Drivers' Corner - Knight of the Highway
Chapter XVII: Coming Home
One of the worst experiences is coming into consciousness after being sedated. You slowly awaken while unfamiliar surroundings begin to focus. At the same time, the darkness that seemed to have you in its grip has revealed the true mortality of life as if you had just experienced a short trip into death. The worst part is the temporary paralysis, which leaves a man vulnerable. I was thankful when I finally arrived back here on earth.
Once the surrounding world focused, I realized we had made it to Gay Johnson's in Cameo, Colorado. We had survived the mountains and the truck was safely parked and purred quietly while idling. I always liked the restaurant there, Rosie's. It wasn't the fanciest of places, but it provided enough warmth and food to take your mind off the road. Anyplace that can do that is good in my books. A person could sit there and stare out on I–70 as the vehicles passed by. Every once in awhile came the sound of a jake brake slowing another truck down to safely exit. A few minutes later you could watch the face behind the wheel walk through the restaurant's door.
At the truck stops you get to match the voices from the two–way radio to the faces and bodies. It's a game that seems to never have a winner. Some people are good at the guessing game, but for me it never works. One voice I heard sounded like a barbarous athlete that could crush you with the clenching of his fist, but as the person unfolded, climbing out of his truck, he reminded me of Danny DeVito. Another sounded gentle and easy going, but as he crawled out of his truck, he appeared to be the bulky athlete that should have matched the voice I heard earlier. Then the faces. You see the faces behind the wheels and yet the bodies that appear outside the trucks sometimes appear totally opposite of what you had just pictured when looking at them through their windows. Then the waitresses you see in the distance as they come to the table sometimes surprise you with a voice that doesn't match your predictions.
A waitress was soon at our table and I guessed her voice would be sweet and gentle. This time I was half right, sweet and yet strong. Someone who was willing to joke and flirt, and yet a person you really wouldn't want to get mad. We ordered our meals and she left. Then I was scolded by my replacement driver for staring at the waitress as she walked away. "Well, I didn't realize we were married, honey. Are you jealous, dear?" I joked. We played around for a few minutes in the role as husband and wife just for the sake of being silly.
I broke our little comedy session to call my parents from the table phone. I was arranging a pickup point in Grand Junction for my parents to meet me. Terry was more than willing to drive the 67 miles to my house and backtrack to Junction after dropping me off. I sensed the reason was mostly because of her insecurity of being completely on her own. Driving me home would have extended that leap onto her own by an hour and a half. My parents were more than willing to pick me up in Junction and we thought it would be better for Terry despite her protests. I reassured her that she had to start on her own sometime and backtracking wasn't the best way to begin.
Once we were through eating, Terry drove to the rendezvous point to wait for the folks to come. I was sleeping again when my parents showed up. They already had my things loaded up when I was awakened. Terry, as expected, was more than a little nervous without the reassurance of another driver in the truck with her. With a little pep talk, she accepted the responsibility. We said our farewells and parted ways. My truck was now hers. I kind of missed the old thing already. We had seen plenty of miles together. It was like losing a faithful partner.
It was finally time to take an extended vacation from driving. I was more nervous earlier when I was looking toward the break than what I felt now. For the present, I was glad to be off the road and not worried about returning anytime soon. Yet butterflies fluttered within my stomach, reminding me that a change was around the bend.
It seemed to take forever to get from Junction to the house. My parents wanted me over for supper, but all I was worried about was a bed––a bed that wasn't bouncing down the highway with an unfamiliar driver behind the wheel. I could care less about food as long as I was sleeping. Not even sleeping so much as just being a couch potato for once without rushing for something. No more hurrying up and waiting. At least for now.
As the landscape unfolded before us on the way home, a thought came to me. I had never told Kathy about Alice or my seriousness towards her. Not too long ago I had my mind and loyalties toward Kathy, yet it had all changed. How would I tell her? Would she be hurt? Mad? Hysterical? The peacefulness I looked forward to when getting home seemed no longer attainable. Maybe I could avoid Kathy and somehow the whole problem would fade into darkness like the painkillers seemed so adequate in accomplishing. That was it. Painkillers. I could play temporary insanity induced by medication. "What an idiot!" I thought to myself as our town grew closer.