Hour Fifteen

A thin stand of oak trees obscures the cornfields that stretch out to the horizon. The landscape changes, but nothing else. Big interstates like this one make the country into a single place: McDonald’s, BP, Wendy’s. I know I should probably hate that about interstates and yearn for the halcyon days of yore, back when you could be drenched in local color at every turn— but whatever. I like this. I like the consistency. I like that I can drive fifteen hours from home without the world changing too much. Lacey double-belts me down in the wayback. “You need the rest,” she says. “You’ve been through a lot.” It’s amazing that no one has yet blamed me for not being more proactive in the battle against the cow.

As I trail off, I hear them making one another laugh — not the words exactly, but the cadence, the rising and falling pitches of banter. I like just listening, just loafing on the grass. And I decide that if we get there on time but don’t find her, that’s what we’ll do: we’ll drive around the Catskills and find a place to sit around and hang out, loafing on the grass, talking, telling jokes. Maybe the sure knowledge that she is alive makes all of that possible again — even if I never see proof of it. I can almost imagine a happiness without her, the ability to let her go, to feel our roots are connected even if I never see that leaf of grass again.

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