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The Wanton Winds of the Highway

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A Faulknerian tale of flawed love

NCAA Football: SEC Media Day Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

sitting in the passenger seat of the shiny big truck with his window rolled down and his arm going up and down in waves in the air as it rushed by the truck. Ross was driving. Ross was talking. They were out away from the town on a deserted stretch of road and he knew he should probably be listening but his arm was in a rhythm on the invisible waves and the fenceposts made precise staccato patterns as they whizzed by and if you blinked sometimes you could catch their shadows in tandem with the blur of their passing and the wave of your arm and you kept your eyes closed and forgot where you were. Maybe by a small stream with her. Flowered dress and a flower in her hair, then the dress drifting lazily in the dappled brightness as she scampered to the water and you go in too, all the simplicities of an undiscovered world at your fingertips. He opened his eyes and a wizened old donkey was staring at him and Ross was still talking.

“So Hugh you can tell us til you’re blue in the face that it was a wrong number but man that call lasted a full minute long and only Mike Leach can talk to a wrong number for that long in earnest, Hugh are you listening to me, to what I’m saying to you? Hugh it’s not gonna add up and now we got this NCAA thing been boiling over slowly for God knows how long—”

“God.”

“Beg pardon?”

“It was God.”

“No. Shit no, boy. That ain’t gonna save you this time. It’s the First Baptist crowd wants me to come down on you worst. You’re gonna have to come clean. Own it, maybe do some therapy or some such, get into a program or”

But the son of a bitch was back at it again. Staring out the window like a damned child, letting his arm out where it crested the buffets of wind and then rode swiftly into their troughs. Rhythmically, a metronome of indifference, that infuriating damned facade he knew how to construct when the whole damn enchilada was going to shit around him. Win ten games one year, all this shit soon after. And it only got worse. Sometimes he thought this place was cursed. At what price success? Every damn ounce of it was obtained by untold unsavory methods. The cheating was one thing. But the sex...no excuse. Such a damned cliche, the torrid lust building up in this near-tropic clime, lurking under that white linen suit, preying on the devoutest of people first so that the whole concept of propriety begins to rot from the outside in, no, he didn’t need another damned coach-having-an-affair-crisis. Not here. This is Oxford, not Fayetteville, for Chrissakes. Christ, he should get back and do the press conference. But it’s nice and quiet in the truck and Freeze isn’t saying anything, but on the other hand he’s not saying anything and he decides on ten more minutes, one more loop through the pines and the pastures and maybe a creek or two and maybe if he keeps driving the fading yellow grasses will become newmown hay and the roadway will unravel through time and space and out the back of these endless stunted woods and low hills to somewhere flat and open with nothing hiding behind the next bend and he could just keep driving, keep driving them both away from it all but also towards their new everything, a place where it was just wind and as much silence as you could handle until you felt like making noise and then it was as loud as you like for as long as you like and you could either keep going and going or stop and end the trip at any time, but really who would want to get off of that ride because the moment the uncertainty stops the fears creep back in, fears of the known always being far worse than the unknown and so he decides to keep going and he squints fiercely through the windshield at a tiny speck that is his destination and he bears down with grit and determination to make it there but his eyelids grow heavy, Hugh is now completely silent but he dares not look for him in the next seat, he tries to keep the speck in his vision but soon it is blurry and then all is black

When he wakes up, he is not on a highway at all but trapped back in the Internet, its steady cacophony of opinions a growing horde of locusts on a heavy calm August day and he is still boxed in and helpless to change it and he will never be able to stop it. Hugh passes him in the corner of his vision, slowly walking away, a tiny smile at the corner of his mouth and a smudge of lipstick on his cheek. It’s scandalous, he tells the cameras in earnest, but all he’s thinking of is making waves on the air with his hand and so all the words and pictures blur back together again just like before.