Quick! Pack your bags! I’ll leave the car running while I help you load them in the back seat. Feel free to pack light, all you really need is your best sneakers and your sense of wonder. You don’t need to leave a note; we’ll be travelling on the back roads of memory and the freeways of the soul: the places where time and distance have no meaning, all the hours and days hang suspended like bright jewels in the black velvet sky.
My car is a classic, a cherry red Eldorado. It’s a bit rusted, sure, but the headlights are bright and clear; they are magic lanterns, really, projecting the holograms of barns and trees and foxes. I’ve made a mixtape for the trip, mostly gospel songs and songs about the moon, set to Theremins and cellos. Do you mind me saying that you look years younger in the radio light?
On the left, we’ll pass by flooded fields and dusky woods. On the right, there is a gently sloping hill. If you like, we can take a break and climb to the top; have a midnight picnic. We can pick wild strawberries and I’ve packed sardines, some stilton cheese, and a bottle of clear Icelandic rain. There are views of a wine dark sea and the lights of distant towns.
I have a hand drawn map, rendered in blackberry ink and shellfish dyes on pages, paper the colour of moonlight and cream. I thought we might start off by finding the small town where you used to hang from the monkey bars when you were seven, picking out the faces of giants in the clouds of upside-down skies. Then we could find the old haunted house where I used to hide beneath the sheets reading adventure stories by flashlights until the ghosts left me and let me sleep.
Maybe then we could find that seaside town again, the one we stumbled across the summer when we met, have a beer and some calamari at that oyster bar with the great jukebox and all the fishing nets hanging from the wall. Do you remember exploring the jeweled tide pools, the night swimming, reading P.G. Wodehouse by Coleman lantern light?
If it’s alright by you, we can try to figure out a route that will help us entirely bypass the swamps of regret and the dirty industrial towns, with their shadow factories and their sorrow mills. I agree, many of our best changes and our most beautiful scars came from those places, but our gps gets confused there, and it’s so easy to get permanently lost.
If you want, we don’t need to say anything at all. We can just sit in companionable silence, watching the world float by our windows. And if you get tired, go ahead and have a nap, you don’t need to navigate right now. Because no matter which route we take, we’re always heading home.