I-80 runs from Teaneck, New Jersey and ends in downtown San Francisco. It goes through Pennsylvania and into the Midwest. The cities of Cleveland and Chicago whose souls were lost long ago. Across the Western states, God’s country, where cowboys and Indians still live amongst a pipeline and energy windmills. Northern California ends the trip with homeless men begging for change. And, when you’re done traveling on this long stretch of road, you’ve seen America. The beauty and the horror that is the United States.
Coyotes were heard in the distance. Rabid dogs lived out there in the dark as well. Feral creatures. Gunshots going off at the break of day. Sun coming through painted skies of purple, orange, yellow, and red. Waiting on the apocalypse.
He stood in the bed of his pick-up truck with a pair of binoculars. Looking through lenses at a part of the country whose beauty has not gone away. This was no longer Chicago. No more Southside,or, Millennium Park where youth run from gun fire and squad cars. This was a different kind of wilderness. He listened as the winds blew across The Plains.
Staring at the sun, he realized it looked different out here. Seemed brighter. More intense. There was no haze hiding the burning star. Just a big orange ball touching the earth. Now he’d seen everything.
She lit a cigarette and sat on her front porch. Rain clouds were moving in. A darkness prevailed. She wondered where he was. Hoped he was OK. Said a prayer and then lit another Winston. There’s only so much anger you can keep inside. All of her’s was gone. The rain began to fall. Life goes on.
The phone rang four times. She ran inside. Picked it up just in time. You should see this Helen, he said. The sun. The beautiful sun, she began to cry.
Where are you?
I don’t know. Somewhere out in the middle of nowhere. But, God is it peaceful. It’s peaceful Helen. A real peace.
I’m glad, she said. I’m happy for you. Now come back home, she pleaded. I know we haven’t talked in years. Or, done anything a married couple should do. But, I miss my roommate. I miss you, she whispered. It can be different. I’ll change. You’ll change. We’ll make it work.
I’ll call you from California. When I get to San Francisco. I’ll call you then.
How long will that be?
A few days, he said.
There was no call.