En Route: Restlessness — Part 1

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There is a restlessness inside him, pressing against his bones. Like water it fills his body, gushing onto the streets like a river. And the streets are hungry. With every word he speaks his bones are ripped out of his throat. He floats from town to town, fishing the streets to put himself back together.

When he was a child in a time of another country, the days were spent in the shadow of the Transylvania Mountains, watching the shepherds throw commands over the hills and the dogs dashing among the sheep to catch them. His grandparents were farmers and went to bed in the evening and woke up with the sun, while he followed the sun into the nights, and the stars lit up the cemetery where children from nearby houses got together to play hide and seek among tombstones with faded names, and those names belonged in the ground the way he belong among the children.

At the age of eight, he and his brother heard tales of an airport over the hills, where machines took people to the sky, and they set out to unravel the mystery. Without a word to their grandparents, they walked the hills empty-handed and drank water from tin cups handed to them by shepherds and ate the bread of gypsies, who laughed and gave them necklaces to ward off wolves who howled at the moon so that it might stay in the sky another night. They slept in a ditch the first night, the moon still in love with the wolves, and the two brothers held hands knowing that even in sleep they were safer together. They awoke with the sun eating away at the day and in the rumble of the afternoon they looked up to see a white dot manifest itself into a plane. A fence surrounded the airport, but the noise still reached their ears and the planes came and went like flies being swatted into the sky and to the ground. He watched the planes fly into the clouds and wondered if it was the same as a knife slicing through a pillow, his eyes scanning the sky to see what would come falling out. They left the same day, eventually bored by the interaction between machine and sky, their fingers unable to touch either.

It was only when their eyes made out their grandparents’ house that the consequences of their adventure materialized in their minds, and they opened the gate with caution and their grandfather gave them a beating and no one really thought that harm would come to children walking on the land.

His grandparents gave up on keeping his feet from walking, and often they joked he was dropped on their doorsteps by gypsies. He gave up on keeping his feet in the same place for too long, knowing the ground was knowing the surface of his mind.

As he aged the ground changed into concrete, his mind hardened, the sky filled with airplanes cutting into clouds, and a restlessness fell out and settled over his body like feathers.

He loved driving down country roads in his first car, the fields spotted with hickory and oak, and the air between him and the city left behind growing darker and darker the farther he aimed his headlights into the road ahead. Each night he pushed on the gas to see how far he would get before being pulled back to his parents’ house. A year later, at the age of 17, he broke through the invisible line and one night he kept on driving, following the road signs to nearest city. He arrived in the city at midnight and the stars stayed behind, outside the bubble of light, and the moon was lonely and he couldn’t remember the last time he held his brother’s hand. The city didn’t offer him water and people had no bread and no one bothered to make necklaces to keep him safe. He slept in his car in a parking lot, metal and wires wrapped around him, and if a car was a way to escape from escaping then it would give birth to him.

The next day he drove back and stopped along the highway to stretch his bones and smoke a cigarette, and he saw a deer across the road, in the tree line, looking at him as if he was something interesting. Pulling into the driveway at his parents’ house, he remembered his parents, and they burst from the door, his mother crying, his father holding his hair, and they ask him where he has been and he doesn’t say anything, and his father grabs his shoulders as if to waken him, shaking his body, and they ask him where he has been and he doesn’t know.


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