I chanced upon this signal box behind a truckstop in Kingman, Arizona where we spent the night. I woke early and walked between the trucks as the sun came up over the desert. Truckers in overalls emerged groggy from their cabs, each carrying a wide-mouth thermos waiting to be filled with the steaming coffee of salvation.
I met two Jehovah’s Witnesses, trawling for souls among the truckers. One carried an ipad with scripture, the other a bible. Both carried the church’s magazine, The Watchtower. They wanted to read me a passage from the bible, so I let them. I liked them, especially the shorter one with the broad hat. The other one had an eye that veered and I had the sense that my soul would be added like a scalp to the collection he wore on a thong across his chest.
I moved on to watch the sun slowly ignite the signal box until it became a glowing shed of wisdom. I imagined people flocking to this place, this chapel, making pilgrimages along the railroad right-of-ways, clogging the tracks with their bodies shuffling forward. Perhaps there is nothing but wires and fuses and electronics in unpretty industrial cases inside – but it seemed to me that the morning promised something more, that some epiphany was in the offing.
It wasn’t. The sun rose. A train rumbled through, shaking everything. The trucks left the safety of the truckstop to do battle with the interstate.
I scavenge for wisdom through truck stops, along highways and beside railway tracks. These are the places lonely men go. Scuffed up, beaten down, tattered – any truths found here will be lasting ones. If there is a portal that will take me to a place of understanding, it is waiting for me out here.
And I, hungry as always, will make my pilgrimage.