INTERSTATE 55, EXIT 109 — Tony proclaimed his love in two-foot tall letters painted across the northbound I-55 overpass about 10 miles south of Cape Giradeau, Mo.
And what better way to state his declaration of devotion than by dangling 25 feet over the interstate, clutching the railing with one hand and a paint brush in the other.
His affection was amplified by the chance that he could have toppled off the overpass. The initial splat on the asphalt below could end the love. Or if that didn’t get him, the bearing-down Peterbilt hauling a 53-foot conventional van laden with 59,000 pounds of produce headed for Chicago might staunch the relationship as well.
But, despite the effort, Tony wasn’t thinking this all the way through. After placing his love in indelible ink on a freeway seen daily by thousands, the inevitable happened. Tony and his girlfriend broke up.
I know this only because the name of Tony’s girlfriend was blotted out in a huge white blob, much like the old liquid paper we used when correcting typing errors in days of yore. Then, that ol’ rascal Tony found a new girlfriend and, since there was more amore, Tony painted the new girl’s name over the whited-out space. This time Tony used bright yellow paint. At night, I’m sure “Laurie” glowed like an iridescent highway sign when caught in the high beams of a car.
Now, “Tony loves Laurie” greets motorists.
As I continued north on the interstate, I thought of Tony and his love life. He had to be so smitten with the first girl that he was possessed to post that love where everyone could see. That was his mindset: Fall in love. Paint an overpass.
But he did what everyone does in relationships. He broke up. It happens. I don’t know what the percentages are, but most relationships are doomed from the start. Maybe it happens more to those who paint overpasses. Maybe the same characteristic that drives someone to defy danger and hang precariously over a bridge is also a characteristic that eventually forces a loved one away.
I thought of Tony’s reaction to the breakup. He returned to the bridge, risking injury or arrest, and painted over the girl’s name. Maybe that was what made it final for him. He had already gathered his compact discs, books and some clothes from her home. All he had left to do to totally severe the relationship was to paint over her name.
When he found a new love, he returned to the bridge with new paint. Now it was Laurie.
What happens when Laurie dumps him? Does Tony paint over her name and then, while the latest correction dries, hunt for yet another sweetie?
It could be an endless cycle with Tony, but at least it amuses me and give me thought while it breaks up a long trip.