Hey! It's a Monday, and I've finally taken the time to share something from my Adventure List! Miracle! Do you have adventures to share? Head to Emily's Keeping Time for more details...
To say that it was dark would be a lie. Darkness implies that there is light somewhere nearby, illuminating a corner of existence enough to see that this place is dark. Shadowy. Darkness, to me, implies a cocoon of cozy safety. A place where light will arrive soon enough.
But this was not mere darkness. This was an absence of light so complete as to be all-consuming. A black hole in the middle of the continent. A spot of nothingness as far as my eyes could see. And my eyes could only see as far as the headlights before my speeding car.
This is all I knew of North Dakota.
My car was filled with my future husband and a pair of our best friends, and it was my turn to drive. It would be my first stretch of responsibility on this impossibly long journey to Canada for a vacation, and it happened in the middle of the night. Of course.
The steady, dreamy breathing of my companions was lulling and warm. Outside, the world was probably passing by at about 80 miles per hour, but I had no way of knowing; darkness (or whatever is more than darkness) crept right up to the edges of the car's frame and draped itself across the land possessively.
I have never felt more alone than in those hours of driving.
I rolled down the driver's side window to snap me out of whatever stupor had crept in. Perhaps it was the darkness itself, draping over me, as well as the land. Fresh summer air blew past me, and I took deep breaths of it. As if it were laced with caffeine. Or a jolt of memory so strong as to occupy my mind while I drove. Anything to keep me awake.
You know the sensation of hypnotism that comes from driving in a snowstorm? When the snow all seems to be swirling in the same direction, pulling you and teasing you into submission? Or what it's like to stand at the edge of the ocean and watch the tide rush in and then out again over your naked toes? When it feels as if you'll fall over forwards or backwards from sheer displacement of coordination?
That's what this highway was like. One straight road that undulated with nothingness. One strip of asphalt with not a curve or dip or rise to be seen. One line of direction that pulled me and my speeding car towards an end, but no end presented itself.
If there was a car in front of me (I'm sure there must have been -- we were a caravan), I stopped noticing it. It was too constant on the road and it became one with the nothing. One with the absence of light. Like those swirling snowflakes: indistinguishable from reality.
If there were stars in the sky (I'm sure there must have been -- it was clear and summer), I failed to appreciate them. They only added to the sensation of falling forward or being pulled indiscriminately ahead. Like that tricky ocean wave: false in its sense of sharing motion.
I talked to myself. I rolled the window up to ward off bugs. I changed lanes for the simple pleasure of turning the wheel off-center. I turned the radio on. Then off.
I closed my eyes, only for a moment.
Or two moments.
Or, like with the waves and the snow and the road, I was tricked into feeling things that weren't true, and I closed my eyes for several moments, thinking I was awake all the time.
Oh, it felt so good. If only I could stay there forever...quiet...at rest.
I woke up to the car in the same lane it had been traveling. Still straight and true. Still draped in darkness. I shook with the knowledge that I'd actually fallen asleep while carrying precious cargo: friends and loved ones. Tears filled my eyes, and they were almost as relieving as sleep.
I nudged Justin awake across the front seat. He pulled himself into consciousness long enough to understand that I was breaking down. I was useless. I needed help.
We might have pulled over to switch. He might have woken up to talk to me so I could keep going until we reached a caravan rest-point. I might have been forced into better awakeness simply by being so scared of falling asleep again. I just don't remember.
But I will always remember the all-dark-darkness. The flat, stretching road to nowhere. The way it felt to rest my eyes.
And the way it felt to open them again.