Postcard From the Middle of Nowhere

We were on the umpteenth hour of a long drive to an uncertain future upstate, and we were fighting. Our quarrel was a petty thing, over who’s turn it was to select the music, but wrapped in the paper folds of that argument was one of the Big Fights, shaped and polished by future fears and past hurts, set to weigh every thing down. Ours had reached a state of silent attrition, measured out in miles passed mutely, both of us knowing the first to speak would be the first to concede defeat. 

I told you once how as a child I’d refused to speak to my family for over a week, purely out of spite. You knew this about me, knew that I very likely would refuse to breach that wall. And so you laid down arms first. “Pull over,” you said, and then again, with greater insistence, as though you needed to relieve yourself. 

Instead you grabbed your camera and trotted out into the tall wild grass, towards a nearby hill. “C’mon,” you shouted over your shoulder, beckoning me as though we hadn’t been locked in smoldering hostility. 

“Watch out for snakes,” I called after you. I followed, the grass scratching at my bare legs. It irritated me. I was prepared to let you know just how much. 

There was an old house on the hill ahead, squatting amongst a few autumnal trees. It was one of dozens we’d seen scattered along the interstate, shacks, barns, and homesteads left over from the days of westward expansion. Nothing but the few leftover bones of the corpse of a history otherwise long since rotted away. 

At so many you stopped to take photographs, and with each delay my irritation grew, doled out in the ceaseless click click click of the shutter. I loved your work, I did, but I did not love the needless hours on the road, nor the anticipatory smell of photo chemicals lingering in our bathroom later on. 

Here was another of these relics, the paint faded, the windows gone, the memories it once contained ground away by time. 

“I’m getting hungry,” I said. The hour was late, and the light fading.

“Just wait a minute,” you said. But you didn’t raise your camera. Instead you reached out, and took my hand. “Wait,” you said again. 

And then the setting sun dipped behind the house, and I saw what you were waiting for. 

The house glowed. It simply glowed. The light passed though every crack, every broken-out window, every open door, brilliant reds and oranges of the crepuscular hours under the dusky sky washing over it like a child’s watercolor set tipped on edge. 

You gripped my hand tighter, and I held yours back. Together we watched as the passage of the world turned something old and dead into a moment of living beauty, and held onto each other as though we’d never let go again.

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