North by Southwest

North by Southwest

1.
Christ, when did the road
to Purdue become so paved? Did I miss
a memo, a leaflet, a constitutional amendment
that would have given me better directions? Or maybe,
I just cannot read so well, the coffee
and tear-stained map unfolding into social hieroglyphics
foreign to me. I watch
in my hindsight mirror as my best friend
takes a bite of an apple
I can’t taste. Don’t want to taste, actually, but still,
I clutch the wheel like I’m in control and don’t feel
anything inside me. I see
the sign saying 465 Exit Straight Ahead.
Like
an arrow going the wrong narrow way, I think,
but take it, anyway. I always do. Sometimes
you have to go South, after all, in order to go North,
and leaving Anderson is no exception. The bypass
snakes around Indianapolis like intestinal machinery
and craps us out onto 65.

2.
Weren’t there horses before machines? Wild
hopes running, roaming free? Full of fever
I reach
over to touch my best friend’s knee, but instead catch
myself and turn
the radio also on. So many stations, but all I get
is static. My friend hand’s me a cassette,
saying, “Why don’t you play
this?” I
oblige
and the greedy tape deck takes it. How great
it is to be inserting something somewhere! Rush
ushers Tom Sawyer in. I look in the backseat for Finn,
but all I see is a backpack containing my paint
by number SAT scores,
a welcome packet, and other dumb
and dumber academic junk reminding me I was sunk
before I had a chance to swim. Over
to my right, a Deer Crossing sign warns me to watch out. How
odd. The headlights are always on me,
and am I not
the only one frozen?

3.
Good time can be made going no
where. High school
was a similar nothing
affair. A Bloodguard beyond repair
with little worth protecting, the predetermined physics
of my body only outwardly observed the laws
of organic chemistry prevalent in the halls. The need
to be a cookie cutter
made Engineering seem full of bitter
sweet butter. But I wonder,
as I take us off the highway,
to gas up at a red and yellow Shell station
offering a free car wash, what
the real catch is. My friend
comes out of the washroom as I pull
my nozzle out, and stick it back where it belongs.
“Do you have to go?” he asks. “No,”
I say, and get back behind the wheel,
thinking, Where in the world does someone like me
have to go?