A heavy heart. She believed it to be a condition of the true.
“Not now…” her girlfriends in bad relationships pleaded, their faces looking like sad dogs or startled babies, right before they howl with grief. “Maybe tomorrow, you can tell me the truth. But not now.”
They were hurting, like so many: An epidemic of the living. She understood that. But she always thought it was better to hit the road.
Her losses — there have been many. Plenty of little defeats. But maybe it was her father, who as she remembered always stood so very tall; maybe it was he who taught her to get up and hit the road, again and again, even if merely out of habit.
He himself had long been self-discounted to the camp of the defeated: Those who got through a listless crawl of days that were mundane most of the time — at their best — and chaotic for the rest of the year. (Once, he confessed that he preferred the chaotic ones; because at least then, he couldn’t ponder his way through them.)
He had stayed behind, in a country that she fled before she too joined the defeated. Because she wanted so much more than survival. Because she got sick in the lobbies of its office buildings, hospitals and dorms, all smelling alike — like chlorine and mildew — waiting and waiting for someone to come and get you, only to give you another dose shit. Daily resignation to injustice just wasn’t enough: She wanted to strive, to flourish; to chase ideals, like a cat does mirror reflections on the wall. She wanted the truth; and she had hoped, for the world.
So: She hit the road.
But the heavy heart followed. (She believed it to be a condition of the true.)
“Truth’s okay,” a wise woman once recommended. “But you have to say it with a smile. Otherwise, you’re all sharp edges.”
“Look! A roach in your salad,” she said; then remembered the woman’s advice — and smiled. Better?
Every night, when heading home, at the end of all that striving and flourishing — the hour of the heavy heart would rapidly descend. Because she knew that in between the white walls (which her lease prohibited her from painting), there would be no distractions. Only pondering. Only the truth. (Oh, is that why she always preferred to be in the midst of a love affair: Because she could reach for the voices of her lovers like others reach for a midnight snack? But then again, she never knew how to end it. How to wait for the end. So, she’d either found herself “in the midst” — or hitting the road.)
Sometimes, she’d take the longest routes home, through the unpredictable neighborhoods of her city that she was beginning to memorize by heart. Her sometimes heavy heart.
“How do you not get lost around here?” her mother, always the passenger, asked her every single time.
“I’d rather be fucking lost, trust me!” she responded; then remembered the woman’s advice — and smiled.
Some nights though, she just couldn’t bear it. After all of her failed attempts to get lost, she’d return to the white walls; leave the bags in the kitchen, then turn right around and leave. Oh how she wished to live in a city with tolerance for pedestrians! Still: She hit the road.
And so, she would drive through her city, over and over — through it, around — hoping to discover a new street. To get fucking lost. She hated those “Dead End” signs — always so brutal and non-negotiable! — and preferred one-way streets. Those ditches on the road — she kind of liked them: They always jolted her to an awareness and justified a complaint. She liked shortcuts, through alleys and parking lots, especially when it was unclear if she was heading the wrong way. The poorly lit streets of immigrant neighborhoods thrilled her and she rolled down her windows: to get a whiff of their contented survival.
She studied other drivers, most of whom always seemed unaware of their living behind the glass walls. She hated being stuck behind trucks and buses, even though most forewarned her of making frequent stops and wide turns. So she’d zoom around them. Prii — always brought bad news. (She liked calling them “Priuses” anyway.) So, she’d go around those too, while shaking her head and avoiding eye contact with the owners.
When following police cars, she never knew if she was allowed to go faster than them; because truth be told, she rarely knew the speed limit.
“WATCH THE ROAD” their stickers recommended. Not: “WATCH THE SPEED”.
So, she’d speed around those as well.
“Ooh, gurl,” one night, a driver of a bus she had just passed, attempted to talk to her through his cracked window. She looked over. Very much the jolly type, he probably never suffered from a heavy heart. He was grinning: A happy wanderer.
“Come wit me?” he said with some sort of a mishmash of Caribbean accent and street talk.
“Okay,” she responded, surprising herself with the sudden lightness of her own heart.
“Meh say: Come WIT me!” The man was in the midst of a sermon.
“OKAY,” she laughed. “Where are we going?”
“Whedeva ya want, gurl!”
She considered: “India?”
“Let’s — go!”
“Don’t you have passengers?” She looked back at the monstrosity she’d zoomed around: No wonder it makes wide turns.
“Ya make me wanna pull dis ting ova’!” He grinned at her, with not a hint of creepiness, just joy and admiration.
“Well. Then, let’s hit the road,” she said.
Of course, at the green eye of the traffic light, she’d sped past him, and past the orange monstrosity he was lugging around town, with seeming contentment. Straight home she went, for the white walls of her apartment which she was prohibited to paint. And when she stood in the midst of her kitchen — alone with her heavy heart — she thought:
“This isn’t so bad,” — and reached for the fridge, at midnight.