There is this song on the country music stations called “Highway Don’t Care”. Its a nice song, and there is a couple of lines in it that I particularly like. The song is about a woman driving without her cell, music blasting hopefully getting away from it all; while a man sings that the highway can’t hold her like he can. It isn’t one of my favorite songs, and considering I don’t actually get to listen to much music in my life, it amazes that any song can catch my attention. My children like the Foo Fighters and Smashing Pumpkins and my husband listens to music to this day that I can’t recognize. But for the most part the music that I choose is simply a luxury I have learned to live without.
This song, however, reminds of the times I have taken to the road. Based on pop culture and its romance of the open road, in books, movies, songs, I am not alone in this great love affair. But like everything in my life, I wonder if people use the road for the same things I do.
Like most teenagers, when I was sixteen I was given a hand-me-down car my mother drove. It was a gray Toyota Camry, literally ten years old, and didn’t have a whistle to its name, much less any bells. It was stick shift, manual windowed, but it drove. While most teenagers were excited about going to the mall, I simply wanted a chance to go. I wanted the chance to finally leave behind everything that I was ever given and find the one thing I was looking for.
As I look back on those years, I realize that this was a time in my life when the disease I would suffer from for the rest of my life was first starting to appear. Un-diagnosed, certainly with no medication, I was suffering in a world all alone. There were no doctors to explain to me what those voices were trying to tell me, there were no therapists to listen to my stories and reassure me that I was okay, and there was no one to explain to me that this disease was changing me into things no one could understand and no one could stop. It was a roller coaster of hormones mixed with an out of control diet of ups and downs that had to be hidden from everyone; from my mother, my father, from my own friends. It was a time that the word alone first defined itself for me.
I would continue to drive in college, even when I finally was diagnosed, escaping to find the open road. I would do it as many times as it was needed. I would roll the windows down, not tell anyone where I was going, the music would be loud and the songs would be devastating. The kind of songs that destroy you; of love lost and dreams never found. The skies could be sunny or dark, the road straight or curvy; I didn’t care I just need to go.
For my whole life I have put on a show for others. As a child it was to please my demanding parents. As a teenager it was to fit in with the cool kids; as a young adult it was to survive, and as a mother it was to protect. It has always been a complete and total burying of exactly who and what I am so that others could not judge and others could never find out the truth. They never could find out I was broken. To a point, I am sad to say, even my husband is given a version of me that I hope he can love. For that is all we really want, to be loved.
In a car, riding down a highway, I don’t have to pretend. With the wind winding threw my fingers and the only voices the chorus on the radio, there is no need to be anyone. I can finally cry tears that I do not shed in any other sphere, and I can let lose the rage and the pain that holds me in its arms every day. In a car, riding down a highway, it doesn’t matter what those surrounding me think and it doesn’t truly matter if I ever make any progress with anything. I can be free like I am never allowed in my life; because in a car the only one there is the truth of my own soul.
My cruise control drives; my sub-conscience turns the wheel and applies the brake. My arms swing in the wind, and my eyes only see deep within myself. My voice can be weak; my memories strong. The heat can be on in the Summer and the rain can be easily washed away. My seat belt provides the security, and the miles the hope. The miles are not counted because they are so much bigger than a number on a sign. They are swinging pendulums of my emotions, and the keeper of the clock. The miles are the only ones who keep track and the only ones there to judge. The car doesn’t need to be fast, but it does need to go. The tires don’t need to be full of air, but they have to be full of strength. The music doesn’t have to be beautiful but it has to be moving within me as easily as the wind moves around me.
There are no kids screaming my name, no husband looking at me with less than love. There is no boss or mother to please; and there is no need to be. The freedom to stop for one minute the pretending and to simply relax into a seat and allow it all to come is priceless. It is the only thing that I dream about with absolute clarity; this insatiable need I have to run away. This need I am often bound by; the need to find an open road and simply exist. To be.
Even sitting at this computer I can see that road; with its lines guiding me to places only it will ever see. The trees stand like guards, watching and simply waiting – not for me but something much greater than I. The air is clean and the wind fast. The smoke from my cigarettes quickly leaves and I can breathe. The small towns have amazing colors and the flowers lining the road look small and lost. There is a dichotomy, a different vision in each blink of the eye. And there is always a moon or a sun making sure that the truth is easy for me to see.
I often wish that there was a way that I could be; truly be myself. To not apologize for being sick and to not demand of myself perfection despite knowing that I cannot give it. I wish that there was a soul out there who recognized that the truth of my own self was so much greater than the pretense that I allow. And despite how much I hate the pretense, I am utterly unapologetic about it. There is never a moment that passes that I don’t wish in my life the same peace that I find on that road.
In a car, driving down the road there is a freedom I can only find in my most carnal and vivid dreams. In a car driving down the road, there is no place I have to be or chores that I have to do. In a car driving down a simple highway, the next curve could be a paradise or a hell. In a car driving down a highway, there can be hope.
For what is hope but the single priceless thing we are all born with and never forget. It is that one thing that cannot be taken away from us, and it is the one thing that has no opposite. There is nothing on this earth that can take away our hope. And in a car, the next curve holds all the hope in the world.
I do not need the highway to hold me. I do not need the highway to understand my tears. The truth is I don’t need anything from the highway. However, despite that, it knows and gives that which I know I can never live without.