At the diner, we decided we were a moving “tableaux vivant:” The Grapes of Wrath put to life.
You smiled over the rim of your coffee cup.
“It’s going to rain,” I said, “and our load’s too heavy.” But I couldn’t help smiling too. We both looked out the window. The wrought iron baker’s rack towered over the orange-peppered, white Toyota’s cab. The rack was stuffed with pillows, combat boots, and a bread machine. The bike was tied on the left and the skis stuck out to the right. Boxes and bulging Hefty bags sloped until they rested on the green vinyl card table, upright against the tailgate.
“teddy will get us there, he is a rough ridin’ truck,” you said.
“he’s more like a low rider right now.”
“You wait, this road trip is going to be great,” you said. I’m not kidding; you positively glowed.
Later in Alabama, when hundreds of concrete miles to Montana stretched before us, when NPR was having a fund drive and the tapes were somewhere beneath the Hefty bags and boxes, you sang “On the Road Again” to me and pointed out the jewel lake out your window.
“Hey babybee sugar dumpling lips?” I asked.
“Yes, my own true love?” you asked.
“Those clouds look mighty black,” I said.
“Well now then, darlin’ don’t you worry your purty little head off. Them clouds are movin’ nor’, nor’east. They gonna miss us.” Our eyes met.
“You’re going to have to lose that accent when we get to Montana,” I said.
Then the rain hit the window, a sound both violent and soft. Spaced rhythm. You punched the gas.
“What are you going to do, out run the rain?”
Then the drops slowed. You were right, always right. You smiled.
So many hours later, with more concrete behind us than we had left to go; when we were wrapped in the expansive darkness with the singular path stretching just beyond the headlights; in that moment that we somehow knew was a “moment,” you stroked my hair and sang me “Mockingbird” until I drifted off. And you drove on into the gathering clouds.