Thursday, July 1, 2010

Highway Story.

Highway Story.

This is how it starts…

You’re stranded out on the loneliest stretch of highway in the darkest part of night. The heat is sweltering. A car pulls over and a man offers you a ride. A ride that you desperately need from a man you know nothing about. Because it’s no where and there’s no one, you take the ride and get in the car. Take a chance on the unknown. But that’s just how it starts.


Hotter than an apple on Walnut Street in the middle of July, there it was. My radiator. Just like that apple, hissing and shaking as the juice evaporates from inside. Sizzle. It’s that unmistakable sound of heat. The evening sky shows the last visible traces of light. Road is bare in both directions. I walk about twenty feet in either direction to discover nothing before returning. Sputters from the overheated engine maintain a consistent background din as I gather my thoughts.

Should have known better than to trust this bucket of bolts, but kind of like everything else in my life, I didn’t have another choice in front of me. The old Charger was just sitting there and it hadn’t given out any problems in a couple months. Besides, it was this or nothing and I had to be someplace in about a week. I think that it’s quite possibly the end of the line for the both of us, as I stand over the engine tapping at the front fender while the old girl continues to spew out steam.

10pm and the night air is hotter and thicker than a blanket. That kind of hot air that descends upon your bare skin with a touch of electricity as it wraps you up and leaves you drenched in wetness. Pretty much without an option I’m about ready to call it a bust and start walking.  When there it is, a vision of insanity brought upon by the heat-ridden mind. It’s the approach of a car, the only car, out on a road to somewhere straight through the middle of nothing.

The middle of nothing that reminds you of nothing on a blank postcard that sets on the front of your scrapbook. It was to remember a trip that existed years ago and you are never sure you remember it the right way. For the moment there is no other way as the hot night brings the only car slower and closer to the side of the road.

Postcard Trips.

Somehow my childhood memories always seem like a picture you might see on a postcard. Sunny days, beneath a perfect sky blue splendor with an oversized GREETING across the top of a two lane stretch of driving to heaven. Those two lane drives along the Great Highway. A stretch that spans from East to West and perhaps back again. Often those times seem like larger than life of perfection.

Oddly enough they weren’t always that slice of heaven that my mind likes to conjure up. No matter what happened in the past I can only remember the sunny day filled with crystal clear blue skies and sparse amounts of traffic along those two lanes roads. Even when it rained, or Daddy had to change a flat, the moments seem to pass through that postcard filter and come out better than they were.

Reality may have had the beautiful warm drops of a summer rain tossing across the windshield. My memory coats the day in a warm color of honey. The quiet hum of the engine provided the backdrop for sound while the soft music of the radio echoed into the sunny day. Seatbelts fasten to ensure the comfort of safety. Tick. Tick. Tick. Purring like a kitten the old car would drift down the blacktop.

When something happened it became like slow motion. Sluggish as it happened in a filter. Slowing down for another look that magnified the event. A lens that enlarges and removes the lie built in my head.

In the field next to the highway was a truck on its side. The car in front of us pulls off the road quickly and after the dust clears revealing its near miss of the rear end of the rolled truck. The approach was slow like pouring honey. As we approach the distant scene, there are arms and faces filled with blood removing themselves from the wreckage. Blood and pain all in the middle of a bright “WELCOME TO WHEREVER TO YOU ARE” postcard that hangs beneath the calendar on the fridge. Forward rolls our slowed down vehicle through the smoke and haze deeper into the postcard.

Mommy’s highest scream lets out into the perfect day. Daddy brakes hard. Still the postcard remains intact. The squeal of the brakes and black smoke surround as we miss the large oversized animal in the middle of the two lanes. Amid the pretty sunshine afternoon of “Wish You Were Here” there it was the bloody carcass of a downed animal. It didn’t look luck much of an animal. Daddy said it was and got out of the car. Maybe he missed it. I try to remember that he wasn’t the cause. That because in the instant of perfection he couldn’t be the reason.

