To Be So In Love

To Be So In Love

We stand in the shower. Gogo and I. Holding our bodies tight, close together. Hot taps run and burn our skin, splash between our fingers and toes. Then: We’re falling into the fresh sheets of the feather bed just outside the door, our bodies wrapped in blankets and sheets, surrounded by pillows, a warm and safe space where anxiety disappears with the dust on the floor.

There is a small bar that sits at the end of the block. It is an old, rickety place that still smells of cigarettes even though cigarettes have been banned for years. It’s warm inside, always, no matter the season. People yell for drinks and cheer their favorite teams playing on the TV overhead. Chips in bags hang from the rack on the wall behind the bar. There is a dartboard on the wall in the back, hanging slightly crooked, like an open mouth with sharp teeth. Have another drink. The game above is last second, hold-your-breath, one shot, two-points, three, down-to-the-wire. We throw darts and I let her win. Then she lets me win and we both go home happy.

We talk about leaving. A trip across the country. Long ago, when the wide-open spaces of the country were still a mystery. When the open road could stretch on and on. Until finally it came to an end at the edge of the ocean. Anything is possible at the end of the world.

America is not the mystery it once was. Her curves have been brought out into the light. Her rolling hills and long prairies and badlands now documented and developed. But we talk about it anyway. Talk about getting away. From here. No need to look back.

“There wouldn’t be, would there?” Gogo asks. “Any reason to look back?”

The world is still a big place (or – it can be.) It’s the little things that make it so: It’s happiness in small bars, throwing darts and drinking beer the snobs will tell you is swill, listening to townies shout to the cadence of sports-announcers’ voices. It’s walking back home as snow begins to fall and listening to your boots crunch-crunch along on the sidewalk. It’s the warmth of the apartment when you get inside. It’s having breakfast at the all-night diner at midnight. It’s flying and falling and catching and getting up again.

If we’re going to leave, we’re going to leave together. If you’re going to run, I tell her, I’m going to run, too.

“If you’re going to run,” I say, “I’ll run with you.”

Gogo smiles and nods her head. But she is thinking something like, That’s what all the boys say, isn’t it? and it’s true that actions speak louder than words. I can say anything I want. I can whisper things in her ear, soft-and-sweet at night between sheets. It isn’t until she’s getting into the car, the engine running, coughing, asking if I’m coming along – asking if I’ll leave everything behind to start fresh somewhere new, somewhere we’ve never been – that she’ll know if my words were true or if I was only trying to slip my hands into her pants and my tongue in her ear.

So we drive and we drive. We watch the lights change on the street. We listen to music on the radio. There are words and shouts around the windows, brought by the wind because in the city you’re never truly alone. But then – when you leave the city behind and it’s nothing but open road and Iowa grass and Nebraska corn and Texas oil fields, then – then – you might hear the things that can’t be captured by pictures on the internet.

And here Gogo will laugh, her head thrown back, because we don’t know anyone around these parts. Here we’ll find a lonely hotel on the side of the road where we’ll take a shower together and the taps will run hot down our skin, between our fingers and toes. Where we’ll fall into the bed, even though we know someone has probably slept there before us, wrapped tight in blankets, and where we’ll laugh and forget, for a while at least, that the world outside is still there waiting for us to fall. We’ll forget, for a moment, that the words we heard on the wind are real words, and that, no-matter-what, at some point, we’ll run out of road, and there won’t be any hotels left and we’ll have to see whether or not dreams actually do come true at the edge of the world.

We leave in the morning. The sleepy sergeant who runs the front desk, still wearing his uniform from the war, takes our room keys and hands us the bill. He nods as we pay and slumps again at the desk next to his bottle of whiskey and falls back to sleep.

Gogo takes the bottle and slips it into her shirt, winking at me while the sergeant snores. We run back to the car, covered in dust that turned to mud with the morning dew. We start the car and keep driving. We know the end is coming soon. We’ll come to a skidding halt and the tires will smoke and we’ll say something like, “Here we are. What do we do now?”

And so Gogo speaks less and less as we go along, taking long drinks from the bottle, they call it hooch around here, looking out the window to the endless expanse of countryside, listening closely, and hopefully, for the poetry she heard was hiding in the brush.

It’s hot and we’re sweating in the car. We always sweat in stories like these. If we weren’t, if we were cold, if we were still shivering in the dead of Minnesota winter, we wouldn’t be able to have thoughts like these. We would scrape ice from the windshield and windows before we could drive anywhere. We would have realized the warmth of the apartment, the warmth of drinks from the bar down the street, the warmth of blankets on the couch, cuddled up while watching old movies with happy endings (or endings that at least make you think…), we would have realized the warmth of these things is better than running south where we don’t know anyone. Where the ocean is supposed to give us the answers we could never find on our own. And this, in the heat, the dusty Texas prairie, across the general rumble of the road, surrounded by country whispers and the wind, this I finally understand. This, I know, is what it means to be truly, completely, gone.

The ocean sparkles like diamonds, and that might be enough. “We’re far away from home,” Gogo says, “and that might be enough.” She smiles and finishes the bottle. She throws the bottle as far as she can into the grass. She jumps into the sea. I follow.

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To Be So In Love