Dead Devotion

It was summer and she was hopeful. They had been out by the water all day and had gone in for a rest. Now they were clean and dry, except for her damp hair that blew wildly out the open window.

The city lights were nearing, speeding quickly on as they drove up and under and around the tangled highway. She could feel the energy of the city spill out to meet the energy increasing in her. The air and lights and cement and radio were churning and pulsing, matching the beat of her mind. She smiled and turned to look at his steady, un-churning face. This is what she had come here for.

They entered the city and crossed straight through it to reach the water once again. This was not the well-kept beach where they had spent the bright, carefree day amongst the usual summer crowd. Here the water met rocks and then cement. Here there were no crowds and every dim street light cast shadows. She was still carefree, but his clenched jaw and fists told her that he was not. She had made her choice and was now free to live in it. Here was where it was his turn to make his. She was hopeful.

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Crank the Night

She revved the engine and looked out into the night. The tangle of neon-lit streets spreading out before her seemed to gather at the end of her vision into one single, brilliant point. Finally, she thought, I’ll make it there.

All her life inside the city walls she had been waiting for her keys, for her car, for the ruler who people said was in charge to say, “Go!” But he had never said that word to her; he had never spoken to her at all. So she had decided to find a way out herself, going throughout the confines of the kingdom to barter for a car, to forge its keys, to take one step closer to the outer perimeter, and then another, to see how far she could go before the ruler interfered. She had gotten everything she needed, and he had never tried to stop her. She took that to mean he did not mind much if she left.

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A Rushing and Waiting

She walked out the door and went to stand by the street. She knew it wasn’t time yet, but she couldn’t wait inside any longer. Perhaps if she waited outside it would make him come faster. It was irrational, she knew, but she wondered it just the same. After having waited for so long for this day to come, she would try anything, irrational or not, to make their meeting time arrive. She felt she could not wait one more second.

But she’d have to wait, because she had been outside for half an hour now, 15 minutes past their agreed-upon time, and he still had not come. Tired of standing and having worn out all her nervous energy by pacing back and forth, she plopped down on the curb. She looked at her feet and noticed the many cigarette butts scattered around her. She had gone through half a pack. “He better come soon,” she said aloud to no one, “and he better have cigarettes.”

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This Is the End: In which I find what I was looking for

(Listen as you read for a fuller experience.)

I started driving down a certain road years ago. It was a long road, with curves and slight dips and rises that didn’t let me see too far ahead. But the road was steady and calm and clear. I didn’t need to give much thought to where I was going or what was coming along the way. I was driving down an open, sure road.

One day as I was going down this road, I started to see unexpected signs for something coming up ahead. They advertised a place of beauty and safety at the very end of a side road. “It sounds wonderful,” I thought. Day after day I passed the pretty billboards advertising this place. They painted it as secure, exclusive, and mystical—exactly like a place I had always wanted to find. “But,” I recognized, “It’s a dead end.” So I drove on.

Months passed and still the signs continued. The idea of the dead end started creeping its way into my mind. I started to watch earnestly for more advertisements on the side of the road. They became more explicit and tantalizing, and I now noticed the detail of their imagery. Whenever I came to an especially beautiful sign, I stopped the car and studied the billboard, reading over and over what it described, taking in every detail. The signs left no doubt; the dead end was all I ever wanted.

The road I had been traveling on for years no longer mattered. “It’s a dead end…” I continued to say to myself, “…But I will go there.”

So I kept driving, carefully following the instructions in the ads. I was obsessed with finding that one side road with that one final end. I drove for days until I arrived where I am now: sitting in my stalled car, facing the dead end straight on.

It is beautiful. It is safe, sure, and enticing. I can see that the billboards were not wrong; this is what I’ve always wanted. It’s what I’ve been looking for down that main road. The dead end is welcoming to me and there is a perfect spot in which I can finally stop the car and park. I can stop traveling and just rest. All around me are calm fields protected by dense forests far off along their edges. The dead end will always be clean and clear and exactly as it should be. The dead end will always be what was advertised —

— it will always be a dead end. There will always not be anywhere else to go from here. This will always be the end of the road, with no option to drive further, no option to turn to the side. The dead end is exactly what it said it would be, and there is nothing else to do but to sit, stuck, unable to drive onward.

This is the end.

Lost in Zooropa: In which a friendship develops through music

Zooropa…
Vorsprung durch Technik
Zooropa…
Be all that you can be

As we drove through the midnight streets of Chicago, his voice clear and beautiful next to me, I felt as though I really was in Zooropa, in whatever magical place that was supposed to be.

It was February and the cold air made the city lights look crisp as we drove out of the South Side. We were leaving a party Doug had let me host at his apartment for my friends since I no longer lived in Chicago. One of these friends, Robert, had flown in from Texas to ask me out after six years of friendship. I was still feeling a bit of the high from getting my nose pierced the night before. But the emotions of these events were crowded out by Doug’s even, sincere voice. If anyone knew what Bono was singing about, it was Doug.

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