Through the tiny wing windows there’s a partial view of the scene that Mommy told us not to look at. Don’t look at the bloody stump in the road with the arms and legs like a man. A bloody man, that seemed to belong in the other postcard along the side of the road with the people escaping from the truck. But he wasn’t there. He was in front of our car. Lying in the middle of the road. In slow motion movements, taking breaths and spitting out blood. Dying.  Mommy kept saying to look away. Don’t look at this postcard. No one wants you to remember the “Roadside Hotel” with its sunny warm skies, blue mixed with white clouds above the bloody mess.

The postcard they want you to remember is “Having A Great Trip” where the sun was always around and everyone laughs with a smile. Where there never was a thunderstorm along the way. They tell us it was an animal in the road. Daddy hit an injured cow and the truck spilled over was on the way to the livestock auction. This the way they want us to remember it. The perfect day in the middle of a postcard.

Somewhere across the state line…

Sitting in the passenger seat of this car next to a man that I know nothing about I keep thinking there’s another ‘anything’ three miles up the road. When it doesn’t appear, I stop and think it’ll be another three miles. Just wait and see. The game of hit and miss with my psyche continues until the man that I don’t know starts talking. Telling me about night drives and cross country trips where it isn’t safe that I’m a girl traveling alone. I smile and respond that I’m not alone and take a look at the dash filled with a broken radio and a hole where the ignition ought to be.

I should be frightened as there’s a chance this is a stolen car or that this man is a raving lunatic. But I’d be dead already if he wanted me to be. And he starts back up about how there’s no one to talk to on these types of distance trips. Says he bets that I’m the kind of gal that likes to have someone to talk to. Of course he wasn’t wrong I never would have minded company. Every now and again it’s nice to talk to someone along the way, whether it was a stranger or not behind the wheel.

Behind the Wheel.

That Charger had more than a few miles in her over the years. Maybe that’s why I thought she’d make it to him. More than a thousand miles had separated us before, what was the difference of two thousand? Many long trips and not a lot of strangers. Talking didn’t make a difference one way or another. Boredom on the long road was the same whether you had company or not. Even when he came along for the drive it didn’t matter. Although he could always make it interesting…

Remembering the quiet of the lonely road in the middle of the night. No one and nothing for miles. The only sounds are covered by the engine. Watching him, watch me drive from the corner of my eye. Him giving me that eye as if asking my permission to. All the while knowing full well that it isn’t possible when he isn’t in control. The only way it’ll work is if he’s in the driver’s seat. I want to be in control, but it isn’t possible. So I look back with an eye of my own. Lifting hands, the move is on.

Body slides across the seat. My torso lifts and waits. Hands slide up the wheel and around my waist. Carefully his foot moves onto the pedal and takes over the speed. Balancing above the wheel and around the dash, I spin to face him. My left temple makes connection with the rearview and it falls. Blood drips along my face. My shifting legs straddle and find a place around the seat. My back leans against the wheel. He’s behind the wheel, but letting me stay in control.

Quickly I reach down to find him waiting. Blood from my face drips down the side of his as I’m working toward release. Legs bend allowing me to slide downward. Faster he slams down on the pedal. I can feel the force behind the wheel. But it isn’t enough to stop me. Arms tighter. I can feel his tongue crash against my neck. Licking my wet lips I grab his face and gently turn his attention forward.

Heat of the moment. We aren’t watching the road. The sound of collision and horns break across the horizon of the road. Reaction forces him to compensate and pull off the road. Just as quickly as we’ve started, we are finished and yanked back into the moment. There’s a crash in the middle of two lanes out in nothing. A jackknifed Semi meeting a set of cars rests before us in the middle of two lanes amidst nothing. No sound. In this stopped moment there’s still warm blood on his face and my legs wrapped around him behind the wheel.

Further down the line…

The long road seems almost as long as the night. It’s only about quarter to twelve when I look around the car more carefully. Fully automatic and doesn’t need much maintenance. She runs pretty fair in the heat. I can see how this man gets by without much problem. So far it’s been smooth sailing through the empty night. It’s hard to imagine we’ve gone a hundred miles without a sign of civilization. Not so much as a gas station in the middle of no where. I guess they don’t call it the loneliest stretch for nothing.

