There is a place, they say, that if you drive long enough and far enough and wide enough, you’ll end up there. Always.
And, once you arrive, if you can forget yourself, you never have to leave.
Never, as in the absolute of not ever, because this place, they say, is a place where even time has forgotten itself.
Me and Iggy and Caleb, we all want to try to forget ourselves for a while. Not because there’s anything in particular we want to forget, I don’t think. Just that it’s tiring after a while to constantly and consistently have to be who you are. Be yourself. Remember who you are. You Inner Self. Be your best self. Discover your True Self.
Be your Self.
Blah, blah, blah.
So. So we aim to forget together.
Iggy told her mom we’re having a marathon weekend at mine, I told Mom Caleb’s, and Caleb, Iggy’s—round and round so they shouldn’t know until Sunday night curfew that we haven’t been marathoning anything but miles.
We hope two days of marathon driving will be enough to get us to the nowhere we’re going.
I’m driving my third four-hour shift—seventh shift total—and we’ve reached a stretch of country nothing road where the night threatens to swallow us. The headlights seem inadequate in this vastness, two specks of dust reflecting light down a paved line to nowhere.
“I think we’re almost there,” comes a hushed voice from the backseat. Iggy, who had insisted she drive only daylight shifts due to her bodily commitment to circadian rhythms, is shock-awake, wide eyes watching me in the rearview mirror—watching me, anyway, when they’re not flitting to the road ahead, as though she might see the place before we get there.
We’re not sure how it works, but I don’t think that’s right.
Iggy says it’s supposed to a be a rest stop off a river of road, but Caleb swears it’ll be a hut along a stream, while I’ve heard it’s an open gate into a forest and it’s a rest stop and it’s a hut on a stream and it’s a black hole in time that swallows you in a darkening whirl of color. More or less.
So, no, I’m not convinced it’s the kind of place we’ll see coming.
That’s half the fun.
Only twelve minutes to midnight, until I can turn over the wheel to Caleb. He’s less awake than Iggy, but only less awake to the extent he’s been awake this entire trip: mostly silent, mostly still, his silhouette frozen against a backdrop of sky framed by the passenger seat window as though he’s practicing forgetting. It’s dark enough outside now that I can hardly tell the tip of his nose from the sky behind it. In fact, all his edges seem to soften and blur until he’s little more than a darker patch of night, as though his forgetting is already working.
I’m tired, about to blur into the night, too, and I count down the minutes and miles until I can exit and sleep.
Iggy catches my eye in the mirror again. I yawn. She winks, practically twinkles.
Next exit, seventeen miles.
The mile markers fly past in spots of green that flash and die. I blink away their brightness.
Iggy yawns through a giddy smile.
Caleb is his own black hole.
The blue numbers on the dash turn over on midnight and it’s still four miles until my exit.
Iggy nudges us both a couple miles later.
“What, Iggy?” Caleb resurfaces to utter his first words in a hundred miles, unamused, at the same time I’m telling her to “Chill the freaking squealing action.”
I don’t look away from the road, not trusting my own tiredness, and we fall back into silence. A minute later, I get another nudge.
“Iggy, knock it off!” I turn to give her my supersonic death ray eyes only to find Caleb’s hand still hovering near my shoulder where he clearly just nudged me. His silhouette has sprouted ears as he looks me straight on and he indicates the dashboard with his blue-lit hand.
It reads 12:00am. Still. And so it continues, even as we travel the night at a taunting 72 mph, even as grass and trees and mile marker after mile marker skate by, skate by, skate by.
I refocus on the road just in time to miss my exit, but it doesn’t matter.
A moment later, we all forget ourselves.
It is dark where we are, but we see everything as if it weren’t. It may as well be light.
Caleb walks to one side, Iggy just behind, and she pulls up along my other side when we recognize each other. We go to study our surroundings and find they exist as soon as we mean to see them.
It is everything—a whirl of color that resolves as we peer through it, with what looks like a rest stop at the edge of our vision, into a hut. Or vice versa. The river beside it is alternately made of water then of road. Then of water, then of road. Then of water, then of smoothly flowing road.
Caleb still blurs into the sky around us, as though the night and of color.
As we search for others, they appear.
What—from our periphery—may have been trunks of trees in a forest that sometimes skirts, sometimes circles, sometimes engulfs us, bodies are pulling themselves into form, as though made of branch and bark. They walk toward us. They walk away from us. They walk in no particular direction, but all with a particular attitude. The same particular attitude. Of ease.
This place is… easy.
This place is. And so are we all.
Caleb, Iggy, and I stay together, because we can’t not, knowing there is no need to speak or to look or to touch.
When one of use becomes hungry—it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish this separation—we find ourselves already gathering berries from laden bushes and fruit from shrugging trees, and before we can bring them fully to our lips we taste the delicate sweetness of green and water and light.
I revel in this new rendition of eating and I relish it. I wonder at it. I hold an open palm of berries before my eyes. Each sits with a weightless immensity there, their pomegranate reds seeping into my skin.
My skin, smooth but intricately lined, each crease flexing as my fingers stretch and dance.
I study each their shape and wonder at how they came to be mine—until I am only studying my hand clasped on a steering wheel, fingers curved into loose fists, steering wheel thrumming with the hum of road beneath the tires.
My steering wheel. The road. The tires.
As I drive.
The dash reads 12:01.
I am alone in the dark, as though Caleb and Iggy haven’t been fools to remember themselves yet, and I can do nothing but continue to drive.
I hope they return soon.
To remember oneself is, after all, a lonely thing.