I often thought that I was fortunate to be able to detach myself from whatever unpleasant aspect of reality that I was becoming too close to experiencing. It was like living in a radio show but not having to adhere to some corporate and imposed play list. My ability to cut away meant my play list was always on the decks, running and rolling and (hopefully ) entertaining the small and exclusive audience that follow the show. I sat back and thought of the black vinyl spinning on some grey, dusty deck, booming into studio speakers and headphones, cigarettes bobbing sympathetically in ash trays, coffee cups jiggling to the bass, messages and scribbles on boards and buff paper scripts and show ran on into it’s deepest and most intense phase; the second side of “Let it Bleed” by the Rolling Stones played in it’s entirety without interruption, adverts, news or traffic breaks. That was real radio, unreal and imagined, hitting the centres of the brain and transporting the listener rather than dulling thought and numbing feelings.
I extrapolated myself from radio deejay to listener to driver. The music was booming up from the loudspeakers in the door pockets mixing with road noise and rumble. For the first time in a while I was driving again . Driving in a primal and hateful way, flicking the wheel, riding on back bumpers, wavering between the kerb and the white line, changing lanes, owning lanes, giving up lanes as I strutted the car across some imagined piece of territory like it was a battlefield. Finally the traffic clears up and the road appears before me like a beach abandoned by the tide. It is a that moment that the tension really rises, the space that promised serenity now opens wider to reveal the terror of the blank canvas and a line of dust that runs across the horizon towards a drowning sun.
I take the easy way out take a left turn into a petrol station that has a café bolted onto the end. I park around the side of the building and flick that locking on. The café is hidden behind signs, posters, menus and out dated offers, they clog the windows, tattooing the glass with their missed messages. My eyes play tricks but eventually I manage to find the door and go inside. It is red and silver with counters and round tables and in the American style. Pleasantly rundown but not dirty, or erring on the dirty side of clean that makes you imagine that the bacteria ingestion that might follow could actually be of significant healthy benefit. I have no idea where I am other than in the café.
There are a few customers with their backs to the door nursing cups and large sandwiches, escapees from truck cabs or van interiors, this refuge from the road holds them for some temporary purpose, food, fuel and distraction. I spin awkwardly onto one of the counter stools and ask for a plain white coffee and an egg roll. The young assistant accepts the approximate change from my pocket and passes me a mug, the food will follow some time later apparently. I stare away from the counter and over and through the window posters, they act like crash barriers against the outside world and it’s relentless left to right, right to left, east to west, west to east metal streaks. They come and go. The egg roll comes and goes and the drivers return to their cabs. I’m tired.
The gritty coffee wakens me and I’m fast asleep once more and at the wheel, behind the wheel, hanging onto the wheel for dear life, I’m never really sure how this relationship is working out and who is turning who. Even if I tried I couldn’t find that café again, it was so badly imagined.