Do Not Stop for Hitchhikers
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I see you reflected in my rearview mirror. You are staring back at me with dull, grey eyes. Are you tired? No. Are you sick? No. You are just there, waiting for the end.

You are me, and I am you.

We are going to the same place, the same destination, the same journey, as we always have. Quiet, uneventful affairs contradicting one another from the moment we were born. Yet I am driving, and you are my passenger, sitting idly as I bring us into the unknown.

I should think that the minds of the great are akin to colossal museums of art. Or perhaps giant operas with dazzling concerts. Fancy, lavish parties only those worthy can afford. I consider myself no man of greatness, far from it in fact, but there are those around me who would sing me with praises and call me a king. In this state I have found my mind is nothing like a museum nor a concert, but rather an inescapable limbo. It's an intermediate place of waiting where try as I might, the sands of time are always shifting, and what might be a stable place of mind one moment could be a sinkhole into an abyss the next. There is no certainty here, only crossings – crossings into the unknown that I must decide if I will follow or not.

I have been driving for miles. The horizon has disappeared into a haze that I think only the vultures can see past.

We do not talk, we do not whisper.

Only the wind rattles the car, causing us to swerve from time to time. There are headlights behind us, and taillights in front of us, but we never see another vehicle. Just lights and shadows, heads and tails, starts and ends.

Opposites, like we are, calling our names to join them.

It's a night like this I find myself in limbo. A poor, sour trip down memory lane. I don’t find the use in wallowing with these thoughts, but it never seems I have a say in the matter. They come and go as they please, and I must sit back and watch as they happen. Why they still tend to torment me I do not know – I thought I was over most of these issues. But it seems that now that I’m in a place where I can heal, out of the mess and frolic of the fight of it all, they return once more so I can process them, one by one, as slow as it may be.

The car slows to a stop. On the side of the road is an emergency phone box. Hadn’t those gone out of fashion? You give me a vague shrug as a reply.

A phone is ringing.

It fills the car. A call for me? Another vague shrug. For you? A shake of the head no. For me then. I step out of the car, you’re leaning your head against the window, watching from afar. I walk over to the phone box.

A phone is ringing.

It fills the air. I open the callbox. Inside is a molding copy of the yellow pages phone book. An antique in times like these, but worth nothing more than a second thought. Pages are missing from the book. There is a wire and a small platform a phone should sit on. There is no phone.

A phone is ringing.

There are times I wonder why you always made the effort to reach out to me despite my lack of interest. The times you called when high, when in the hospital, or even when sober but just in a shitty mood. I guess it was your equivalent of drunk texting an ex despite our relationship being not that at all. Well, that begs the question, am I still a son of yours in your eyes, or just merely a child?

Whatever you saw me as, it was certainly enough to call upon me in your times of need. I ignored you, of course, as any sane person would do, but I wonder where my personal morals lie within my actions. Ignoring a person in need seems like an inherently wrong thing to do - and while I don’t feel guilt over it, it doesn’t sit with me right - but I know my actions weren’t wrong, that others in my spot would have done the same. There is no shame in putting one’s personal health and wellbeing first, and the requests you were making were only things a trained health care provider could give you.

My inaction to respond led to some action – I ended up blocking your number and getting a new phone. Now you only hear about me through vague rumors and whispers in the wind. I think I prefer it like that.

We’re driving again. It’s late in the evening now. The lights in front of us and behind us have grown brighter now. My dashboard is illuminated with the symbols of things I cannot read. The radio went out some time ago, so the only sound we hear is of the engine and the tires on the dirt road, perhaps the occasional gasp for breath.

There is one thing that is clear though. The smell. It wafts in slowly before suddenly polluting the entire car. Somewhere, in the dark expanse we cannot see, are miles upon miles of stockyard. Animals waiting to die and to be slaughtered into meat. I’m not even sure if you have a sense of smell, but the stench thickens the air to the point even moving is difficult – you must be able to notice that.

When I glance to the side of roads, I wonder if the misshapen blobs I see are corpses crawling towards us. I keep the windows rolled up and turn on the recycled air. My gaze returns to the road in front of us. I hear you shift in your seat and feel your eyes on the back of my neck. Surely you don’t like seeing whatever is outside either. What memories do you have that this event brings up? I can only wonder, as it's not like you have a voice to share them with me.

I remember sneaking back into your house once. It was midafternoon, coming into the evening. I remember seeing the sun filter through the windows of the dusty old house, illuminating the rooms in a midtone light. Why I was there escapes my mind – perhaps it was to get some of my stuff I left over there – childhood toys and projects and whatnot, but I’m not sure it even matters anymore.

