Letter to my Son
Sunday, 16 February
|A warm welcome and the strongest coffee|
Good Morning Justin…
A flurry of goose-down swirls about the full moon before settling amid the grizzled stubble of harvested fields. Trees are drowsy shadows having no care. Rooftops slumber. A small face from around a drawn curtain peers into another winter night. The old dog sleeps, his back to the draft within his tiny home. Nearby a truck groans through its gears as it slows to cross the old iron bridge whose dank lattice-work joints are briefly swept by the light from the truck’s yellowed lamps. Within the cab its driver gulps a last swallow of cold coffee, fighting off the teasing thoughts of warm blankets and a cool, fluffed up pillow for his sleep starved head. He cranks down the window and revives momentarily with the rush of frost-bit air. These backcountry farm roads hold no pity for the weary traveler. Soon the pavement ahead will be lost in a blanket of white. The truck slows. This is country for negligent deer abruptly stepping into one’s only available path. The cab’s window is now tightly sealed. The driver’s neck and upper back begin to ache as muscles grow ever more taught from strain. There’s no chance for sleep now. The mind no longer drifts and has embraced the status of full alert.
Let there be light. Let there be a shining sign with the promise of fuel, caffeine and a paved area in which to park and catch a few winks. Let there be a welcoming stranger behind a counter just ahead happy to share a word or two of comfort and humor and revive one’s dreary pulse. Yes, this is a prayer open to bargaining. Let it be answered no later than just around the next darkened bend and certain weaknesses of the flesh will be forsworn for a reasonable period of time. What weaknesses? – you may ask. Now would be a good time to list and savor each temptation in explicit detail as there is no salvation waiting the truck now rounding the road’s gloomy turn.
Memory is induced and imagination brings to life pleasurable visions, intimate scent, soft-spoken words and exploring touch. An enveloping shroud hides all that is beyond the reach of one’s headlamps but now the miles peel off with no apparent concern. There is theatre of reignited joys being played out behind the driver’s steady gaze. At some point the mind wanders into the lives of various people the driver has known. What ever happened to the woman whose passenger door fell off its hinges at the drive-in theater? She warned you not to open the door but it didn’t make much impression until you actually grabbed the handle and the whole door crashed to the ground. Then there was the woman who could only talk to you through a hand-puppet. She wore the puppet everywhere. Her garden had clay masks carefully arranged in the soil and they appeared to break the earth so that they would always be looking up into the sky. How do you live among such fragile people while harboring any sense of selfishness?
One’s thoughts and moods flow. Time and miles become one and the same. The snow no longer falls. The bend just now turned becomes a long stretch of straightaway. At its far-off end appears a pearl of light that, in time, becomes a tall sign and then a space flooded by overhead lamps and neatly aligned pumps for diesel. There is a sharp gasp from the old truck’s air brakes and then it makes a wide turn to pull up into the fueling station. Opening the cab door you are met with the bone-chilling bluster of a stiff wind. Long johns would have been much appreciated right now. Time to push through that glass door and warm up inside. Time to refill your thermos with the strongest coffee they have. Time to touch base with whatever human being is manning the counter. God knows how long they’ve been without a friendly word.
Daylight will soon be here. The truck fueled, it’s time to throttle up. The cab gives a jerk and the truck slowly rumbles its way through several gears before settling on a decent cruising speed. There are many miles to go and the need for sleep will return but, for now, all is good – hot coffee in hand and a thin red line appearing on the horizon where the sun will soon emerge.