Doldrums by Rachel Calleja

He changes lanes so often, the white road line crosses back and forth between us until we’re 10 year old siblings dividing a room with string, insisting we stay on our own sides, this ticker tape of a white line ticking between yours and mine but we can’t seem to decide if we share anything more than these weathered car seats and the last thousand miles of intermittent disdain. The same refrain of scenery slipping by. Breathtaking, but infuriating in it’s lack of greenery, the extremity of it’s purity. We’ve been stuck in the same country road snow globe scene for days. Highway hypnosis taking over in waves, but this is more than white line fever; this is white window disease, white earth influenza, white blanket with complete lack of warmth. It is white knuckles clenched on faded black steering wheel, a war between tire and tar, a tirade against winter, parade float swerving under confetti of shattered snowmen, the flesh of fallen hopes and he’s driving like a slingshot about to let throw; a skydiver with no parachute but I’m praying we still float ’cause we’ve got a long ways left to go. And cause this car, well this car smells like my childhood; like bushfires and driftwood. He like roman candles and madness and that day we walked for 6 hours in minus 7 degree snow. I ask him where we’re headed, and he tells me he doesn’t yet know. But in all it’s cliche’d glory it doesn’t matter cause this is just another story of the road. Which means it’s all about the go, not the get-there. It’s about leaving home and those blank stares I was faced with when I first laid bare my soul, confessed that the stress of this 9 to 5 existence wasn’t consistent with the distances I wanted to transgress and everyday spent in an office was 2 days closer to my death. I had to get out and live, before I didn’t have any life left. So I left.

And my mother cried at the goodbye, my father didn’t cause he never does but he tells me he misses me sometimes. And I think the contrast of their separate hearts is what keeps my own defined, reminded of their smiles on the days I start to fret that I’m not living life the way I’m meant. That my plot twists and circles circumvent more than monotony, they’re skippin’ out on security. And I’m not talking credit rates or salary, I’m talking the fear that comes sporadically seeping in; the voice that tells me my zigzags and salsa-step avoidance of what others deem ‘real-life’ means I might never make it past the finish line. And so like a kid lost in the supermarket for the first time, I start looking to my parents with panic in my eyes.

But my mother is a carpenter. She helped build our family home with her bare hands, each birthday constructed me doll houses, rocking horses and hammered into me the belief that beauty can be found in even the densest or most discarded blocks of wood, you just need to be brave enough to look. To cut into it, to shave away the excess, to deal with the screech of sandpaper on sycamore, searching for something smoother and unique hidden underneath it all.

My father is a mechanic, so I’ve no need to worry that my life is ever gonna stall. See he grew up like a car-race. But he read the red, orange and green light as ready, set, stay. And though he’d never say it out loud regret is etched into the lines on his face, in his grease-covered hands, so even though it breaks his heart he sets me free across the land. I was not raised to repeat other peoples mistakes. Nor to conform to anyone else’s plans. My story may end up tragic and twisted but every word will have been written by my own two hands. Frostbitten, weather-torn and etched with life-lines longer than latitudes, gratitude carved into my bones like mountain ranges, pages full of paper streets and imaginary towns. We’ve been driving round in circles for some time now.

None of us know what we’re looking for. Maybe we’re all just begging to be found.