From One Hundred Histories, #88

Once you’ve been with a guy who has a big truck, there’s no going back. It’s depressing but true, it’s like falling off a cliff. May as well just slit your wrists, dig a hole, and write the obituary. Once you’ve felt that strong rumble underneath—I mean a really strong rumble. I mean the engine turning over and doing those other things engines do. Idling, feeling power. You’re sitting at a red light, and there it is, all that power underneath you, all around you, jiggling your bangles, making it hard to light a cigarette, making you have to go to the bathroom, making the poetic stare hard to maintain as you listen for the illustrative comment—once you’ve been there, I’d say it’s like being present when a star is created, up way up where these things happen, these mysteries, these strong beautiful mysteries of destruction and creation. There you are sitting on top of the fucking star. Everything is there, everyone is there; you see it all. Everything is pure blackness. Everything is pure blissful obliterating light. And it’s all right where it should be—sound—sight—and you’re shouting your ears off, you’re shouting uncontrollably words you never knew and then it’s all gone again, a pinpoint of silence and a dawn/gray-sheet kind of thing, a light green kind of thing, and you have no thoughts and you’re not shouting anymore. You are so refined; your essence is so stunned and thin, that the physical you sitting on the hot plastic seat sweating and human no longer shakes with power. You’re beyond the shaking, you’re pure with it now. And then there’s the turn signal, the green arrow. Some of the sad little pathetic cars gun their sad little mosquito engines, little secretaries and little attorneys and little clerks and little tiny business owners, and little unemployed people, they all try to gun it in their pathetic little cars, twenty, thirty feet down from you, it’s like killing flies or flicking crumbs, but for them it’s everything, you can hear them pushing their little feet down to the floor of their automatic used hatchbacks, and they putt-putt out and try to beat the light. Not your man, though, and his fine truck. A truck as big as a building, but more outrageous than that, capable and outrageous as the ocean, imagine the ocean, and then imagine the transmutation of glass and steel and imagine the energy underneath like a force beyond all human comprehension, a force that underscores all we do, is who we are, is who we are if we are anything, if we understand, understand where it all comes from, damn, divine, damn, and so this truck doesn’t fucking have to try to beat any goddamned light; this truck just moves. It just moves like a continent. And then you’re on the other side of the road and you see East like a vision and you’ve got the runway ahead of you and you fucking go, I mean you fucking go—oh, Delta, American, United—those little sops need to share the power. You don’t need to share anything.

Have I mentioned stopping at the convenience store? Because this is where things get really crazy. I mean this is another place where things heat up for you. So you’re there, right, and you can see the roof of the 7-11, and somewhere down there are the Supplies—some cherry 7-Up, and some cigarettes, and some Pringles perhaps. And you’re in a truck like the Space Needle in Seattle or like the Empire State Building or like the Great Wall of China, or maybe just like goddamn planet earth compared to the rest of the half-assed, jury-rigged, keep-us-in-orbit planets, and you’ve got to open the door. And he’s maybe given you a twenty, a whole twenty, and so you try to open the door but it doesn’t open, man it’s a heavy door, this handle, it’s hard to get open, and he leans over and he kind of flips it and shoves it, and there it is—freedom, the sky, a short flight to the 7-11, and you’re thinking, parachute? And he lets you in on something, a little secret: I like women who do it their own way. I like women with their own style, their own power. And so he’s sitting there, his arms half leaning on the steering wheel, a massive chrome wheel, like a windmill with a rim, and he’s waiting for you to do your own thing, trot into the convenience store—with style, with power. And so you take off—you fucking take off—and you’re flying down and you can do it! And before you know it, you’re back! And you’ve got the soda, you’ve got the snack food! And you’re now, blessedly, back at home, back in the truck, and it’s so damn exhilarating, it’s like nothing else, and now you can go home and make love like equals, briefly like equalsbut all the while you’re not thinking of him, you aren’t, you can’t, you can’t or it all stops, the gears get jammed up, the light is lost again, the road is a challenge. No, you need to return to the truck. The lavish, gleaming truck. The lavish, gleaming truck with the fat wheels the size of unique countries, and the life force involved somewhere, internally, in height, in sound, in the placement of the constellations in the brute night sky. Give me the truck or give me nothing. Stay away from the little cars; go gently toward steel and glass and enjoy with me the dream of a free world, a nation undivided by squirrels and weakness.

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Aurelie Sheehan

Aurelie Sheehan is the winner of FC2’s 2018 Catherine L. Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize for Once into the Night, to be published in February 2019. She is the author of three previous short story collections and two novels. Her writing has appeared in Conjunctions, Guernica, Mississippi Review, New England Review, Ploughshares, and other journals. She is a professor of fiction and head of the English Department at the University of Arizona.

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