On AM Radio

There’s a city in my mind and I’m going to drive us there. My sister sits in the bucket seat next to me eating Cheetos one after another after another like she needs them to survive, and she only stops to swallow a mouthful of the dollar grape soda we picked up in bulk from a Terrible Herbst’s in Barstow or Needles or Kingman, who can remember. Her bare feet are up on the dash, smooth pink polish like Chiclets, toes dancing like a line of marionettes to the music in her mind. When she asks me where we’re going I tell her I don’t know, but I see it clearly, the city in my mind, as clear as a Christmas morning, and that’s where I need to be, and does she want to take a ride and she doesn’t even take a breath to answer yes, yes, please yes, and so here we are flying down a road to nowhere. Neither of us has unfolded a map, but so long as the signs say East then we keep driving, we switch lanes, we roll down windows, we static-search for music on the radio, but all we find is something in Spanish with trumpets and accordions or a preacher who yells at us about forgiveness and redemption and do we know the kingdom of heaven is right there waiting, waiting for us, for me and my sister as long we just—but she clicks off the radio and yells Where the fuck are the Rolling Stones? And she’s right. We need the Stones, we need Tom Petty, we need The Who. Something with a guitar riff that will carry us to the next state and a chorus that will let us scream until our lungs catch fire. But as she finishes the bag of Cheetos and throws it into the backseat where no duffle bags sit because this was not a plan this was not a vacation this was not four nights at the Radisson with continental breakfast and free HBO, so when she throws the empty bag of Cheetos in the backseat and stares out the side window watching the cactus fly by like faceless blurred men who wave to us, I know she is still thinking about the preacher on the radio and about the kingdom of heaven and the rules for getting in and do those rules apply to our mom, our mom who we had spoken to just two days ago but who is now undoubtedly waiting in line, waiting in line to see if drinking and infidelity disqualify you from the kingdom of heaven. Drinking and infidelity and hitting your daughter one time, just one time is all, and it was so hot that summer and the AC wasn’t working and your husband hadn’t been home in a week and there was a momentary lapse in judgement. And when I see her feet slip from the dash, I know she is about to spiral which I will later tell her is ok, it’s ok, it’s okay to spiral, it’s been two days and who could have prepared, let’s spiral together. But I will tell her that later. Right now as I push harder on the gas and blur the cactus that wave like men into an oblivion, I tell her don’t listen to that bastard. He’s just a preacher on AM radio, a preacher out of Barstow or Needles or Kingman. He doesn’t know shit. But there’s a city in my mind and I’m going to drive us there.  

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