“All America lies at the end of the wilderness road, and our past is not a dead past, but still lives in us. Our forefathers had civilization inside themselves, the wild outside. We live in the civilization they created, but within us the wilderness still lingers. What they dreamed, we live, and what they lived, we dream.”—T.K. Whipple, Study Out the Land
He watched cars for their variety, and their uniqueness of character. He liked to focus on their tiniest details: a dent, a missing hubcap, a smoking muffler, a faded parking pass. He imagined backing away from the details and seeing a pointillist landscape—of each car’s owner, its history, and its future.
He loved that each car was a bubble, a capsule floating through the capillaries of the city. They pulsed through streetlights and one-way streets. They were tiny cells with working parts, filled with people on their way to somewhere else.
To him, cars were proof that he was part of a larger, complex system he would never understand. No matter how hard he tried, no matter what he read or watched or learned, he couldn’t deny it: at some point, regardless of whether we were looking at the smallest pieces of ourselves, or at the largest pieces of our universe, everything looked exactly the same.
But he could breathe and think and cry. He could tell a joke that no one had heard before, or compose a symphony. He could punch someone so hard it drew blood and cracked bone. Even if no one ever noticed any of it, even if it was never more than a fleeting instant—he had time. And it made him feel powerless and filled him with purpose all at once.