No matter where I live it seems I’m rarely there. Even if I like the place the call to press on passes through me. So I enter the road, a land of insight and escape. I pack the car and outfit its trunk to act as a second home. Then I plug in coordinates and blast off yet again. For days or weeks I’m largely alone, thinking on life then trying to avoid it. While rolling down blacktop on darkened nights I buzz in the search for purpose and peace. To clear my head and think of nothing for hours or days in a continuous streak. I look for these passages of time in a place that’s always in motion, that offers glimpses hard to hang onto. I’ve long lived an unsteady life, perched upon a shifting set of dreams and desires, all guided by the road. It shucks the old and presents the new. I’m not always sure of what I want to shed but I fear stagnation, knowing how easy it is for me to fall into a loop of listlessness. So I stay in motion.
Deep in the night I’m oft taken over by a rotation of excitement and nerves as my arms hang out the window and cold air blasts across me. I suck raw coffee grounds to keep me going and hock that snus across the lines. These dashes of white and yellow pass by in an endless stream, my speed making them appear as one. I’ve been so many places they blur together. In each I seek what’s new and yet familiar –parks, libraries, downtown, and the displaced. I enact my routines at each, making a mental catalog of where I’ll return, even if it’s years down the line. I’ve seen so much of this country yet am always grasping for more.
I sleep in the trunk with booze, antlers, and other props that entertain. Each night I bed down and drift off ’til the heat or police wake me. “Put your hands up.” “Do you have weapons in there?” “Christ, when I saw your feet I thought ya were a corpse.” In the past I tried bartering reason for release: The only difference between me and a retired RV couple is they have more money; I didn’t know a sleeping person could commit crimes. But these words are useless. I give a rundown on what I’m up to and where I’m headed. They run my ID and see I’ve lived a clean life. They’re always relieved to know I’m moving on, just passing through. They let me go and I’m on my way, another night disrupted but at least a good story gained.
I haven’t made a bed in years but within the car carefully arrange my blanket and pillows. Sometimes I sleep in there for weeks so try create the best home I can. I open the trunk and wait at the entrance until whatever street I’m on is empty. I strip to undies, slide my feet through, get my head down, and slam the trunk atop me. In this darkness I create light from a cell and music machine to adjust and find my way. I play with my toys and finish out the day’s thoughts before drifting into dreams. At times the sleep is comfortable and comes easy. At others I swelter in the heat or wake in a cold state. External noises rattle by, their eyes or headlights peering over the blankets cast atop me. Mystery items dig into my back, giving me pain that lasts for days. To flip over is a slow process that scrapes hips against a metal ceiling. Dozens of times I’ve crawled from my cave come morning only to find watching eyes upon me. I throw a t-shirt on my dirty body and roll on. I’m sure they make their suppositions but the trunk life is a free life and that’s all that concerns me.
For four years I’ve lived in motion, swirling through more in those earthly orbits than the twenty-four before them. I’ve gone from knowing so little of my country to sifting through its deepest pockets. I love the little towns and massive festivals. The city parks to nap in and mountain paths to hike. I love finding used condoms in places they shouldn’t be and bum bags along the river. But what I love most are goofy characters, the street prophets that populate my imagination years after our encounter. And while all these things are great it seems after some time I always start to wonder, okay what now?
My mind always has a sniff on the next step, never content to settle down or merely retrace what I’ve already done. Whenever I’ve tried reaching back to the past I come up empty. Everything shifts, resistant to be relived. So I move on. And moving on is nothing new. I plan my motion around money, music, and the places I call home. I travel by day and night, speeding from one state to the next, trying to get somewhere that gives me something. Along the way I see so much beckoning to be explored, inspected, or filed away for future times. There’s so many good places left to go.
“We pray for the gas station attendants and hot dog vendors. Lord hear our prayer.”
I think of road prayers as the thoughts and hopes that bubble forth while in new lands and alone for so long. A vocalization of things tucked down deep, those ignored or forgotten. Sometimes these journeys in weeks-long solitude stir more serious thoughts within — my time alone bringing forth reflection no matter how I resist. I’ll ask the road to inject me with the cum of successful friends. To let me hear another goofy preacher. But these reflections also emit from a genuine place:
“May I live this life forever. Fuckin’ A.”
No picture of the road is complete without a portrait of where the money comes from. Minus a month, I haven’t worked in six years, instead spending that time with a needle in my arm. I’m a lab rat with dozens of studies under my belt and hundreds of pills that’ve passed through me. My body’s had drugs tested on it from across the Midwest on down to Texas.
In college I found out I could make $250 or more a day as a lab rat. Though they’d rob my blood and make me shit in bags that seemed better than $7.75. So I began being experimented on. For most studies you check into a clinic, stay there for anywhere from days to a month, then walk out a richer person. You live on their schedule, are unable to leave, and eat only what they give ya. If I forget q-tips I swab out my ears with vaginal antiseptic towelettes. Once I forgot toothpaste and cleaned my teeth with hand soap and salt packets. Most of my time is spent in bed or having blood drawn. I’ve puked a bunch and was once constipated for a week but most medicines have no effect. Some studies have upwards of 80 draws, leaving a permanent hole in my arm. The nurses compliment my fat veins from which they draw with ease. It seems these arms are packed with nightcrawlers.
After finishing college I decided to forgo grad school and fund my travel with a few studies a year. I began a new lifestyle, one I enjoyed much more than academics. I was now free to flit about the country. But I never knew when a study might come and so could never plan far ahead. I had trouble describing my job and lifestyle to others. I soon realized it was incongruent with having friends and stable relationships. I dissected this all and chose the road.
Once I got the pattern down I’d travel for weeks, living out a variety of lives. Over the course of a month I’d sleep in a trunk, on picnic tables, in dirt, beside beautiful girls, and then finally in a cirrhosis study bed with tubes out my arm and a pan for pissing. I almost always had the freedom to drop it all and go somewhere with a few thousand dollars to back me up. I primarily did studies in North Dakota but that company unexpectedly closed. I was distraught and didn’t do another for a long time. But then over this past year I started traveling once again, hitting up studies in new places. This is how I wound up on my first trip to Texas.