You were not home. Again, as to why, I’m not sure, but I just know you were not there. I ended up going into your room, a place that had been off limits for so long, and taking a look around at what I might find. Snooping, yes, again perhaps not the most ethical thing, but it's not as if I cared for you anymore. I did not hesitate going up those steps and opening the doors to your master bedroom. In fact, I relished at the opportunity to take a peek into your life now that I was no longer a part of it. I wanted to know how you had changed since I had cut our ties. Wasn’t my business, but I was desperate to know, desperate to find out.

Your room. God, your room. It smelled of sickness. Of death. Of failure. The air was heavy as the odor seemed to pace the room, investigating me and what I was worth. Your bed was unkempt, but not messy, and I saw no stains as I made my way around it. There was nothing on the floor, nothing visible in the trash cans, yet it was clear something was using this as a space to die. Wasn’t you, of course, as you’re still alive to my knowledge, but perhaps it was your ego dying, finally falling down after all these years. Or perhaps it was your title as father, dying in a way that was as slow and as painful as any other gruesome death could be. I’m not sure I’ll ever know what the source of the smell was, but I wouldn’t be surprised if one day soon it really does end up being you.

I want to believe the light on the horizon is the city of new beginnings. When the light first appeared, I can’t recall, but it is there now and I can see it. If it is coming closer, it is doing so at an incredibly slow rate – unnoticeable, really – but at least it is there. The light at the end of the road. We are almost there.

I look back at you. You look tired, or rather, exhausted. In your eyes there is still a long journey ahead. I shake my head. That can’t be so! The light is ahead of us, don’t you see?

Your eyes close, you’ve gone to sleep.

You don’t believe me. Or maybe you know more than I do. What do you know that I don’t? Why can’t this be the end? We should get there by morning, shouldn’t we?

You don’t respond.

I haven’t seen you in some time now. I haven’t been back to the house. I haven’t even walked past it. There is no trace of you in my life anymore, so why is my mind still stuck in this endless limbo? This wound you left in me should be healed by now, not a rancid festering mess that refuses to close.

It’s not the wound I have the issue with, it’s the fact I don’t know why it won’t heal. I don’t feel anger nor grief nor anything towards you, but I suppose I’m mad at myself for letting this bother me for as long as it has. I feel like I’m out of options as to what to do. I just want this mental torment to end but I see no clear path as to what to do. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not selfish, nor stupid, I won’t end my tale altogether. In fact, there is spite in me that makes me want to live a better, longer life than you could ever dream of. Point is, I need to move on before I can do that, and I don’t know how.

“Who are you?”

I’m fairly sure it's my voice that echoes through the car, but I don’t remember opening my mouth to speak. I tap my fingers against the steering wheel, feeling the cool leather beneath my hands. The light still sits idly on the horizon. I cannot tell if it is brighter now, but I convince myself that it is. The same voice continues speaking.

“I know you are not him, the one I anguish over, and I know you are a part of me. But what part of me you are, I do not know. Why do you stick with me after all these years? Why do you never speak to me? What is it that you want?”

There’s no response. There’s never a response from you. You’re always sitting there, watching me but never speaking. All I know is that you’re going to the same place, the same destination, the same journey, as I am, as we always have. We have been together since birth yet I have no idea what you are or who you’re supposed to be.

We continue driving, now in silence. The wind still rattles the car from time to time, but the smell and noises are gone. I have a sense that we are driving up a slight incline, but the darkness that surrounds us makes it impossible to tell.

The light, suddenly it seems much closer now, ahead of us by a few miles rather than by a few days. I put my foot on the gas and speed us towards our destination.

It is now that I realize the floor beneath us has turned to water. We are driving over a bridge - I thought we were in a desert? I look out the side window to see the waves slamming against the steel supports. I steer us towards the center of the bridge. I look back towards the road and see the light of the city in front of us. Oh, we’re there! We’re almost there!

I look over at you and find you directly in my face, your eyes wide and your mouth contorted into an anguished scream. I jerk myself back, the car swerves. You are still staring at me and I can feel my ears beginning to ring.

This isn’t right. We’re almost at the end. I squeeze my eyes shut and slam on the gas again, hoping to knock you back. The ringing in my ears finally stops. I blink my eyes open and see the light still ahead of us, but when I look over at you, I find myself alone in the car.

You are gone.

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