3/5/10

Barry Graham

13 WAYS OF LOOKING AT A ROADTRIP

I killed a woman when I was ten years old. Me: kicking rocks in the middle of the road. Her: taking the blind curve much too quickly.

***

I thought about stalking her children. Finding her daughter and learning of her dreams and aspirations and earning her confidence and making her love me then running my tongue from her belly button to her clit on top of an old mattress with no sheets.

***

The way her sweat will taste when we’re both dripping wet and I lick it from the nape of her neck, then wash her hair in ocean water and brush it while she eats pizza and tells me all the things she never told anyone else. And I play along, then tell her I caused the accident.

***

Road signs for places I’ve heard in songs and read in books but never seen. Merle Haggard’s Muskogee. John Berryman’s McAlester. He was born there, John Smith, in 1914. It took him forty-eight years to find the right bridge.

***

I found a small spot along I-40, just west of Little Rock, good for nothing but disappearing.

***

The toothless hitchhiker I picked up outside of Lawton. We talked about dyslexia and high school football in Texarkana. He smelled like cheap red wine and regret, like a father whose children won’t attend his funeral. I dropped him off in Henryetta and he asked for money before he got out. I gave him eight bucks and told him that’s all I had even though it wasn’t.

***

Last summer I hitchhiked from Reno to Brooklyn in three and a half days after dropping two hundred dollars in a whorehouse in Carson City and another six hundred in one hand of Texas Hold’em. An old man in a blue SUV drove me from Nevada into Arizona. He gave me fifty bucks and his address in New Mexico and I promised to mail the money when I got home. He’s still waiting. Hopefully he’ll die soon, relieving me of one more expectation I can never live up to.



***

If you get picked up by an Indian in a baby blue pick up truck and he drops you off in the middle of a reservation after sunset in Eastern Nevada, despite his smile and reassurances, his intentions are suspect at best.

***

Her curly blonde hair swung in stride with her hips when she spoke, when she wrote down my order for bbq beef brisket and catfish, when she called every customer baby in her thick Arkansas drawl. I thought about how easily southern accents made my dick hard and the possibility of words having enough power to cause an orgasm. I secretly hoped she was lonely enough to fall in love with me. I called her back over to the table to refill my water and find out the truth.

***

The opossum in the far left lane, looking me in the eyes, just before I splattered his brains on the highway. My envy of his inability to fear death.

***

I used to live along the bank of the River Raisin where it was common to see small animals in the woods. One morning a raccoon came waddling out from beneath the underbrush. He looked sick or blind or both. I shot him in the face with my pellet gun. He couldn’t see where it came from so I shot him again. And again. One after another into his face. He climbed a tree and I kept firing. Over two hundred pellets until I ran out and went home. The next day I returned with my father’s rifle but the raccoon wasn’t in the tree. He was on the ground, red mush where his face should have been. No mouth. No teeth. No ears. No eyes. Just the goddam red mush and I went home.

***

My uncle, a third degree black belt and former member of the Johnston Gang, told me that my father was the only man he ever met that truly had no fear. I knew this wasn’t true. He was forty-nine years old when he died hooked to an oxygen tank. I went to see him two days before he passed. His skin was yellow and his lips were dry and cracked and his flesh smelled like it already started to decompose. My grandmother said he hadn’t slept in four days because he knew when he did he wasn’t waking back up. I sat beside him on the couch and looked in his eyes for hours and hours and when I knew in my heart that he was scared of dying I went home.

***

Clichés are clichés for a reason. They’re trustworthy, easy to confide in, like bus drivers and apple eaters. So here it is. Fuck the place you were born. If it was that great you’d still be there. Home is where your heart is.


Barry Graham teaches writing at Rutgers University and he wrote The National Virginity Pledge. Look for him online at http://www.dogzplot.com/

2 comments:

  1. Brilliant. Love this, Barry. Powerful stuff.

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  2. Wow. You, sir, have a way with words, to use another cliché. This is a really amazing piece.

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