One More Cup of Coffee for the Road: In Another Lifetime

Long, long ago, in the sweltering twilight of an August night
roaring with cicadas and the vacuum hum of a lazy small town in retreat
from the heat and the falling darkness, the yards and sidewalks
abandoned for living rooms and television sets (the wobbling blue
screens of which we could see through the dark, otherwise blank window
frames and the gauzy, fluttering filter of curtains), I bucked you
across town through the empty streets on my stingray bike.

We were hunched together on my sparkling blue banana seat; I was
pedaling furiously and you were clinging to the sissy bar. I wished you
had been clinging to me, wished you would put your arms around my
chest, but it was nice to feel you there behind me all the same, nice
to hear your laughter (all the wonderful variations of your wonderful
laugh) ringing out over the silent neighborhoods and your voice at my
ear and your breath in my hair.

I don’t know, can’t remember, where we were going. We weren’t,
though, going to the Dairy Queen, where everyone else always seemed to be going and where the moths were in full swirling
frenzy around the streetlamps in the parking lot. We were headed, I’m
sure, elsewhere.

We were in search of what you called a grassy horizontal, and we had darkness in mind, I think, and so we’d ride out to where the futile
over-light of that shitty little town gave way suddenly to a great
stretch of emptiness, where the pavement turned to gravel, where there
were fields rolling away into the distance, and where there was a muddy
creek and there were railroad tracks and trains (which sounded, you
said, like iron waterfalls, and which I’ve always said sound like
something heavy being carried away) crawling off into the night, out
into an America we could only then imagine.

But which we did imagine, together, breathlessly, with ridiculous
hope and optimism. That place was where we knew we would eventually
have to go to make our escape, to complete the process of becoming, to
find ourselves even as we lost each other.

That was also the place, the place beyond our close little world
whose secrets and sadnesses we felt certain we had already divined,
where we would one day, through exactly the sort of occasional miracle
this world is still capable of delivering, find each other again.

I am still, every day, my sister, my old friend, stunned by this
miracle, still gratefully puzzled by my bounty of blessings entirely
undeserved. And now it always seems to be that same magic dusk I
remember, and I find myself once again in the position of trying to
talk you onto the back of my stingray bike, trying to convince you to
ride with me out beyond the false, feeble light of that low town, away
from and out from under the people we have allowed ourselves to become;
trying to get you to slow down and to listen again to the roaring
silence and the moving water and the watch-winding racket of insects
throbbing from the ditches, and to lie on your back with me marveling
at the stars and the heat lightning trembling down the dark sky across
the fields.