By Kansas, her neck sloped down to her shoulders as gently as the prairie rolled out and away from the road. By Oklahoma, her heart was a plateau she was ready to push everything over. By Texas her skin began to peel. She stopped for gas and almonds and sunscreen.
She’d wanted it her whole life. She built it once when she was a child, and had been revising it in her mind until three days ago, when she signed over her Tercel as down payment.
For that first draft, she’d collected wood scraps from the construction site next door – from the growing skeleton of a house that would soon harbor the freckled shit-wad who would publicize everything she wanted to keep from view, so that her life became a series of deeper and deeper retreats. Then, in a Dumpster behind the JoAnn’s, she found scraps of linen and burlap and vinyl that she used to cover the miniature windows, to upholster the tiny bench seat where she dreamed a real version of herself would read books while mountains rose up behind her, behind the glass.
Always, she’d preferred gray days when the sky hung low and heavy, hemming her in. When she was twelve and needed x-rays of her mouth, they’d lain her on a table and spread a heavy smock across her body. She was disappointed the x-rays took only a couple of minutes.
For the real Winnebago, an ’06 Voyage 34, she signed over her Tercel, and thought the chances were fifty-fifty that Jeremy would take care of the monthly payments as the statements arrived in the mail, until he heard from her. Did the hope in his brain make her love him more?
The gas was cheap, the sunscreen was Banana Boat, and the almonds were dry-roasted. The boy who took her money had the same indestructability of her own son; she would have hated him before she became mother to a boy. Now all she had was her love and this other, aimless energy.
The air outside was cool. The sky was wide and open and pink. The Winnebago ticked as it cooled itself and she counted off seconds between ticks to see if they occurred at regular intervals. Have the humility to learn from others. She did love her strange husband, who took so much more than he could ever see for granted. Her phone rang in the glove box. It hadn’t rung as much that day as it had the day before, or the day before that. And its tone had changed. She let it stop ringing then took it out of the glove box and turned it off. Either there were limits out there to catch her, or there weren’t.
She watched the boy watching her through the window, though with the sunset reflected in the glass, there wasn’t much she could see about his face.
by Meghan Gilliss