I have felt inspired lately, but have been lacking words. So here’s just a rough draft of something.
Late night drives make strides. They share significance and intimacy between those in backseats and behind the wheel. Memories of the long days are solidified while silent memories of the drives themselves polish over them. They are motionless despite the needle on the speedometer.
There’s a daughter trying to sleep in the backseat, but she can’t because even at eleven she understands that this is the last time her father will be driving from his mother’s in New Jersey back home to Ohio. She rests the best she can around the uncomfortable seatbelt strap and goes through her small pile of new possessions. A refrigerator magnet. A two-pound dumbbell. A Christmas ornament. The realtor bored her. And being bored made her think about what the house had already lost. Her father had asked her to go through the house one last time and take the things she wanted, and she had pulled them away like pins. Now the glowing teal light of the dashboard gleams over them as her dad flips on one of his last cassette tapes and the child thinks you will never be lost again.
Soon after, there’s a girl on her first long drive alone to a place she’s never been. She’s seventeen and can’t believe she lied to her father about spending the weekend at a friend’s in order to see some party at a college out in the boonies. The miles of suburbs flattened into grain and darkened into an unidentifiable map, which makes her feel like she’s somehow floating above it all. All her family trips as a child had brought her east, not west, and the dull, British tones of the GPS sound muffled under Rosalita. She looks at the ceramic Santa Claus dangling from her rearview mirror as a compass, willing it to tell her where she’s supposed to go.
And then there are two sometime lovers better off as friends- too old to be sneaking around this late at night but too young to forget how exciting it feels. His curt gentlemanliness asks her how long they’ve been driving and she doesn’t tell him her hometown exit was thirty miles back. She tucks on arm around the other but unfolds her legs at the knees. They listen to Bruce Springsteen like her dad had taught her.
I can hear I-90 from the open window of my friend’s apartment, where I try to fall asleep on the floor amidst my transition into hangover. There’s a a swipe of movement and then silence. In its wake, I can hear the young man ask the girl in the passenger seat “do you trust me yet?”
And I still didn’t trust him but I could try. I did try. In that car on that night with his hand on my naked knee and Thunder Road barreling behind us, I tried.
While some bridges unfolded beneath the spinning tires, others we burned.
Everything about her was
Her face was slender
From narrow nose chiseled in icy marble
To sapphire eyes that never looked ahead
But s h i f t e d
A pair of glass pendulums.
Thin, crystallized hair
A veil with a sunned shadow
Nearly as clear as fingernails dancing
On salty winds and final breaths.
She walked on the tops of her toes
She was slight- mysterious
A magic trick.
I live for the time of year that
The trees are so full
It looks as if you could step on their leafy terrace
And walk among the stars.
She had disappeared into a back room of the bar that Link was surprised to see was dark and empty. He found her with her arms folded over her chest like a sharp, sealed envelope, half-sitting, half-leaning on a black iron table.
She turns towards the entrance, as if expecting anyone else in the world but him, and as soon as her eyes focus on his figure, she pulls her face away and tightens her body closer to itself. “Listen, Link. I’m having a rough night and could really use some time alone, so, could you not be an asshole for, like, once in your life? Please,” she adds, her last word sort of fainting from her lips in a rare display of insecurity.
He stuffs his hands in his pockets and takes a few steps into the room, leaning against a pool table stained with years of spilled beer. “Do you really think I’d do that?”
“Yes,” she answers. No bullshit. That’s the Victoria Amherst he knew. “C’mon, Link. I never get a break from it with you. In private, we’re always bickering over everything. In public, our friends can barely stand to be around our goddamn back-and-forth jackass competition. Even when we fuck it’s full of ‘you bitch’ and ‘you jerk’ and ‘fuck you.’ It’s angry. It’s mean. It’s hate.”
“Do you really think I hate you?” Link asks in a voice so unfairly small that it makes Victoria flare up with anger once more.
“Look, I can’t deal with this right now.” She sounds exhausted. Like she’s been stripped down from all her usual wit and slyness into a lonely, ill version of herself. It was more naked than Link had ever seen her.
He was suspended between staying and going. Staying, certainly unwelcome and against Victoria’s will, but unable to leave her feeling this awful. Going, giving her exactly what she was asking for, while still knowing that’s not what she really wanted.
He hovers in the doorway waiting for her signal- should he stay or should he go? But the signal doesn’t come and he doesn’t expect it to. With Victoria, there is never a signal. And Link has never needed one.
I want to wade into the blackest night.
The cool distance breaking against me like
The slow-rolling tide of the Lake.
Stars surf- waterbugs flickering on the meniscus.
I want to swim in the midnight
Blues of depths met by my treading toes
New moon’s sky and the river road
Blending into the same hue
Until I lose touch with which way is up.
I want to catch pneumonia from the hooting of the owls
And drown in coyote howls.
I want to float
And absorb the darkness.
Or maybe I want to it
To absorb me.
There’s a well-worn room at the bottom of the stairs. Two loveseats touch their tan arms in the corner like a husband and wife lacing hands over the gear shift as they drive, holding their ringed fingers just low enough so the sleepy child in the back doesn’t see their private moment. The television plays the windshield.
A black cat curls into a dark circle- a breathing, purring hole in the floor.
Yes, there’s a well-worn room at the bottom of the stairs
And in it, the black cat’s tail is the only thing that moves.
Fireworks are only as lovely as they are far away.
The proud colors and sounds and quick-fading flashes
Lose their innocence from directly below.
No one ever thinks about the aftermath.
Debris fades against the midnight blue.
I let the ashes fall onto my shoulders and leave chalky scars.
The fragile cinders break apart
And tumble down the lengths of my weary arms
Like black sand stirred up in the first flickers of a storm.
I’ll let the blasts blow out my pulse
And I’ll drink myself into someone else.
Five in the morning is a promise broken with every slap of the snooze button.
I swear to make it up in time but I let it slip by
Roll over in my sheets with an unspoken agreement between myself and the time.
Because five in the morning is stale Cheerios papering my parchment tongue
And the unhungry insides of my esophagus.
It’s reruns of cancelled class acts and laugh tracks
And morning shows sponsored by insomniacs and school bus drivers.
Five in the morning greets me like the graveyard shifters that call it home.
Gruff and groaning under the threat of dawn.
Five in the morning prefers the company of the moon
Because despite it’s nearness
It still looks smaller than the Sun.
I pushed all of my furniture into the center of my room. The shadows fell across the carpet, patterned with indents from where the oak once ached stiff, like a sundial.
I liked the way I could stand in one corner and be cut off from the one across me. I liked knowing it was there without having to see to believe.
I ambled in dazed circles around the drawers and mirrors, and played musical chairs with the armoire.
There are the ambiguous first strokes of a tattoo
Peeking out from under the edge of your short-sleeve.
I think about what might be important enough to you
To etch forever in the inches of your skin.
Like dripping, black music notes or pocketed stars or screeching eagles
A name or a face or a pair of surgically separated wings
Something without, signifying something within
A shallow image
Found in unmoving color on the skin,
To reveal what’s breathing in your blood.
Like once-wounds, healed over
Before I have the chance
What it is.