We have been driving down an open expanse, but are still confined to a two-lane highway. The words she says as she sits next to me begin to come back into focus. She sits there, with her complete form, pressing the window button down. I'm not paying attention to what she is saying because the horizon is much more interesting.
In photography class you are taught that when a photographer splits the horizon and foreground in equal parts, it comes out boring. They say that when the horizon line is higher or lower, it looks much more interesting. You learn the rule of thirds. Perspective. From here I'm not sure whether the horizon is split, or where it starts for that matter. I look ahead and think the same. From here I can't decide if this place really is all that beautiful. After all, as I come around the next hill, the horizon is perfectly split in my eyesight.
She says something about getting motion sickness from all of the turns. I tell her, that its practically straight cruising after the next few minutes or so. Says so on the map. Another hour passes and we are in the middle of an open plain again. There is a difficult contrast between what I see in my rear view mirror and what I see through the front windshield. This isn’t even a farm. It could have been wheat, or corn, or any other kind of product that takes up acres upon acres. Here it is just grass. I don't know whether she ever stopped talking or not, but right now she is mentioning something about the puppy at home. She says it is going to forget who its owners are if we keep going away so often. “Selene“, i tell her, “fuck the dog“.
She stays silent.
I don't remember the last time we were out here. Whether we have traveled this road. For sure, we have been here before. It's all the same place if you consider we have been traveling in the same car. The same fields, the same mountains. The same eye candy through the windshields. The only thing that changes are the billboards. Later towards dusk, a blinding sun sets. Instinctively I peer over and try to shut my eyes to shield myself from the rays. I get a feeling of vertigo. The kind when you lean over a railing, looking down at dozens of flights of stairs in a spiraling, locked case of ivory. Looking back on the road, I get that feeling you have after walking down all of those stairs. That split feeling of accomplishment and disappointment.
“We need to stop“, I tell her.
A short exhale and I expect to hear words but don't.
As we drive on, I being to wonder where the next motel may be. What kind of lousy name it will have. I wonder, what state are we in? Are we in Texas? Nevada
It doesn’t really matter. I’m not sure where we started. Where we have stopped. It doesn’t really matter all that much. In the next few minutes what matters to me is the odd figure ahead. It is beginning to get darker, so I cannot make the figure out from this far. Time to turn on the headlights, I suppose. It must be a person. We pass a sign that indicates the next town is only 6 and a half miles away. “Maybe this guy up here needs a lift”, I tell Selene.
“Maybe we should hurry to the motel“, she says.
She never likes to stop.
I can find out more details as we come closer down this highway. This single array of constantly converging lines. There are tire marks in the road. Skid marks. There is a car over the side of the highway. I’d call it burgundy. It doesn’t seem like there is any damage to it. It’s lights are on, so this guy’s battery is surely working. We are speeding too fast to see anything else. All that I catch is the turning of the man's head as we pass by. No hand or signal for us to stop at all. I felt a shiver transverse down my spine.
When there is an accident on the side of the street, your first instinct is to slow down, and examine the accident carefully. See if you can find any bodies. Even kids do this.
For some reason, it felt more like he was examining us. As if he was slowing down and we were still. I shake it off, and we finally get to this next town. Selene didn’t catch what the name was.
As we settle our things in the damp, claustrophobic motel room, she pauses.
“Why didn’t you stop for that man?” she asks.
“You never really stop“, I reply.
She says, “you could have slowed down to see if he needed help.”
This is getting me frustrated. Selene and her questions. She always knows the response. Always seems so shocked to hear them.
“You would not have stopped“, I tell her. Something in my tone upset her.
She does not reply, and goes back to unpacking her things.
The night passes as it does out here. Coyotes howl in the distance but I can not tell how late it is. When morning rises, I'm sitting out in front of the motel. Quality Motel.
Behind me is a mosaic of slot-filled pale-green furnished rooms. Ivory curtains.
In front of me is a horizon. I can see more of the sky than the ground. I used to think that negative space did not matter when the colors were beautiful. I guess that back then, I didn’t consider the black and white. I stretch my legs out. Free coffee usually tastes better than coffee that you pay for. Here, I’d prefer tap. I was sure we were the only ones traveling this road, but I am proved wrong when an ambulance passes. Shortly after, a tow truck carrying a massive pile of what I’d call burgundy car wreckage follows. The twisted mess passes, and I cock back my head.
I call Selene out and tell her, “you know, we never really stop.”