The air was a little cooler than usual, that hint of seasons and parts of Life changing that always makes me a little restless. On the side of the road was a happy young couple with their thumbs out, taking in the coast of California. They reminded me of me when I was almost twenty. I had dropped out of college and fallen in love with a wild-haired boy and his dog. We lived in a teepee and ate fresh-picked things and bathed in waterfalls… heh.
Well, one February morning, this fella, his dog and I spontaneously decided to hitchhike from Louisville, west. We had no real destination or agenda, nor any reason I can recall for deciding to leave the car behind, much to our parents’ chagrin. It was adventure for adventure’s sake. That entire trip could be a novel, but today I was reminded of this particular day spent somewhere in Missouri.
Our last ride had been with a truck driver from Romania. He spoke very broken English but had a Bob Marley CD on repeat and sang along with it in his rich, dancing baritone. He said that American truck drivers were scared to pick up hitch hikers, but Europeans were used to it. He thanked us for reminding him of home, and flashed one of my favorite smiles I’ve ever seen, and then dropped us south of St Louis, at some large highway junction, where he was turning east. (To this day, when I see a certain semi on the highway, I imagine he’s in there, dancing with barely a hand on the wheel, belting out “One Love..” )
Well, there really wasn’t anything around that intersection but this large, man-made hill with four truck stop plazas surrounded by low, plowed fields and midwestern highway. At ten in the morning, we figured it would be a great spot to catch our next ride. By four in the afternoon, we were antsy. We walked to another place. People looked at us with eyes that had seen one too many made for TV movies about axe murderers. We crossed the highway to another truck stop and ate dinner and had philosophical discussions about life. We eventually had midnight desert and coffee at the place next door hoping to see anybody at all..
Around 4 am we were grumpy and as sick of that crossroads as we could be, and no cars or trucks had come or gone in hours. Swallowing our panic, we took our faltering spirits outside with the thought of pitching a tent until morning, to find the only ground was flooded, freshly-fertilized midwestern mud.
At this point, my friend, exhausted and all out of hope, looks up at the sky and sighs under his breath “We need a ride south.”
Suddenly, out of nowhere, the sleekest black Cadillac hearse was in front of us. A tall man in a black suit with a white collar gets out so gracefully and says ” Y’all say you need a ride south?”
Our mouths hung open.
“Well, I’m Reverend and this is Sister. Hop on in the back.”
And we did. They drove us all the way to Memphis and we slept the whole way.
Those two dropped us off in a groggy, but happy, half-awake state in the parking lot of what they said was the best chicken this side of the Mississippi.
As he’s opening the car door, the Reverend says ” Hey, y’all got any Blast All?”
We stared blankly, not sure what that was.
“I got some in a bag in the car, make ya feel real good.” and then he winked.
There was an awkward silence where I was wondering if he was offering us some kind of drugs, and hadn’t my mother warned me about strangers, but he emerged with a small vial of oil.
He said he made it special and that he prayed over it every day for a month. Then he anointed our foreheads, and our dog’s forehead too, and sent us on our way with his prayers and the rest of the oil to share. It smelled like fresh almonds and magic Cadillac. When I shouldered my bag and turned around to wave goodbye, the car was gone.
But isn’t Life sneaky like that though? It is full of Reverends and Sisters, Adventurers and Lovers, each offering us their own type of “Blast All” when we need it most. We anoint each other sometimes just by being.