Sudden derailment, gravel road detour through an unfamiliar town. Or wait, I’ve been here before.
Hello, mister. Welcome back. All your doubts are waiting, just ahead. They’re having a picnic. Spread out on the artificial lawn, a patch of green in red desert. The shimmer of heat over the road, a cold rock sunk in my gut.
I thought I lost you guys. Shit.
Merely a minor vacation, they say, what did you bring, we’re starved.
Just me, I say. I look around at the desolate landscape. You might as well have at it.
They eat me alive. They down shots of whiskey and throw bottles up in the air, howling. The glass shatters and they wrestle over the shards, their blood joining mine. Why the long face? they ask. Then they laugh. As if it was the funniest goddamn thing ever.
I pull myself up. They play along the edges of my vision. They’ve thrown my keys behind a pile of rocks. I stumble over and fish the flash of silver into my palm. They walk behind me, fat and happy. They poke each other.
You’re out of gas, they say.
I slide behind the wheel anyway, focused on the hills unraveling ahead. Bug stains on the windshield. I slip the key into the ignition and turn.
Three muscle bears sitting in the open window of the Edge bar as I walk past.
“Woof,” says one.
“Hey, hey! Hey!”says another.
“I am all about THAT!” says the third.
I smile in spite of myself.
“I met your friend Ski,” Prometheus says over dinner. I look up at him, chewing.
“Oh yeah?” I say.
“Yeah. He was kind of down. Said he was seeing someone now. That he hadn’t dated anyone in a long time.”
“Thirteen years,” I say.
“Yeah, since, uh…”
“Since his boyfriend died.”
“Said it was bringing up a lot of stuff for him.”
I chew for awhile, then swallow. “Funny. I wanted to rescue him from all that. You know. Be the first one since.” Prometheus nods. He gets it. He always does.
A year ago I shared a little cabin with Ski, up in the woods near Sebastopol. We slept on twin beds a few feet apart. I pretended to be just a friend. Who can predict a year of change? I wouldn’t trade it, but there it is, the ghost of a sting. Ski’s dating again.
This letter is to confirm your acceptance into the Sarah Lawrence Summer Seminar for Writers to be held June 22 through June 27. Pay up.
Running on empty. Night sky, a haze of stars, cold wind whipping through the open window. I’m a fugitive, a loner, a Springsteen lyric. My hand cups the wind. The fluorescent signs rushing past. Motels dying by the side of the road. “Life’s a journey, not a destination” read a poster in my Sunday school classroom, many years ago. I step on the accelerator.
The lessons we’ll never learn.
Estragon: I can’t go on like this.
Vladimir: That’s what you think.