Rash Hour

When I first hit the highway as a head-bent bastard, I heard the opening strains to a song half remembered from a million years ago, a call and response, a couplet that never left me, even though it belonged in other people’s lives, not mine never mine no tunes hummed in my head no melodies slept in my belly no rhythm to my mad fumble for meaning, their song always, not mine. But precious still. When the wheels rattled along gravel lined tracks, spinal vibrations turning my head into jelly, skipping chipped and scratched discs into broken chops of momentary harmony, I was young and I was alone at last and latched to the embrace of the solitary highway, I discovered that it never ends, I heard that song again and I listened on every chord and word until the final note faded, I fell off the edge of the earth searching lurching researching rehearsing, I was at last untethered unfettered unimpeded and I was a grand stampeding and yet terribly banal catastrophe.

And before I could accept this, my head burned with knowing and the room ached from my pacing, the walls recoiled from my raving, the light retreated from my being, so unsettled I had become, that I saw the road at night in vivid dreams and awoke in terror at the final moment, that last desperate grasp at control on the wheel, the world so slow so quiet so peaceful in the seconds of suspended consequences. Where the road lurched and my stomach turned, where the trees gathered their arms to reach across, where the tyres blew out or the guts leaked oil, or maybe it was somewhere else, I forgot what I had found and discovered what there was to lose, the empty way before me, the night descending slowly on late December days, purple highlight horizons behind a maze of paperbark branches.

I remember waking up and deciding to get in the car and drive. I remember lights and traffic and a wall of sound as I darted through the lumbering city buses and garbage trucks. It was probably a week day, and in equal probability I was meant to be somewhere else, I remember not caring and I do not care to this day. I shot across the steel whale-carcass bridge at even seventy, always always always unraveling that eternal road, that stretch that leads to Rome or forever in any direction and right up to your front door, I devoured whole stretches of that highway, I rolled like a stone through day and night by dash glow light and acted like I had never lost my mind after all, it was all part of the plan, it was all written down somewhere. I didn’t know where I was going but I knew damn well how to get there.

There is only one road on this island. Sure, we give all these pieces of tarmac different titles and honours, we name them for kings, queens, autocrats, tyrants, oligarchs, land barons, slum lords, slavers, pimps and our most tremendous most favoured holy fools. You can call them whatever you please but they’re all joined together, so technically, you all live on my street.


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