Keizer, Oregon / by laurel

It was a blank-canvas kind of night. Without knowing what kind of sunset ushered in the damp blackness, it was impossible to imbibe from the evening any sort of personality. It was blank, and damp, and wild. Wild with possibilities, pregnant with the kind of moody, flickering, at-a-moment’s-notice changes that keep people awake at night, shuffling to the kitchen for a drink of water to wash away the who-knows-what feeling that haunts them.

It was a small city kind of night. The intersections nodded in acknowledgement to each other and the avenue was a straight-shot, green-lit drag strip, hell-bent toward morning. Driving down that road, feeling the wanderlust of a million discontented souls before me, I felt fully what it means to be a desperado. Left, right, straight, back, straight shot to the stars. Another storm had rolled in and the pavement mirrored the lonely streetlights above it, casting a molten orange glow into the convoluted atmosphere.

The Beatles moaned their raspy plea, I want you so baa-aad, it’s driving me mad, filling the car, filling my lungs, filling the spaces above and between. Just drive.

Even at 40mph, it felt like flying. That’s just the kind of night it was. Flying from 11pm to 11:30 and on, stealth and unassuming. The downtown mini-metropolis was empty, save for the bum and his wheelchair in the alley behind the Dairy Lunch. A power line had gone out on the corner of Court and Commercial, but other than that, there was emptiness.

It was an untamed kind of emptiness, the kind that wasn’t empty at all, but instead was burgeoning with possibilities both real and imagined. The ballad of the big nothing. It was a comfort, but it wasn’t comforting. It was unsafe. It was unpredictable. It made me feel wild within myself, capable of who-knows-what and without limits or restrictions. Even the laws of gravity seemed irrelevant. I was flying fast into the big Nothing, screaming past sleepy houses and dreams lying dormant by the doormat. I was full of gumption and the road beckoned me with a freedom-call. The night was mine, mine for the taking, mine for the wasting, and I was the apple of its eye.

I dreamt about a boy that night. A boy I used to know. He elicited that same sort of unpredictability within me, and I knew it was that feeling—that old, familiar recklessness—which brought him into my subconscious. He was reckless. Made reckless decisions based on little evidence, or planning, or information. When we were together, we waxed philosophical and drew up future plans (separately, of course: the plans never included the other person, but were more discussed for the sake of themselves). But underneath it all, the underlying surge that kept us together (opposites attract, right? Or perhaps there were too many similarities), was that rash disregard for anything but the Here and Now. In my dream, we performed careless deeds with snappy comebacks, and in real life I could care less—but had he been there, that night, that damp, unpredictable night, he would have urged me on into the inky black universe of the unknowable future and I would have driven all night.