Tuesday, July 1, 2008

On the Night, Which Ideally Should Involve Sleeping

Would you say that driving at night is a lot like having a near-death experience? The deliberate reduction and intense focusing of your field of vision, the world-at-large jetting through your periphery, too dark and muddled to perceive? The tunnel of light that directs you to your destination? All with some heightened state of alertness, some drive towards awareness that paradoxically seems to slow everything down and draw it out like so much spindly thread. And you're alone. Even when with passengers you're alone, their faces falling back into the darkness at the fringes, their haunted voices echoing into the tunnel from somewhere outside in the muffled world. And like planets or blazing stars, streetlamps and porch lights dart by, ambiguous markers in the universe as you make your way through it.

On a night drive I see a black garbage bag on the side of the road, and I wonder if it contains dismembered limbs. It is late and the thought troubles me, even after the bag has been whisked out of my narrow tunnel of light. How does such an association become formed in one's mind? I've never encountered a trashbag of body parts before. It's one o'clock in the morning, and a man sits in a chair on his front lawn, alone, poking at the tiniest of campfires. On a darkened gravel road, a tremendous lunar moth, blanched in the high beams, wheels up into the night and then comes crashing to the dirt, over and over, as though its only wish is to inter its ghoulish form.

Something about the windows down, about the wind. Something about tires on road.

In the intensity of the headlights, the yellow lines produce lonely epileptic patterns, become hypnotizing, but only until the brightness of a passing car pulls your eyes away. You know you shouldn't look, but you always do, as though the blinding whiteness is the very end you seek after moving for so long through your obscure tunnel. Still, you press on.

The tunnel allows you to feel your movement through time. The present is forced upon you, while behind you, the night consumes the past. No glimpse in the rearview mirror can ever afford some image of the rapid succession of moments that have just careened through the illumination of your headlamps. A set of feline eyes glow on the shoulder, a cat that only exists in the narrow sweep of your light.

When I pull into the driveway, sometimes I just sit for a few minutes and listen to the summer frogs. The world is dark and my tunnel has dissolved. I listen to their cries, and they almost seem to be cheering, telling me, "we're so glad you made it, welcome home, welcome home."