We left at 4am. We were driving to Atlanta for Thanksgiving. A friend had invited me to spend the holiday with her, and another friend and I decided to make a road trip of it. Sure we could have flown but the point of a road trip is to be out there on the open road, nothing but sky above you, solid road below you, and a white or yellow line to mark your way. A road trip can be a deeply spiritual experience. It can help to clear your head.
The last road trip I went on involved another friend and her dog which she loved beyond all reason and which I thoroughly hated by the time we made it to San Diego. The thing was a nervous mess and we had to stop every half-hour for it to pee after something or other – a big truck, a loud car horn, me changing the station – had set off its hyperaroused anxiety meter. I had sworn off road trips with women ever again. Which is not to say that my luck is any better with men. The last trip I went on with a man ended up with our car floating gently down into a snow-filled ravine enroute to Montreal. It took another car floating down into the same ditch for us to get pulled out. The combined manpower of both vehicles did the trick.
Road trips are for me tests of endurance and patience. I have loads of the former but very little of the latter, a combination that can make travel at once both a joyous and an irritating experience. So I was both looking forward to and questioning the possible benefits of the drive to Atlanta. But my friend and I both needed to clear our heads, and short of sitting on a therapist’s couch, there is no better cure for a muddled mind than getting out on the road to anywhere, preferably somewhere far.
My friend had some issues with a man that she needed to sort out. I had my own man issues to resolve but wasn’t ready to talk them out loud with anyone. But I knew that the 14-hour drive would help clear my head and put some much needed distance between the male stimulus and my somewhat questionable emotions. It was a situation in which I had been thrown into contact with the same person repeatedly and we had enjoyed each other’s company so much that feelings were starting to develop. Except that, for a number of reasons, they should not have. So I needed to break it. Come to think of it, that is a perfect description of the situation my friend also faced. So there we were, two women with man issues on the road on Thanksgiving Day, driving to Atlanta to clear our heads and sever budding bonds. Yes it was an ambitious plan but with Prince on the ipod and gas at affordable prices, it seemed doable.
My friend got to my house at 4am, as planned. The fog was thick in the early morning. Visibility was a few mere yards and the plan to drive at 75 mph had to be quashed. A more cautious 35 mph was called for. The result was that we eventually crawled into Baton Rouge somewhere around mid-morning.
At the start of the trip, I suggested that we purchase lottery tickets in each state along the way. I figured that if all else failed, I would settle for being a millionaire. And I knew that she would not blab and tell everyone that we were suddenly rich as dirt. Of course the problem with having a lot of money seems to be that some people think they can suddenly do what the hell they want and live by their own rules. You know, such as breaking some of the norms that govern healthy relationships and crossing lines that you really shouldn’t. And maybe this is why I still haven’t checked to see if we won.
Along the way, I suddenly remembered a Caribbean superstition that says that if you want to break a pattern, it is necessary to cross water. I told my friend this and she got very excited and decided to give it a try. The next time we crossed a river, she called out the name of the man she was attracted to but shouldn’t be and asked him to set her free. I wasn’t ready to speak my situation out loud so I whispered the name of the man I had become attracted to but shouldn’t have. And so we went, she screaming, me silently whispering every time we crossed a bridge with water running under it.
I wish I had stopped to take more pictures of the swamps of Mississippi. There was one long bridge that went on for miles. Let go. Let go. I’m free. I’m setting you free. I whispered for miles. My friend became hoarse with screaming.
It started raining in Alabama. Darkness fell sharply, unexpectedly. It became cold in the car, but turning on the heat made the air stuffy. I had done all of the driving. I love to drive so this was not a burden. But we were equally tired. Hunger made us irritable. Ten miles out of Montgomery, we decided we could not drive another mile. So we found a Hampton Inn off the highway and decided to crash for the night. I called my friend in Atlanta to give my apologies. And I fell into a sweet dreamless sleep, free of any thoughts of him and any feelings that I shouldn’t be having. Crossing water is magic.
My friend says that she has since broken things off with her guy. I can however speak only for myself when I say that I feel completely free. And for that, I am truly thankful.