Posts Tagged 'road trip'

Zola labors

She refused a cigarette and did not want to sit down.

“I have been jealous before, don’t think I haven’t. This just isn’t it.” She said. She paced and the light in the room was hard and white. She was soft and brown. Soft and brown and angry, in more trouble than she knew. Too young, this girl. Odds were against her, if you want to know the truth.

“Tell us again why you shot him,” said the younger man, who might have been good looking if it weren’t for the bad skin and that expression. A flat expression, flat like a sidewalk, that gave nothing back. Zola stopped pacing and smoking for a minute to look at him. She had the cigarette hanging out of her mouth, like she’d practiced when she was learning how to smoke, and it was burning her eyes. She wiped them dry, and put the cigarette out.

“Going to tell you again that I didn’t shoot him. You got a hearing problem?” She said and she looked at him and dared him to tell her fuck-all. She rubbed her big belly and said she needed to sit down before she went into labor. The younger man looked away, sudden discomfort marking his face, adding to the acne scars and he looked too young to be hard like a sidewalk. She felt sorry for him, with that bad skin, maybe he might not be such a bad guy if…

The older man interrupted this line of thought with a sudden hard bang on the table. Hey, she thinks, suddenly energized by loud noises at this late stage of her pregnancy, these two are playing good cop/bad cop with me. The fog and the hormones cleared like a rough weather front all of a sudden and she played her one and only card. Childbirth. Clutching the belly, she crouched suddenly down and commenced a good primitive wail, like she’d learned in that Lamaze class her social worker had been taking her to. She leaned, she wailed, she tried to pee herself but couldn’t quite manage it. Bubba one and two couldn’t tell, though; she’d scared them already with that first round of deep breathing.

Zola prayed to the gods of delivery to spare her from an actual early labor, and they were listening. She was out of the hard tile room with the sharp white light and into the warm unconditional arms of her social worker and a maternity ward, where she spent the next three weeks as a ward of the state, eating good and with blankets, stuffed animals, and unlimited cable TV. They cut off her cigarettes, but this was better than jail and interrogation, she figured, and when she did finally give birth to that hairy little girl, she was happy to see the pink skin and the long newborn fingers, and all in all, she was glad she scared holy crap out of a couple of redneck cops if it led to this cadillac delivery, all nice and clean like she’s a lady with full medical coverage and a husband somewhere waiting in the hallway to come in after all is birthed and bathed and settled to pretty rights.

On more than one occasion in the life of Zola Gorgon, she’d fallen into a hormonal trance that convinced her that all was well and safe and easy. On more than one occasion, she’d snapped out of it in time to avoid permanent damage. This was one of those times.




When in the course of human events, when of course there are human events, when warm human events wrap us in parchment and sign our names, we are moved. We are moved to look out into the night sky, in search of lights. Even here, so far south, we search for the northern lights, for the glimmering surprise of celestial fractals. Fractals are proof of the inevitability and constancy of change. I have a theory about sugar crystals, about unwanted affections. I have a theory about discipline and authority, and no one will make me be silent and no one will make me say exactly what it is.

If you were a salesman, say, and you were selling blue dye in a land where blue dye had long been missing, say, then your success would depend on if the absence of blue dye was noted or whether blue dye had been forgotten. I cannot desire that which I cannot remember. Or I can desire that which I cannot remember, but I cannot say what it is. What is the word for blue dye? It is on the tip of my tongue, the tip of my tongue which is dyed blue from blueberries, dyed blue from popsicles, dyed blue from delphinium. What I need is woad, but there is no word for woad around here.


Around here, it is possible to live for months at a time without ever thinking about green. It is brown adobe grey sage yellow broom blue sky red rock white sand watermelon mountain. Then one day you are visiting your abuelita in the hospital and she is eating lime jello. She is blind, but she is eating lime jello with mandarin oranges in it, and she can taste the green even without her eyes. Tastes like grass, she says, tastes like leaves, and she smiles with her mouth and her blue tongue and you can see the lime jello in her mouth sliding down past her smile into her little abuela panza. Then she puts the spoon down and goes to sleep like a baby. You kiss her forehead and leave her there to dream of cool whip and mango pudding.

In the night skies, which are constantly turning, there are signs and symbols. A bull. A dog. An archer. A slug. A dust bunny. A cat in a yellow hat who waves as the stars roll by. Looking out the window as we drive across the desert at midnight, I see the stars rotating and dancing in the very hot sky. My hand is out the window and hot air pushes against it. I put my head on the window and it leaves a head print. I wonder if my head print is unique like my fingerprints, or are foreheads mass manufactured? One set of headbones per species, a model of the human cranium. I see the model from all sides: temporal, frontal, parietal, occipital. I am lobular, I think. I feel the bones on my head, and imagine modeling them in clay. The clay is cool, unlike my head, which is hot from the August air blowing in the car window.

A tumbleweed rushes at us in the dark, and we swerve to avoid hitting it. We wing it and it crackles under the wheels, lit and sparkling in the headlight as it disintegrates in a visual Doppler around us. It is gone and the road is a grey red path behind, a yellow black trail ahead. It is time to pull over before the hypnosis of the flashing yellow line drags us into the undertow, the undertow of road sleep. I feel the wheels pulling me down. I look at Emma, clutching the steering wheel and looking fixedly ahead of her, too much like a rabbit trapped in the high beams.

“Stop,” I say. “It is time to stop.” She says nothing.

“Stop,” I say again. “Emma.”

She looks at me. Her eyes are black. I push at her knee and her eyes quiver a little, and then she sees me.

“Oh.” She shakes her head, just a little. “Okay.”

We pull over to the side of the road. The lights are still on, illuminating the shoulder, the plastic bags, the edge of the invisible sage stretching out and out and out. We sit still for a minute, then she turns the lights off. There is nothing. Not even a truck on this road that lies parallel to the interstate, that used to be busy with little stores selling rabbit’s feet and copper bracelets. Nothing but stars, and a light whistling wind in the desert all around. I climb in the back seat and stick my feet out the window. Next thing I know, it is morning. 91 degrees, 6:30 a.m. Somewhere close to hell, but farther away than we’d been this time yesterday.

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