Some Trajectories / 13 November 2001

Me and K go off a cliff together in my stepfather’s 1964 Thunderbird, backward, our progress down into the ravine abruptly halted by a tree, and the man says if I’d turned the wheel even slightly, we would’ve plowed right through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the house that was there on the hill to our left, right into the living room and wouldn’t that have been wild.

I put the thing in gear, you have to put it in gear before you can start it, that’s how this old car operated, and I put it in neutral and it starts rolling back and I jam it back into park and it keeps rolling and I stomp on the brakes and it keeps rolling and I hit the emergency brake and it keeps rolling and we’re sort of joking the whole time, the jokes revolving around my driving inexperience, it being only a handful of weeks after I got my license and at one point K says Should I pray? as another joke and then we hit this short wall that separates the cul-de-sac from the ravine, knock that little wall silly, and then back, and back, and down, through the brush, down. The air in that car, for those five-six seconds, is crystalline, green, silent, spelling it out: Every day you’ll be in a car that’s rolling backward down into a ravine. Every day events will occur that are outside of your control but you can sit and watch and if you want, you can turn the wheel slightly, if you want, and maybe you’ll go through some stranger’s living room or maybe you’ll miss the tree and keep rolling back until the car flips or maybe something else will happen that you didn’t even think of. It’s so clear and obvious but it disappears as soon as we hear the crunch of the [car’s] trunk wrapping itself around the [tree’s] trunk. We forget all about it.

It takes four tow trucks to pull the thing out and we’re warned to look out because he’s seen these cables snap when they’re doing this much work—This one time they snapped and went flying and decapitated this guy, well like decapitated and then some, hitting him at an angle, the tip of one shoulder and across almost all the way to his hip on the other side, all the way through, not a clean cut, exactly, but good enough to do the job, assuming that’s the job you want done, ha ha, and I don’t think nobody wants that job done, ha ha. The neighbors come out to see. Nothing wrong with the brakes. We make forty bucks from the hubcaps, the rest is scrap.

We decide to stick to our plan to go into San Francisco and see Baron Munchausen, taking his car. We eat at Burger King in Japantown. I go to a chiropractor once a week for six months and she does the thing where she grabs your head from behind and snaps it to one side, but I don’t die like they do in the movies. She leans on my back and cracks it and I giggle, no manlier term for it, not because it tickles or because anything’s funny. We’re letting out something good, she says, something that’s been trapped. Do they even have chiropractors outside of California? Are they even allowed to say that to paying customers? Same thing happens later on, though I don’t bring it up because one time I did, and we’re laying there afterward, not smoking cigarettes, and she says No laughing this time? and I have to shrug and not explain.

I talk to K two weeks ago after years of radio silence and he’s with his girlfriend in New York City and I hear his apartment through the phone and I picture it like I picture all New York apartments: Hot, tiny, cramped, traffic, worn Middle Eastern rugs over hardwood floors, stacks of books, Indian food, large contemporary prints hanging over a bed without a frame, cats, cigarette smoke, asymmetrical. You introduce yourself as Josh or Joshua these days? he asks, and tells me about the politics of his fantasy story and we’re like Can you believe all this weather they have out here? and we’re all (Have you turned the wheel even slightly yet?) in those little pauses when we’re deciding whether to start a new topic of conversation or just call it a day.

Joshua Green Allen

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