I saw the fox running by the side of the road
past the turned-away brick faces of the condominiums
past the Citco gas station with its line of cars and trucks
Gas is cheap today, mon chéri. Quick, fill up the tank. Tomorrow it may not be so. Where shall we go today?
Today the Russians and Americans are being boisterous. The ruble and pound are low. OPEC has been plotting again. The Swiss are hiding money in vaults. The world is on edge over failing economies and currencies, banks and governments are falling apart. It is raining in Haiti, but the sky is so blue here, and the highway is clear.
and he ran, limping, gaunt, matted dull haired
past Jim's Pizza, past the Wash-O-Mat,
past the Thai Garden, his sides heaving like bellows
We could drive along the river, past the corn fields on our right, to a little wine town with one convenience store and an inn that does not serve food past five. Take a detour down a side road, a dirt path to an apple farm, fill a wicker basket with sugar sweet pink apples, another with tart green ones. We could have the locals stare at us as we drive up main street, park by the docks where the fishing boats are tied, and munch apples for dinner, watch the sun set, and wait for the stars to come out.
We could drive south, across the desert, to the big casinos and neon signs. I could wear a dress and you a navy suit, and walk into a five star hotel. Stroll nonchalantly through the white marble lobby, admire the orchids and chandeliers, find two seats at the bar, order cheap sparkling wine, and toast like it champagne. Quoting, debating Kirkegaard, Bukowski, Darwin, Hemingway. Stopping midsentence to dance to the voice of Billie Holiday.
and he kept running to where the interstate
crossed the state road and he reached it and he ran on
We could be runaways, explorers, wandering hippies on a tank of gas. A musician and his muse scouring the countryside, composing country songs, blue grass.
under the underpass and beyond it past the perfect
rows of split-levels, their identical driveways
their brookless and forestless yards,
If we had more than a tank of gas, if we had more money, more time, we could drive from New York to San Francisco and back, reading Kerouac, windows down. Or ride a motorcycle from Argentina to Peru, stopping by the sea in Valparaíso, to refuel, and for the view.
Or go even further, across the ocean, either one, to drive on foreign highways in lands we have never been. Along the Nullarbor road, from Cedunia to Perth, across the great Autralian plains. Drive by kangaroos and bluebush plateaus to a small coastal town. There, out of gas, we could camp on the dunes, spend the rest of our days chasing waves and picking sea shells, walking along cliff tops.
Or drive up the colder coastline of the British Isles, in a red mini Cooper to stand out in the fog, along the Atlantic highway from London to Cornwall. Stopping to dare our toes into the ocean, walk along the rocky shores, watch the seagulls and fishermen bring in fresh catch they caught with the help of the tide.
If we had more gas, more money, more time, we could even drive around Japan. Cross Asia to Europe through Russia or the Silk Road, drive around the Mediterranean Coast. Leave now before tomorrow comes, before gas prices change, and not return till dusk or till the world is a safer place.
The pressure of this existence has been weighing on me lately. These roles we have been assigned. The fridge we must fill, the bills we must pay, not knowing if tomorrow it will rain, in this strange pantomime with no synopsis that makes me want to step off stage.
and from my moving car, I watched him,
helpless to do anything to help him, certain he was beyond
any aid, any desire to save him,
All we really have for certain is each other, today, and one tank of gas we can fill. And the fluidness of human identity; we could be anyone, anywhere. But if that is all we have, then that is more than enough. I’ll take my chances with you. So where shall we go, whom shall we be on this clear blue and beautiful day?
A tank full of gas will not take us very far. It might not last us the journey back. We may end up on our backs in a field full of daisies, eating strawberries, stringing flower crowns. We may have to sleep in the boot of the car, our feet sticking out of the back.
That all sounds lovely; I’ve never done that before. Let’s leave, let’s live. Let’s go.
Who knows how long my knees and courage will hold? Who knows how long we’ll be young? Who knows how long gas will remain cheap? Quick mon chéri, fill up the tank.
and he ran loping on,
far out of his element, sick, panting, starving,
his eyes fixed on some point ahead of him,
some possible salvation
in all this hopelessness, that only he could see.
- Patricia Fargnoli