9. before the turnoff

I continue to have a penchant for falling asleep for the first thirty minutes of any car ride. The residue of childhood visits to Maw-ma, winding through mountain roads to get to the other side. In the backseat, I shut down before the urge to vomit took hold. Years later, they plowed a tunnel, carving away those age-old stones to forge a direct path.  She had since moved away from home to be closer to home – to her children. Things have a tendency to come forth just as personal necessity passes, so we take heart in the fact that our pasts have paved the way for the future, begrudgingly at times.

The foliage was an unending stream. If I blurred the edges of my mind just so, it was as if we stopped moving. We were contained in this metal box on wheels, speeding up until we reached stasis, suspended within a placid body. We couldn't accelerate any faster. The law forbade it. Freefall. Something neither of us enjoyed at amusement parks but would submit ourselves to for the other. Now we know.

I conjured a lake to juxtapose the stream that flew by outside the window. Immersed in the calm of this lake was, oddly, the one moment I could sleep without a second thought  despite the tangled positions wrestled into that passenger seat. When I shook the sleep off, my face shielded from the sun, the reds and greens continued rolling, just as I had left it behind in my consciousness not long ago. Your right hand rested on my thigh, fingers softly squeezing periodically, as if looking for a pulse. 

The highway was a filter of men and women journeying north to south, south to north. Some with trunks filled with treasures held dear, some left with nothing at all, heading to the next to the next to the next. You always drove. You always held this particular focus behind the wheel, a glimmer of expectation in your sights, unfazed, impenetrable at times. Straight on till morning. Under the hum of the motor, that clear intent, that was your lake. 

With that half hour long behind us, the air whipping through, that familiar hollow sound, I surfaced from comfort every two minutes to change the radio station, lifting my feet off the dashboard each time. The search for something better always bested the ease in being still. 

A song about love. An ad for a tribute concert at Jones Beach. A song about taking it deep.  Another crap song about love. I crashed back down, the weight of this burden resting squarely on my soul. A fistful of tortilla chips quelled my unrest.  You gestured at the glove compartment knowingly. Your bare right hand returned to my thigh. No one wears driving gloves anymore, mind you.

We turned onto the off-ramp singing off-key with the mix tape you made the night before.