In a field somewhere between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, the scent of manure assaulted. A breathed deep. She could. Fuck the bruises on her ribcage. Fuck her past. She would change her name. She would start over. She knelt, dew wetting denim, and upended her purse. Her phone was dead, had been dead, but she crushed it anyway. A watched the cracks spider. A watched gnats lift from the earth, unwind from the air. They were all over her. Lips. Eyelids. She destroyed. Her journal. The unused blush her mother had regifted months earlier. A zipped her jacket. Buried her keys with her hands. She spat to seal the ground.
C found A.
Tall, blond, and for a slice of a second, she was back on that mattress. But he was not the same man, not B. This man wore scruff along his jaw. This man wore warmth in his eyes. This man asked if he could help.
A stared out the window of C’s truck. C liked country music. C liked farm animals, goats and cows, raised them. Smelled like them. The glass was cold against her head. C gave A space. A remembered B. His violence. A thought of all the times men had stuck their hands down her pants. Tongues down throats. Words in ears. She thought of sex, of love. Pain.
“Where can I drop you off?”
A glanced at C. His homely face. The notch on the ridge of his right ear.
“Will you keep driving?”
C stared at the road, and A wondered if C thought of love, too. Or of migrations. Of stars disappearing out of their sky only to appear in another hemisphere countless miles away. She wondered if he knew what light looked like when it collapsed.
C worried his bottom lip between his teeth and turned left. Turned left again. A slept. Woke. Slept. Eventually said goodbye to C with the ocean crying behind. A watched whitecaps break. Watched gulls arrow free in a mottled sky.
Two little girls in pink swimsuits built sandcastles. Those tiny hands packed walls, filled purple buckets, laughed; A wouldn’t look as the water leveled all they had made for themselves.
Jared Povanda is an internationally published writer and freelance editor from upstate New York. His work has been published by CHEAP POP, Pidgeonholes, Bending Genres, Ellipsis Zine, and Hobart, among others. Find him online @JaredPovanda and jaredpovandawriting.wordpress.com