At lunch, Long Tom encourages me to take 15 back up to Charlottesville from Durham. "It's like entering a time warp, the era before interstates. Redoak, Keysville, Briery -- these hamlets and crossroads look like old still photographs. You'll get to Farmville and think it's a big town."
I knew a girl who came from Farmville. She too loved books and worked for us up in New York, but couldn't take it after 9/11 and went back down south. Susan, I recall, freckles, big smile, lively intelligence. A lot of good people left the city then.
We talk some more business and say goodbye. There aren't too many gentlemen like Long Tom left in this world -- I'm gonna miss his company. Time to hit the road, despite the fact it's still drizzlin and I'm nursin a wheeze cause of LT's cat. Like tryin to breathe through a clogged straw.
The miles go by. You can rhapsodize all you want about the romance of the road, but in the end it's a load of crap. Legs go stiff, back gets sore, feels like a kidney stone comin on. You rub your neck and your eyes, take a swig of ice tea, hum a tune. The miles go by. You scratch yourself. Fields and old houses. Abandonment and renewal. You look out the window at some stores, a freshly painted church, and a decrepit silo and ast yourself, "Did we choose to live like this, or did we just allow it to happen?"
Some wag once said, the conscious life is the only life worth living. Okay, then what is this that I see all around me?
I stop at a Chevron station in Farmville for gas and a stretch. They got all the usual shite lined up along the highway -- Applebys, a tanning salon, Dollar General, Wendy's, miniature golf, McDonald's, a body piercing and beauty spa, Walgreens, Fas Mart, Curves, H & R Block, Food Lion, KFC, Wal-Mart, Arby's, Comfort Inn, fuel oil, CVS. It passes through my mind that pharmacists are probably doin alright these days. Lotta people need drugs, just like they need food and gas. The basics.
I pull out of town and soon am back drivin through country, no longer sleepy, when all of a sudden the trees cry out, "Not so fast. This is our road too." Somehow it don't faze me. After all, trees're conscious too, right, poot? So I keep right on goin to Charlottesville, hopin to hit The Roller's homestead before nightfall.