I'm very conscious of my hands on the steering wheel now. I'm very conscious now of my hands in general, even though they're clean, but I have been driving since before this time yesterday. It's getting light again and that always gives me a second wind.
I started on the interstate for the first two hours but then I thought I'd be better off on the back roads. It was a risk to drive on the highway at all but any risk seems wise after it pays off, if it pays off. I left at five AM, I pulled in at a rest stop for gas and coffee around six, and I left the interstate at Hanksville at dawn. A sunrise is good when you're behind the wheel and the weather is dry and cold. You don't see many other drivers and the ones you do see seem like friends. The road is a diffuse village at that hour. You can imagine that they like you too. A few of them are leaving before her husband comes home, but you've been in their shoes. They'll be feeling pretty good.
I'd like some music but I can't touch the radio. I might hear about it again. I can't think about that.
Very late at night, the roads are lonely. Back roads and country highways are dark, like you're lost in a vacuum. There's something cozy about it but you can lose yourself and go off the road. Big highways with sodium vapor lamps are a sickly orange misery. There's no warmth or life in that light.
Passing through these tiny towns early in the morning, it's hard not to think they've got it figured out: Get up early, the wife makes breakfast, you eat in a warm kitchen and leave to go open the store just as the kids are waking up. I don't know what kind of store. I don't know what they sell to each other. Food, mostly. I can't think what else. My eyes ache like I haven't closed them in days.
This place has a traffic light, just one light and about two blocks of town in each direction. The light's red, and little country traffic lights like to stay red. There's a graying woman, stiff in the cold and a little bit fat, opening a store on the corner. She flipped the sign and then in a moment the light came on. It's a warm patch of color in a dim gray world. She'll be selling cigarettes in there and little pastries wrapped in plastic. I could use a meal. When you're this tired and you stop the car it's hard to get moving again.
It can't be all that bad to live in a place like this. I'll have to stop somewhere. Maybe I can live that kind of life when the cash runs out. I'm sure it can't be the same. It's got to be altogether better and more human to live that way. You could have a wife and a kid and it wouldn't be a prison this time.
I don't know why I got so sick of them so fast, and I'm sorry they're dead, but by God I just had to leave.