1/28/11

Christopher Bowen

What Drives South

We drive north and others drive south, driving everything.

“You got a fast car. I want a ticket to anywhere. Maybe we can make a deal.” Dad’s talking to himself on the ride home again and myself not wanting to wake up to this or realize exactly how dirty my head of blonde hair is from swimming in that lake. The family lake, before the time of this eight-year-old’s ability to swim, before he thought, kicked and fought not wanting to know what can be or bite beneath so dark masses of water, beneath the surface of said water, and the grand design getaway-to-the-country-on-weekends trips, lies the purchaser long dead and into the ground buried inside the standard six feet and a grandfather…

“Dad? Dad are you crying?”

“No buddy, just the wind from the window…”

The song continues to play. It’s on repeat or rewind or eternity. “Remember when we were driving, driving in your car, speeding so fast felt like I was drunk and city lights laid out before us your arms felt nice wrapped round my shoulder?”

I always hated the end of these trips because it meant the weekend gone, back to school, books and being a kid and Dad back to residency, twelve hour shifts in a Detroit emergency room, two days on call, and a kid at heart and his heart not free.
Why does he keep playing this over and over again?

I wrestle uncomfortably with my seat belt in the truck running interstate eighty bounding with the Ohio road and myself bound. What happens to fathers when they can no longer drive to the country from three hours away to worship an earth where orchards grow planted with their son? I want to ask my dad, I want to ask him if we did good getting so many apples this time and how mom could turn them into so many things, special and carved into and a part of us like pumpkins on Halloween but eventually and foremost, into memories.

“Why doesn’t mom come on the trips to the farm, Dad?”

“Your mom works so we have a place to live, buddy.”

Dearborn, the good suburb of Detroit, treated us well as a family. This is where we lived and dad driving us.

“You and I can both get jobs and finally see what it is to be living.”

Dad looks out the truck pane window as if seeing a ghost by the road and says ‘halfway there, buddy.’ His window is half down and something tells me the wind is not what makes him cry.

“I got a job that pays all our bills…so take your fast car and keep on driving.”

I reach out my small hand the size of a small orange or small baseball when I really clench it or mean it and put it over my dad’s, which is over the stick shift of the transmission.

Seventy miles later, we will be home.


Christopher's work has been seen in Hobart, The New Yinzer, and anthologized by Fast Forward Press, among others. Aside from working and being a part-time student in food service, he also runs the website burningriver.info.

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