of all life sent shivers down my spine. The only thing common to all the towns I travelled through was the emptiness in the town and in people themselves. The streets and the shops usually wore a deserted look even though some of the shops were open waiting for someone to walk in. The few people who were seen on the sidewalks were rushing through the open spaces either trying to catch an elusive bus or a taxi or trying to figure out which pile of snow was theirs. The tow trucks were seen pulling the cars out of the ditches and the dead cars to the service centers. Every so often a police cars rushed passed to answer some call.

    After what seems many eons, the morning sun gently peeks through the tops of the houses as I drive down the tree lined path looking for my house. It’s been many long months since I have been this way, yet it seems like I never left it. So much has remained the same yet a lot has changed. The house is still there yet something is different. There a lock on the door and my key won’t unlock this door. I’ve got a bad feeling that my girl doesn’t live here anymore. What was once a home is now just a house.

    The clear morning sky began to darken and the wind suddenly picked up. Lightning flashed in the sky and one could hear thunder all around. The sky had turned jet black, I feared being stuck in the open with no place to take shelter. Between the thunder and lightning, there was utter silence all around. A man was hollering in the distance looking for his dog while it was barking in return. It was still pitch black outside as I finally made it to the truck and it started to rain heavily.

    The car horn behind me woke me out of the daze I was in. During the course of journey called life, we had gone our separate ways. I learned a lot in the journey through the wilderness that I felt I was left in and the towns that I wandered through afterwards to lose myself. It made me strong on the inside while helping me make quick decisions on the move. The emptiness never got filled even with the passage of time. I felt like there was no one else to walk besides me and the one who lent his support was gone. Those bygone days will never come back and the only things which I can hold on to are the memories.