Place Where You Live:

Wilmington, North Carolina

This is it.

If you start out on I-40 from its Californian wellspring, you’ll see a sign that reads “Wilmington, NC:  2,554 miles.” This city is where the highway dries up, where people who had no reason to stop driving find themselves beached. There’s a neon sign in a bar downtown that says THIS IS IT. You’re at the end of the line. A man once asked me about the local vagrancy laws and then where he could find the biker scene; I told him about the bar with the neon sign. “I been there already,” he said, and pointed at his two black eyes. The bar with the neon sign is on a street full of other bars and full of marines, spring breakers, horse cops, retirees, gay poets, fake pirates, pit bulls, magicians, women falling off their stilettos, shit-stirrers, buskers, bikers, and vagrants with two black eyes. Some are natives, some spun a globe or read a tourism brochure. My whole life has been lived along I-40 and the perpendicular axis of I-95, that great detour. I went up but I came back down: put that on my tombstone. And now here I am at the road atlas’s logical conclusion. Here I am, getting fat on pulled pork and hush puppies, getting drunk on Coronas on a riverboat. Here I am, sun-blinded on the beach, plotting to tip over Confederate monuments by moonlight. Here I am, getting married beside the Piggly Wiggly. If I never see another azalea again, it’ll be too soon. Scores of suntanned divorcees are shaking their heads in unison and asking, “How did we end up in this place?” No one in Wilmington seems quite sure. Some of us thought we were going to Delaware! The movie sets behind us keep changing. But of course we all ended up here the same way: just trusting that the highway would take us some place we needed to go. When you try and head west out of Wilmington, the sign reads, “Barstow, CA: 2,554 miles,” but we always turn back around.