Driving in Circles

Any story is a single option among a realm of possibilities.

–Peter Turchi, Maps of the Imagination

*

The first lie a map tells is that it is some kind of truth.

A map is many things: a beginning, a seemingly coherent picture, a depiction, a mental world. It is an imperfect attempt to show something that exists or existed. Sometimes it details something that never has and never will exist. Inevitably, much must be left out in order for it to make any sense.

A map is silent about most things. It decides what little you need to know. It gets away with telling you the least it possibly can.

*

This is what maps show between me and my past:

KIMBALL OGALLALA THE PURPLE HEART MEMORIAL HIGHWAY THE BLUE STAR MEMORIAL HIGHWAY THE PLATTE RIVER THE MISSOURI RIVER DES MOINES ALTOONA IOWA CITY THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER THE FRED SCHWENGEL MEMORIAL BRIDGE HORSESHOE CASINO FREEDOM ROCK KELLOGG THE WORLD’S LARGEST TRUCK STOP COUNCIL BLUFFS LA SALLE JOLIET THE TRI-STATE TOLLWAY THE KINGERY EXPRESSWAY THE BORMAN EXPRESSWAY THE INDIANA TOLL ROAD SOUTH BEND HOLIDAY CITY STRONGVILLE THE OHIO TURNPIKE THE CROSSROADS OF AMERICA SNOW SHOE SUGARLOAF TOWNSHIP THE DELAWARE WATER GAP THE DELAWARE RIVER THE CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS HIGHWAY THE PASSAIC RIVER

*

You’d think I’d remember how to find my old house, the one that overwhelms me when someone says “home.” The one that smells stale in my dreams. I should be able to trace my way back using some kind of psychic breadcrumbs. Maybe I left in too much of a hurry: hungry, itchy, pockets empty.

Growing up, wishing for somewhere, anywhere else. I had no idea how quickly my own car could take me away.

Freedom came from the discovery of unknown places. I drove until I ceased to be, filled my new self with miles, traffic, gas stations, bridges, bug-encrusted headlights, and a coffee-stained atlas.

At last.

I found myself at the other ocean, slammed my brakes, looked in the rear view mirror.

There I was, all over again.

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