Asphalt Bones

I pulled onto I-70. I stamped down on the gas pedal and the engine whined. Country artist Eric Church thrummed on my speakers. My brain must have injected a shot of endorphins in my bloodstream as I hit 75 mph because I felt high.

I’ve spent 3 years driving back and forth between the metropolis of Columbus and the quiet village of Cedarville for breaks and weekend visits. The route is embedded in my brain like a worn, dirt path tread by bare feet.

I exited 70 and joined I-270, which wraps around Columbus. Columbus is where I spent my formative years — it’s where I learned to pray and read and sing and write.

I-71 holds special significance to me. I use that road when I got to church, camp, and Kent State. I drive under the “Sunbury Delaware” exit sign. The two words triggered a box of memories stored in my brain’s neurons. I regularly attended the Vineyard Church of Delaware County until I left for college.

The Vineyard is a charismatic, nondenominational church — and I attend a Baptist university. I don’t see a contradiction in that. I feel like I’m holding two spheres in opposite hands. The two worlds are compatible for me.

I stopped at the Perrysville exit to use the bathroom at a gas station. I’ve been here with the camp staff, counselors walking around with bags of gummy worms and sweet tea. It’s jarring when a place is stripped of why it’s important to you.

In the summer of 2010, I posted on my Facebook status: “I need a job!” A friend from Cedarville University commented on it and asked, “Do you want to work at camp this summer?”

I remember passing my church exit when I drove to camp the first time. It was almost strange realizing the road lead to somewhere else.

I met my girlfriend at camp. Before we were together, she said she didn’t think she would stay close to most of the camp staff.

“I know that after this summer, almost every one of them will be nothing more than casual Facebook friends, and it’ll probably stop there,” she said.

We were sitting on an old bench at the beach, campers and staff running around in front of us. I knew as her words touched my ears that I wanted to be the exception.

As I passed the camp exit, I felt like I was shooting into uncharted deep-space. This was my second trip to Kent State, and the first one without a GPS. I had printed out directions from Google Maps (which I trust more than MapQuest).
I held the sheet of paper against the steering wheel, glancing at the ink then back at the road. What was the name of the exit? Am I still on I-71?

I would have never gone to Kent State University if I hadn’t met my girlfriend. Kent is farther down I-71 from camp.

The sun had been gone for several hours when I reached Kent. I remember blurting out curse words when I was lost — thick, crude words that felt oddly childish and immature in my mouth.

Without any missed turns, it takes me about 3 hours and 30 minutes to drive from Cedarville to Kent. Thank God for Henry Ford and Saudi Arabian gasoline.

When I arrived in Kent, she said she felt bad that I had to drive almost 4 hours.

I told her, “It’s more than worth it.”

These long, gray bones of asphalt hold my life together. They are animated and colored in the paint of memories. Columbus, Cedarville, Perrysville, Kent … each city and town is a glowing campfire in the map of my life.

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1 Comment

  1. Anonymous

     /  January 21, 2012

    Lots of word pictures. Good stuff Jonathan!


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