It’s all empty beer cans and skinny dipping. (Bud Light and chlorine.) A guitar player with a beard who won’t let go as hard as you do. It’s teasing the strings of your orange bikini while he tosses his trunks onto the stone. It’s the ease of your body through dark water. The day he taped a letter to your door, when he played that same chord, asking you not to leave, to live inside yourself for a while. It’s this night, when he strums the water and says, “I guess there’s a little Jill Talbot in all of us.” And you worry where that leaves you.
It’s distracting, watching out a kitchen window while the clock hands on the wall stretch into an L. Sheets taut as a boxing canvas. Now it’s twenty after. And the gravel in the drive is still, unscattered. It’s a woman in a purple coat bobbing through the back gate to peer through the dusty window of your garage. And you weaving behind the curtain. It’s an empty back bedroom, where the phone throws its high-pitched rings like punches.
It’s all apologies. Or the ones you should offer but never do.
It’s running red lights after midnight. Drinking hours before the party and tripping over a rock in the living room (this one a Ph.D. student in Geology). It’s stumbling from the back steps to find him surveying her neck with his tongue. You get to your Jeep, corrade empty streets, do that screaming crying thing you do and strike the dash with the flat of your hand. Every red light a dare.
It’s all underlining words in used novels.
It’s crossing borders. A two-buck boat ride across the Rio Grande and a dusty truck, a street with a corner canteen with bars on the windows (but no doors). It’s straddling a swayback horse out to the edge of town to talk with a woman who left Texas when her husband died. It’s sharing an ashtray and stubbing out the afternoon. One sad story at a time. It’s standing on a rock overlooking the river and seeing your life from a different country while the sun drops its orange curtain. A desert inside you.
It’s all thunderstorms in the distance.
Blinking lights on the answering machine.
A pay phone on the corner.
It’s running away from yourself knowing it’s something you can never really do.
82 west out of Lubbock.
Jill Talbot is the author of Loaded: Women and Addiction, co-editor of The Art of Friction: Where (Non)Fictions Come Together, and the editor of Metawritings: Toward a Theory of Nonfiction. Her essays have appeared in or are forthcoming from DIAGRAM, Ecotone, The Normal School, Passages North, The Paris Review Daily, The Pinch, Seneca Review, Zone 3, and more.