Second Verse Nora Offen
He was dead before we made it ha lfwa y there, but only from a literary perspective. Y ou have to be carefulâ€”or a t least I doâ€”with the distinction. Once you get close to the bone. A litera ry death, for insta nce, would include any metaphorical or symbolic slant ( e.g. death of idealism, death of an era); but does it mean deta ils, too? Rot? A strictly litera ry head lolling on a limp pillow in the back seat, lips just parted, useless eyes, no formaldehyde on the premises? And me with my sea t belt stuck under his hip bone. I don't k now if we're still in the rea lm of literary, then. I don't know where else we could be. The road was full of tire tra cks, f ifty stories smeared a cross asphalt in ink and rubber; there was no space to write. There was no spa ce to go. I opened my window and the decay filtered out in a roar of highway wind. Mia sma (or poetic sentiment? The link between signifier and rot) trailed the ca r like a n oil spill, and marine mammals sickened, mutated, and literarily unlitera lly foundered in its greasy black legacy. I know almost nothing about ecology. Of course, we kept driving. I've known two dead people, one dead pla ce (with constantly widening perimeter), and roughly a thousand dead ma rine mammals. Mostly sea lions. They're susceptible to literary pollution in a way dolphins a nd sometimes people a re not. Except he was always a little literary, and a lways a little polluted. 1
Start the story again. I was wa iting in the redwoods for a ghost. He wa s dea d in the ba ck sea t, and I drove through sixteen miles of mounta in roads without a sea t belt because I don't move corpses. No, that's wrong. I was home, and he was in love with me. We were going to see the redwoods. We were going to save the world. No; I was never home, and he was never in love with me. Or he wa s always dead. The world wa s always—what? Save-a ble? Unsa ved? Someone else's. My seat belt was never buckled. To save you the suspense, we never cra shed. To save you the suspense, I won't save you the suspense. Enjoy it—savor it—drink it down like pollutive langua ge with mutagenic properties. Lik e a cock tail bubbling with ink, the grit of worn paper and squea l of tires and every story we arrived too late to write settling thick beneath your tongue. Sicken, mutate, and join me unbuck led in the back seat. Or don't. Dangerous curves the next twenty-three miles; if you shut your eyes, it's just like falling asleep on a sinking ship. W hich is to say, nothing y ou need a sea t belt for. Buck(le) up. It's a long way home, and if the ship sinks, the wa ter's full of oil, restless sequels, and sea lions with eight legs.