Burning coffee and Liminal spaces

There is something strangely comforting about the rest stops on the major highways of the East coast. It’s something about the sameness or maybe it’s just the liminal spaces are there to be filled with a repeat of memories.

I have been in these spaces with every conglomeration of family and friends. I have been sick and well. I have burned my tongue of vending machine coffee and gone back for more even knowing that I will do the same damned thing.

\A much beloved coffee machine whose favorite offering is easy to see. Photo by Kate Ressman. 2022. Virginia rest stop.

I am an American and driving is part of our national identity. These truck stops are pauses. Spaces without real identity, but I can tell you that Chesapeake House is better than Maryland House and that Clara Barton doesn’t have the good vending machines.

I know that When I put two dollars into the coffee machine for lightener and sweetener that my coffee will come out not great, but good. Consistent. My first real memory off coffee is from one of these machines.

The bathrooms are universally either under construction or being cleaned so are always only partially opened. There are rarely lines, but when they exist they are usually related to the passenger busses if tourists or high school sports teams.

This is the rhythm of life. Of birthdays and Christmas, Thanksgiving and funerals, college commutes and road trips.

America thrives on a steady diet of motion and travel. And there is such beauty in the stream of traffic and life that pulses, stopping to rest for a moment. To have a picnic lunch or walk the dog. For toddlers just learning the ins and outs of bathrooms and crowds. Families and friends taking pictures to record a ridiculous moment at a rest stop that has a pretty sculptor a special historical sign.

And yet I know that I will never see these people again. We are part of the same stream, the blood in the arteries that separate and bring us closer together. But we are not friends. We are simply molecules sharing the same space for a moment. Maybe sharing a laugh or a smile. Being a little grumpy or tired, waiting our turn for the caffeine.

But sharing still a time and place. And I can never not love that.

Even when the coffee burns my tongue again.

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