Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Hitchhiker's Love Song

We see each other all the time. He'd strap a polaroid camera around his neck, collect a picnic basket and me in the beat up old truck and we'd ride - hours of sunshine and starlight, laughing at the giddy polaroids gathering in the backseat. The AC pumped out an intoxicating blend of summertime and memory and we laughed more, drunk it in, heady as an October evening. The stereo was the sound of our heartbeats, ribboning forth like a kickdrum, eternal as the wind.

We stopped often at first, doing nothing much - checking the headlights before it got dark, keeping time by the blinkers, taking laughing polaroids of the rest stops and state lines, of the two of us chewing sandwiches served from paper sacks. Lately, we've just driven and driven even though the farming towns and railroad tracks are forgotten before they're even seen. We ignore the exit signs now, ignore the restaurants and their gaudy paper napkins, just keep on driving.

We could drive like this forever, you know.

I like it when you drive better. It frees up my hands to ruffle your hair when the wind musses it and to grip the consul between us when the road turns or you start going very fast.

I tease you about your grandfatherly driving, the left-right-left-again adage and driving slow being more than just a big laugh. But we laugh anyway, you and I.

Our favorite time of day is just before the sun begins to set. In this golden light, everyone is beautiful and even our polaroids look simply lovely. Maybe it's the colorblindness you have that perceives the world in whites and greens,  or my rose-colored sunglasses, but even we are beautiful at twilight.

Sometimes, late at night, by moon or clouded skies, we pull the car to the side of the road and look at each other in the silvery grey light that follows the golden evening. Our eyes glow like nocturnal creatures and sometimes we grow afraid. Usually, we sit there in silence, our lungs heaving up the taste of memory and, still in silence, our fingers lace together like shoestrings.

Neither one of us ever stops the radio, except in those silent times without laughter. We need the sound to show us that the car is alive and will keep on running. We learn to listen for our heartbeats on the radio, proving that we are alive too. Because if all the polaroids are any measure, we're going to be here a long while yet. The wind and road signs remind us that we have a very long way to go until we get to the Pacific Ocean or Mount McKinley or the Continental Divide or wherever this old truck is taking us.  The silences will grow and the pictures will discolor. But as long as we're still here and not hitchhiking back alone, we know it's all going to be okay.

"Okay," I say, and we miss another turn.

"Okay," you reply, and crank up the radio, where our hearts beat in stereo sound.

And we know that no matter what happens, if the radio is running, the car will keep on going, and everything will be golden.


Avery said...

so purty, Catey. I love your writing.

Jill Yuen said...

Niiice. Again, I like the way I FEEL when I read what you write. I feel like I could sense the wind in my hair and now I need to go brush it. :)