Aug 28, 2005

Drunk Driving And Other Late Night Activities

I can just HEAR the outraged cries now. No, it wasn't me driving drunk, I was stone-cold sober playing chauffer for the wife who has needed to get her drink on for a while, so she did at a rather cut-throat card game at her mother's house. Nuff said on THAT subject. *lol*

When I was in college, I knew the town across the river like the back of my hand. I seemed to know all the little back roads and the ins and outs and every little cut-across and alleyway. There were a lot of mornings when I drove home well after midnight, and I can recall one particular morning when I came home around 4 am. Those days, fortuntately, are long past, but they left their dark fingerprints on my spirit.

There's something I miss a great deal about those early morning drives, though. The quiet. These two little towns roll up the sidwalks at sundown, and only the hardcore are up late at the bars, but after 2 am on weekends, and after 10pm on weekdays the entire town seems deserted. During those wee hours, the hours when the wolf is at the door and death sniffs around doors on silent wings there is a certain magic about driving.

I have been in big towns like New Orleans and Baton Rouge where the forward motion and the light and noise literally never stop. At 4 am the interstate is still full of cars, there are lights on in every office building and restraunt, and there are people moving on the sidewalks. Like an ant-mound seen macroscopic, there's always someone or something moving. Ceaseless. Makes my skin creep. I still remember the sight of Sonny Crockett tearing down the empty streets of Miami in his gleaming white Testarossa, the yellow-blinking traffic lights his only companion, and the tearing-canvas whine of his motor playing counterpoint to the emptiness, and I remember the day I realised it was only television. I also remember the day I realised that there was a kernel of truth in it, too.

Me, I prefer the quiet town, the houses sitting back off the road with only the dim glow of bedside nightlights through curtained windows or the yellow warmth of landscape lights along a driveway as the only illumination. Secret things, hidden comings and goings happen in the night while we are closed in our little houses. Coming home last night at 1:30am my thoughts were wrapped up in the night, in the warm blanket of dark that had settled over everything. The roads through the towns were quiet but not quite dead, the motels and restraunts still had a few lights on, but it was dwindling fast, and even the dedicated drunks were starting to finally realise that tonight was not going to be Their Night, and were sliding off their barstools toward awaiting cars.

As I got further out into the country Nature strengthened her hold and the world belonged to her again, not us. The constant grey flicker-flash of telephone poles paced my door, and the white slash of their lines stayed just ahead of my headlight beams, until without warning their seamless flow was interrupted by a heart-faced barn owl, content to turn one eye toward the rush of wind below him. I saw the golden gleam of eyes in the ditches watching me, patiently waiting for me to pass so that they could return to their ceaseless game of predator and prey in the rustling fields. If I had opened the windows I'm certain I would have heard, carried on the night winds, the bark of a hunting fox, or the mournful call of night-hunting birds.

It's sad that we have lost touch with the night. The night we think we know is filled with light, held at bay by our street lights and our headlights, but how many of us realise how fast it closes fast behind when we pass. Night rushes to fill every void, and the flick of a switch reopens our eyes to the dark beyond the doorway. There are few left who know what lives in the night, and fewer still who embrace that night. We think of the night as an inconvenience between supper and breakfast and attempt to banish it with incandescence and neon, and travel to and fro certain that we have beaten it. I'm glad we haven't.

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