The scenery rolls out and away from me. Tumbling out of a cup, all stones and flat pressed fields. I can look skywards and see the endless upturned bowl, beaten metal with a tiny hammer so it shimmers. You are driving. I could reach out and put my hand on your knee, but I don’t. I simply stare out through the glaring window, embedding everything to memory. The arc of the sky is disturbing, and the wind blasted birds topple through it.
I feel this endlessly repeating moment, a cycle that shuffles around and around again. A click and a hiccup in the music. Here I am again. Here I am on this road, this path. I know this place, because I’m sure I’ve dreamed it to me once, twice, a thousand times before. I know what is meant to happen here, it’s just that I’m afraid.
The birds are flying lower now. They keep pace with the car before wheeling again in a tangle, and my eye is drawn up and away over my head. The skeletal trees point. I turn again to the road. You are straight-eyed and determined as I run my gaze over you. I watch, rubbing my thumb over the joints in my hand.
The cracks are more obvious now. I’ve seen them appearing along the inside of my wrist. I know this. I’ve seen this before. There is a line that runs up my neck from my shoulder, a fracture that started last night. You kissed it and didn’t mention it, but I know you knew it was there. By this morning it was rough to the touch and the splitting seam had reached my hairline. We both stayed mute on the subject. It seemed for the best.
So now we’re driving across the wide brown landscape. It looks like a stretched out piece of leather. While I gaze out and away, I’m running my hands over the cracks in my wrists, simply feeling them for the reminder they give me. It is a sly pleasure, like bumping an old wound for the buzz of familiar pain. I pull up my sleeve and see how they’ve unfurled over my skin up to my elbow. You don’t look. Well, not directly at least. We’ve still got a way to drive and we’re trying not to draw attention to the obvious. Not yet.
I know this road. Soon the ageing fenceposts will give way to commuter land. The fences will go higher, and the canker of housing development will spread. The trees will turn their backs and show their shoulders, hunching their heads. There will be paths, and palm trees. There will be RSL clubs and men who spit. The wheeling birds will spin back out and away to the place where we’ve come from. They’ll fall away. I know that this will happen, because it always does.
I am consciously trying to slow down time, stretch it out. I will try anything to prevent what happens next.
It never works.
The sound of fragility echoes in my head. The crack runs along my hairline to my temple. I touch it instinctively. You glance across at me as if to warn me against it, but when I look at you, your eyes are soft and forgiving.
“It’s happening again,” I say. Quiet in the car, nothing except the roar of wheels on the road.
“Yes, I know,” you say.
Nothing else we can do.
I make a tent out of my fingers. The cracks are finer between my knuckles, shell-like and fractured. The lines fan out as I watch, and a shudder runs through me. There is a sigh as the shell casing that holds me together breaks down my spine.
“It’s time for me to go,” I say.
“I don’t want you to,” you reply. Such a simple statement. So heavy.
I cannot hold the pieces together. They were not meant to be held. They were meant to split and fracture and take me with it. But you knew that already.
I want to apologise, I want to take it back. But I’ve already gone. I’m wheeling out and above the car, spinning on the air with the tumbling birds. I’m watching the car drive further away. I fall into the colour of the sky until I forget.