By Janessa H, age 14
Somewhere in the basement of my mind, I hear the muted sound of beeping. Although I do my best to ignore it, the sound intensifies and jars me out of my sleep. I stand up and slap the top of the alarm clock, seeing the red numbers glow 10:00. I’ve slept for two short hours. Every bone in my body commands me to fall back into bed, but I know I can’t.

Dressing quickly in dark blue pants and shirt, I walk past the doorways of my sleeping daughters and down a flight of stairs to the kitchen. I pour myself a bowl of cereal and consume the crunchy bran in milk. It is 10:30 when I lock the door behind me, step into the cool freshness of the night, then start my car.

Within fifteen minutes, the Bergey’s Retread Center building appears in front of me. As I walk from my car to my huge, white tractor trailer sitting in the parking lot, I shake all drowsiness from my mind. I scale the two tall metal steps and open the door with a click. Climbing in, I turn the key and immediately the electric blue, green and red dashboard lights make me squint. A few minutes later, I am navigating the 18-wheeler out of the parking lot.

I drive for a long while in silence. Ahead of me, a stoplight shines red. I pull my truck to a slow stop, even though no other cars or pedestrians are visible on the street. Most of the houses are dark as I drive past them. I push a gray button on the dashboard and a broadcaster’s voice travels through the speakers, low and gravelly, commenting on last night’s baseball scores. Outside of a Subway restaurant, two tired employees nod familiarly as I pull up. Smoking musty smelling cigarettes, they let me inside the dim building to fill a cup with coffee. Since I’m a regular at three in the morning, they don’t even bother to ring me up.

As the sun begins to show its face over the horizon, the town I am driving through is just beginning its day. An impatient man beside me quickly cuts his Smart Car into my lane. I wish the streets were still as empty as before.  It’s 8:00 and I’ve already delivered about 100 tires to three different stops along my route to Virginia.

Approaching my fourth stop, I hop out and lift the door to my trailer. Stacks of tires are piled high in front of me and I head for the closest one. I remember to strap on my thick, black back brace since I know from experience that it is no fun to wrench my back when lifting 100- pound tires.

When I reenter the flow of traffic later, I cannot believe how the city has sprung to life.  With its trailer stretching five automobiles long, I carefully navigate my truck among all the speeding cars. All I have eaten today was that bowl of cereal at home, and my stomach is protesting my decision to drive past the Wawa. There simply isn’t time. Eventually, however, the aching is too much, and I reach behind my seat to find a bottle of water, some cans of soup, and a banana sitting in the cupboard. Later tonight I may be able to eat at a buffet, but for now I just peel the banana.

Until now, my truck has run on cruise control, but I flick the switch so I can control the speed. A few miles away, a car has flipped and traffic is building up. Across my CB radio, I hear a truck driver ahead describing the scene. I know I am going to be here for a while, so I take the opportunity to stretch my arms over the steering wheel and close my eyes. I can only hope I make it to my next stop on time.

Before I’m ready, traffic begins moving again. The sea of cars is like a solid sheet of metal, with a large variety of colors. I don’t need the sign in front of me to know that the Harrisonburg exit is in two miles. I’ve traveled this route often enough.

When I finally reach my destination, it’s 7:00 pm. Today has not gone as planned, but then again it rarely does. It’s dark outside as I unload my trailer one final time today. I’m ferociously hungry, but even more tired. I finally collapse in the bottom bunk of my truck. In front of me is the seat I’ve ridden in all day and its identical partner which now holds my jacket. Acting as a bedside table is a mini fridge, with a microwave hanging over it. Above my head, a second, rarely-used bunk is latched against the wall.

Some light comes in from the street lamp in the parking lot, but I’m too exhausted to care. I hardly notice the warmth of my sleeping bag, the depth of my pillow, or the heaviness of my eyes. My body seems to be in a coma, completely relaxed from its 21-hour day. For a few minutes, I think about my family who is 300 miles away. My teenage daughters don’t see their daddy like most kids do and my wife is without me four nights a week. During my hours of driving, I try to call them, but it doesn’t always happen.

I feel my mind shutting down, but I have just one more thing to do. As rain patters on the roof, I flip my phone open and set my alarm clock. Then, three hours later, I unwillingly jolt awake. As I start my truck once again, I begin what is just another day in my life.

 


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