~click here for black & white display~
Nothing worth remembering occurred as the freeway droned between the hills of Kentucky and the rolling flatlands of Michigan. Perhaps this was because Jim drove the last long stretch of the journey. And now I stood in the driveway of the place where my family lived. The people I was related to, in a genetic kind of way, anyway. I talked through the window to Jimmy's head.
Arrangements for returning the wounded car. Estimates of what it might cost to fix the window. What we would do next. What he would do next. What I would do next.
I heard in the spaces between the words Jim spoke to me that his wind had been taken. Whatever was required, he was willing to pay it. There was a notion that he would get a job, here in Michigan. Possibly for the whole winter. I was not going to make it that long. I felt slightly dizzy, but at least glad to be clear that I could start thinking only for myself.
I couldn't blame him for loss of heart. I need hardly add that none of this was supposed to be happening. We should have been heading west, if not all the way to California, than closer than we'd gotten. Instead, our dwindling funds would buy glass for a rental company that could have crunched that whole car into a cube the size of a dorm fridge and never felt the loss.
That night I slept in my youngest brother's room. My old room, my high school room, had long ago been given to the next brother in line. So I dragged my remaining bags up to the larger attic room and tried not to scream.
I had been added back into the food chain at the very bottom rung of the ladder. In some strange way, I had the sensation of having never left, that I had never gone to college, never lived on my own, never spent four years working for my own food and shelter. I felt at odd moments as though I was just an aged high school senior, and only now could sense the vertigo that other high school seniors, ones who never assumed they would go to college, had faced. The possibility of never thinking another thought, never writing another word, never offering the least resistance, never taking another chance, stretched out towards me like an open hand. And I ran down the stairs and out of the house, until I was out of breath, until even the stars were tired of chasing me.
That next day I called Mat, my best friend from high school, who was still in school down at Purdue. I knew somehow, or hoped, anyway, that he would be home. Someone picked up, a click breaking the ringing of the phone, and pure relief at hearing his voice rippled over my forehead like a breeze hitting cooling sweat.
I told him a few things. The window. The minutes of my life that had been stolen from me. But I'm sure all he heard was the sound of my voice. Like an animal in a very small box, a box for another kind of animal entirely.
'Can I take the bus down this weekend?' This was two days away. Just barely in reach.
"Well, I can come get you, but it might be better if I drove up next weekend."
'I can't last that long man. You know how it is.'
And he did, or didn't have to think very long.
"I'll be up there in five or six hours."