Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
What, they ask, do you think of when you’re riding?
: as I pass by field after field, trailer home after trailer home. There are little kept lawns with grinning frogs, frogs sitting cross-legged on benches holding fishing poles, chipped plastic deer, inflatable ghosts rising in & out of inflatable pumpkins; two-foot-high pageboys holding lanterns, plaster Grecian women of similar stature bent delicately forward under the weight of the amphorae on their shoulders, mailboxes with plaques dangling the resident family’s name—real, monosyllabic, American names—Jones, Watts, even, O ubiquity of ubiquities—Smith. The pickup truck, still everywhere; so, too, the stately blue R of the Romney-Ryan yard sign.
It must get boring.
: the developments in the suburbs around Raleigh: gated communities, or, for the more adventurous of heart, fenced communities— big new houses, with three-car garages, pools behind white fences, clipped hedges in beds of mulch, Hampstead, Silver Creek, Blackwell Manor, written in big cursive lettering on the sign out front (framed by more clipped hedge) & lit softly from below—impossible to see any more in, privacy as privilege—
You must get lonely.
: there was a woman sitting out front & a small dog laying down in front of her. Out front of the shop (MACK’S GAS MARKET now no longer selling gas, the GAS on the sign having been crossed out) there was stacked six feet of brown boxes, to the left of the woman & the left of the dog, poster Re-Tooled Pack Same Classic Taste USA Gold poster Interstate Batteries Authorized Dealer and in front of them, between me and the woman with dog, a golf cart plastered in stickers, Nascar Coble ’90 then two desk chairs & one rolling chair by the boxes: insert here the standardized conversation: you going a long ways on that bicycle, yeah I guess you could say that, I’m heading for New Orleans, well—New Orleans! Well—where’dyou start at? Philadelphia, Well I’ll be LORD HAVE MERCY YOU CAME FROM PHILADELPHIA ON A BICYCLE yes.
The bathroom was a little blue-walled shed out back with no sink & no lock but it did have a space heater turned on full blast. Imagine that! No place to wash hands but the heat cranked on (red rods glowing) in the hottest part of the day, even, when there was no need.
The mechanics had come out & stood now in the shop looking on in their dark blue overalls with the little name patch above the breast pocket: Mack eating a sandwich. Hard to say what the shop now sold: shelves of packaged cake & muffin bits, chips & nuts & such, one whole wall filled with little old car toys, Coke bottles, framed pictures Band-Aid boxes in range of colors, oil tins & packs of cards. That sure is a lot of things what a great collection. Pa been collectin all his life & do you sell them? Not much sometimes those antique cars: Mack: Seems like nothing I ever did ever turned out right now Pa you know that’s not true—
Sounds like a lot of time to contemplate God in all His mystery, the Christians say.
: there were a great many big black birds by the road & all bent at once over a central thing, & when I drew close they walked at first away a little ways & then drew themselves heavily up into a tree (when I took out my camera they knew to fly at once across the road) & what it was was a deer, on its side, the eye gone from the socket such that there was simply a hole that went through its head, that let in light, even, the bottom jaw eaten away to bone (the teeth all there); & there were clean stumps on the head where someone had come by & cut off I guess the antlers, & I did not know that in death the fur falls in such folds, as a curtain dropped to the floor, away from the off-white windowpane ribs—the right front leg unnaturally long & yellowed, actually detached from the body, actually turned the wrong way around such that the hoof touched chest: imagine that in death someone put your arm wrong side round such that your hand was stuffed into your armpit (that the flies flew circles round your ribs & came out the hole where your eye was) & that ten yards up was the great red stroke along the road:
: & where a box of Ziploc bags had exploded, most concentrated there where the box had come open–& the grass filled with clear-white blown things all along the road with fewer as I got further from the box: there is in short no time for thought, there is only ever image & lung & the great unknowable of the gathering shapes of the birds in negative.
That copperhead for slipping quietly back into the grass, everyone at the Tipsy Teapot for letting me kick around, the very humble Greenville parade for existing & the thirteen-year-old emos in skeleton gloves for joining & then disappearing, that brown recluse spider for staying on the side of the church and not wandering into my tent, Marshall for housing me & feeding me almonds, everyone at Calvary’s Cross Baptist Church for letting me pitch my tent there, Elwood for the place to pitch my tent & water & sweet potatoes, Ed for the blueberries, Ora & Kit for the lovely spontaneous hosting & company, Mark for letting me sleep by the Quaker cemetery & eat my grits with banana, Elsewhere for its very existence, Alyzza for the novelty that is a real bed & the card-house-building-in-a-dive-bar.
Photo by Leah Gallant/the Daily Gazette.