Tuesday
Jun142011

Red Roof Inn, Route 5

Kate Petersen




Easter morning. Rise again, so I do. The soap smells like bubblegum, and I am glad to be hungry. I take my overnight bag and check for nothing, since it's no longer possible to lose things under a motel bed. 

I hand the key back to the girl and take a map, which goes only thirty miles either way. That's all right, I say, I remember. Back over the Connecticut River, its surface bright and confused with cloud. The cornfield where we paid to lose each other in autumn lays fallow, waiting to be planted.

This is the last day to tell the trees apart from themselves. The buds are still clasped like dewclaws to the branches, useless, letting light between.

I drive their last barcode shadows, easing the steering wheel around the memory of you like a belly, listening to commercials, a few interrupting songs. Someone needs a mattress. Someone needs pizza and free tickets to the indoor soccer game, and I have miles yet to go before Boston.

Last night, standing in front of the window menu at the Mexican place you said, I am driving her home to Colorado next month.

—Oh, I said, a phrase that has come in handy with you over the years.I looked at the menu. There are the people who throw napkins down, or hail cabs, and then there's my breed—the menu-readers. We stay, reading the menu. On the phone, days before, I almost said: Come with me then. Behind us, the town was making its Saturday scene.

—Then I should tell you that she's coming to Easter tomorrow, you said. I pictured that suncatcher in your grandmother's kitchen window, fogged in the cold spring afternoon, my hands searching the dishwater for spoons.

—There are a lot of motel rooms between here and Colorado, I said. 

You drove back without speaking. I squinted, trying to read the signs. I had not planned to drive at night. From the highway, the red neon roof was a blur, but enough for me to find my way back.

On Wednesday they will send a scope down my throat to see whether the damage is reversible. In the motel last night I dreamt I was reciting the Nicene Creed as the tube went down, my vocal folds jerking on the monitor. Passus, et sepultus est.

A short definition of naive: I had packed my good shoes.

Farther east, the trees that pink first have. The poets wait for them, know in their ligaments the very day the trees will open their plural hearts again. All winter, the poets stay quiet in the rooms of their minds, preparing to let spring surprise them like an old lover on the platform of a far-off city. But I am muddied with noise and want. 

Today, though, it feels like maybe I was waiting also, the way I know the answer to a riddle as soon as it's told to me. I'm two parts joy, five parts regret. I pass the fill station where we bought washer fluid on our way to see how snow meets the ocean.

An alternate definition: She was at your family's Easter dinner, but you were still my emergency contact. The nurse read back your number to me, as if I didn't know. Can I change that? I said. When she didn't answer, I realized she was just waiting for me to spell another name.

It's an old story, how the seasons follow one another, as much about doubt as redemption. She will find the blue scales of your contact lenses dried to the sink and leave them there for days, like proof. She will make her bed, buy the same cheap soap you wash with. You will give her one of your three towels often enough—the green one, maybe—that it becomes hers. Possession works on the past like a solvent, but it's the only thing that gets out memory.

I was blue.

I drive and drive. The sky noons the road, blinding me.

She buries her face in the towel, you in the next room. She pushes the terrycloth against her teeth and blinks, but still, she cannot believe the fibers, how the eyelashes come together and apart like that. She cannot believe any of this.