I take the familiar roads too fast sometimes — but only because I know them as well as the long line of freckles on my right arm. When you’ve spent your lifetime in, near or along a patch of land, that landscape impresses on your skin. It becomes you.
Roads hold a strange fascination for me. I love maps, love staring at the constellations of streets that can take you from point A to winding point B. I got my driver’s license as soon as I was able, popping behind the wheel of my dad’s old Toyota when I was 16, and the freedom of driving — of being out, being loose — isn’t something I take for granted.
When I was commuting to college, cars whizzing along the haphazard Beltway, I remember driving home on an unusually warm winter day. Bright sunshine bleached long lines of salt on the roads; warm air beckoned us to crack our windows. I was young, rather brokenhearted . . . still processing the end of a first love. A two-hour round-trip drive is a long time to be alone. Though music couldn’t always clear the mind, I played it — Jimmy Eat World, Maroon 5, Death Cab for Cutie — on loop.
To my right was a sedan driven by a businessman, tie loosened and shirtsleeves rolled up. Slowly, tentatively, the other driver stuck his left hand out of the window. The wind caught between his fingers. He made a fist, opened the fist — like he was trying to hold it.
At the time, it was an incredibly hopeful sight.
It’s strange the memories that return to you — little moments that invade when you least expect them. I usually listen to audiobooks in the car, spending my short commute lost in stories, but yesterday my book ended before my drive did. I dug around in my dashboard for a CD and found Maroon 5 — an old album I hadn’t listened to in years.
I thought of the tired businessman reaching, hand extending into the sunshine. I thought of winter ending, the thaw and hope and promise of something new.
I sang loudly along, voice hoarse with the near-forgotten lyrics.
But they were still there. They trickled back, one by one.