I used to be always leaving.
Reversing the car down the driveway until it thumped over the gutter, pushing at gear changes like clicking a dislocated finger into place, tyres squealing as I drove off.
I drove toward sunsets with their slow draining color and storm clouds foaming in the distance. Rain shadowed spaces as if shaded by the flat side of a crayon, angling down.
Long drives were meditations at the end of sadness or disappointments.
I saw landscapes through the smudging patterns of windscreen wipers, past the dried bodies of grasshoppers glued to the glass-like specimens pinned to a board. I drove long distances with clothes I’d wrenched angrily from a wardrobe, on my way to another share house with cheap rent, or travelling to homes where I knew there’d be a frayed couch with a cat dozing next to my head by morning.
I’d find a kitchen where I’d brew a bitter instant coffee as I woke to creaking floorboards as others began their day. That’s where I experienced the calming of driving.
In my 20s, I was known more for leaving than arriving.
Walking out on friends, girlfriends, family, and employment. Sometimes climbing over back fences, sneaking downside laneways cobbled with old stones and mulch of fallen leaves.
I couldn’t settle into anything and never stayed to face problems—but there was always the car.
Sometimes arguments still sparked in the air around me as I left. It was in driving I found solace. I drove into countrysides and the hues of dusks and dawns. Behind the steering wheel wrapped myself in the warmth of two shirts and my own body heat.
When leaving the city, my heart rate slowed and the air became fresher and lighter. It was also the sounds.
The thin slice of air gusting through the gap at the top of the driver’s window. The sweep of tyres on bitumen. The radio station fading in and out. The scrape of windscreen wipers. Pitch of a motor. Hail lashing the roof. My own throaty singalongs, voice breaking on high notes.
Some people find comfort in food, others in mindless television. For me, it was behind a steering wheel.
It led to different destinations. Sleeping in truck stops, for instance. Knees drawn up in the back seat, looking through the rear window toward stars and an outline of trees like charcoal etchings.
Parking in towns with little more than a liquor store and an abandoned railway station. Driving through hills where the gentle curves were like being rocked to sleep.
Driving for an hour and not seeing another car. Watching red dust pluming in the rear vision mirror. Seeing mirages in heated distance, shimmering like a wind chopped lake.
Driving at times was journeying through pain. Arriving at realizations of mistakes.
Hours past wheat crops and sheep grazing to destinations of understanding what went wrong. Driving sometimes ended in reflection and learning. Taking a U-turn to head back and trying again.
In the driver’s seat, I found my peace.