In the Twilight, chapter two

13 Nov

from November 19, 2007

           I drove through the morning. Overcast and grey, it was more like a continuation of the night than a new day. The landscape was quiet, few cars going anywhere, no houses, no people. It was good.

           The windows were down and though it was cold the wind felt alive against my face, and made the day, the whole trip, less unreal. More so than the sleep the night before, the wind made me feel whole again.

           The road wound through a lightly wooded area. The town was far behind and whatever was ahead was far ahead.. The trees were grimly clinging to their last leaves and the brown limbs shot over the narrow road. Can’t I get away from all this?

          Grey sky, brown dead trees, moving higher into the mountains on a road no wider than a service lane. I was ascending, strangely.

          I had filled the tank the day before and it was still more than half full. A sign said there was GAS FOOD LODGINGS 1 MILE ahead, and I decided to pull in. I’m not sure why I wanted to stop, but I had been driving for a few hours with only my thoughts and maybe I felt I needed some fresh air. Maybe I needed to stretch my legs. Maybe I just had to stop.

          The rest area was built along the road and overlooked a valley formed by a deep cut where the mountain split and grew into two peaks. It was small and almost looked closed but I saw lights in the parking area. The day was so dim that the lamps were needed. I glanced at my watch. It was near noon. I pulled up along the low railing and got out.

           “Ow!”  It hurt to stretch my legs after sitting for so long. My mind was active but my muscles had gone to sleep. Usually the other way ’round.

           I rubbed my legs and, after a few minutes to get the circulation back, walked, slightly sorely, to the rail and looked into the valley.

           The fog I thought I had left behind in town had settled into the lower parts of the valley, and as a result many of the features were hidden to me. Don’t have my camera anyway. But by squinting I could see a steeple just peeking out of the mist and the shadows of some small buildings. “It darkles, it tincts,” my mind dredged up. I could see, or thought I could see, a large building nestled near the bottom of the cliff’s face. There may have been some lights on inside, I really couldn’t tell. It was foggy and a long way down.

           Strange. I never saw any signs. I drove right past it. How can I miss a whole village? It seemed so Lovecraftian that I laughed. Nice view though.

           Smiling for the first time in days I walked back, past the car, across the tiny lot and the two rusty RVs with Mid-Western plates and sooty windows. A little girl looked out of the rear window. No, I realized, it was a doll.

           Why am I smiling? After all I’ve been through? This is what I left behind.

           There were three gas pumps alongside a store so small and old I was sure it had to date back to the 1920s, at least. I wondered why it had never been replaced.  At least they could have paved the place. There was dirt being kicked up with every step. The brown dirt and the chill air made me think about the trench coat I’d left back in town. I didn’t want it.

           I stepped into the store and it took my eyes a few seconds to adjust to the dim light inside. While I stood there blinking, I heard a voice speak to me. “Here for a visit?”

           “No. Visit where?”

           “You’re from New York. Cop?”

           I realized that the shopkeeper had read my sweatshirt. NYPD. “No. Not from New York anymore. I just stopped to stretch my legs.” Once my eyes had adjusted I looked at the old man behind the counter. About sixty years old. Thin and grey-haired. Gaunt, with thin glasses and a sweater that looked almost as old as he was.

           “Great view. Looking for a souvenir? Postcard?”

           “Uh Uh.” I didn’t want to talk, but I was the only one in the store and the shopkeeper was determined to make a sale. I walked over to an ice chest (no big Snapple  fridge here) and pulled out a bottle of Coke. The shelves had old nick-knacks that were probably supposed to be local-made but weren’t and some snacks, maps, magazines, and sunglasses, T-shirts, and postcards.

           “How’d you like a genuine Indian blanket?”

           “No thanks. Just the soda.”

           “Well, if you’re sure. Fifty-nine cents.”

           “Fifty-nine?” Was Coke ever that cheap in my lifetime?

           “Let’s make it an even fifty-eight.”

           I paid the man and then I felt no reason at all to leave.

          “Tell me about that town down below.”



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