There really wasn't much left to do. I'd put most of my stuff in storage before Anna and I went camping, and it took very little time to load the last few bags and boxes into the Jeep. It would have been nice to stop and eat, but I didn't want to keep my family, and Mom in particular, waiting any longer than necessary. I could find a drive-through on the way...
I called again when I was on the road. I didn't stay on the phone for long; I didn't like talking while I was driving, and this seemed like a good time to stay alert. I just told them that I'd left, and when I'd call next. Tina told me to be careful, which was advice I didn't need.
The trip was remarkably uneventful, though. I mean, the end of the world is supposed to involve massive chaos, right? The highways should be littered with wrecks, city streets should be full of rioters or looters or partiers, and bands of cold-eyed survivors should be retreating to the wilderness with canned food and extra ammunition. Instead, I got... nothing. If anything, traffic was lighter than usual. But the roads were neither empty nor blocked with wrecked and abandoned vehicles.
From Sewanee, Tennessee to Grapevine, Texas is about thirteen hours by car. Call it fourteen, since you'll want to make stops for gas, food, and sanity. The easiest route goes up to Nashville, then swings down through Memphis, Little Rock, and Texarkana. I found an eighteen-wheeler doing a respectable speed on the highway, and settled in behind him. Eventually, he turned off, and I found another. Their presence was reassuring: it meant that an awful lot of our economy was probably still in place. I didn't need to be spot-welding weapons-mounts to the outside of the Jeep just yet.
I left the radio off. For a while I tried listening to one of my playlists, but it clashed with my mood and after a while I shut it off. So there I was, following the big trucks, driving in silence.
And realizing that my father was dead.
It didn't seem real. I couldn't make it real. Dad was a vibrant, living figure - he couldn't be dead. Not dead dead. He was still fixing up that old Karmann Ghia, for fuck's sake. No way he could die before he had it working again. It just wasn't possible.
I could imagine a world without my father in it, sort of, abstractly. I mean, I'd been in college in another state for three years, now. Yeah, I came home for summers and holidays, but holiday visits were just visits, and summers were always a shock. My parents were trying to figure out how to handle a kid who was basically out on his own, and I was trying to adjust to having parents again. So the idea of not seeing my dad wasn't all that strange. I spent a lot of my time not seeing him.
The idea that he wasn't out there, anymore... that it wasn't just that I wasn't seeing him, it was that he was really gone... That was something else altogether. I couldn't process it.
And after a while I gave up trying. I thought about Anna for a little bit, and realized that I should call her... and then realized that I wasn't sure if I wanted to. We balanced each other in some important ways, but her insistence that the disappearances had been The Rapture... and that we'd missed it... was strange and unwelcome. It made me realize that maybe I didn't know her as well as I'd thought I had. That maybe we weren't as... connected... as we'd thought we were.
But that was something else I wasn't ready to deal with. So I left it alone and kept driving, losing myself in the simple act of keeping the car on course. I wasn't thinking so much as waiting, letting my brain absorb the new information and giving it time to adapt, to formulate new responses.