i drive on several new-to-me interstates, but i can’t remember all which ones. outside of knoxville I-40 takes on a tinge of the nj turnpike—but I-75 is new, I-75 is definitely new. a single tan cow glows golden on a hilltop as i pass a congregation of tractors parked just off the highway, two green, one blue. there’s a huge line of cars in front of me, like, we’re all waiting for these fucking semis to pass each other, and all the semis are just playing leapfrog with each other. i stop at a rest stop and post “girl who drives on the rumble strip just to feel something, anything” on instagram, since i’m off twitter now. and when the semis finally finish passing each other, it’s like i’m home free, but no, there’s still this huge line of cars in front of me, and in front of that line of cars is another line of cars, and in front of that line of cars is someone towing a double-wide mobile home down the interstate, and in front of that mobile home is another line of cars, and in front of that line of cars is another double-wide mobile home. and now, that second mobile home is trying to pass a semi, an RV, two RVs, two RVs and a semi. in the free-flowing northbound lane someone is towing two mustard yellow semis, and i’m jealous. but i finally pass the mobile homes, and about half a mile in front of all that mess is another set of semis, playing leapfrog with pride
it’s weird because driving behind something feels like i’m stuck, but i’m not, i’m moving, i’m free, i can take any exit, i can take any turnout, any one of those illegal median u-turns with the authorized vehicle only signs. suddenly, in the middle of tennessee, i’m 20 miles from philadelphia. i’m outside of cleveland. i pull into an overlook that turns out to not be very scenic for about 30 seconds, and lose half an hour’s worth of passing semis. i hit chattanooga and suddenly it’s spring, all the leaves are out. i enter georgia and all the grass is dead. there’s a confederate flag by the highway. somebody once told me boston is like atlanta for white people, and i don’t think that’s quite right. some type of vulture takes off right in front of my car and i can almost touch it. i’m surprised by the number of conifers, i always thought of them as a northern tree. i see coyotes in the wild for the first time. they’re roadkill. i see an alabama license plate with “acab” in the middle, a mcdonalds billboard so old as to have faded to sepia and gray. i’m too far from home to follow my normal rule of turning around if i see three of the same kind of roadkill.
i see a pickup truck towing a pickup truck towing a minivan, i see a busted up sedan towing a busted up sedan, the first one so busted up you can see the radiator and the hood is being held in place with a ratchet and tie down strap. i keep having to ask siri where i am every time i see signs for philadelphia, apparently a more common name than i knew. even now, close to the end of the drive, time and distance loom up before me like some kind of behemoth. i see a white semi towing two white semis, each one un-identical from the last. i put on julien baker’s little oblivions for something familiar, but it’s not until the end of the first song that i process that it’s not “hardline,” it’s “faith healer”—that my spotify has been on shuffle this whole time.
somewhere in mississippi i realize that i’ve been playing leapfrog with the same semi for almost half an hour, and passing through jackson i see one of those morgan & morgan accident & injury attorney signs that philly (the real one) is lousy with. i’m thinking about how cars aren’t but really are marketed politically when i get passed by a datsun 210 with sticker that reads “you just got passed by a 67 hp datsun 210,” and i know this is the most mustard yellow vehicle i have ever seen. i puzzle over exactly what low shoulder could possibly mean and spend a disproportionate amount of time staring at the shoulder.
the sudden bang of a tire blowing out on the semi driving next to me reminds me of the stall doors banging in the women’s restroom at the mississippi welcome center rest stop, where i just took a shit and sat in the stall long after i was finished, fearing for my safety. i’m seeing country i’ve never seen before, but, i think because of movies, it all looks familiar. then suddenly the pavement is red and the pines are tall and top heavy and i am dissociating at the wheel. i see a blue bird at a rest stop, then pee in the men’s restroom because i left my mask in the car, and when i walk out, and army looking dude getting out of an army colored silverado gives me an army look, meaning: you’re too transsexual to be here. driving through brandon mississippi, i’m still listening to julien baker, realizing that even though i know every lyric to the album by heart i have no idea what the song titles are, wondering if people in brandon go crazy over the whole “let’s go brandon” thing. further south in mississippi, i see cows again, and they put me at ease. the louisiana welcome center advertises free louisiana coffee. it’s closed.