Low Power Mode

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Jmb

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Before my car spun out on the highway ice on the way to Chicago, slammed against the railing, and I found myself looking at the oncoming traffic of I-80—I used to spend a lot of time driving at night and listening to Frank Ocean. This was before you and I knew each other. When I put this memory of night driving together, I’m going up Park Ave in the dark with pools of lamplight spreading on the rain slick street. It’s late summer. The windshield wipers move every two or three seconds while I go the speed limit—maybe I’ve had two beers and college town cops are too bored. Since we hadn’t met yet, in this memory I’m remembering someone else named M. and I’m wondering why I thought I was going to be able to move to France, to ask her for plane-ticket money, to get a Visa, to pay student loans and credit cards, to step up and into a foreign middle class and out of where and who and how I come from. The thought still rings like the language of a privilege I’m not even sure who speaks.

In this night-driving memory, the first track of Ocean’s second album, Nikes, fills me with a knowing hurt that the song warps, that it bends low to the bass and shimmers in the processed, ruined falsetto that could pass for a beautiful whine. I’m going by cop, after cop. I see a dark green Saturn sedan from the 90’s ditched under a streetlight. If this was Texas, not Pennsylvania, that Sedan would be the long neck of a doe and its fawn turning their eyes toward mine from the road side. But this is Pennsylvania, not Texas, and there’s no deer, just dark rolling fields and the near visible outline of mountains against which the glow of the town settles.

When I say I’m lonely, this memory is the first place I go. Before I put it away and come back to our now, I think: that scene must be taking place at midnight, or maybe on the other side of midnight, on the side closer to this moment—to when you walk into my living room and ask "Do you want to talk about anything?" and I say "Not really." The side closer to when you say "Okay" and get up from the broken, wooden chair and walk out through sliding glass door and away.

As I watch you step around the boxes of my things that you gathered from your place, I look through the glass for a second at my old, totaled, red Camry that has been sitting broken for so long outside of the garage. I almost died that day in March on the highway about a year ago, when I was towed home and went out to the dive bar and got drunk and saw you for the first time. You were standing there like the morning. I went like doves to meet you.

When you’re out of sight, I get up from my chair and walk upstairs to the bedroom of scattered clothes and grief. I lay in the unmade bed, take out my phone, and block you from every place I might find you. The battery sign is a little red line and I don’t know where the charger’s at. I hold the center button and whisper "Low power mode", to which Siri says, too loudly, "low power mode is off, would you like to turn it on?" I wonder if the battery will last long enough for the phone alarm to get me up tomorrow. Even if it doesn’t die, I know I can’t call you when I wake.

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