woke up driving an eighteen-wheeler 60 miles per hour through a field east of Amarillo, Texas. My partner was screaming as he bounced around in the back; he had just woken up, too. Everything in the truck rattled and shook. Baggage rained down on me from the upper bunk. The view a dark blur, I slammed on the brakes, but 80,000 pounds of inertia wasn’t going to stop for air brakes.
My last clear memory was standing outside a rest stop at 3:00 a.m. watching the canvas of white stars meet the glittering orange lights of the nuclear-weapons plant far to the north. It was crisp outside Amarillo, where industry meets the Texas plains, and I considered what I’d left and the world I was delving into. A spiritually paralyzing tower of student debt from four years of college. I’d been a long-haul truck driver for exactly three weeks. This was my test run.
There’s something metaphysical about driving alone through the night. As the world slips into darkness, you enter a free-form self that is post-sleep and incoherent. After a few hours, the parameters that separate you from the prism of night dissolve, and only an elongated tube of light sucks you along. And you begin to hallucinate. Under prolonged sensory deprivation, your brain invents its own visions. Before we reached Amarillo, I’d spent days on an acrobatic sleep schedule, trying to weather my driving partner’s erratic temper and fearing for my own safety.