Friday, March 8, 2013

Pile of Clothing Found at a Rest Stop in Stutsman County, North Dakota


     State lines unstitched beneath your wheels, the tapestry unraveling as if never strung up in the loom. Your past flapping behind you like a rag knotted to a fender, you hurtle westward with one hand on his knee, kneading the denim beneath your fingers, the bucket seats squeezed so far forward by the trash in the backseat your foreheads kiss the windshield. You have become a pinball machine with no flippers, a pool table with only two legs. As you skirt the lips of sinkhole volcanoes and whack the axles on the faultline speedbumps, you hold up your energy drink and cry: Here’s a toast to all the meals we don’t remember, the identical restaurants where nothing of interest ever happened. Here's to the giant plaster animals by the side of the highway, the illuminated dinosaurs that cry out for us to fill our gas tank with their liquified bones.

     Was there ever a moment when you actually thought the search for love was over? No, you claim there was but you never really believed it. You always foresaw some massive stroke, some toppling from the roof, some public stoning, some tractor trailer crashing through the living room, making you at last truly one with the couch. You wipe the grease from your cheeks with your index finger and stop pretending to smile. The stars (or were they polka dots?) and stripes of your youthful wardrobe suddenly seem pointless and infantile, mere surface decorations to distract from the fact that the clothes were flimsy and didn’t fit that well to begin with. For years you tried to wriggle free of those garments but the fabric kept snagging.

     Your glances always slide into the corners of any room you enter and get stuck there. Your boots thunder like bison hooves across the linoleum. Your high cheekbones arouse in strangers the desire to confess every microscopic sin. Not him, though, your stoic sidekick, your passive passenger- his lips are buttoned, zippered, velcroed shut. You should face each other, stare into one another’s eyes and not say anything until you can fucking live with it. Because it’s just you and him now, out here in the billboard-infested wilderness, collapsing backwards into the gaping maw of history. I mean victory. Either way, it means nothing. You lie on your back and flap your arms in piles of ice dumped from motel buckets to mark the spot where the glacier used to be, the one named after your great-great-grandfather. You eulogize the days of desperate dredging, pretend there had never been a thaw. Rent a U-Haul to speed across the busy page, try to rewrite this manifesto of density. You crab your fingers along the wheel, make room for every dark impulse to slip through, clear a space on your scalp for a brand new backwards baseball cap to be erected.

     Until finally, weary, you pull into the lot, disregarding the yellow lines painted there to help you align yourself. It’s too late for that now. You’re scraping the bottom of the national barrel now, my love, my favorite fellow citizen. You’ve burnt all the milk and soaked all the toast, and you’re left staggering along the side of the highway with each hand stuck in a jar, the soles of your shoes sticking in the tar. Unzip your trash bag trousers, peel back every patch with your ragged nails, expose those holes in the khaki landscape. Wear those gaps in the fabric of your memory with pride. We are the last of the American amnesiacs. This land was built on our limitless ability to forget, to effortlessly step out of our old skins and leave them by the side of the road for some wandering stranger to discover, our footprints in the dust weaving toward the setting sun.

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