Nocturne Op. 12 No. 20

Dean Liao

 

Press your foot down. Hard.

Just before the top of the hill, there will be a moment when you can’t see beyond the road’s curve. Wonder if the world waits for your ascent before it materializes, like a half-dressed lover behind a peephole.

What’s that saying? If a tree falls?

It’s a Mid-Atlantic July, the time of year when warm fronts migrate from the Gulf, northbound on saddled trade winds. Through the open window, the air is humid and heavy; you struggle against its weight; you could bite it if you wanted. Drive along winding roads that bisect farmland and observe fields of grass and corn converging towards boundless forest.

Homes out here feel accidental and offensive, like an intrusion on sacred land.

Cows are silent and sleeping as crickets chirp amidst the static of rushing wind, passenger-side, a threnody for the dying day.

The sky is dark enough for stars.

You never bothered to learn the names of any constellations and sometimes you wish you had, especially when women ask.

Drive a little further until the gaslight lights up your dashboard, still more suggestion than distress signal at this point. As you pull into the station, feel the air around you and take note of its weight. The smell of gasoline reassures you, burning in a way that seems almost musical. Grip the nozzle until you hear the handle’s click and trust that it’s better to hold on to some things.

Check your wallet for cash.

Before you close the driver-side door, catch the scent of something fragrant and sweet.

A spice factory’s not far from here, and nighttime gusts ferry exotic odors to undisclosed locations such as your own.

Tap your right-turn signal and look both ways before merging back onto the highway.

Just a bit further now and you’ll reach your turn.

Rural back-roads laugh at Mid-Western Geometry; asphalt contours in polynomials of at least three degrees.

Take the next turn a little too quickly and brake. Hard.

Past a certain hour, crossing the road’s centerline seems forgivable, a nocturnal privilege. Follow the flashing yellow bars, and pretend you drive a rail car.

It’s too late at night to be afraid.

Don’t worry. You’ll be able to see headlights from incoming traffic so long as you stay awake.

Nighttime clouds have a backwards quality to them; they whisper of morning rain.

On the other side of the line, find the freedom to be outside, unrestricted, without limit or bound.

As you oscillate between that which divides, remember to watch for crossing deer.

Out here, we are not alone.

 

Dean Liao is a visual artist and writer based in Los Angeles, California. After graduating from the University of Chicago in 2014, he moved to Paris to work and study French. His writing draws inspiration from postmodern fiction and his Mid-Atlantic childhood.