The lyrics here, not in lyrical order and sometimes butchered for lack of my having a copy of the song, are from a song titled the same as this node, by Bob Seger. I have heard the song before but the first time it had any meaning to me was when I heard it on the long road trip to New Orleans from Strasburg, Virginia, four years ago. I was at the wheel for most of the trip, and most of the trip was at night. Days before, I went with my ex's parents to pick him up from the airport; he had moved here six months prior with his college buddy and left me behind to finish my degree. Nights before, I found out, through underhanded means I admit, that he had cheated on me while we were apart. It took us some nights to fathom that, but in the end I caved in and forgave him, desiring only to get to New Orleans, to see a new city, and try to make this failing relationship work.

The drive was maniacal and rampant as we tried to talk through things and how things between us would never be the same. Not just because of the infidelity, but because we had changed. I would find out only months later that we were incompatible, but on that drive, I was sick with hope, hope that I knew would eventually fail me.

We crept through the night in my '87 Impala, weighted down with all the computer geek gear Gage had left behind, and some of my things as well. And this song came on. The blue from the radio was the only thing that illuminated our faces. He slept along the way, and I peered into the night, constantly searching for the white dotted lines to guide me, earnestly seeking the right exits. For a moment, when the song came on the radio, I felt like I could relate to old Bob.

some lines have been omitted so I could make my points

Well you walk into a restaurant
Strung out from the road
And you feel the eyes upon you
As you're shaking off the cold
You pretend it doesn't bother you
But you just want to explode

All those same old clichés
Is that a woman or a man?
You always seem outnumbered
You don't dare make a stand

You get those moments, whether you're at a Denny's or a gas station, where you can't help but feel out of place because unless you go to one regularly, the people who work there don't know you and seldom care if they don't. The regulars are keeping close watch on their crosswords or their slowly emptying mug of coffee, or their distorted reflections in the mirror. They almost wince when they hear laughter, as though they came here for the right reasons and you didn't. You may have come to get out of the house, but you feel that they come here to get out of their lives.

Out there in the spotlight
You're a million miles away
Every ounce of energy
You try to give away
As the sweat pours from your body
Like the music that you play

I have never been on a stage or performed for any crowd for any reason, but we have all been on a stage playing a role for an audience. We have all flinched in the poorly tailored suit of other people's expectations, some of which we've fed through our own indifference or indecision. We've all been isolated by what others would kindly consider our gifts, even if they never realized what burdens they can become.

Later in the evening
As you lie awake in bed
With the echo from the amplifiers
Ringing in your head
You've smoked the day's last cigarette
Remembering what she said

Ah, the reflective moment at home, staring at the ceiling, thinking. Ayn Rand wrote in her book Atlas Shrugged that "when a man thinks, there's a spot of fire alive in his mind." Sometimes, if we allow it, that fire can consume our lives, while we are only left with our thoughts, and that is a terrifying place to be. Even if you know tomorrow might be different, that there is still a future to strive toward, you are still only left with the night to think it over.

Well here I am
On the road again
There I am
Up on the stage
Here I go
Playing the star again
There I go
Turn the page