Trance

Trance

mile

after

endless

mile

past

oaks

and lakes

and towns

I

long

for you

while

counting

white

lines

and dreaming

of warms winds

blowing

stars

around

us

At the wheel, I heard the sound of Linda’s laughter enticing me into her arms.  I felt her silky hair dancing on my naked skin.  I pictured her green eyes:  eyes so intelligent and bright they held my gaze and transported my soul to a place where hers awaited—a place of incomparable beauty, complete knowing and recondite joy.  Again I wiped the tears from my cheek.  I couldn’t believe she was gone.

A deer darted across the highway in front of me.  It was gone before I could react, leaving  nothing in its wake but an adrenaline rush and shivers running up and down my spine.  I slowly caught my breath.  The full moon shone through the tint of my windshield.  I wondered where the deer had come from at this hour.  Normally, deer are most active at dawn and dusk, but even then they tended to avoid the interstate.  Perhaps it wasn’t a deer at all, but some Manitou on an errand of great import.  I chuckled.  I had been reading too much fantasy and science fiction.  Manitous…sirens…the gods—they were all the same.  Just tools of fiction writers playing havoc with mere mortals like me to move their stories along.  What did they care?

I changed lanes to pass a lone truck seemingly obeying the speed limit.  I glanced at the speedometer.  I didn’t  know where I was going, but I was getting there with dispatch.  I rolled the windows down and opened the sunroof.  The wind smelled sweet with dew as it rushed by, pausing only to rustle my hair.  Like Linda used to with her fingers.  I shivered.  From the coolness of the night air.  From the dampness.  From the memory.

It seemed like yesterday we were sailing across Lake Michigan on the tall ship Malabar with Kip and Ellen, learning the art of wind jamming from the old salt-frees and listening to tales and lore of the lakes from our entertaining captain.  Old Jack had a yarn for every occasion.  On calm, clear evenings he delighted us with Indian legends of the origins of Sleeping Bear Dunes and Mackinac Island, among others.  And when the wind churned the water into fifteen foot swells that crashed against the hull he frightened us with tales of Ten November and the Three Sisters.  Our last night on board, after Jack had taught us a little how mariners of old steered by the stars in efforts to ascertain their longitude, and after the others had gone to bed below, the four of us imagined charting new courses on imaginary seas far from known lands and the people we knew.  Out on the lake, without any land visible on the horizon, it didn’t require much creativity on our part.  After stargazing, Kip and Ellen bid us good night and we fell asleep on deck gazing into the Milky Way.  We woke to the sound of seagulls as the neon sun rose over the water.  Linda complained about a slight kink in her neck.  I massaged it. With my fingers working their magic on her knotted muscles, and Linda melting under my ministrations, I asked her to marry me as the glowing and yellowing sun climbed into the brightening blue sky.  Time stopped the moment she turned around to face me.  The expression on her face changed from relaxation to shock and surprise to elation all at once.  My heart beat in my ears.  She answered ‘yes’ and fell into my arms.  We kissed with the passion and promise of the morning sunshine, of our lives together.  That was just barely a week before.  So how could she be gone?

I turned the radio on and immediately I heard the voice of Enya entreating me to “sail away, sail away, sail away.”  I turned the radio off and went back to counting white lines.  I thought that if I concentrated hard enough I could keep her out of my thoughts, if only for a little while.  One, two, three, four, it was working already, five, six, seven, good!  Eight, nine, ten…November damn!  It was no use.

“I love you Linda!”  I cried out.  “What am I going to do without you?”

I drove on.  Sometimes I managed to keep the tears at bay.  Sometimes I let them flow freely, letting the wind wipe them away.  Lansing was just ahead.  I saw the sign for US 127 North and impulsively I took the exit.  Rainbow Point was probably the last place I should have gone then, but I thought that Kip’s summer place on Little Traverse Bay might provide the refuge I needed.  And that counting white lines just might prevent my fall into the black hole of insanity.

US 127 merged with US 27 just north of the city.  Now it was a straight shot to I-75 so I switched  my mode to autopilot.  I tried the radio again.  Fleetwood Mac’s Rhiannon was not what I had in mind.  I didn’t want to ponder whether or not I’d ever win, but the song ended so I left the station on—long enough to hear the opening notes of Don’t Know Much.  Strike three.  Something up ahead on the side of the highway caught my eye for just a moment, and then it disappeared into the shadows.  I was sure it was another deer.

* * * * *

Steeeven,” a voice whispered softly.  “Steeeven.”

