In the earliest red dawn we’re on the highway. Summer. The whole rolling ritual of America with scalloped-wire phone poles over rows of lettuce, chrome and bullet taillights, leaded gas, last-chance billboards, caverns, trading posts, teepees, dams, bridges, diners, laminated menus with photographs of steak, neon-trimmed motor courts, moths, brown chenille bedspreads, and little bars of Dial.

I remember powdered sugar doughnuts and a paper cup of milk––someone else’s city park with morning traffic humming by, summer. Later, sweat-stuck in the back seat, hair static-blasted by the wind, my sister Deb and I plug in our curled-fist microphones. We are lip-synching Shirelles, we are Ray Charles backup, we are Marvelettes.

The highway unzips time so we can rush toward ourselves. Forever setting out, forever chasing down the shimmer-heat of farther-on, forever switching lanes and flicking lights to pass a produce truck or parallel a train that curves around the earth. Where was that city park? Tulsa? I’m looking for the moment of deliverance from my safer self, as if a certain rolling distance lets me show up unencumbered for the here and now. I love the ribbon through the desert, sunset-shadows long across the road, a city spangled on the far horizon, drift-pink clouds indifferent over all the magic towns. Barstow. Needles. Santa Rosa. Tucumcari.

Andrea Lewis’ fiction and essays have appeared in many literary journals, including Prairie Schooner, Catamaran Literary Reader, and Cutthroat. Two of her stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She lives on Vashon Island in Washington, but she is from the great state of New Mexico.

Photo credit: “Road to the Future” by Jayne Marek. Marek’s poems and photos have appeared in Gravel, Blast Furnace, Lantern Journal, Siren, Spillway, Driftwood Bay, Tipton Poetry Journal, Isthmus, Windless Orchard, and elsewhere.  She is author of a chapbook and co-author of another poetry collection.  Her work has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.