by Trevor Ellestad
We got caught up in the fog. Chained to our car seats, I wanted to take the long way but I still didn’t know the roads of this city well enough to fool you like that. You were born here and knew that there in fact was a fog season and this wasn’t just some plaything that global warming had decided to give us this year for Halloween. This fog wasn’t some trick of the spooks tending house, hanging up cobwebs and setting up the coffins to tip over at just the right second.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you can’t expect anyone to change. And it was here, when I was really listening to you . . . listening like I had ears, long lost ears that I had misplaced over and over again with every man that I’d ever been with, it was then that I realized that maybe I had changed, because I didn’t expect you to. And even as I could taste the smoke in your mouth and I could smell it on your baby blanket sweater, I thought that perhaps I was lucky that you were here now, and not before. Because the I that was me then couldn’t have tasted those tastes and spent this time in sobriety and not felt like I was missing something when it was there all along.
I guess that most of us are luckier than we think, because we are almost always surrounded by love. But all the barriers that we keep up prevent us from seeing it. And it still all gets in my head. I get overwhelmed that I’m feeling something for someone. And I get scared that it’s all going to fall apart. Because right now, it feels pretty much like these things always fall apart.
I want to see us in chains. And not the chains of these seats either. I want to see us trapped, with our heads in our hands and the red in our eyes. I want to see the dark parts, because there’s part of me that just knows that the dark parts always happen eventually.
I tread lightly and I brake, reminded that I’m trying to get you home slowly. This speed that we’re travelling, it’s slower than I’m used to. And I met you on some app that pits men against other men, only days after I had written about my fear of finding something real there. And here it was, this universal laugh. I want more speed. I want it to be faster, because that would mean that you could hold me right now and I could feel that this would be something safe, it wouldn’t be something that would go away.
Because no matter how much love we have around us, it still feels risky to take all the curviest roads just after midnight with the fogs coming in. Only the men and the women that are digging the trenches in the asphalt can see with their baseball field flood lights. My little car battery is struggling to break the curling thickness with its shallow lights. But the road here is empty tonight, so I’m safe to swerve a little into the other lane and still feel on track.
You give me a shortcut, and I hate that we’re driving on roads I didn’t even know about. I hate that your house might just appear any second. We speed past an industrial building with white holding tanks that look like ships out to sea, their lights glaring at us as they cut through the fog. I wish I could just touch the water with you, because something tells me that would feel about right.
There’s such curiosity in these interactions with new people, which start so fast. You want to trust. We are raised to trust those who are kind, and those who smile. We’re taught to be wary too, because sometimes there’s something frightening underneath all that radiance. All of us caught between something our mothers told us one day and something our mothers told us the next.
I pull up to your house too fast. I get stuck in this feeling like I’m in high school again and I’m dropping you off at your parents’ house, and I have to get home for curfew and tell Mom that I’m home safe too. She’ll be sleeping but it’s the rule for me to crawl into her room and tell her that everything is okay. That I’m safe. Tell her that I’m happy, even if she doesn’t wake up. Even when my breath smells like booze and there’s smoke on my fingers, I can still get away with it, because she’ll probably just stir and fall back asleep.
Then I’ll retreat to my room and stare out the window at the prairie concrete world where I was raised, with its young little trees pretending the soil of those windy foothills is somewhere for trees in the first place. And then pull out my Discman and listen to long dreamy ballads from some Sarah or Ani or Rae or Dolly or Ryan or Thom. I’ll hear the occasional car driving down this abandoned road and look at whatever little patch of sky I can see through my tiny suburban window, and think someday I might feel safe. I might feel just a little how this feels tonight twenty years on, and not be so alone in this body, in this prairie place.
I’m back on the road and I drive home. Quickly and more usually, smooth and solid turns on the road. Driftless. I play songs through my phone and this cord here makes it play on the radio. Small changes in the way that we do things. I don’t even know any of the names of the singers anymore, because our brains don’t seem to work like that when we’re flooding them with SO. MUCH. MORE. And I look out my window and this world is still concrete, but it moves past me now. I’m not the one who moves. And the trees don’t have to struggle so much because this here is a green place. The same green green green that rushed past my parents’ windows when I turned my whole life into Tupperware and traveled through the mountains to stay more than a decade ago.
The water in the air is packed together, lying like a blanket on the asphalt as I park the car. I get into the apartment and I’m trapped here in this awake. I lay here and I think, how wonderful it might be. If I just keep driving through the fog with you.