17 September 2013

Routine Drive

(Found this while looking through my 'Unpublished' folder - don't know why it wasn't published. Originally written on 7 May.)

I live about twenty minutes from the nearest substantial town (there's a tiny little pinprick town about ten minutes away). As a result of this arrangement, I log a lot of hours alone behind the wheel of the mostly-faithful rattletrap, driving to church meetings and Bible studies and meetings with friends and, for about a year, my job as a papergirl.

Those drives are filled with lots of music and lots of thinking.

Tonight was Bible study night. As I left the house and walked down the driveway, I began to slow things down... walking more slowly as I made the left turn onto the sidewalk towards the rattletrap.

I looked at the bush in front of the house, lining the sidewalk, remembering how just weeks before I had walked this same sidewalk and marveled at the the beauty of the streetlight across the intersection glittering off the snow that had been piled beside me.

I looked up, at the still-light sky. Dark blue clouds obscured the actual sunset and added pop to the lighter blue sky above it, but the light still shone through, silhouetting the tree branches down the lane. In a moment I was transported back to Vancouver in the summer of 2009 -- one week I hope that I never forget. In fact, I can still feel the blister on the back of my ankle from those tight shoes and I can still see the glorious pink and orange sunset as it sank into the Pacific Ocean and the shadows lengthened on the beach.

I headed to the rattletrap, parked rather farther from the curb than I thought it was. As I came around the front to the driver's side door, I noticed someone sitting in the backyard across the street. Their face was lit with the unmistakable glow of a bonfire that I couldn't see from my angle.

As I got in the van, I caught some of the smoke smell. Ordinarily I hate that smell, but that one soft wisp across my face was pleasant -- bringing back all those nights a decade ago with family friends as the adults talked around the campfire well beyond midnight and we kids ran around in the cool grass in the dark open spaces.

I got in the rattletrap and started it up. This morning in the mail I had finally received a copy of JAG's 1991 album The Only World In Town, and I had been listening to it on the way into town. The title track was just starting as I pulled away and slowly rolled up to the stop sign.

A couple was crossing the street to my left. Further on, another couple was walking in the direction I would be traveling. I made my turn and at the next stop sign I watched a whole group of kids, perhaps in their early teens, ride their bikes across the intersection.

This town is not a generally happy town. It's known all around as kind of a place where the 'ne'er-do-wells' hang out. Homeless folks abound here, and drinking is a huge problem. This is not the kind of town you walk alone at night.

Even as I made my turn at the second stop sign and headed down the road to the highway, I saw the red and blue flashing lights on the corner of one of the side roads. There was only the one police car, and I didn't see any other cars or any kind of kerfuffle. But as I approached I saw a cold blue light. After a moment I realised it was a police flashlight.

As I passed, I saw a lone cop standing on the grassy embankment on the side of the road, shining the blue light on a man lying against the fence. At first I wondered if it was a body, then I saw the man move, slowly, as if in pain. His baseball cap was falling off his head with the movement, revealing a bald head.

This is the only world in town
Who's gonna change it
This is the only world in town
We'll never make it on our own...

Even though the posted limit was sixty, I was only driving forty. The music was perfect for the moment -- the fading sunlight, the streetlights clearly visible against the darkening sky.

Then I reached the city limits. The hospital is to my left. As I sit at the stop sign, checking for traffic, the highway stretches out in either direction.

I crossed the highway onto the secondary highway -- a one-lane-each-direction deal rarely traveled. On the average trip down it you'll see only three or four other vehicles on it. Most of them are passing you.

I watch in the rearview mirror as the streetlights by the hospital melt together into one little blob. Then as I go down the hill, they are finally snatched from sight, and I am once again alone on an open, lonely country road.

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