It’s late. I‘m cutting through Lower Alabama on my way home. I’m the only vehicle on the road. I pass barns that barely stand upright. Hayfields soft enough to sleep in.
Behold, the country at night.
Headlights in the other lane. I turn my brights off. It’s the polite thing to do. It’s how I was raised.
The man keeps his brights on full-blast. They blind me. I flash. He flashes back, but keeps his high-beams on.
God bless you, too, pal.
I flip on the radio because my truck is old. I don’t have a working CD player. Anyway, I’m crazy about radios. I inherited this crazy from my parents, who always had a song playing. It’s just how I was raised.
“…NO, YOU LISTEN TO ME, SIR! YOU LISTEN TO ME CAREFULLY, BECAUSE I WANT YOU TO LISTEN TO ME…”
A preacher screams, “…All liars shall have thy part in the Lake of Fire…”
There’s a billboard in the distance, lit from the bottom. “Wind Creek Casino, Atmore.” The sign shows happy people playing slot machines. Platters of Lobster Thermidor.
I’ve been to Wind Creek. It’s nice, but there are no tables, only computer games. If they had roulette tables, I’d renew my wedding vows there.
I’m passing Red Level. Not a porchlight for miles. Nothing but sleeping people. These are rural folk. I too, come from rural people. To stay up late is indulgent.
It’s just how we’re brought up.
1. Early to bed.
2. Always offer to do the dishes.
3. Always let supper guests slurp the tomato water in the bottom of the plate.
More static. Heavy metal music. Static. Rap music. Whatever happened to tender songs?
I drive past mobile homes, peppering the long acres near River Falls—I have a soft-spot for trailers. After all, I live in one.
As a boy, I used to get haircuts in a single-wide beauty salon. Before that, Mama cut my hair.
Her haircuts were disastrous, whenever she finished butchering me, she’d use handfuls of Alberto VO5 to cover her mistakes. My hair would look like it had been dipped in Thousand Island and lit on fire with an acetylene blow torch.
“…NO! LISTEN TO ME! I WON’T LISTEN TO YOU, YOU LISTEN TO ME LIKE I’M LISTENING TO…”
A car in the oncoming lane. His brights are on. Maybe this guy was raised right and will dim his lights.
What’s wrong with this world? When did folks quit dimming brights for fellow nighttime travelers?
“…I AM LISTENING, BUT YOU LISTEN! IF YOU WON’T LISTEN, THEN I WON’T LISTEN BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT ACTUALLY LISTENING TO.…”
In the distance is Andalusia, and I know we’re getting closer to home. I can almost taste the pine trees. I can’t wait to see my dog.
More hissing. Static. Music.
Hey, I know this song.
“In the twilight glow I see her,
“Blue eyes crying in the rain…”
Now we’re talking. Tender music. Gentle music. The kind I was raised on.
I crank the volume until my windows rattle. This song is a time machine. It takes me home. It reminds me of a time when…
Oh, nevermind. Who cares what I think? I’m just missing things tonight.
Barbecue made by granddaddies, Little League uniforms, chores. I miss how my aunt used to get the Saturday Evening Post. Sometimes they reprinted old Rockwell covers.
I suppose I’m no different than any middle-aged idiot. I’m dumb enough to think the Good Old Days were actually good. Maybe I’m delusional.
Either way, when they lay me down my tombstone will read:
“Here lies Sean. Husband. Dog lover. He loved the piece of the world where Alabama kisses the blessed Panhandle of Florida.”
“And he always dimmed his brights when passing cars on highways. Always.”
It’s just how he was raised.