Aimless travel was an engaging reward for the chore of paying dues — a mirage I once possessed that, for now, lingers back in the distance to come — a sequestered reckoning with admission by another route, beginning behind the eyes.
I recall a truck stop blinking at the edge of a southwestern town somewhere in the midst of a overcast state line that seemed familiar even at the time, or maybe it's just a stock scene of tractor-trailer lights glowing in the warm dust that still rises around idling engines and jake brakes heard purring into exit ramp grinds, only perceived presently between lucid destinations. Who really knows? Memory is a hazy scope when alternatives are pared down by the dull edge of isolation. Let's go anyway and take a look around:
A few figures from opposite reaches of a parking lot wander towards a motel lounge in amber backdrop outlines. Inside, a boothed family is teething on wings near cowboy hat or ball-capped shaking backs stooped at the bar and laughing beyond tables of snapped-button shirts talking over each other and between themselves. A bartender approaches a regular by name, at a two-top watching a spectacle on one of the TVs, sitting alone behind three empties, and brings a fourth without clearing the rest.
Through the lounge, a serve-yourself steams casserole variations glistening at the sides and dry on the tops, each slightly distinct yet the same. At a u-shaped counter, a waitress stands near a few others seated at one end reminiscing a 1975 hometown bank robbery. Together, as if working a jigsaw puzzle, they recollect the details of a young teller who was shot that day and has been in a wheelchair since. Still talking, they look towards the entrance as a fleshy man with a sunken jaw comes in, looks over at the buffet and laughs, slaps out a few gummy words to himself, then advances toward the trays fuming under the heat lamps. The waitress watches as he returns with a plateful, sets it on the counter and sits, shaking his head, looking down at the plate, saying as if closely addressing someone from the past,
“Get outta town.”