Just passing through

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Black car on a black night, parked outside the tavern near the river. I don’t have a clear impression of his face. Why did I go outside, and why did he follow? Or did I follow him? We sat in the dark, me in the passenger seat, him behind the wheel, escapees from the reunion. Beyond a thin layer of trees and down a steep bank, the water would have been moving at a good clip. It had been 10 years.

Certain parts of the memory are preserved perfectly. The crispness of his sleeve as I brushed up against it, reaching for the knob on the radio. The halting, awkward conversation. We sat there long enough for the leather seat to warm under me and the quiet to deepen.

He seemed unsure about why he was there, and I may have stayed a few minutes longer than he did. I’m sure I wondered what I did wrong. I didn’t go back in to the bar.

I would wake in the morning in a cold motel room and head out without breakfast. The last of my things that hadn’t fit in the moving van in Salt Lake City were in the back of my little white car. I’d been too long in the desert. My reserves were low, and my resolve had withered and begun to crumble. But as I drove that day, as far up the west coast as I could, to where the air was cooler and the sky promised to rain, I reassembled the pieces.

I stopped for coffee when I crossed the state line.

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