This is the use of memory….The faces and places, with the self which, as it could, loved
T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding
Inky pervasive blackness closed in
Narrowing the beams of our headlights
As the alternator failed, the darkness enveloped Highway 84
Somewhere closer to Post than Lubbock
Wind, barbed wire, sky, night, silence
And the two of us
Representing about ten percent of the class of 1985.
He was the mechanic and owner-operator of the white El Camino
I was just the English major
But I wore a Levi’s denim jacket and first noticed the disappearing road
He sheepishly offered the alternator theory of mechanical failure
I wore Buddy Holly Ray Bans, though not at night
And being in no position to disagree, I concurred with the alternator theory
With futility I silently plead for the road to not fade away.
Next we hitchhiked
Then bivouacked sleeplessly at the Rocket Motel
Wrapped in a roach-killing mustard gas miasma
But we lived
The memory rendered vividly in black and white
Almost Film Noir
With its own severe beauty
I don’t recall how we got the car fixed, but we did
And we made it home.
And a few days later, we must have headed back to Waco
And arrived without event.
This uninteresting resolution
Obscured by time
Unpunctuated by pain or drama
Neither hot nor cold
Devoid of poetry
Faded to nothingness.
No one today answers the phone at the Rocket Motel.
This is the way in that part of the country.
Decades later, I mine my match collection
To light a ceremonial Padron 1964 Anniversary
A contemplation-invoking, box-pressed Maduro beauty
(“with prominent cocoa, cedar and coffee notes….”)
And happen upon the faded lime-green match book,
The direct physical evidence and catalyst of this revitalized recollection.
Perhaps with imperfect photographic recall,
Embracing truth but skimping on facts,
I hang what I can on that hook.