It was a cold and slushy early March evening when I finally got my battered suitcase packed. I had passed the winter days writing, studying and working on my online MBA. Not having to trundle out into the winter to class every day was nice and my apartment was warm. But I’d endured three solid months of gray skies, dirty gray slush and gray granite buildings. I could not handle another day of gray.
And then yesterday it hit me; I didn’t have to stay here. Everything I was doing here could be done with my laptop and a broadband connection. I could literally go anywhere and still pursue my education. Gray clouds scudded low towards the east as I stuffed my suitcase and laptop into the small front trunk of my old red 1973 Porsche 914 and headed south. Sitting in the cracked vinyl driver’s seat, I looked at my map to find the farthest point south I could get to.
Key West, Florida looked the most likely. I re-counted the money I had stashed away in an old tube sock. $400. It was enough to last for a while if I avoided impulse spending and encountered no problems with the Porsche. I fired up the car and eased out through the frozen mud and slush and into the street. Ice chunks bumped against the underbelly of the car as I drove carefully toward the interstate and pointed the car south.
Snowplows had done a decent job on the four-lane and I ratcheted the speed up to sixty five with only a hint of white knuckles. My tape player was broken and the tape was stuck so Simon and Garfunkel played in an endless loop as I rocketed southward on the snow-smeared interstate, leaving northern Indiana in my rear view. I hoped that the roads would be clean and clear somewhere south of the Kentucky state line.
I passed through Kentucky in inky blackness, stopping just once for gas at an overpriced truck stop. It had grown noticeably warmer and there was a smell of pine trees mixed with gasoline fumes in the air. I pulled out of the gravel and red dirt of the truck stop and back onto the highway while Simon and Garfunkel launched into another rendition of Mrs. Robinson and I hummed along while smoothly shifting through the gears. The night sky was clear and the stars spread out over it like the beadwork on one of my Grandma’s homemade quilts.
A hint of swelling hills at first gave way to steeper grades of smooth clear blacktop shining in the pool of light from my headlamps as I passed through the mountains of Tennessee. Simon and Garfunkel were begging Cecilia to come home again and for the first time I began to wish that one of my Bob Dylan tapes had been in the tape player when it broke. Maybe one of the earlier ones before Blonde on Blonde, before Dylan went electric and still sounded a little bit like Woody Guthrie.
The sun came up in Georgia. The heat of it felt fierce through my window and I pulled off the highway into a small gas station. I splurged on some high grade gas and pulled the car off to the side of the cinder block building and parked in the shade. I got into my suitcase and rooted through it until I found a pair of wrinkled linen khaki shorts and a soft white t shirt. I exchanged my army boots for Birkenstocks and took the targa top off the Porsche and stowed it in its place in the rear trunk just behind the engine. I got back in the car and the vinyl seat was warm. I found a dusty pair of sunglasses in the glove box and wiped them clean with my t shirt. As I turned out onto the tarry blacktop headed south with the sun on my face I caught a faint whiff of cypress and clean linen and felt content for the first time in months.
Jesse Langley lives and works near Chicago. When not writing short stories and blogging, he’s an advocate for online degree programs and blogs for The Professional Intern.