Friday, September 17, 2004

It really is a small place. A shack, really. The ceiling is low, and the floor is kind of warped. I had not noticed it before. Probably because I usually enter purposefully. Even automatically. Going to rent a movie is a routine, which you do without having all your senses turned on.

But not tonight.

It is getting darker more rapidly now. When I got there, it was already pitch black. It is raining non-stop now, but the air is still heavy and warm. Walking in it is being in the Night's embrace, feeling its warm breath on your cheeks as it holds you tight. As I walked in, the fluorescent lights dispelled some of that feeling. There were about a dozen people looking for their escapes on the outside of little plastic boxes.

It was strangelly quiet. It almost felt as if I had walked into the middle of a sensitive conversation. And then I saw the reason. On small, beat-up TVs in the corners of a shop, a man began to speak. I knew that voice. And I had heard it say those words before. I felt a wave of déjà vu wash over me. And I realized what I had been feeling. It was restlessness.

A long time ago, many many years before I started to consider moving here, I travelled all over this country. I had seen a large part of Europe, which was great, but those trips lacked the 'frontier' feeling of travelling in America. Twenty years ago, it felt thrilling to move through places where inhibitions were low. Opportunities seemed boundless. Where freedom reigned. Places where you felt you should be on your toes. Where people carried guns. And staked claims. And drank bourbon. In bars. I was also desperate for something new. Something bigger. Something bigger. America.

So I travelled. Coast to coast. After five trips and six years I had seen some things and gone some places. I had been to roughly 15 states in the Union. Never saw a gun on somebody's person, though. Well, except for all those guns hanging from police officers. I talked to people that were in a mindset completely alien to me. I saw a whole different way in which people can live. I sat on their chairs. Ate their food. Listened to their music. Which brings me back to that voice.

I can't for the life of me remeber wher I listened to those words. I know it was just this one time, and I know it was when I was alone. Roaming. On the radio in a rental car. The TV in a hotel room. Somewhere. But the same thing had happened then as now. This man, standing on a stage, talking more to himself than his audience, was thinking back to when he wrote the song he was about to sing. He had been 24, he said. And each time he sings the song, he is surprised at how clearly he had managed then to frame, in a song, the questions he has been trying to answer ever since. This got to me then. And it got to me tonight. Standing among these people in the dingy little video shop.

You see, my eyes saw a lot of stuff when I was getting to know this country. My fascination with it dissipated. you may say predictably. I would say that I believed that I had calmed down. Quenched the thirst.

But I would be wrong.

It wasn't the need to see this country. It wasn't that I had specific places I needed to go to. I needed to wander. To fly. To move. I have a restless streak. And that has not changed.

As I walked back out into the Night, I saw a beat-up, old motorcycle parked in front of the gas station next door. It had out-of-state plates, stuffed saddlebags, and two helmets clipped to the side of it. I felt this piercing urge to mount it and drive off.

After a minute or so, a small, fat guy came walking out of the gas station, sat on the bike and started to put on one of the helmets. I snapped out of it. I had somewhere to be. I felt my restlessness fall back to its place in my soul. My life was patiently waiting for me to come back. Which I always do. Not just because I do not fail. Or let down. But because that is who I am.

Still, as I drove away, I could still hear Springsteen's voice in my head:
"I'll love you with all the madness in my soul
Someday girl I don't know when,
we're gonna get to that place.
Where we really want to go,
and we'll walk in the sun.
But till then tramps like us,
baby we were born to run."