Ohio is flat and dark.
The roofers are coming on Monday so you need to make the 700-mile drive home in a single day that has begun in early afternoon in the glorious Pennsylvania fall. The northern route has taken you through oak country, shades of brown, pink, and red, sun-dazzled. But the sun has set behind the Pennsylvania hills. You know when that happens because the GPS background switches to black.
Night falls on Ohio. In Ohio there is nothing to do but drive, drive, drive.
You and he are talked out. You’ve used your talking energies on other people on this long, sociable weekend. You find yourself checking mile markers. Your attention does a triangle: mile marker, clock, arrival time. Measuring time does not help it pass. Instead, time stretches out into a succession of tedious moments. You are bored out of your mind. Your mind has no room for anything but your own boredom. Boredom sits behind your eyes.
You eyes are getting sandy. You are trying to stay awake in case he doesn’t. Or should you nap so you can take over later? But you’ve had a long shift and you hate driving in the dark. You hate everything about the trip at this point. Nothing to look forward to but sleeping in your own bed, and that is still hours away.
Music would help but there is no music. The CDs got moved out of the car. The radio is annoying country and something New-Agey droney that threatens to put the driver in a trance so you switch it off. Nothing but silence and the road and the headlights and taillights and the mile markers and the half-moon dipping toward the horizon.
You remember that once on a trip when you were bored out of your mind you welcomed the boredom, the monotony, and the road. You watched them as if you had never seen them before. You ignored the clock. You banished thoughts of how far you had come and how far you had to go. You narrowed your attention to the present moment. Each mile marker was its own destination. And the road began to sing to you. Movement, speed, the harmony of traffic rules.
You try that now. Welcome, boredom. Welcome, road. You set aside the story of one mile after another and rest in the present. The road and the night move under the wheels. For a little while you lose track of time.
Finally, finally, Ohio comes to an end.
He turns off the heat to keep awake and you don’t complain although you are freezing. You massage his neck. You announce the passing of the Indiana communities you know so well. Lagrange. Middlebury. Goshen. Elkhart. You are in home territory.
It is okay to count the miles again because this time they will end at home.