Sunday, January 25, 2009

Country Mile


My back was against the door handle of the backseat of the car. The sizzling sound of the wheels on the wet blacktop outside irritated the inside of my ears. The green dashboard lights began to illuminate the interior of the car as the dusk darkened the sky. In the fading light, I watched the scrambling beads of water on the opposite window dance across the outside of the glass. The shapes stretched and expanded trying to break free from their constraints, but were unable to do so. Behind the action, the darkening sky was briefly brightened by a sliver of blue peaking in between the menacing autumn clouds and the green horizon they were moving towards. My legs were extended across the backseat and my feet were pressed firmly against the other door. I imagined her sitting next to me, where my legs were. I could see a smile forming at the corner of her mouth the way it always used to when she didn’t want to think I had done something funny. It had taken me a long time to realize that I really loved her, so I never told her. The last time I saw her, she was standing with a group of her friends. I had considered going over to say goodbye, but instead I nodded and exited, oblivious to the sadness in her eyes. The car rocked from a hole in the narrow two lane highway, knocking me out of my reflection. My stomach burned. I was going back home to regret.

****

The first time I remember feeling something different about her was years after we met. A lifetime. So long that I don't remember ever meeting her. She had always been there. This day was different. We were playing Connect 4 on the back patio of her mom's house in the shade. Our parents were sitting on the lawn in the sun drinking lemonade and talking about whatever. Being with her must have always been an indifferent experience - until that moment. Things had never been bad nor good when I was with her. I had been conscious of what everyone else was doing and what I was not. But, now, there we were at the table competing, which seemed to be our history. We had always played games. This time, I could not win a game. We were sitting on either side of a round patio table. I kept my gaze on the blurry textures of the glass table top. I was keenly aware of the towering dark green hedges surrounding the rectangular yard and of the slowly moving shadow of the house drifting across the lawn. I could not look at her, because I was afraid of my nervous confusion. She continued to laugh at my continuous demise and I would half-heartedly quote the bitter kid from the Connect 4 70s TV ads: "Pretty sneaky sis." This was the moment I first realized that I had become lost.

****

I followed a crack in the blacktop pathway. The incline stiffened the deteriorating joints in my legs, as I strained my neck upwards to see the top of the hill. I released a long exhale at the peak and released the tension that had built into my body and up into my temples. The low sun sat behind the seemingly endless rolling hills, making me believe or wish that there was no longer a civilization. At the same time, I felt like the tiny bumps of trees and clear cuts to the south were blocking something grand. I pondered this idea, but lost the thought while examining the shadows of the scattered pine trees dotting some of the hillsides. These shadows became the only thing in my vision that offered definition, yet they were ethereal. Those shadows aren’t really there. My mourning was tempered with pride and determination. I am better having known her.

5 comments:

  1. This is terrific, Chris! I am there, with the setting and the emotion - what a gorgeous bit of writing! Thanks for sharing it.

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  2. Thank you for the kind words!

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  3. Well, I think Marci Martin would be proud of you. I was actually thinking as I read "horror head" that I could, and would--willingly--read something like this in a book.

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  4. Beautiful piece. I can relate to the feelings.

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  5. Wow Chris....that had me riveted... You are so good at making your reader feel what you were/are feeling.

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