***A story inspired by the trip to Yellowstone
Lila lay on the park bench looking up at the sky. She was waiting for something like the sky to open up.
When the small black car pulled up, Svenn stepped out to help her load her backpack in the trunk.
Night 1: The highway lane lights up with a soft pink that settles into the horizon to the west and disappears. Lila sleeps in the passenger seat and Svenn drives, Christian rock on the radio, dashboard lights up red and white. Svenn names the car Sally.
Lila drives through the night into South Dakota where they find dawn over the mountains, sun melting dark pines onto their hilltops. They sleep in Sally’s belly at a gas station in Keystone. When Svenn wakes Lila, they keep moving. Blacktop burns down.
That afternoon, they stop at a hotel where Svenn has to drop off supplies for work and talks to his family in Romania on the phone for an hour. Lila flips through magazines in the lobby.
Through Wyoming, Lila’s driving and so in love, particularly with the bluffs lining the road, and maybe herself. This is the most real she’s ever felt and she slicks on a coat of lipstick.
Lost Springs, Wyoming
Svenn’s at the wheel nibbling carrots, sipping black coffee and spraying himself with water from a spray bottle to stay awake.
Night 2: “Say a prayer for your ancestors,” says Svenn. They stands between geysers at twilight, a lake in front of them, a cool breeze rustling arm hairs. A deer picks her way across the shoreline, dark silhouette on water that’s blue and silver, spreading like mercury. This is Yellowstone.
The morning is an American “Hell yeah.” It’s the fourth of July and Japanese tourists are taking pictures in front of every geyser. Svenn pulls Lila through this chaos by the hand. One other thing she she loves: delicate palms.
Last stop, Old Faithful. Thunder and lightning rush the dark who is already arriving. The geyser has just gone off and people are running into the visitor’s center for shelter from the storm.
It’s 6pm, the last good thing. Beartooth Highway. Svenn’s driving and he stops at the top of the pass to coax Lila out of the car. Perched at the edge, they live in a pink glow that melts them to the earth. On the way down Svenn says: “I believe in God and I believe in you, Lila!” Words mean things.
Night 3: Lila’s driving again. The middle of Montana is flat and silent and at 3:30am she hits over a deer lying dead in the road, she doesn’t wake up Svenn who sleeps in back seat. To her, his sleep is the most precious.
In daylight, someone’s sewing the sky back up. Minneapolis under the tires and smog. Lila and Svenn splitting up the gas bill in the parking lot. It’s $164 total, and since Svenn’s put it all on his credit card, Lila owes him. She digs around in her wallet for the cash and pulls out a few crumpled bills. Their hands touch one last time.