I, the Passenger—purveyor of snacks and music-- Search through our convenience store treasure trove, Of junk we would never eat at home, Hidden from view on the floor at my feet. Oh, how our spoils had sparkled on dusty shelves, In attention-grabbing foil wrappers every color of the rainbow, Glittering under fluorescent lights. In obscure US towns tucked away with familiar names of antiquity, Like “Troy,” (minus Helen), And “Carthage” (no bovine-headed muscle men called Moloch here), And “Eureka” (they did find a spring, though). I set aside my Lucky Charms marshmallow bar, My best find, which I’m saving for last. How could I resist the lotus-like added sugars, Nor the siren calls of nostalgia, Of chasing cartoon leprechauns through technicolor forests, Between Saturday morning cartoons? Gray clouds frame navy skies: rain pelts the car windows. Thunder ripples across the plains, drowning out the radio. Fleetwood Mac will have to play louder. The hunt for a bottle of black tea with no sweetener was arduous, Sweet teas squeezed between sodas and neon sports drinks, As we explored the refrigerated library of all artificially flavored beverages known to society. Unsweetened herbals, hiding what I sought, So you better finish every last drop before you get to your destination. Don’t let a drop of that bitter black tea go to waste, Rolling around on the car floor for two weeks, The plastic baking in the sun, Boiling the last few sips of the once sweet potion to a toxic elixir, As we climb around our bottle graveyard, Running around to family reunions, And getting lost on new hiking trails. On this journey, it seems Mother Nature wants to discourage our hiking dreams. An empty burger joint lemonade cup jumps from the stash like tumbleweed, A reminder the universe is in tune with my thoughts. I savor every single cinnamon sugar pecan and sour cream potato chip. Like I’m waiting too long for the main course at someone’s backyard summer barbecue. I watch raindrops race against each other down the window glass. I choose a drop to root for. My mom wants fluffy zebra cakes to take away the stress, As she empties canned vanilla ice cream espresso drinks, Navigating through a flooded windshield. Lightning cracks in the distance, Illuminating the sky a vibrant violet; I sip my tea, uncertain, the next town two hours away.
Nikki Bausch is a visual artist and linguist from St. Louis, Missouri. Her written works have appeared in UM--St. Louis's Litmag, The Honest Ulsterman, and elsewhere. You can find her on Instagram under @ArcanaArdatLili.