As a girl in high school, Geraldine combed the St. Johns’ bookmobile for books about her famous relative, Herbert Hoover: first cousin to her great grandmother on her mother’s side. She pored over his biographies like magazine horoscopes, looking for clues to her own destiny, which turned out to be a decade of goat farming with Nolan Struggs.
Driving her daughters into town for school one morning, Geraldine saw the bookmobile—an airstream bus streaked in a chipped maroon—parked in front of the new library, advertising a book sale. She stopped there when she picked them up that afternoon. It was her girls’ first time inside; they usually borrowed at the school library. Geraldine herself hadn’t been in years—not since she’d had Mia. Their farm was thirteen miles out of town and it had been easier for Geraldine to borrow books from her mother.
The reality of what’s happening to me hits as I slide the key into the ignition. It’s as if the ugliness of the past year unfolded on a giant movie screen in front of my eyes, and now, with the clicking of the key into its shaft, a connection has been made to make the onscreen image surge out of its frame and wrap around me. I look out the car window at the door I will never again pass through, into windows I will only look through from the outside, and I feel a rush of panic. I’ve been holding onto my old life by a flimsy line of stopgap payments and legal appeals; this morning its last threads have snapped, and I’m watching the old life recede, gathering speed into the distance as I fall away.
In the passenger seat beside me, Heather coughs. She must think she’s fooling me, as though throughout nine years of marriage, even over the two years we’ve been seeing this day coming, this paragon of stoicism, my wife, has never before snuffed a sob with a well-timed clearing of her throat.
Grace had thought about living alone for years. No one, other than herself, to fit in with. She needed to wrap herself in silence, lie without moving, stare until she saw nothing. If she could be alone, even for a while, it would help. It wasn’t that she didn’t love him. It was simply that love didn’t solve everything.
That long ago spring they’d met—excuse me, is this yours? he’d asked, holding out the notebook—his grey eyes seeking her smile. How warm he was, how incredibly gentle and considerate—should I do this? He’d asked that first night. Is this right? He continued to ask, year after year. How do you want your tea? Should we go biking? Would you like a blanket?
They’d crossed the impossible distance of a continent. Their lives were epic, fugitive, and none of it mattered. The saints stayed in their heaven and watched them run. The Virgin wept in the south and waited for their calls, and they called when they were sick or frozen or when someone grabbed Bigote’s beard and he killed them. Ran. It was always the part in the story where the heroes ran. Hid. Tempted the gods, fate. Remembered Troy. They made epithets, curses for each other. Were them. They slept four or five to a room like ballast and stumbled over a carpet of arms and legs when they needed to piss. Shit in a compound bucket. In other men’s shit. You can get used to anything after a while, Bigote told them. Even the smell. Even epic. The saints did.
Maintained or neglected, familiar or foreign, well-worn or wild, roadways inform our decisions and identities. Their geographies direct the movement
of our lives and sketch the cartography of our stories. In this spirit, 322 Review publishes provocative emerging and established artists whose fiction,
creative nonfiction, poetry, and mixed media artwork wander the paths of human experience. A nonprofit literary journal conceived
and operated by former Rowan University graduate students, 322 Review is based in Southern New Jersey.