Approaching headlights outline my companion’s features more clearly. Through the quick pass of light I can see a chin with a deep scar and a set of eyes that have been open far too long. Deep lines of wear and tear cross this man’s face and I still don’t know his name.  Nameless and boundless are the only things I know of this stranger. This strange man without a story rapidly speeds up and passes a set of tail lights that I hadn’t even seen us advance upon. Without warn a pair of head lamps jumps on and nearly misses us before disappearing in the rear view. Suicide. Some people like to play…


He tells me everyone plays this game. Promises it will be a lot of fun. Just let go and get into it he says. You won’t regret it. There are two us. Blindfolded and walking out into a crowd carrying nothing but a piece of cloth. For notice they instruct. Wave the cloth and we’ll find you. Don’t worry. Nothing can happen.

Silent and pushing forward quickly. Turn off the lights and drive. No brakes. No music. Keep going. No matter what happens keep driving. I don’t like this road. It’s too risky. There’s too many cars. Speeding and weaving unnoticed until it’s too late. Cars honk and swerve. Screams and panic escape the windows. Full throttle down the middle of two lanes in the darkness. The yellow line has a hue of green beneath the moonlight as it cuts down the center of the car. I want to stop. But they keep saying ‘Go’ and I do. Moving through the blanket of black unseen. Eyes are blinded by the bright lights of opposing traffic.

The hands reach out and shove. Go this way they indicate. But you must stay close to the road. It isn’t any fair if you walk the opposite way. Don’t worry. No one can get hurt. I’m to and she’s fro. We are walking into the belly of the rush hour crowd next to speeding traffic. Walk faster. I know this is what I’m supposed to do. I can hear and feel the movement of traffic within a foot of my face. No telling where she’s gone. I can only worry about me. Steadily moving ahead while shoulders slam into me.

Speed up and slow down. It’s like horizontal leap frog and the highway is our playground. Faster. Slower. While continuing to piggy back the car in front. Waiting until the right moment when opposing traffic meets the pass in a dance of death. Closer the eyes approach. Steady the pace continues until the right moment. Spin the wheel. Cross the double lines. Slam on the pedal. Roll right through and try to make it back again before something happens.

Too many hands too many voices. Whispering and gently urging against the pursuit forward. Bodies huddled together as they move. It’s like pushing upstream. There’s no warn for it when it happens. Perhaps the wrong stranger. Or one step wrong, you’ll bank off the curb and into the rush of oncoming traffic. Hands waving fabric and lips releasing sounds that will never be heard. The only sound that remains is the hard impact and shattering of glass amidst a sea of echoing screams. Don’t take off the mask. I don’t.

In the dark, you hear it before you see it happen. The slam of brakes is louder than the engine barreling down the road. Screams arch and descend in a musical opera of vehicular tragedy as the car impacts head on with the unsuspecting. Not a scratch upon my face. The wheel never moves. We are landlocked with a station wagon. Front end forced all the way into the front seat. They said don’t do it. I can’t help it. There are faces in front of me, all wrenched with pain as I turn on the lights.

Parting ways…

Three more miles turned out to be nearly two hundred miles. The bright lights of a solitary truck stop are a welcomed relief. You’re glad this man stopped to help the lone woman on the side of the road. You should be able to find help here. But this isn’t what happens. The nameless and boundless stranger says it’s time to part ways and you couldn’t agree more. You have somewhere else to get to and there’s no other option. You’re awful glad he stopped and well there couldn’t be a better place to leave someone. Well lit and nicely accommodated. That’s why you suggest he gets out nice and slow, and then keeps walking. He doesn’t see it this way. The revolver in your hand urges him differently. As he steps back you tell him… See on a boiling hot night out in the middle of no where maybe you shouldn’t pick up strangers. Now it’s best to get going...

Highway Story. Oddly enough this supposed to come today, but was not planned at all. Does that make sense? This is the other Auto related piece that I’ve talked about. This is one that should have come last year, but I didn’t think of it until this year. It reminds me of ‘Pain makes you brave.’ And seems like it would have fit in somewhere after that. Alright. So, this is one of the two pieces I’ve been at since the end of March. The form has been the challenge. I wanted to play with it a little. As you can see it’s begged and borrowed from several others in style. Although still its own creature. Anyways, there is more to come, including #5. Enjoy. m. 

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