as the afternoon turned gray. clouds mottled the sky and concentrated near the landscape’s edges (above the straight road, the isolated power lines, the empty fields with jagged, cut stalks). my brother’s head tipped to the side, his hair pressing against the opposite window. (it would still be flattened when he awoke at the gas station five miles from home, and no one would tell him.) my mother’s even breathing came from the passenger seat, her fleece jacket spilling through the crack between the chair and the door. I was assumed to be asleep, too – the soft gray light diffusing through the car should have taken everyone but the driver – but I was still here, sweatshirted, moving slowly so my father wouldn’t know he wasn’t alone. I maneuvered my muddy sneakers around my backpack, pulled my knees to my chest, smudged the gray seat with dirt. I was a passenger, a watcher; for the next three hours, 180 miles, two states, and eternity of clouds that was all I was allowed to be. the horizon darkened with rain. the car rumbled low and steady. the light faded just enough for the dashboard display to reflect blue off of my father’s glasses rims as he looked ahead, keeping himself awake, carrying us forward.
Lauren Otolski likes hiking, tabletop and video games, and squirrel-spotting. She is currently a student at the University of Minnesota, and can be found on Twitter @squirrelwrit.