A 59-year-old man showed up at a Wal-Mart in Tuscaloosa with a suitcase and went inside. Ten minutes later, surveillance cameras caught him climbing into a yellow taxi and driving away. For almost two months, his family didn't know what had happened to him. Was he abducted? Did he have some sort of mental break? There weren't any answers to their frenzied questions. It turns out that the taxi bore him to the Tuscaloosa Greyhound Station where he boarded a bus bound for El Paso. He didn't say why. He just went. Fifty years ago, he might have just hopped a box car down at the rail yard to the sound of a harmonica's lonesome waw-waw-waw as the city rolled away. News reports didn't indicate if he had any plans to come home.
It was a bad thing to do. His family was worried about him. He's a bad man, but I understand. I feel it as I sit at a fashionable pre-fabricated restaurant with a group of people I know little and understand less. I feel it when I look at the same sink full of dishes I washed yesterday. I feel it when I see a private jet span the blue distance between the television towers above my happy cottage. I feel it when I'm cornered by the pleasant conversation of a person who isn't all that pleasant. It's a feeling of wanting to go. Not somewhere, just away, and maybe not even forever. I saw an open box car flashing down a track in our neighborhood recently and I imagined running along beside it, throwing my bundle and pulling myself up. I thought let's just jump in there and see where we go. I was almost kidding. I feel I've been seeking some kind of freedom my whole life. A few times, I've tasted it. I used to drive my car along the highway between Auburn and Tallasee just to watch the river pour over the Alabama Power damn. The dark water under the glimmer of the bug-flecked streetlights made me tired. The highway flickering by under the sporadic light of honkey tonks and auto body repair shops made me sad. Freedom, in that sense, isn't what I wanted it to be.
The mystery I'm starting to unravel is that freedom is the fortitude to stay put until the restlessness passes. So, here am I, anchored for the course. Not free to jump a train, but free to stand and be delivered from all that makes me want to.