I’m 3 or 4 years old, sitting in my mother’s lap while she drives up the highway, from Illinois to Wisconsin. The car is dark other than the orange tip of my mother’s cigarette. It’s around midnight, so the highway is dark too — all you can see is as far as my mother’s brights illuminate. Only being able to see little slab of concrete in an expanse of darkness gives you the feeling of floating.
We slow down — the highway suddenly becomes a patchwork of brakelights. My mother rolls down her window and cranes her neck out the window -
“Oh, dear…” she says to herself, even though I’m in the car. She remembers me and then, confused what to do next, points out the window.
I see in the middle of the highway a figure — a darkness that seems to be a slightly different shade of dark than the darkness around it. The dark blob moves without determination — it lumbers forward, weaving between the cars.
The car behind us begins to honk.
“Let’s fucking move!” the man yells. “It’s late! Let’s go!”
He keeps honking. I begin to make honking noises too — it’s fun. I catch my mother’s eyes and smile — “Honk honk!” I say. She furrows her brow and reaches across to the passenger window and rolls down the window and leans her head out.
“There’s a fucking DOG asshole!”
My smile widens when she says dog. I grab my mom and shake her in excitement. She pulls her head into the car.
“But I want to see the dog!” I say.
I begin to cry. I’m not sure why — but I feel like it. She shakes her head and sighs. The car behind us honks more. Now I don’t like the honks either. I begin to rock back and forth.
“Shhh…” she says trying to calm me down.
I get louder and rock more and more.
“FUCK! OW!” my mom screams. Now she’s holding her mouth, her lip bloody. “You hit me with your fucking head.”
She picks me up and gently — but forcefully — places me in the back seat. I roll onto my stomach and cry to myself.
The car lumbers forward. Then brakes. Forward, then brakes.
“Go! Go!” she says. She whistles and waves and knocks on her windshield. “Go, boy! Go!”
The car behind her honks. My mom jams her head out her window.
“DO YOU WANT ME TO RUN OVER THIS FUCKING DOG?”
Honk. Honk Honk.
My mother buries her face in her hands — and bites her lip. She turns to me.
“You really hurt me…” she says. I don’t look up. I continue to rock back and forth while biting the pleather seat coverings.
The car behind us honks.
Our car lumbers forward again — until BAM. I hear a sound from outside the car — a faint groan. I look out the window and I see the shadow move into another lane. I can hear the sound of its fingernails scraping across the pavement.
My mother lights another cigarette — puts her foot on the gas and drives on, into the night, speeding up until we’re floating again.