It is dark when I set out. My small jeep and my small family. The road is long, like 280 miles long, but its a road I’ve come to know well. I program Google Maps to give me directions. A route I easily know by heart, but perhaps so the journey wont seem quite so lonely. Another voice to me, where the cats will only meow. I have my podcasts cued up, 6 hours worth. Usually something of an educational nature, or sometimes mystery crime stories. Something to keep my brain engaged, where the dark monotony would pull me into sleep.
In the darkness, the world seems small. Just two strips of pavement and a steady stream of white and red, like two string lights side by side, bending and curving along. The rain is falling, making the windshield explode with white and red light, like a muddied fireworks show, instantly whipped away with each sweep of the wipers. Its possible I get lost in it, the kaleidescopic patterns flashing before me, just following the stream of red lights. The cats each claiming a side of my lap. The voices of the podcast suddenly lost to me, something about math and physics and the birth of the universe… and then I notice red lights flashing more rapidly. Red and blue..
I pull over, out of the way, but the lights remain behind me. I continue to pull over. I hit the rumble strips as I pull off to the shoulder. The slowing speed rouses the cats. I watch as the flashing red and blue follows me off to the shoulder. I don’t have the tightening in my chest, or the pit in my stomach, the way I did the last time I was pulled over. Over 10 years ago, sorrowfully driving back to college. The year I dropped out and moved to Oregon.
The flashlight beam illuminates my passenger window. A police officer and my uncaged cat lock eyes. I roll the window down and am informed I’m being recorded. He asks me if I was aware I had been going 70 mph.
“No. Not really.” I respond, blandly.
“Whys that?” He asks.
“I guess I just wasn’t really paying attention.”
He asks where I’m going and I tell him Seattle. He scoffs and says I have a long drive. After having just gotten off the most patience draining 8 hours of work, I simply nod and say, “yeah…”
He lets me off with two warnings. One on paper, the other by telling me he didn’t want the next time he drove up to me to be at my traffic accident. I laugh, but he reminds me that he is being serious.
“Watch your speed when you pull out.”
I watch him as I pull out, adhering to the speed limit, unsurprised when, after a few moments, I see his lights go on again, for someone else.
The rest of the drive is unremarkable. My speed slowly creeps back up. I follow the lights, like lights guiding me to an exit. One cat settles across the center console, my empty Red Bull can crinkling under his weight. The other settles between my thighs, face resting in my stomach. We drive like that for the next four hours. Occassionally the voice of Google Maps will calmly remind me which exit to take.
The road gradually grows smaller. Three lanes, to two lanes. The white and red lights grow fewer. And the trees begin to close in. Until eventually I am alone, on a two way road with a yellow line down the middle, cradled in the green embrace of the trees. I am listening to the sound of an old man’s voice recall the murder of his daughter. My speed slows as I come to my first stop sign in 6 hours. Both cats perk up. Soon enough, we’ll be there.