His eyes scan the road as if in a trance, his mind occupied by thoughts invisible to me. My own mental wanderings spread themselves out against the stars, so many focused points of light muffled by the light clouds high above us. My breath forms small jets of mist, which climax in miniature gray clouds, before quickly dissolving once more into nothingness. Slouching just right, I can see my reflection in the side mirror, the windshield, and in the lenses of an old pair of sunglasses, resting on the dash. From three different angles, I see myself as three unique people; I wonder in passing whether this is some deep metaphor for the uniqueness of any individual's perception of any given instant, before my mind once more wanders beyond it's own boundaries. I am physically tired, which in combination with the Dexedrine still lingering in my stomach makes for a very unpleasant sensation. I'm sore, too, from the game, but after a certain point physical pain stops being recognizable as anything other than another annoyance. I watch my breathe for a few seconds more, as clouds form into three distinctly vague forms from three distinct angles. My eyes scan the mirror, lock with their own reflection, and quickly look away, afraid to hold their gaze. This peculiar ballet plays out twice more, before my eyes themselves seem to lose interest, and look for more involving entertainment. They quickly scan the dash: the fan is off, as is the radio. He says the noise is hard on his tinnitus, although I know he's none to fond of my music, either. Finally, my eyes dart from the speedometer to the wheel, and come to rest on his face.
Silence is deafening; yet its beauty is unquestionable.
I really don't know my father that well. My mind wandered slowly over how it was I knew that I didn't know, and then became distracted in trying to digest this, and once more crossed that border into a realm beyond comprehension. Slowly it wandered back, like a derailed train slowly climbing back on to the tracks in slow motion, a bad action movie being rewound. It's not that my father and I aren't close; in fact, I think I'm much closer with my father than are most other people in my demographic. Instead, I have been happily oblivious to the fact that my father had a life prior to my own existence. I'd heard stories, of course: The time he almost set the house on fire, his time hitchhiking, his odd work in auto shops in the city, his slow reluctance to take a career in teaching... but it all seemed somehow abstract; too distant to be real. My words planned themselves out in my head for eternities before slowly dripping down to my lips.
"When did you first start hitching?"
Silence moves past me as a blur, like the yellow line passing beside the truck; always changing, but always the same. His eyes moved slowly upward. He is back in that other place now, safe from my mind's prying eye.
"It was 67."
"When did you finish high school?"
"I finished, in... 67 again, I think it was. I didn't graduate until I was 20. I took my first trip that summer, I think. or it might have been Christmas. Was just two weeks, out west and back. Everything was different back then, hitching was like a culture. I'd arrive at a hub, like Thunder Bay, and there would be 30, 40, maybe even 50 kids there, all looking for rides. It was unlike anything today. I tried hitching out of the park last weekend, maybe just 5km to the gate. Not one ride, I ended up walking it. It's such a different mental environment, now. No one thinks they're safe, people don't look out for each other anymore. Everyone's afraid of someone, and those who aren't fake it to fit in. So it goes, I guess."
He kept on answering; I kept on questioning. He brought up good cops in New York City, asshole cops in Toronto, stupid cops in the south. He talked about riding with loads of cotton across the country, about catching rides from North Bay to San Francisco, about Vietnam vets bringing pot across the border. We talked, and all the stories ran together into one. We got closer and closer to home. He brought up his job as a lab technician, doing work on tissue samples at UofT. He discussed how he nearly made it to L.A, before realizing that he was running out of time. He worked slowly to put together the pieces of a life he'd left behind. I began to regret the fact that our ride, and so our chat, would be ending. I expressed my regret for the passing of a culture that seemed so wild to me, so full of life. He drew comparisons between his experiences hitchhiking and my brother's recent experiences backpacking through Europe and Asia. Up ahead, the lights marking a railway crossing slowly began to pulse amber. We slowed. He told a story about a couple guys he was riding with getting pulled over, and dumping contraband through the engine compartment of an old Econoline van, only to retrieve it after they'd been let off. I began to wish the train would never end, as I knew the stories wouldn't. The train moved on, and we followed suit. We pulled into our driveway, and stepped into the crisp spring evening.
"Next time I'll be sure to bring a tape recorder." I said.
He grinned to himself, and then slowly to me. His eyes glinted in the moonlight, as he replied:
"Not a fucking chance."
You couldn't help but smile.
I knew then, more than ever, that I truly knew nothing at all.