This night like a photograph neither one of us can make out when I call you fifteen years later to ask if you remember the gun, the men, the comet. The two of us are on the side of Highway 82 outside of Brownfield, Texas. Forty miles from Lubbock. It’s been a day-long drive, and my white Nissan is parked on the shoulder. No clouds and the moon is waning. A flash holds steady in the northern sky, the Hale-Bopp Comet. You are standing behind me, a gun in your hand. We’re both wearing our long-sleeved flannel shirts, khaki shorts, flip flops. The truck that pulled up behind us is dark, quiet, and we can’t see the men who got out of it. The back right tire of my car is flat. Flat landscapes like this make it hard to hide, but standing out here in the dark, we understand how we might easily disappear. Two states away, I read aloud as you drove us through the red dust of the Tucson Mountains. “A postcard. Neat handwriting fills the rectangle: Half my days I cannot bear not to touch you. The rest of the time I feel it doesn’t matter if I ever see you again. It isn’t the morality, it is how much you can bear. No date, no name attached.” And then I stopped, the lines too close to the things we were doing back in Lubbock. You with that one man. Me with that other. The two of us taking turns driving out of the state to change our state of mind. But every time, we’d turn your navy truck or my white car back toward Lubbock and give ourselves over to them, give ourselves away. But this night, the one right here, we’re as still as the stars, trying to hear if the men are moving, if they’re making a plan behind the slats of the truck bed to hurt us, or worse. Together we scratch down the postcard details of a close call, and I tell you what I remember most is the comet. Even now, I can still see it solitary in the clearing, the lights of a passing mystery suspended, and the two of us, not knowing how long we would be stranded by the miles of choices that defied measure or what we would, years later, be asked to bear.
Jill Talbot is the author of a memoir, Loaded: Women and Addiction, the co-editor of The Art of Friction: Where (Non) Fictions Come Together, and the editor of Metawritings: Toward a Theory of Nonfiction. Her work has appeared in such journals as DIAGRAM, The Fiddleback, The Paris Review Daily, The Rumpus, and Under the Sun. She is the 2013-2015 Elma Stuckey LAS Writer-in-Residence in Creative Nonfiction at Columbia College Chicago.