Road trips taken alone are one of those liminal space things, I think. HELL IS REAL, a billboard tells me, and I don’t agree, but if it were, maybe it would be here. And I don’t mean “rural Ohio is hell,” but that would be funny. No, it’s the endless fields of corn, the bare pastures wrapped over the Earth like too-tight skin, the highway one of many blackened veins. It’s the deer carcass staring blind at the sky and it’s how I always wonder if it crossed alone, like me, or in a herd, because I think there’s a significance to that. It’s the road noise like my car might rip to pieces. It’s the droning silence when my phone disconnects from the aux. It’s how restless my body gets like it knows I’m the only one alive for miles. That isn’t true. At the very least there’s a lot of bugs, and hey-- now there’s a car ahead, but how do I know there’s someone in there? Try too hard to see and I’ll swerve into the valleys, into spaces between the Earth’s visible ribs. It’s how I don’t look, then. It’s how instead I think about the deer and the billboard, how my car could fall apart going seventy and no one would know.
Jack Apollo Hartley is a writer and copyeditor who can be found on Twitter at @jackpollyharts, where he complains about how he’s only 17k into his planned-90k novel. “Long drive” is dedicated to his late best friend Nyomi Stephens, whose calls made the depicted road trips fly by. Jack has previously been published in Whiskey Island Magazine.