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Coming of Age Creative Nonfiction Friendship

The interstate across the street never sleeps. A constant hum penetrates the windows of my home at all hours of the day and night, little vibrations finding my ears everywhere I go. The hum doesn’t care if I’m sleeping, eating, writing, crying, or talking; the hum is relentless. You might think the morning and evening rush hours are the loudest, but the bumper to bumper pack moves slow and careful. I imagine a bigger city would be full of horns and sirens, but this is Iowa. Iowans reserve their horn only for the most pressing of situations, so I guess that’s a stupid silver lining.

Of course my brain has adjusted to my constantly moving neighbor over my first 18 years, but no amount of time can drown out the noises of the night. The open road is an invitation for speed, the darkness an illusion of solitude that encourages release. As the night darkens and the offensive fluorescent glow of the tall, ugly posts grow stronger, the loudest people find my home. 

I love far more people than I hate and I take pride in the ability to see the good when it’s hidden, but this group of individuals wore me down. I won’t judge you based on your appearance, personality, job, or practically anything else you can imagine, but I will judge you if you drive a motorcycle. I’m sure you’re a normal person with a family and beautiful story, but all I know of you is how you come into my home; harsh and uninvited. 

I used to hate semi-truck drivers too, grumbling unnecessarily loud and sending vibrations deep into my skull as they hit the sleeper lines, but I’ve forced myself to eliminate my ill will for this group. I will never enjoy the noise they bring, but I understand it. They’re working hard and probably exhausted from the long hours, veering away from their intended path with noble means and hopefully a calm, uneventful end. The annoyance with their rumble was replaced with worry at some point in my teenage years and never left. 

I suppose I understand the motorcyclists just as well, even though they would say I don’t, but I can’t help but loathe every single one. The slapping of the gears and the high-pitched, whining vroom, which I assume is like an orgasm to these savages, has simply violated me in my home too many times for reconciliation. They’ve snapped my concentration, cut beautiful dreams short, and frightened my little dog on a daily basis for nearly two decades. And for what? Do they think people are impressed by how fast they can go or how deep they can pierce the ears of everyone around them? Like— we get it— performing an incredibly dangerous act for absolutely zero benefit is super cool and hardcore. You’ve done it. Now give it up. I genuinely wish you a long life with good health, but I hope your motorcycle is savagely murdered in its sleep. 

***

I’m not going to sit here and tell you I miss living across the street from the interstate, but I’m not accustomed to this much silence. As I sit here smoking a joint and gazing at the stars from the baseball field of my tiny college in the middle of nowhere, I realize I’m not able to enjoy the absence of noise. Without the hum, my thoughts race a little faster and a non-existent ring comes and goes.

18 years of that damn interstate altered my brain; it expects a steady flow of chaotic sounds from exhausts, rubber, and cement to function at an optimal level. The interstate provided me so many distractions for so long, the lack of distractions is now a distraction. 

Since I left the interstate, I’ve had to surround myself with background noise. Reading with headphones, studying with talkative friends, and writing in the cafeteria. I sleep with the TV on because complete silence can wake me out of a dead sleep just the same as a bang on the door or a crashing of a window. I guess I shouldn’t have yearned for silence so hard, at least not before I actually experienced it.

***

My first year of college is done and I’m home for the summer. I’m still not willing to admit I miss living next to the interstate, but it welcomed me back with open arms. I’m not sure it recognized I was gone though because it hasn’t changed a bit. I find myself listening to music less and relaxing a little bit more. I’m sure some of it comes from the absence of homework, deadlines, and constant social engagement, but the hum definitely makes my brain feel like I’ve made it home. 

To strike a truce with the interstate, I’ve decided to make a pros and cons list of living next door to my lively neighbor. Well, more of just a pros list because I’ve spent enough energy on the cons for a lifetime. Any more negativity toward something I clearly can’t change just wouldn’t be healthy; my true home is by the interstate.

Pros

  • There could be houses across the street, houses filled with shitty neighbors
  • A large amount of famous people have came within a few hundred feet of me (even if both of us will never know)
  • I’ve seen hundred of thousands, if not millions, of cars. This could be useful someday, but probably not
  • The interstate has made it virtually impossible to distract me, except of course with silence
  • When I wake up at home, I know where I’m at before I even open my eyes. Even if the interstate annoys me, it signals I’m in a safe place. 
  • Watching people move and live life makes me want to move and live life
  • I know when to leave in order to avoid traffic. I’ve probably saved a few days that otherwise would have been spent in my car
  • I gained a sense of curiosity, wonder, and imagination from my daydreaming of the interstate as a kid. Making up stories about where the people were headed and if they would ever come back again
  • I’m a safer driver because I’ve seen firsthand what happens when a car loses control at that speed. It can happen any time of the day to any type of person
  • I could very well be.a proud owner of a Harley Davidson had I not lived by the interstate (That’s right, I’m not letting it go)

I guess what I’m trying to say, interstate, is you’re a part of who I am and I’d be a different person without you. 

July 23, 2022 00:01

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