Cinderella Hooks Up
They'll live on the road, by the ways of the road. The road is bountiful. Languorous wet neon reflections stretch the width of a lane this evening. Jeremy's a prince. He's in the driver's seat with his foot lightly on the gas pedal, not rushing. He's got spurs on the back of his boots that keep getting stuck under the front of his seat. So he can't possibly rush. The seat's getting all torn up but his princess doesn't care. Laney has gone from one lemon to the next all of her short life and doesn't care one bitty snippet whether the front seat arrives whole or shredded.
"Where's the glass slipper?" she asks, momentarily concerned that they may have left it on the top of the car when they took off, and that it could fly off and break in the road. The slipper is not so much a slipper but more of a milk-glass ankle boot. They're using it as a food storage containerput dry red lentils in it. The lentils will be good cooked over a campfire with bay leaf and onion.
The sky is still wet and loosely wrung from all the rain. The air blowing through the car smells like river silt. The smell of a river equates somehow to a longing for the sea. The river may be pining for big, shifting waters, but its essence, the essence of its longing, is wholly satisfactory to Laney. It makes her want to lie down in riparian grass, spread her limbs like a starfish and just breathe and breathe and breathe and breathe. Breathe in that muddy fragrance, breathe in like she should have been born a fish. She could stay right here forever but they have to get on to California. Because Jeremy has big plans and their old Volvo is very, very full. Full of everything they've ever owned and felt.
Laney has plans too, like Jeremy, but her plans are simpler. They're beige, procedural plans, run-of-the-mill plans. Prototypical plans, even. 1.) Leave behind all the people who either don't like or disapprove of her. 2.) Leave behind the job she detests. 3.) Look for something better. Jeremy's plans include smashing guitars on stages all over the world and body surfing over crowds of zealous fans. Jeremy can really play. And he also happens to smell incredible. His smell is so entrancing to Laney that it equates or even overtakes the river in its power. There is no way she could've renewed the lease on her apartment while he took himself off the California without hernot with him smelling the way he did. He's her swaying sea water, wild and salty, and theirs is an inevitable course.
"How much money do we have?" she asks him.
"One thousand, three hundred and seven bucks," he answers.
She has no idea how far that will stretch. They'll find work eventually. His band mates have an apartment already set up in San Francisco. It's a little kookya fridge with a beer tap sticking out of the side, a blue light bulb in the bathroom.
They follow the river. The sky grows taut, fills up with scaly gray clouds.
In the years ahead she'll look back on the various princely men who moved through her life.
Spurs will shred seats, then rust in the rain. People will break leases and leave in fast cars. They'll walk when car breaks down. They'll thumb it back to beg forgiveness. Forgiveness will be a hard unripe fruit. Limbs will stiffen and draw in on themselves, feelings will contract. Stale beer bottles will be recycled. Parties will echo after themselves in retreat.
One day after all the days of crying have long passed, they will decide never to make love again, never to even live in the same house again. They'll decide to say goodbye for a time, not realizing that it will end up being forever.
Plans will become detours that will harden into well-traveled paths of habit.
College classes will be full of princes. Princes will marry and become unreachable kings.
She carries the river in her heart. Nothing would ever really smell his way again. Not the way she loved. And, of course,
the weather carries on.
© Phoebe Wilcox
Phoebe Wilcox lives in eastern Pennsylvania. She loves Juan Ramon Jimenez, grasshoppers, and potato leek soup. Her novel, Angels Carry the Sun is pending publication with Lilly Press, and an excerpt from a second novel, Flower Symbolism for Dummies, has been published in Wild Violet. Recent and forthcoming work may be found in Sixers Review, Bartleby-Snopes, A cappella Zoo, Glossolalia, The Chaffey Review, Calliope Nerve and others. Her story, Carp with Water in Their Ears, published in River Poets Journal, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Website: www.phoebewilcox.com.