Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Means of My Own Creation

The hard part is keeping my eyes on the road. Training my eyes on the yellow staccato that breaks up the road while focusing out of the corner, always aware of what might be on the other side of the window. It's like Russian roulette every time. I've ended up in the ditch running the length of the highway three times. Twice because of deer I was staring at but somehow didn't notice, and once startled by a rare passing car.

It's not that I'm a bad driver, I swear, it's this particular stretch of highway. Sort of. This jagged black tear through the silent hills outside of town. I've driven it a million times as a part of the ever present duty of a child to her parent. The first time it happened, I thought I must have been exhausted, hallucinating. One of the pipes under mom's place had burst sometime in the middle of the night, and she had called me panicking. I'm not a prissy thing, but I'm not exactly a plumber either. Still, I drove out there to see what I could do.

Silent, peaceful hills rolled by like midnight green sea as I drifted down the narrow road half-asleep, until an unlikely glimmer caught my eye. I'm not sure how, but it's instantly recognizable. The shifting gleam of moonlight on a roiling mane, the sheen of his coat down the arch of his neck, the glinting light reflecting in his eye. I stopped breathing in that moment. I was completely bewitched for those few, brief seconds as I took my foot of the gas and turned to look. As soon as I shifted my eyes he was gone.

Sure, I laughed at myself. I even spent the night out at the old farm, telling mom I wanted to be there when the real plumber got there in the morning to fix what I'd manged with duct tape, but really I was afraid of what I might, or might not see on my drive back.

After that first night my relationship with my mother changed, or at least the frequency of my visits did. I found reasons to go out there in the evenings, to take the chance to see him again. Sometimes I think I see something, but every time I turn he's gone.

Tonight, I'm careful. It's a cautious meander through the hills. I breathe deep and slow and try not to think about the hallucination I'm desperately seeking. It's warm out, so I've rolled down the window and my hair whips around my face. I'm only a couple of miles from the farm and my heart is breaking. I haven't even almost seen him. Nothing. And then I hear it, a steady rolling beat. I turn down the radio, worried I've gotten a flat, but the truck is gliding over the road. In the new quiet I can hear it better; the pinch of metal on asphalt, the rhythm, the deep harrumphing breaths. I chuckle quietly to myself. Of course my hallucination is shod, clinking metal shoes on the road. My eyes are watering as I force myself to look straight ahead. I force a deep breath as I take my foot off the gas and let the truck coast to a stop.

The rhythm breaks into the clip-clop of a trot, but I won't turn to the glinting reflections to my left even as the tears stream down my face. As the truck finally stills, I carefully shift into park, never breaking my staring contest with the road ahead.

My hand trembles as I slowly reach out the window, and my own breath catches when his warm, moist breath cascades over my palm. Suddenly my hallucination is very, very real. He nickers softly and rubs his silken, whiskery muzzle in my palm. I lose my staring contest with the road, closing my eyes in the exultation of this new reality. He nickers again and tosses his head, stepping back from my hand. I open my eyes and look at him for the first time.

He stands facing the truck door, ears forward, expression expectant. He's not black, which makes me pleased with my imagination, but he would be perfectly ordinary if he wasn't a figment of my own creation. He's perhaps bay, by what I can make out in the dim light, not more than sixteen hands, with a mane and tail not overly long, but not rigorously clipped either.

He nickers, tosses his head again, and pricks his ears forward once more, beckoning me. I didn't really think this would ever happen, but I move like my actions were long ago decided. I unclip my safety belt, turn off the truck, and slip out of the cab to meet him. He almost purrs as he rubs his face into my hands. I don't know how, but I know my truck will be found in the morning and I won't be here to explain it.

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