Anyroad to Elsewhere


Shot. A conversation with the unwinding highway, his southern drawl a tinny echo, spun out over four thousand miles. Indianapolis calls and a reckoning of road buffers, smears, concertinas and re-settles beneath eighteen wheels. We travel by telephone, instant hitch-hikers, an audience in single digits. Entertain or enlighten us, please.

            Unknown cargo rattles in the trailer. Don’t ask: the answer can only disappoint. Horse feed or beef jerky. Thumb tacks or pillows. Something mundane, condemned to sit in a draughty warehouse on the edge of the city.

            There’s no time for stops. Service stations speed past, barely discernible as they bleed into the green smudges of the roadside. No exits, no GPS and no ETA: all we have is the horizon and the sound of his voice, intermittent and withholding.

            The great American highway may not be so great after all. Its colours run together like the dim recollection of any other road, anywhere else in the world. The collective memory of all uncounted passengers past, present and future. I’m not sure what any of us expected. An arterial pulse made synaesthetic, perhaps. The confirmation of the myths etched into every road movie that has ever been. One thing is for sure: if there’s an end to it, it isn’t coming any time soon.

Reverse shot. A cramped interior. He sits centre frame and baseball-capped, thin hands clutching the wheel.

The flag draped across the back of the cab wages a quiet war with itself, opposing shades of red, white and blue, split through the middle. It does not go unnoticed.

‘Am I a white supremacist? Hell no!’ His words lag in the air, and in the time it takes for them to ring through servers and ricochet off satellites, two of our number have bailed out, tucked and rolled to take their chances on the grey blur below.

            Country music tries to stop its friend, puts a hand on his shoulder, shakes its head and attempts to change the subject to one of doomed love, distant sweethearts or the memory of some lost golden age, too hazy to be true but too ingrained to have never been.

            No go. This audience demands an explanation. Show us your workings.

He tries to reframe confederacy with platitudes for the fallen, wrong side of history be damned. The audience grows restless. Eyes fixed ahead, all he can do now is take the music’s advice and sing along, tone deaf and too loud to be interrupted.

            Elsewhere interjects, reminds me of the distance between us, the sound of his voice, like the road, stretching into infinity.

Refocus. The sheen of glass emerges from the picture, smudged fingerprints, the open road enclosed. His voice is gone. Only the sound of rubber on asphalt remains, the rumble of the engine through the speaker. Directionless, driverless, the behemoth hums a dream of green and red, of foliage and rust. All journeys ended, all cargo delivered. A resting place at the end of time, settled by the side of some gutted factory, half a world away. To be a steel garden for creeping ivy. To be a shelter for the survivors. To be its own tomb.

Peter Dorey