This is how the story begins: you and me stealing the
car keys, jumping in my dad's sleek black car and shooting down the road.
Every afternoon we take his car down this straight black spine of a road
that scars the swamp all the way from East Beach to West Beach. This road
that slides under trees with Spanish moss clinging to the branches and
under a sun burning gold and the glassy blue sky that shows up every day.
This road that starts and ends buried in sand.
You and I roll all the windows down, singing loud with the radio.
We are two blonde girls looking at each other and not the road. We take
these drives with all the windows down, music up so loud you can feel
the drums and bass in your chest like a second heartbeat. The road is
always empty. Watch us in our sunglasses. Watch our hair that whips
around our heads like two yellow flags. The two of us, we are both too
young to drive slowly. See how you and I are not talking, but also see
how I am looking into your inky blue eyes and singing I want you and
you make me complete and don't let go.
When we rattle over bridges I take my hands off the wheel and
close my eyes just to see what will happen. We wait for that freefall
feeling, for our hearts to catch in our throats, for the shock of the
cold blue water. I think how the water will mess with the radio; probably
stop it right in the middle of our favorite song. When the fall happens,
we will know to be very quiet. We know we will slip away silent and
sink like stones, we know God will barely even notice we are gone. Mid-fall
I will open my eyes and I will turn to you and say, Jenny, but you will
have your eyes shut tight.
I drive you to the airport so you can leave me and go home,
and then you will be off to Italy. I do not pay attention to what is
happening and I do not realize you are going until you look at me with
your eyes and your breath all like that and step away to your plane.
I think about waiting and watching your plane take off but my feet don't
stop moving. Each step I take makes the necklace you gave me swing back
and hit my chest.
Don't ask me how I am calm enough to find my car, pull out of
the parking lot without hitting anyone, smile at the woman in the tollbooth
with wrinkled hands and long red fingernails and thin blue veins and
give her exact change. And I drive slowly. First time I have ever wanted
to be way below the speed limit.
I take a detour home through neighborhoods with all the houses
the old rich live in with ivy walls and iron gates and elm trees. I
drive and watch the white and yellow lines swim past. I watch the road
slide by beneath dust and water spots and glowing streaks of bugs on
the windshield. Your scent is still creased in the tan leather of the
passenger's seat. The streaks don't come off my windshield since you
talked about them. I hate every love song in the world and they are
all playing on this radio station. I punch my fingers into the buttons
but all I get is the spitting crackling static.
After four days I am digging my fingernails into my wrists.
I start talking in my sleep again, waking up and breathing your name
out loud. I never should have let you sleep in my bed. You left something
in the pillows that keeps my eyelashes shut hours after the sun slants
through the windows. And that necklace of yours. It twists around my
throat at night. It leaves red prints of stars on my neck. And in the
mornings it hangs down on that black cord, swings back and hits against
I spend these days in the sun and the nights open-eyed and awake,
watching the sky change colors, thinking about you. I go to the ocean
alone and float crucifix-style in the water, feeling the wind on my
toes, knees, curled-up fingertips, chest. When I open my eyes the world
is gray with glaring sun streaks across.
One night you call. I'm pitching green hickory nuts into the
river at low tide, looking at the water creasing through the mud and
those little purple flowers and snail shells and the Spanish moss in
the wind. You are on the phone, 650 miles away, soon to be 2,000. Fireflies
and mosquitoes creep up my knees. I am pulling Spanish moss off the
grey oak branches and threading it in my hair. You are saying everything