Northwest Writer

In the earliest red dawn we’re on the highway. Summer. The whole rolling ritual of America with scalloped-wire phone poles over rows of lettuce, chrome and bullet taillights, leaded gas, last-chance billboards, caverns, trading posts, teepees, dams, bridges, diners, laminated menus with photographs of steak, neon-trimmed motor courts, moths, brown chenille bedspreads, and little bars of Dial.

I remember powdered sugar doughnuts and a paper cup of milk––someone else’s city park with morning traffic humming by, summer. Later, sweat-stuck in the back seat, hair static-blasted by the wind, my sister Deb and I plug in our curled-fist microphones. We are lip-synching Shirelles, we are Ray Charles backup, we are Marvelettes.

The highway unzips time so we can rush toward ourselves. Forever setting out, forever chasing down the shimmer-heat of farther-on, forever switching lanes and flicking lights to pass a produce truck or parallel a train that curves around the earth. Where was that city park? Tulsa? I’m looking for the moment of deliverance from my safer self, as if a certain rolling distance lets me show up unencumbered for the here and now. I love the ribbon through the desert, sunset-shadows long across the road, a city spangled on the far horizon, drift-pink clouds indifferent over all the magic towns. Barstow. Needles. Santa Rosa. Tucumcari.

“Highway” first appeared in New Mexico Review.