My eyes moved between the windshield and the rear-view mirror, anticipating a swarm of flashing lights as the needle of time stitched itself slowly forward through the weak flesh of my mind, embroidering my thoughts with Kafkaesque plot twists…I really need that cigarette, I thought to myself as my eyes drifted back down to the cupholder. Leaning over, I rifled through the glove compartment for a Hail Mary in the form of a matchbook. There were three packets of Taco Bell hot sauce, some napkins, a map of Canada and a map of America, but no matchbook, so I grabbed the map of America and opened it up, hoping to distract myself from my anxiety and its plethora of acquired addictions.
While dragging my finger across the Midwestern states, I remembered the stories my mom told me about her childhood spent on a farm near Omaha. Every morning she’d hurry through her chores so she could swing on the tire that hung from the willow, and run through the fields with her hound dog, and ride the old draft horse when it wasn’t sleeping. If it rained, she’d go into the barn and play with the ever-increasing number of runny-eyed cats. It was a daily stream of activity that only ever surrendered to the night, or to the absolute meanest weather, and if it turned out to be the weather, then she was surely the last one down the stairs into the storm cellar. She loved the farm, but as she grew older she grew more fascinated by what lay beyond its cedar rail fences. By the time she turned eighteen (exactly three days after receiving a letter of acceptance from a prestigious university in Grey Grove, Canada), she was ready to explore beyond the borders of her country.
I could see it wasn’t far from south Kansas to eastern Nebraska, so I considered going out of my way on the return trip in order to experience firsthand the land my mom grew up on, but I decided against it after remembering the compound interest accruing on the two thousand dollars I owed. Suddenly, the cigarette was back at the forefront of my mind: “I really need that cigarette,” I whispered as I glanced out the window and saw my old lighter lying there in the roadside grass looking the paragon of disposableness while underscoring the disposableness of it all…From ancient Greece to modern Los Angeles…From papyrus to newsprint…From the nematode to me.