It’s a struggle to keep eyelids apart, since darkness obscured the rolling hills, farms, and wooded valleys. Now, however, the exits are more frequent, and the lights and billboards of yet another city—Knoxville—compel him to continue, far enough beyond that city, to find another rest stop or deserted side road, where he can pull over and catch a few hours of sleep.
What if? What if he had paid his tab and gone home instead? To her studied severity and unapologetic frumpiness, her stringy hair, her featureless body. To her makeshift household, the mattress on the floor, the bookshelves of sagging one by tens stacked on cinder blocks. To her disdain—for his smoking and his diet, for the dirt and grease impacted in his knuckles, for his fumbling calloused hands. Yet, to her willingness—to accept him every night, no matter how dull and routine it had become. To accept his mediocrity, his absence of productive ambition.
No, he traded it all for this, that one night, that one night that should have been no more than one night, if it ever should have been at all. The headlamps part the darkness like the bow of a ship, leaving behind a wake of shadows, as the truck continues, rolling, plunging and surging—eastward.