The road is busier than usual today and each driver appears to feel the urge to speed faster than the last. There were days when I would only witness one single truck slowly trekking down the road early in the morning and again before noon. Baxter had coffee with his sister every morning. Then the school bus came after three to drop off the lone kid that lived further out than we did.
In those days I was just a ghost running barefoot on a slab of dirt and rocks. No one knew where I was or how far down into the backwoods I could go. It was only me, no cars or trucks. No one else existed down the road.
I drive the four wheeler down the road. The rain has shown the true, poor quality of the gravel the men use to “fix” things. Ruts as deep as tires fill the center. Several spots in the ditches show signs of cars being stuck for hours.
Three cars zip past me before I’m a mile down. I don’t recognize them. Where are they going?
Four new trailer houses have been placed in the pasture I used to camp in. Last week there were only three.
I pass the purple fence my friend and I used to climb on. He was my best friend until middle school, when boys and girls realize they can’t be friends without it meaning something more. Now he’s a cop far away.
Five more cars pass me, along with an 18-wheeler. There can’t be this many houses down the road – where are they all going?
Passing Mr. Baxter’s house, I see his old Ford rotting in the backyard. He used to be the only car to pass me while I was running. He never stopped, but he always waved. We’re both loners. I think he knew that.
The tiny creek across the 4 way stop is where I found Puppy. Someone had dumped him out, trying to get rid of him. He was too scared to come to me, but he followed me home anyway. And he was a great pet. He ran with me, no matter how far I went. A speeding truck with a trailer ran him down a year later, right in front of my home.
I pass An old cemetery a few miles down. The headstones are weathered and fading. I’m not sure anyone comes to visit anymore. Surely doesn’t seem like it. The ditch next to it is where I wrecked the four wheeler in high school. No damage done, but a great story to fabricate to my friends.
I’m passing houses with each quarter mile, but I don’t see them. They’re not part of the story, no matter how obstructing they may be to my childhood.
Cars continue to zoom forward while spraying me with rainwater and mud, but they don’t get it. And for that, I feel sorry for them.
To them it’s just a road – a poorly constructed piece of dirt covered in chunks of gravel.
I turn around and let it take me home, as it has done a hundred times before.