|Stephanie Curtis - 2008
I Liked Driving
Mostly, I liked driving on the highway with some Stone’s song rattling
the doors and windows.
So when I pulled off near Route 1 by Cooney’s Tattoo Parlor
below the “He Has Risen” billboard,
took out my cigarette lighter, driver’s license, social security card,
all the bits of coded-magnetic plastic in my wallet
and set them alight on the hood of my car,
I surprised myself.
Maybe it had been a long time coming.
Not that I was looking for something new,
or wanted to join a band of gypsies with their painted wagons and fortunetellers,
or take up with Lapps, Berbers, Bushmen, or any other groups that roam about—
to escape my rooted and sedentary suburban existence—
nor was I thinking of going alone into the desert to live off locusts
and wild honey,
or of wandering into the wilderness, a-la-St. Jerome,
to spend my days removing thorns from the paws of lions,
and cultivating birds’ nests in my armpits,
or even of simply just dropping out,
to reckon the stars, watch moonlight tremble in spiders’ webs,
or dance madly in the rain, like Lear, cursing gods and tempting fate,
no matter how strong the urge to escape my world of 9-5, 401-Ks,
limited liability, “no money down” offers, strip malls, and everything
that’s made in China,
because I knew, even before burning away
those tokens of my identity and purchasing-power,
I was headed for the city streets
to grow a beard, to sport rags, to sleep on subway grates and park benches,
to depend on the guilt, pity or patronizing generosity of others.
There comes a moment for each of us when the private self with secrets,
memories and doubts, must be extinguished— the unknown faced directly,
so you will know whether you can stand it or whether you will break.
Another version of I Liked Driving was first published in Word Riot, September 2007.