Tuesday, August 16, 2005


A few weeks ago we went to the Tropical Treat, where people park their cars in two long rows, and wait for teenage girls in bright T-shirts to come take their orders for root beer floats. We stood outside in line. It was July, maybe the fourth, evening, and everything else was a green field.

Do you see them, child? an old man asked, looking behind me at the corn across the road, the woods. There are three.

I looked. Deer. The highway, the corn.

A group came out of the back, near the picnic tables, and got on the bikes parked at angles in the lot. All of us in line, old men, mothers, turned to watch them. I watched the girl with the long loose black hair, the lipstick, tattoos on her legs. I watched the way she hung off him, lazily, hardly holding on. They pulled onto the road. When he hit the pavement, gunning, she bounced once; her hair streamed behind.

I have often wanted to be the girl on the back of the motorcycle. I have often wanted to be the singer with the corset top, the one who smokes, the one who looks bored, the one who studied opera, the one we left at the bar talking to the older man with the cane; he said she knew him so it was all right.

Once I was the girl on the back of the motorcycle. If I don’t bring your girlfriend back in a few days, go on with your life, my friend said as we left. But he made me wear leather and long sleeves and a helmet, and we were home from West Virginia in four hours. I knew him so it was all right.

Deer. The highway, the corn.

I have often wished myself elsewhere.

Tomorrow I am going to the mountains. Tell me the way to the blueberry field and I will go there.

But first, I was driving. An old silver mail truck turned off the road, up a driveway that spit dust, up to a farmhouse with a porch, laundry, corn. I wanted to be the one driving the truck, bringing the mail. More than that, I wanted to be the woman waiting inside the house. More than that, I wanted, finally, to be exactly what I was: a girl in a white dress, come to say goodbye.