I tore along the expanse of highway and let my car window down, like a stoma, to receive the warm dirty air of pines and gum trees and weeds growing along the guard rails. On the floorboards, my plastic bags chattered, the sediment stirred, the filaments of my hair lifting in the current. I leaned into the wind to taste the sweet aroma, but nothing came. I breathed in one more time, just to check.
This was the same stretch of highway where I’d chased his car that night, flying in tandem down four broad lanes, my four windows down, buzzing on the pleasant roar of tequila and wind and thumping bass. For miles I could smell the honeysuckle blooming in the darkness, washing and whipping over me in cool, fragrant waves. The black horizon glowed purple just above the treeline, his taillights pushing 90, darting past me in a diagonal line, tires tapping across massive plaques of smooth asphalt that shone under my headlights. My heart stroked the shadow of his speeding form, wondering if I would die from the sheer bliss of our impending sex, or maybe from an uncontrolled roll at the top of the exit ramp. Either way it was the perfect way to die, believing you might actually catch a thing that can never be yours.
Every year since then, the honeysuckle swelled again, marking the useless passage of time, her plain flowers unfurling and beckoning to me at the edge of my weedy yard, crowned with a plume of feathery bugs. Tethered to my bag of chips, to my hard drive, I’d sniff the breeze and drift outside onto the spongy earth, infusing the clean perfume into my lungs. That scent, the closest thing to my heart, the only remaining approximation of love. I’d breath her in deep, every spinning molecule, the stamen of my body arching upward like a broken satellite, avowing to transmit the southern sky forevermore, if for no one but myself.
The curve of your shoulder, he’d written. In my mind it was so soft your skin looked blurry like cotton.
I’d worn a Mexican blouse that night, I’d kept tugging it down to cover the rolling flesh of my belly. But above the table it slid down both my arms, and his shy smile undressed me, taking me in, his head cocked to the side like a man in love. In that look of his, all the ecstasy of being alive in early spring, and all the warnings of dying in late summer. The southbound lane to his arms was a stream of fresh ribbons, the northbound a mangle of knots that could never be undone.
She ended up being more imminent, more trustworthy, more constant than him. Her fibrous pistils were undeterred by my firing pistons, my trash wrappers, my smoking trail of gasoline. He left, but she came back. Each year without fanfare or fail, her fragrance marked the unresolved passage of my grief. She was the anniversary of silvery sun-soaked leaves that dissolved in the grinding gears of a chipper, the communion of lovemaking before years of solitary confinement.
Not yet, but soon, I’d lay in my dry empty bed, breathing her, taking in her scent again. She would seep into my cells on the open highway, unfurling, calling, until finally I’d rise and depart my dirty patch of carpet to investigate; wandering out through my rotten screen door to inhale and sniff, to pull her petals apart with my lips and drink, and find the exact taste of my own blood, still longing to know itself.
copyright © K. Dawn Goodwin 2016