It’s dark out. It always is. These conversations only happen at night. Daytime shines a light too bright. You need darkness, lit only by the glow of the dashboard lights so that you can reveal only what you want; keeping the rest in shadow. The car is your cocoon wrapped in the darkness. They are confessions. They are delicate questions. They are endings and they are beginnings and they are things that will never happen. The intimacy is palpable.
Even with the windows cracked, sometimes they fog. An hour; two hours of conversation overwhelms the flow of fresh air. You hardly notice; the conversation is too intense. It rises and falls between hushed talk and long silences. The silence is for thinking…letting what was just said sink in. You break it only to give comfort or to seek to understand.
A friend tells you he is gay and is in love with another friend. He needs someone to talk to. Revealing himself would destroy the facade he’s built and nurtured. His chosen career would be out of the question. He is living in pain but it’s more comfortable to him than the alternative. You cannot help him; he cannot help himself. He is lost.
The tall striking girl, overcome by drug addiction wants you to stay. You kiss her because who wouldn’t. Later you cry because you want to love her but know you can’t. She is a lost soul…you leave her adrift, lest you drown together.
Astrid is crying on your shoulder. She is crying for what she can’t get back. Distraught, rejected, she terminated her pregnancy. She is blaming herself, but it is no use talking her out of it. She needs the guilt..it’s the only emotion she can grab ahold of. She is vulnerable, but you let it go. She loves you for that.
You know you go together. She knows you go together. But you can’t hold her. It was only for a couple days. She was in charge of the guestbook. She was the prettiest girl in the room. You don’t even know if she has a boyfriend but you know the electricity and so does she. But she can’t stay. She won’t stay. She tells you to write…but. you know she won’t write back.
You’re not saying anything. Not for two hours. You just sit there, in the back seat while someone else drives. You’re not alone but you might as well be. The people in the front seat whisper to each other, they are in a separate world, being careful not to intrude on yours. Protective, the driver looks in the back seat once, decides you’re just enjoying being together. She doesn’t turn around again. The girl has has her head in your lap, you are gently playing with her curls. You don’t know what she wants. She doesn’t know what you want. All you know is this time is rich and intimate and fleeting. You run into her again a few weeks later. Neither of you speaks of it…like it’s delicate and easily broken.
You and a buddy from work are coming back from an out of town party. He is driving with the moonroof open. There are few cars on this lonely stretch of interstate. Your seat is reclined and you’re watching the stars through the open roof. The radio is off and the only sound is the slipstream made by the car. Neither of you says anything; not for the entire drive. There are no women to distract you. No need to manufacture conversations…you’ve been through a lot together, you are comfortable in the silence, lost each in your own thoughts. He drops you at your apartment and says “good talk”. He is not being ironic.
A thousand conversations start with “Dad”. There are too many to recall. I want to change my major. I want to try fencing. I want to switch from skiing to snowboarding. Do you think I would be good at such and such? What do I do about so and so. I can’t start these conversations…which makes them so precious when they occur. They are always at night. On the Powhite in Richmond, or on I64 on the way back from skiing. No matter where, it’s always dark.
© Glenn R Keller 2021, All Rights Reserved
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