Driving along the stretch of I-40 between Cullowhee and Asheville, my gaze followed a flatbed truck as it overtook me in the fast lane and eventually disappeared among the mountain bends that make this segment of the interstate one of the curviest of all of I-40. The truck was transporting three camouflage U.S. Marine Corps jeeps, and as I watched it ahead of me, I wondered if the jeeps were being shipped to Camp Lejeune or Fort Bragg and then maybe even on to Iraq.
Me and my silver Honda cruising along to my parents' house in Asheville and this flatbed and its cargo headed to a base to receive its future driver. My thoughts could not help but wander. In the midst of my country's invasion of Iraq, I tried not to wonder who might die in one of those jeeps one day. As the sight of the flatbed's military cargo clashed with the visual mystique of the Appalachians on this beautiful summer afternoon, my mind fast-forwarded the flatbed down the highway and to its destination. The clouds sped across the sky and the sun rose and set in seconds around the flatbed until my mind arrived at an unknown time and place somewhere off in the distance. I pictured the little jeeps - a world away from the lush mountainsides of Western North Carolina - in a vast, desolate terrain among gunfire and explosions with a faceless body huddled lifeless in the front seat. It was not a normal daydream for someone who still cannot sit thorugh "Nightmare on Elm Street." I wondered who the person might be who might lose their life on one of those jeeps one day. Where might that soldier be right at this very moment as our paths indirectly crossed during this momentary chance passing on the highway? I wondered what that soldier might be doing right now ... perhaps he or she is already in the Middle East patrolling a suicide-bomb ridden street or playing cards in the barracks. Maybe he or she is waiting to be deployed and is taking advantage of numbered days with family and friends. Maybe those jeeps will simply spend their days shuttling officers around a North Carolina base. The flatbed appeared ahead of me in the slow lane, and as I passed by and left it behind me on the road, I hoped for the last scenario I had imagined of its cargo's future. Or some other variation in which the man I pictured embracing his daughter might never be removed from one of those jeeps on a stretcher.
I thought about how many paths we indirectly cross on the streets, highways and expressways ... and soon for me, subways. I saw a commercial recently for a new television show filmed in New York City. I think it was called "Six Degrees." The narrator of the television preview said something like, "They say that if you live in New York City, you'll walk right by the person you are going to marry at least three times."
How different the streets will be there from here. Earlier today, as I left my apartment complex, I saw two trucks loaded with college guys and innertubes. Headed to tube on the Tuck no doubt. The Tuck is the Tuckaseigee River, a river I have tubed a few times throughout the years, but not that often because it is so cold. I am sure I won't see too many trucks full of shirtless guys and innertubes in New York City. I thought about that as I was pulling out of the parking lot behind them and smiled to myself even though it made me feel a little sad.
Even sadder in the realities of our world were the new images from Beruit that I saw on the news tonight. Such devastation. Beruit was becoming a beautiful city after several decades of rebuilding since the last war over God. My dad said that in recent years it had been earning the nickname, the Paris of the Mediterranean ... and now the city has been reduced back to rubble. Another senseless war. As opposed to a sensible war?
I worked my last Saturday night at the casino last night. One more night of serving beverages next Friday. It's been a long, fast year. Just like it's a big, small world.