Desolate and dimly lit gas stations with white chipped paint and toothless men were not unheard of during my late night drives through New York’s backroads. The energy of the backroads overwhelmed me, and the darkness wrapped around me like a tight suffocating blanket. Every headlight threw me off kilter and I prayed I wouldn’t get pulled over for speeding.
I have a vivid imagination. One that often invents imaginary people who will most likely hold me, hostage, and kill me if my car were to break down. Farmers with dirty hands and serial killers who roamed the nights were in the forefront of my nightmare.
Jazz and John Tesh were the only other occupants of my long journey back home to Rochester. The soothing voices centered me and calmed my fears. They made the two-hour car ride north more bearable. My sanctuary laid within the leather seats of my dated white Lexus. A car that everyone in college asked me about because apparently, it stood out. A car I caught two idiots peeing on one Saturday morning at the crack of dawn.
It took about one-hour of abandoned homes and misspelled signs outside of run-down bars announcing game night next Tuesday before I made it to the expressway. It took five minutes to decide that I’d rather die than ever live here.
But I did live there. For about nine months, and not a day longer.
My time in Dryden, NY was short lived and depressing. I had a friend who found herself pregnant and made me her safe place when her baby daddy threatened to kill her. She told me stories of dire wolves and bad juju that haunted me. Late night phone calls from people who needed rides home from parties weren’t unheard of. For a while there I gladly went to them, but it didn’t last long. I got tired, I felt used, and I grew weary of the dark windy roads between Cortland and Ithaca.
My first-time night driving I killed a possum and ran over a severed deer head.
I was a lot of things for a lot of people, but it was never reciprocated. I helped my 30-year-old RA write a research paper because no one had ever taught her. Actually, I helped A LOT of people write their college papers. The New York City public education system is abysmal.
I wasn’t great at setting boundaries back then and people took full advantage of that.
The country has a lot to offer for many people. Fall paints the hills in a rainbow of color that will leave you breathless. The long empty roads during afternoon drives in the spring can make you feel like you’re all alone in the world. I really did like some attributes of the place.
My last afternoon there was a Friday in May.
I left at dusk. That was never the plan, but my roommate’s boyfriend left dark brown handprints on the walls that refused to fade.
My cold heart grew three times that day.
Painted in fog and black woods, the landscape raced past me. I listened to jazz and felt like crying over everything that had happened over the course of nine months. The backroads were a lot of things, but they were never for me.
Daydreaming about sunshine and Los Angeles, I envisioned a future where I’d live in the city and wake up every morning to the sound of cars and dogs barking.
I have that now.
I’m still unsure of most everything in my life, but I have that daydream.