It seems like a thousand years ago and yesterday simultaneously. In fact it was thirty years to the year.
I came out of my blackout standing on the shoulder of the Interstate just outside of town. My thumb was in the wind. It was early February of 1982. It was early morning, dawn even, but there was no sun. It was drizzling rain, but I was not wet. Either it had just started or I had just got here. I suspected the latter. I didn’t know how I got there. I didn’t remember anything of the past few hours. The last thing I recalled was a bar with loud music and a whole lot of alcohol.
I had the distinct impression that I needed to get as far away from Hampton, Virginia as I could. There was no sense of immediate danger. I didn’t feel hunted. I felt like I was rotting and Hampton was the source and inspiration of the deterioration. I was suffocating. I was fleeing a stunted existence of 24 years.
I was going to Houston. Why Houston, I was not sure but for some reason I felt that in Houston I would discover that I was far away enough from myself that I could begin to begin again. I never made it there.
I did make it to Memphis, Tennessee. It took me three days to make that 900 mile journey. By the end of the first day I had made it to the mountains of Virginia and spent the night huddled between a concrete barrier and an overpass support pillar. The mountains of Virginia in the coldest month of the year are not a pleasant place to try to sleep al fresco. Freezing to death came to mind.
I had several quite memorable experiences on that trek. They were memorable but altogether unpleasant. None of them will be related here.
I found in the places I paused along my journey — Charlottesville, VA and Kingsport, TN and finally at the terminus in Memphis — that there was a similarity with Hampton. I was still suffocating and the core of rot in my soul had not begun to recede or even become static. I found that geographically there was an unexpected constant.
No matter where I went, there I was. I was the common denominator in my misery.
res ipsa loquitor.