54 Miles to Empty


It seemed I’d been driving down the proverbial highway of my life; eighty-five miles per hour, conditions were fair, my windshield was devoid of mashed gnats and the freshly laundered air traveled through my window in gusts that pelted the top of my seatbelt. One hand on the wheel, the other fumbling for a station on my Pioneer, I just drove. That is, until recently. Now my windshield is smeared with innards, my stereo is playing fuzz, and my engine is in dire need of an overhaul.

I’ve always been passionate about the open road and I like to travel alone. Just me with my stereo cranked up, my timber off-key, perhaps a bag of sunflower seeds, a cup of java, and three or more packs of cigarettes (to give me that Joan Jett effect.) However, I noticed a few months ago that my treks were becoming less and less enjoyable. I can’t really blame the Pioneer, my am/fm CD player has been trustworthy for the last 163,742 miles. It is what’s coming out of those 50 watt speakers that’s vexing me and lately those same melodies have followed me into the grocery store, my place of employment, even the gas station. I’m talking about love songs and they’ve made me question such utterly deep issues that it’s as if I’ve moved from merely checking my oil to taking apart the most detailed part of my engine.

Is it not okay to be alone? To learn from relationships past and move on? To work on your Self? To be married to your Self? According to every song I’ve heard lately the answer is a resounding NO. My ears are thoroughly tuned now to hear every wail of “why did she leave” and “I want him back” and “my life will never be the same” and “as long as we’re together the sky won’t fall”. I hear every moan of “he’s with her” and “she’s with him” and “he’s with him.” What I’m really yearning to hear are the songs about just feeling like shit, period. Not feeling like shit because you’re alone but just being there all by yourself with no interference from an outside party, or lack therof. Or what about a song for those solo folks who are happy to eat toasted cheese sandwiches over the sink while they watch back episodes of Oprah on their DVR’s. Where are those songs?

So I banned the radio and turned to my television for solace. A much safer bet. That is, until yesterday when my 35” Panasonic sputtered that if I log on to eHarmony.com and fill out a survey I will find my soul mate. eHarmony doesn’t care if said soul mate’s tongue was cut out during his sacred tribal ritual in Zimbabwe and he lost his penis in an unfortunate hunting accident last year. Who am I to question true love? I’ll miss the dirty talk but maybe he could buy a nice strap-on and we’d live happily ever after. Of course, I was equally lured, moments later, by Match.com because it included advice from Dr. Phil. He would most assuredly be the best one to counsel on lubricants for my South African other half.

Television turned out to be more dangerous than the radio and now I’m attempting a media fast. I tuned out the world and decided to hit the mall a few days before Valentine’s Day with the simple task of depositing some cash. As I rode the escalator toward my bank I saw flowers en masse and the smell of all of those mixed blooms made my eyes water. Balloons in deep red declaring eternal love were floating from the hands of one out of every three individuals, seemingly taunting me with their wafting whispers about the fact that I don’t have a Valentine. Cleverly I decided to cool my engine by going down to the video store to buy myself a movie. Apparently every other clever single human in the mid-west had the same idea so I slipped out and went home wondering about the bitter irony of St. Valentine and whether he actually asked to be beaten and beheaded simply because he was alone. Perhaps he was tired of seeing all those happy peasant couples sharing yams from their copper pots and fondling each other’s tunics.

I just can’t seem to get away from the fact that I am forever bombarded with society’s idea that I can’t be satisfied with just me. It’s as if the media’s idea of love is dragging me in for an overhaul, trying to replace my spark plugs with relationship electrodes that ignite my cylinders, and triggering the reminder that I am most assuredly miserable because I’m not in a relationship. Frankly I’m just running out of gas. 54 miles to empty and, God forbid, I’m not stranded on the side of the road. Alone.

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