Often the continuous repetition of a drive to work goes to the wayside- you almost never think about it.
Daily commutes are part of my routine. I get up for my runs at 4 A.M. with the crackling of bugs and distant sounds of the highway, then journey off to classes to teach and later to do my own learning. I’m usually asked, “Aren’t you tired?” Of course I would say no, because of prideful denial to keep myself sane.
You would think after long days of nagging kids and school work that the lonely nights driving home in my tiny pickup truck with the occasional hog crossing the road would phase me- but they haven’t. Those nights hadn’t bothered me, until that one night I drove home.
Maybe I was just delirious from the routines of my days, but the first time I saw this thing walking across the road- I knew it saw me. It wasn’t part of my routine.
Getting closer with my truck, high beams on, I could see a reflection come from its eyes like an animal. As I drove passed it quickly, I could smell oil and hair burning as it went into the tall grass. Naturally after a quick prayer, I thought that would be it. Then I felt myself dozing off into the next lane with the ruts sounding.
Opening my eyes wide, I saw the yellow dashes flying by. Then I looked up a hill I was going over… and I saw it walk across again. Same exact motions as the first time. This “thing” walked really tall with long strides. It was in all black, and looked like it was glimmering from being wet the closer I drove. Again, I could smell the oil and burned hair.
I prayed as I went down the long road home, seeing this “thing” walk across a bridge. It was looking at me with the same motions. Same routine. Same commute across the road. I started to doubt my sanity and moved off to the side of the road to park. The silent sound of ambience and my heart beat gave me chills as I looked at the road.
There were only bugs flying by the lights of the trucks. With a quick laugh, I put on some funny video on my phone to break the tension. I was still shaking to the point I dropped my phone. The audio cord unplugging. The video paused, then I smelled the burned hair. Grabbing my phone to make a call, the sweet scent of fresh oil from a pump filled the cabin. I looked around quickly, my legs trembling, ringing the keys hanging below the wheel. Then I saw it.
Tossing the phone while I looked at the “thing” in the view of my high beams walk further down the road, I peeled out of the ditch looking away as I got close to it. I had no hesitation to stay and observe.
Eventually, I started seeing cars and the yellow lights by the King Ranch. The smell had stopped. Once I parked at home, I chewed on that commute. I again could hear the ambient silence and the beat of my heart behind my ears. Of all the commutes I’ve made half asleep, I’ve never been more awake. Since then, anytime I feel myself falling asleep on the road: I smell that oil and burned hair. I smell that thing making its commute into my sanity. It’s as repetitious as my drives now, and it wakes me wide up on the commute.
By Emanuel Ibañez, coach major