Fancy Gap

Originally published in Word Riot, April 2014


There is a place in Virginia where you can drive south and north at the same time. It’s right where two interstates cross, cutting through swaths of butternut and red cedar like baby’s first X. For about seven miles the two numbers share the same asphalt, and which direction you’re going depends solely on which highway you think you’re on.

If you think about this for a minute, it will make sense. Draw yourself a map if you need help.

This only works because the asphalt isn’t pointing either south or north. It runs east to west, so when you are on this particular stretch of road you are actually traveling in three directions at once: north, south and either into or away from the mountain sunrise, as it chases away the last slippery tendrils of low-lying morning fog.

With interstate highways, the long run is what’s important. In the long run, we are all wherever we are supposed to be. In the long run, we are all dead.

Which way you headed? you could call out to drivers passing the other way. South, they’d answer. Me too! you’d shout back. And then you’d continue along in opposite directions.

Or you could change directions with nothing more than a thought. One moment, you’re heading north to Roanoke, but then it hits you that you don’t want nothing to do with her anymore so instead you’re driving south, toward Charlotte. You just change which number you’re on.

And you don’t even have to move the steering wheel to do it, because anything is possible in these sun-draped mountains.

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