Things move at night, any truck driver will tell you. Things like buildings, turns, and clumps of trees; things most people consider fixed. Maria liked to seek out warehouses in darkness, then find a place to sleep before returning to see in what path the warehouse had moved after dawn.
Maria ran at night. The clutch-clutch of gridlock feeling out of rhythm with the music she blasted through the Kenwood stereo, bluegrass in New York, punk rock in Texas, soul through the Midwest. She always struggled to balance things. Or she was oppositional. One of the debates she filled the big road and blank night sky with while holding the wheel. Running at night was her little part in balancing out traffic patterns, she thought, trying to see herself as making sense. But none of it made sense. Living in a truck; believing in the freedom of the open road more than feeling shackled to a 53 foot trailer; always being gone — made no sense. But suited her well enough.
That night, across I-10 in Louisiana, Maria sped toward brake lights. Downshifting fast while turning off PJ Harvey and on the CB, a driver called Thunder Cat informed that a cattle hauler rolled at mile marker 59. Her hopes of making it to the paper mill before daylight dashed. She stopped and pulled the air brake release, a satisfying hiss and dizzying feel of hours of movement come to an abrupt halt. The highway turned to a parking lot. Frustration in losing the good time she made gave way to appreciating the novelty. It wasn’t every night a lady could take a stroll on the interstate. She opened her door and stepped down from the running board onto the pavement. She stretched. The night was warm and thick, as one expects in Louisiana, even in early March. She walked around her truck in mock inspection, looking busy; shared a couple of nods and greetings with other drivers, and climbed back in. She looked out the window thinking of taking advantage of a naptime, when she caught glimpse of fast movement from out of the southside woods.
Onto the interstate rode cowboys on horses with lassos grasped in hand. Turning back on her CB she learned the riders were there to wrangle up the cattle. Suddenly it seemed like a lot more shifted than buildings at night. Time shifted, the wild west being the now, pulling in with it all the freedom and simplicity it implied. Men weaving between the big rigs holding the winning technology — horseshoes and rope. Without opposition, or any sense of irony she slipped “Cowboy Man,” by Lyle Lovett into the stereo. She wasn’t close enough to witness the round-up, but she paused for a minute to smile on the last of the cowboys riding back into the woods as the sky began to brighten.
Kristin Kowalski Ferragut is a regular contributor to open mics, at such venues as DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry and Words Out Loud. She participates in local poetry and prose writing workshops, in addition to reading, biking, hiking and teaching. Her work has appeared in Beltway Quarterly.