We must’ve looked like idiots up there in the Thruway overpass, shadows cast against those long nights and the longer highway beneath us and we probably were. Indistinct shapes pumping arms at speeding truckers down below, hoping they’d blow their whistles, rattling a bridge in abysmal condition, even then. Horns shaking out the fillings in our teeth with the idiotic teenage thrill of feeling noticed by the larger world passing us by in both directions. Even if it was just eighteen wheel jockeys rolling on to Boston or Seattle, bleary-eyed, hopped up on whatever the trendiest amphetamine was in 1995. They were from places we thought mattered and they acknowledged us, proving us all at least a little bit real.
There wasn’t much open past nine other than all the bars, thirty years ago in our flyspeck on the map. There still isn’t. But back then, there was a pedestrian overpass between the Thruway rest stops just outside town and both sides had at least a burger joint or donut shop open twenty-four hours, making it the only place local kids could entertain themselves in The Twilight Times. Get a ride from whoever could commandeer a car, hop a gate that wasn’t even there to stop us, rather dissuading drivers from ditching tolls by exiting without the off-ramp. Get a coffee, grab some fries, dream about the world beyond that was constantly passing through between us. Or from when on high, passing through beneath us instead.
It wasn’t much, but it was a damned sight better than stealing Grandpa’s liquor and replacing it with colored water. It wasn’t much, but it was better than watching the local NBC’s color-bars, back when television stations still signed off at night. It wasn’t much, but it was surely ours.
Those trucks weren’t going to stop in Little Falls, most wouldn’t even pause for overpriced gas at one of the rest areas. But humanity had to pass through the chokepoint in our river valley and they’d have to at least shake the walls of Jericho for those stupid kids, grant us some substitute excitement after the sidewalks rolled up at sundown. I suppose any one of those toots could’ve actually collapsed the whole damned thing but you don’t think like that when you’re a teenager. You only know it makes you feel connected. I only knew it made me feel alive.
They tore it down decades ago, while I was following the dreams the trucks inoculated me with, from coast-to-bloody-coast. No one puts up placards dedicating rickety overpasses where kids taunted truck drivers on a 2 AM coffee buzz. But having gone and come back older if not wiser, I learned enough to know the stories must be told. I could never get across to you how beautiful that wail could be, how thrilling those near-collapses were. But I can tell the tale and hope it is enough to make the both of us feel alive again, if only for a little while.