The first time I crossed the Mississippi was in the afternoon of our third day on the road. Andrea and I had reached our stride, reveling in being young and in a car with the windows down in the middle of nowhere--elbows out the window, wearing tank tops we'd picked up at a store somewhere in Kentucky, bras tucked into our duffel bags. The cd player had broken in Nashville and so we were stuck with local stations or, when those faded out, whatever words we could make up to the noises inside the car. We were having an adventure.
And so we made it to Mark Twain's river and realized just as it came into view just what it was. I looked at Andrea, who was driving. "Under certain circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer."
She nodded and answered, "When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained."
(This is the code recently graduated English majors talk in.)
There were fields on either side of the bridge that crossed the river, and in one of them was a farmer on a large farm tool--a tractor, or a plow, or something. He nodded to us and tipped his hat, and as we reached the bridge we waved back and he tipped his hat one more time. And then we were on the other side and we knew in the way that you know when you grow up in the South that the Mississippi is the line that divides what you know from everything else. It was the point in our adventure that we knew we were driving off into what happens next.
It felt good, so we turned around and did it again.