On a two-lane county highway—somewhere in Alabama. The weather was perfect. And when I say perfect, I mean it.
“Look at that barn,” said my wife.
We must’ve passed fifty of them. Each looked like a photograph. Dilapidated things—old wood and tin roofs.
We rocketed by pastures that rolled up and down like little oceans. Herds of cattle, huddled beneath enormous shade trees.
A church bus passed me. The side of the bus read, “New Zion Methodist Church, South Carolina.” The folks inside were singing. So help me, singing. The lady in back looked like Aretha Franklin—only happier.
Behind them, a busted-up yellow truck with so much rust it hardly qualified as yellow. A bumper sticker read, “Go to church and live right, or Nick Saban will get you.”
We shot past ponds, big ones. I can’t look at rural bodies of water without wondering whether they’re full of bream and bass. What would be the point of having them if they weren’t?
We stopped at an elderly man’s vegetable stand. I bought forty-seven homegrown tomatoes.
“You’re wiping me out,” he said.
He winked. “Well, hell. What am I gonna do with all this money?”
I hear Disney World is lovely this time of year.
We drove past magnolias, live oaks, and enough pine trees to make you sick of pine trees. Which could never happen.
Little houses dotted the sides of the highway. Each with an outdoor workshop—a place men go to tinker. “Piddling,” my granny would’ve called it.
It was inside a workshop, my uncle showed me how to change the oil on a Chevy. And once, during a family reunion, when they ran out of beds inside the house, I slept in the bed of that truck. I fell asleep staring at old political posters on the garage walls. Things that read: “I like Ike,” or, “Carry on, with Roosevelt,” or, “United we win.”
Anyway, I’m happy right now. I don’t know why. And I’m afraid to question it. Studying your own happiness is a lot like looking at ants beneath a magnifying glass. Stare too long, and before you know it, you’ve killed your ants.
The truth is, for a long time I used to see the sky as gray, even when it was blue. I didn’t like my own birthdays, much less long drives through the Alabamian countryside. I’m not like that anymore.
I don’t care if we ever get where we’re going.
I’m already here.