He twitches beside me on the burgundy motel bedspread. We are on the move pressing through time like lovers. Only we are cold and it is dark and it doesn’t feel much warmer with him curled up beside me — his paws running his mind away from something, his muffled barks splashing through his dreams.
It feels like years ago when I was caught between housewife and house arrest. When my cold body was intertwined with yours, when the ring on my left hand made rainbows on the wall, constantly quantifying your love.
Sometimes at night when we lay in bed studying the glow- in-the-dark stars on the ceiling left by the last people who shared a life in this 1960’s quick build stucco box, I wondered if we were thinking the same thing. Were we heroes for staying? Martyrs? Barreling through fights about curtains that aren’t really about curtains, fights about how to fight, fights about nothing and everything all in the same divisive words. Wasn’t that how every marriage was? One american family, unhappy but stuck together in spite of everything?
But now we’re not stuck. Now who’s the hero? Which one of us is the martyr?
Freedom is mauve motel rooms backlit by saccharine street lamps. Freedom is abortions and wide black asphalt, and a double yellow line streaking the space between right and wrong.
Bo’s whiskers flinch as he lies next to me dreaming. Held up in his own mind, trapped inside that body that moves and huffs and regurgitates. He reminds me of someone. The girl we never met. The little tuft of hair, the ball of cells, maybe just a tail and fingernails. But I love her anyways. Even though she has your almond eyes and my unbuttoned nose, even though she’s the epitome of everything thats wrong with us, I stare at the bright dots of tv power buttons and red LED clocks. I pretend they’re glow-in-the-dark stars and I think of her.
We have been everywhere and still haven’t found it, that’s the problem. We have hiked through tall fat redwoods that teeter stoically above us, we have stood on cliff faces that sway above valleys and we’ve felt nothing. We have slept in cities and townships, and places with no post office. But we still haven’t found it. That life or happiness, or whatever it is we’re looking for. I don’t even know if it’s out here.
So we let ourselves into motel room after motel room. We look for the ones that say vacancy on the side, we look for the bright lights that scream low low prices. I sneak Bo in, down the same dim halls. I open the same creaky doors into the same musty smell of cigarettes and sex and humanity, and I sit on the bed, I open the window and light one. Not because I’m hooked again, believe me, but because I just want to be a part of this — Those forbidden trysts, those midnight escapes, those endangered loves that once clinked glasses across this queen bed divide. And I think about a life I once had, and a future still so vivid it’s impossible to believe those one-days were wasted for all of this. This nomadic impotence, this rigid sameness that you’re still paying for.
We were like something out of a TV show you and I. We called our love passionate, but ours was a learned romance. We knew how to jab and dodge like Mohammads and Rockies, though we didn’t leave bruises, most of the time. But like our parents we drank ourselves stupid, like our parents we didn’t understand who our real enemy was.
The real shitty part is, I’ve ran thousands of miles away from you, and I still don’t know where we’re going. How do I up and leave this life. How do I run away from running away?
I put out my cigarette and close the window to the dark November night. It’s cold enough here everything freezes. In the morning I’ll have to scrape ice off the windshield of the truck, I’ll have to pray even harder that she starts up. I’ll have to sit there in three layers of jackets waiting for the heat to come on.
The window thunks closed and Bo stirs, big brown eyes blink sleepy at me.
“What?” I say, but he thumps his tail once and closes his eyes again. I hardly recognize the sound of my voice. It’s old and stale like my mother’s was. Years of cigarette smoke coats consonants with grit.
I curl up beside him and close my eyes. His breathing reminds me of yours at night, open mouthed and heavy. His heart beat sets the time, a slow dance rhythm, the echo of a base drum.
Tomorrow we’ll keep running away. We’ll press through time, two souls caught together like lovers. Though we’re not lovers, and it’s still cold even when I curl up next to him and try to fall asleep.