Open Road



The brassy blonde fields roll out, extended.  Stretching high, arms of impending harvest.  It is golden and waving, surrounding the open road traveling West.  Bathed in the early, July sunrise, heat is absorbed into the stiff stalks.  An energetic haze and glow hovers over the expanse.  At summer dawn, only a few cars dot the distressed pavement.  Motors and metal frames carrying passengers are welcomed into the fields.  Entering, passing into, and swallowed by the land.

Tired and worn, the vehicle tires circle and click along the western road, the hum and rhythm of rubber on blacktop.  Click-click, click-click, click-click, click-click.  The driver rubs his eyes and replaces his thick, clear, plastic frames on the bridge of his nose.  They slide down and he pushes the center of them again, up to the middle space between his eyebrows and moves his hand up and over his head, pushing back unwashed, dark hair.  He holds the wheel with light placement of his wrist at the top, mesmerized and sleepy from the hallucinating terrain that lulls him into listlessness.  Next to him is the snoring Robert, passed out after taking a turn at the wheel for the better part of the graveyard shift.  Passengers recline in faded bench seats behind the driver, the sweet summer heat curling, sweet summer breeze billowing, into the cabin through open windows. Whipping, whipping, whipping against upholstery, skin, and glass.  Softly rippling the gauzy, floral silk blouse of the young woman.  She picked it up at the thrift store back in Tennessee for two dollars and fifty cents with a story of its own.  Her head resting against the spongy seat that her body is curled into: legs pulled into the chest, arms wrapped around knees, loose curls of sun-bleached hair brushing her soft skin beaded with perspiration.  Sweaty, sticky….heated with comfort as her shoulder blades rise and fall with slow breathing.

And they could go anywhere.

The pink dawn streams through glass windows, illuminating dog nose smudges paired with thick fingerprints left behind.  A primitive maze-map of soul-persons and companions.  Left for a little while until they are scrubbed away by a dirty, gas-station squeegee.  Another young woman sprawls out next to the first and there is a third in yet another bench seat, along with two more men, one with an unkempt beard, the other of them unable to sleep, peering out the window, looking and watching.  Two drops of salty blood fall from his nose before he can grab a tissue to stop the bleeding and tilt his head.  A collective of friendships, a mashing of mortals, mingling and moving down the open road.

Are they running?  Escaping?  Chasing what is ahead of them in a feverish rush?

The  infinite distance beckons them to fill the underground space awake inside, under the skin, cognizant in their chests.  The dog stirs and stretches paws on the red, carpet floor of the vintage station wagon.  He closes his eyes once again.

The woman with the thrift store blouse wants to place her bare feet on the rocks that jut out over the coast someday, to see the white foam peaks of the Pacific.  Robert clutches his cigarettes in his sleep and breathes in an anxiety with his cap pulled down far over his forehead, hiding his eyes.  Pearl may throw them out if she finds them.  The Rockies are not too far.  And all of them eat hotdogs at stands when they spot one and drink sodas from the vending machine bought with quarters. Except for Dina who doesn’t eat sugar or processed food because she’s worried about her figure.

The lullaby of the tires is always humming when they are sleeping, or talking, or crying, or laughing.  Hanging forearms out of open windows, elbows resting and palms sinking and rising, sinking and rising against the push of the wind.  A lullaby hum that cradles and rocks the baby in her infant seat, ready to start up again when they stop to fill the dry tank with more fuel for more miles, and miles, and miles.

They chase and explore, they stop and they look.

They sit and feel grass under their backs, tree bark with their palms, and lake water with their toes.   The heat from a bonfire is set to a brilliant blaze of color: red and blue and orange and blurred.  It burns their faces to blush.   Heavy quilts wrapped around bare shoulders, clutched with fists and knuckles.  The baby is quiet, fingers in her mouth, sucking.  And Arthur tells stories with his violin, echoing into the settling dusk.  He’s calm when he plays and closes his eyes, with his arm swift and quick, punctuating lonely folk-notes that reverberate and jump start and shatter while they sit and sip drinks and listen.  And they pile in the bench seats and crash onto the carpet floor and sleep, and think, and someone turns the ignition over with a great roar and rumble.  They move again out West.  On the open road.

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