I am from places I have already forgotten. Long rides in cars connect the gaps. The smells of petrol and packing things in to moving trucks. I can imagine the sky and trees and houses racing past as I traced my finger on the window. I can imagine the sulfurous smell between Illinois and Michigan that used to rise from the traffic and factories of Gary, Indiana. I can feel the fabric of the seat, my assigned seat in the van, and later in life, the SUV.
I can imagine chasing the setting sun or driving in the dead of night. My favorite traffic is at 4am when it’s just you and the long-distance truckers. You can learn a lot while driving at night, like the way that the semi-trucks will flash their lights when another is passing to communicate that they are clear.
I can imagine the brush along the railroad tracks in the small Podunk town my parents planted themselves in. My friends accidentally set fire to the brush while they were cooking their own rocket fuel out of salt peter and sugar. I filmed it on a family camcorder that I had brought to document their science. Both of them went on to be engineers, I ended up a wanderer.
I can remember when the town had only a single signal in the middle of town, a flashing red light. The old gas station on the corner there never was open for as long as I lived there, and eventually they tore it down to make a strip mall. They replaced that signal with a three light system, and when we got a Taco Bell and we knew we were on the map. At the crossroads of I-80 and I-55, you can find Minooka nestled between byways. A gas stop and a rail yard, a small hub of it’s own renown and usefulness. But I could never stay.
I can imagine turning 18 and realizing that I didn’t have to stay in that home anymore, that it was a waypoint like all the others, some stop along the way of some greater journey. I can think of bus stations, full of people trying to make their way to wherever they were going. I can see the vending machines and trying to make a lunch or a dinner out of what was there. Snickers and Chips and Coke will give you energy.
I can remember my mother’s tears as I moved to a small place in western Illinois, far from home. I didn’t realize then, I could never return.
I can never return, the past is past. Rivers move fast, and your steps are erased as you take them.