Driving Highway 101: November 5, 2020

A wife calls terrified that her husband is dying in prison. He may not 

be able to breathe, he has heart disease, 65, vulnerable to the virus. 

She’s so worried. She says: it’s just been temp checks, blood-ox levels, 

a little more respect than the other prison but no real care. 

Or did she say treatment? Anyway, 

“this is an emergency, right?” You say.

What does she have to say?

How does the burden shift if we decide it’s emergency? 

Everything is urgent.  

 

How many times down 101 has this drive been equivocally 

Urgent – slick. Tonight this is to –where are we going? 

That’s right, Brookings. And we couldn’t get out of work

So we’re late leaving and then end up in a drive-through

Behind rumbling masculine-trucks, one after another, I can’t help

Thinking, am I not supposed to be here? Is this not for me? Its kids 

running the show, anyway. A kid takes my card, a kid hands that kid 

a bag with my burger. Another kid hitches up their pants 

by the belt loop –

 

Do we assume this heavy, flirty tension between that kid and that kid –

the heavy flirty tension only teens can provoke? Anyway –

 

We’re on the road, 

in front of us orange brake lights star-burst 

then a turn signal indicates south to –

Home? A lover? If not that, then what? 

Say it out-loud. Then what? 

 

It’s dangerous, slick dark. We didn’t need to make this drive tonight. 

Flick blue to brights, flick down – repeat.

Squinting, oh that’s fog. 

Where the ascent starts into the coast range

The car shifts to effort, snaking wide crescents up

and through – the CRV our first fall

my bare feet on the dash, gold painted toe nails, Ben Howard filling the cabin

Of the car. It felt like his sounds suspended us in jello – there’s a lot I’ve learned about 

movement and proximity since then. 

Are we still suspended in jello? We’re sliding some.

 

When we choose to drive in familiar dark-wet wind, a slick road becomes 

the Oregon ocean at moments – interrupted when it becomes

Akin to the urgency of the liminal blocks building up or down, 

we’re not quite sure, 

was I leaving or were you?  

It’s urgent not to break, but to stop gliding – this isn’t delicate.

Anyway, Ben Howard in the CRV wasn’t on this road, instead somewhere along 58 –

But 101 and 58 touch, right?

We were right here, too

Feet on the dash. Gold toes. 

Is that what it is to be 

suspended in jello? 

 

Two or something hours in, will that stretch with the dips and rising 

always feel like you? Lying long-ways with the dog? 

His breath in my hand? 

Where those seconds of sudden-slick glide are more like the kid’s flirtation 

and less like worry. The road spits fizz here – 

I think we can only see it like this on fresh pavement. Did you

Ever notice that? We observed such different things so I don’t know if you noticed. I noticed

How the tiding road seems as 

the sea, 

a mirror, 

metal, 

jello. 

 

Under the welcome arch of North Bend, this becomes a trailer park where that witness – 

claiming to be a victim when that kid shot a gun in the air – 

Where that witness beat his ex-wife, but was also beaten himself, where the cops really got on him 

about his drinking, where he lived for a couple decades, and he’s only 29? Do you ever go to a place and think about what has happened there? The grocery store on 6th? Behind that tree? In that white car? Police reports put together a sympathetic picture 

for that white man. Because,

did the kid shoot the gun up or over? It’s just a matter of degrees between the truth and –

What do we care?

We won’t see him again.

 

Like that kid who got stabbed by his cellie in solitary confinement. What was it, drugs

That got him there? No: assault. That kid came from close by here,

The town we just passed, maybe? If he hadn’t died

Do you think that might be his house? Do you ever go to a place and 

Think about what has happened there? There’s a plagued man

In that cell right now, maybe dying differently. What do you need to be well? Anyway, 

This is the foundation crashing into waves

 

And the guard rail is animation. 

Do you ever get driving in the wet dark and terrorize yourself –

Is that ocean or is it land? Would I fall or fly? 

Plunge or crash? 

Do you see that white line? We’re driving by it.

Althea Seloover, 2020