The Road, Again, Looking For Meaning and Finding Just a Bit
“You ever feel like life is easier on the road?” I asked him.
“All the time,” he said.
The call came last Monday afternoon.
A press conference. An angle. A trip. The road.
An hour later and the bags are packed and arrangements made. Snow and rainfall in Chicago as I hit the highway. Six hours through the wetness and I’m in Cleveland, where a few protesters linger in a quiet downtown following the announcement that none of the officers involved in the death of Tamir Rice will be charged.
Check in. I’ve done this before.
It’s usually easier to write about someone who has died not at the hands of police. For one thing, there are many more of those types of homicides –about 13,000 a year depending on how many of this country’s 18,000 some odd law enforcement agencies report their statistics to the FBI each year. Secondly, usually by the time I roll into town I’m a bit late. So while everyone is writing about The One Thing that has brought us all there, I’ve been asked to look for something different.
I call them The Forgotten Dead. And there are a lot of them no matter where you go in America: DeAndre Joshua and Jerry Poindexter in Ferguson. Donielle Kelly in Cincinnati. Lennon Lacy in North Carolina. Darren Deon Vann’s victims in Gary, Indiana.
And the list goes on.
These are the people I come into contact with only after they’ve reached the afterlife, and after I’ve reached the end of the road. The time in between home and the places I meet the dead and their families and friends provides plenty of time for introspection.
Maybe I think about death a lot because I’m constantly dealing with it.
In a tame sense, the road is easier than home or at work because you have final destinations and soft deadlines. You need to make it there by roughly a certain time. What happens between here and there doesn’t really matter, but the getting there gives a roamer a sense of purpose; the control of driving grants a sense of freedom.
Check for flat tires, fill up the car with gas, adjust mirrors, clean windshields, buy cigarettes.
“Stop for coffee?“
“Eh, in another hour.”
“I’m gettin’ hungry. You ready to eat?“
“Yeah, but let’s try to find a Waffle House.”