Drugs. Adam says, “drugs,” and I clear my throat.
“Drugs,” I say. Then I figure yeah, he’s right.
It’s, perhaps strangely, when I’m feeling naturally at my most positive that I desire to alter myself —to drink or smoke or do this or that. Aren’t they typically the uplifting type of things? To break you out of boredom? I ask Adam this, and he replies very earnestly, telling me a detailed story about a guy “I wouldn’t know” who drinks coffee only at night and whiskey only in the morning. A fellow who was injured by playground equipment at the age of ten and, when he turned eighteen, was awarded ten million dollars from a court settlement. He was happy before the money, Adam tells me, and then he ominously says, “but…” and stalls, clearing his throat and then hitting the blinker and very slowly changing lanes. The guy had started drinking and screwing his body up after the money, and he isn’t particularly growing or succeeding in life, Adam says. He smokes cigarettes and swirls cabernet while sitting on the terrace of his cash-bought condo, and everyone frowns at the mention of him but leaps at the sight of him. So, it’s a surprise when we get into that next lane and Adam says, “Yeah he was happy before the money but he’s just as happy now,” and then he lays it on prophetically, saying that everyone’s got their own shit that fuels their functioning…that people are alike enough to be able to blanket analysis upon them, but not alike enough to avoid a deeper look without coming off as an idiot. Okay, I nod to him, then he says, “drugs,” and I pull out a bottle of uppers and line them along a dip in the dash that must be intended for pens or something. I split one in half and he does the same, and then we swallow them and before anything even kicks in, I realize that we’re not going to be stopping for a long, long time.
Mile by mile and through toll booths and beneath underpasses, it all looks the same and even in an immediate hours-passed hindsight there’s not much that ever breaks through or manages to take hold for long. Temporary experience, visually, as if what I see is wrested from the lanes and roadside and placed within me as a coloring book. Thick definitive lines outlining a basic idea of what exists there, though lacking an inherent vividness that would justify a maintained longevity in my memory. This is, also though, on heavy account of the rampant boisterous conversation that is held throughout the entirety of the day, breaking from us and filling that truck with chatter of one topic to another. Such intense focus that it steals from me the surrounding passing world.
“Mind the spotty parts of argument going forward, and then we’ll be okay, okay?” Adam says somewhere near Toledo, his hands gripping and twisting forward on the wheel, “…like the motion of this conversation, in that there is momentum, there is bought time. And, oh, you do have to leap and there is a confidence like you’re hitting straight off a starting block, but once you get going there is a freedom to figure it out in the open moments where inertia is solidly carrying you.” He lets off the gas and we begin to drag towards an offramp, “A little dramatic, yeah,” he laughs, “though gas is low and it fits to do it. But I know most of the reason for my move but I also know I can never know the entirety of the damned thing. If I’d had waited for complete reassurance —where would it come from?— I’d be running my tongue along the open paper of a joint, back in my apartment, looking out at the Mississippi.” He pulls the truck into the station, edging up to a row of pumps under a forty foot highway-wilderness scream of a sign. “You trust that we’re off in the right direction?” he asks. I scoff, and he smirks, pulling open his door, “Not via the GPS on a phone, right, as in not to New York, but since I’m off east to continue our work…do you worry for that kind of financial future?”
“No. I don’t.”
I hop out of the truck, my legs faltering and my head electric. “There’s a thought, I guess, that it’s happening regardless of me, of belief…since you’re moving it. In charge of it. Or I haven’t thought enough of it, maybe.”
So then there’s Austintown, and there’s Dubois and Danville, and we cruise along the smooth expanse, running gun against the tiring day, the dusk coming quickly and notably much faster. Burning through fuel and words and onward, we realize that we can influence the speed of the Earth’s rotation or, at least, the perspective of it. There’s a revelatory kind of education over the hours, learning with exaggerated gestures and elongated sentences things about an old friend that you, surprisingly, never knew.
Through that dashboard, lined with the pills, we scorch, taking them down at the first sign of a hiccup between thought or speech, and there is no concern for the inevitable end of the supply. We just keep on, and Adam speaks of the peace of it all. That kind of legs-crossed, knees to the side kind of elevated zen calm…like Buddha floating from ease of mind, having removed all weight from his shoulders. He speaks in aggressive bolts about the completeness in being that this “next step” of his business will bring him, but I find that a hard sell. He lines up scheduled meetings to me, onward proposals and things he calls “easy sells,” and he talks of running that gamut like it’s a nap under a tree, but it just makes me nervous. It brings my brain to a tremble, and it’s in telling him that I find our solid difference. What is mecca to him is a right terror to me, and here I am, along that road, the right-hand company to my unnerving path, and I feel lucky for the drugs at the moment, for without them I’d likely fail to draw a proper mask to show agreeance to his plan. This build, however…this paranoia, is temporary, and built from the jutting passion of his words and it, mostly, only lasts until he takes his long breath, then exhales, and deflates slightly, expecting my response. I turn my head away and glance out the side window, watching the headlights graze along the steel stretches of guardrails and beyond, lighting a touch of tall grasses before fading into the dark. There are large loping hills, black in shadow in the distance, and in an intense look there comes clear slight upward juts owed to masses of pine trees, and they all stand backed by a full blare-white moon that hangs eastwardly and low. We are in Pennsylvania, and night has come, and I hadn’t even noticed. I point out the obvious hillsides to Adam and he seems captivated enough for me to believe he as well had not noticed them. Their beauty is transient to me, it being railed out of thought from what had been previously said, and then what had grown from it in my head.
Therese had once sighed to me the pleasure of her love. That there was that invariable happiness and undeniable realization at some past moment that the love she had had and still had for her now-husband was clearly a treasure to be cherished and despite the possibility of something else coming along —but from where and for what reason— this was, beyond an emotional or logical decision, a righteous decision of complete inscrutability. What were the odds of something like “this” coming along again, she had said. “Love isn’t of a single intensity, as in it’s not the same from one person to the next. Not even for a mother or a father to one of their own children to the next is the love the same,” she had opined, “and neither is it the same from one lover to the next.” And she had looked up from her drink as she said this, then held hard onto my eyes, continuing, “I can’t say if love, or this love, is true, like a kid would say…but it’s a serious thing and, no, I can not honestly say I believe I’ll find anything, or anyone who could lead me to more happiness than him.” And I recall that in those words there was an honesty and true underlying compromise that most are not capable of. I felt that most delude themselves into such a conclusion —into such an act. That there was, in that moment, an even-weighted scale of respect and derision within me for her and her opinion on that matter. And I’d realized that I’d not found love for so many years at this point, but in some form of backlash to her I, internally, brooded that it was because I searched for the real thing whereas she had simply settled. For that moment to come back to me, here, under these imposing black hillsides, drilled an unexpected commonality within me. For as Adam delighted in the scenery, I scoffed at him in exactly that same way but, with comparison to the hindsight I now have on Therese’s words, I’m finding myself at the mercy of some kind of realization. An internal, institutional safety net for risk has, perhaps, been built over the years. Have I denied within myself the expansion of desire? Stopped it’s reach and forced it to stay inside the realm of what I know and completely understand? My mind races beyond my comprehension tonight, and, could it be, there is a freedom I have not stood upon in years burgeoning from it?