“Huh?”  I answered sleepily, my eyes beginning to glaze over.

Steven love,” the voice sang.

The familiar clear, sweet notes warmed my heart.  I smiled.  Lulled by the voice, I rested my head on the steering wheel.

Steeeven—“

And then it registered.  “Linda!”  I exclaimed, bolting upright.  I looked around me, but of course, she was not there.  I did have company, however.  Red, white, and blue lights were flashing in my rearview mirror, but it was not the Fourth of July.  I pulled over to the shoulder, took my glasses off and wiped my eyes.

“Good morning, sir,” the state patrolman said as he shined his flashlight in my face and around the inside of my car.  “May I see your driver’s license and registration please?”

“Uh, sure,” I said, reaching for my wallet in the left rear pocket of my 501’s.  I pulled out my driver’s license and registration and handed them to the officer.

The officer took them from me.  “I’ll be back in a minute,” he said and walked back to his patrol car.  I sank into my seat.  My mind was blank.  After several minutes he returned.

“Could you step out of the car please, Mr. Perry?”

“What seems to be the problem, officer?”  I asked, stepping out of the car.

“Where are you heading at this hour, Mr. Perry?”  The officer asked me, his flashlight shining in my face.

I squinted and tried to shield my eyes from the intense light.  “Up to Rainbow Point.”

“Rainbow Point?”

“It’s between Charlevoix and Petoskey.”

“I know where Rainbow Point is, Mr. Perry.  Step over to the white line please,” the officer ordered, indicating the solid white line that borders the right edge of all highways.

“I’m not drunk,” I said.

“I didn’t say that you were.  Just step over to the line, please.”

By this time I was a little annoyed.  This guy thought I was drunk, and I would never drive after consuming alcohol.  Especially not then.  But I stepped over to the line without further argument.

“Now walk ten feet along the line, putting each foot directly in front of the other.”

I walked the ten feet.

“Good, now walk back the same way.”

I complied.

“Now Mr. Perry, please recite the alphabet for me.”

“Would you like it backwards?”  I asked.

“Forwards would be just fine, please,” he replied without the slightest hint of annoyance.

I glanced at my watch.  It was about 3:15 in the morning.  I was standing on the edge of a rural highway in the middle of northern Michigan nowhere, under a full moon casting shadows everywhere.  It was cool and damp.  Millions of crickets and other assorted insects were performing their nightly rendition of the Chirping Symphony while the local neighborhood moths executed dizzying aerial maneuvers in front of the patrol car’s flashing lights.  Considering the circumstances, the normalcy of the scene struck me as rather surreal.  I sighed and recited the alphabet.

“Very good,” the officer complemented me after I finished.

“Yeah, well I got a masters in alphabet recitation from Yale.”

The officer frowned, but otherwise gave no indication of any irritation.  “What’s your business in Rainbow Point?”

Not wanting to antagonize him any further, I censored my sarcasm.  “No business, I’m just visiting a friend.”

“Name?”

“Steven Perry.”

“Your friend’s name.”

“Sorry.  Ken Pierson.”

“I didn’t see any luggage in your car.”

“Don’t have any.”

“I see.  Is Mr. Pierson expecting you?”

“Well, no.  Not exactly.  Listen Officer, what’s all this about?  Don’t you just give speeders a ticket and send them on their way?”

“You weren’t speeding.”

“Then why did you pull me over?”

“Because you have been weaving back and forth across both lanes of the highway at twenty-five miles an hour for the last quarter mile.  I suspected that you might be intoxicated.”

“I see.”

“Obviously you’re not.”

“No, I never drink and drive.”

“So could you explain for me then why you were driving so slowly and weaving back and forth?”

“Uh, well, I’ve been under a lot of stress lately and I haven’t been sleeping well.  I guess, maybe, I was beginning to doze off.”

“I see.  So you were feeling some stress and you couldn’t sleep so you decided to leave…”  the officer glanced at my driver’s license, “Southfield and drive all the way to Rainbow Point to see a friend who’s not expecting you in the middle of the night?”

“That’s about it,” I said, doubting he believed me.

“Well get some coffee then.  There’s a twenty-four hour place in Alma up the road a bit.”

“I’ll do that.”

“And Mr. Perry,” the officer said as he handed back my license and registration, “don’t make a habit of late night excursions.  You might hurt yourself.”

“I won’t.  Thank you, Officer.”

“Good night, now,” the officer said, turning and walking back to his patrol car.

I returned to my car and continued on to Rainbow Point, being sure to make a quick stop in Alma for gas and coffee.