Somewhere in the Night

By on Oct 18, 2020 in Fiction

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Greyhound bus at night

Middle Georgia—Summer 1974

He had forgotten how long he had been traveling—or how far. It had all seemed a lot clearer back then when he first decided to come to see her, again. All that was involved was flying into Atlanta and then taking the bus down to Flat Rock—just a few hours at most. But somehow, somewhere along the line, everything changed. Maybe it changed after he heard her voice; as if everything up until that time had been little more than a lark, an escape—not from boredom, but from the burden of routine repetition—or maybe it was just because of simple curiosity. He wondered if hearing her, again, had changed his lark into an obsession, a compulsion, a now complex curiosity, a drive that quickly reminded him of his old drive for her—their drive for each other. It had been a drive that had constantly strained and labored at its moorings until they broke free of the inhibitions that precluded any manner or form of expression. The rekindling of a drive so powerful that he found all of his thoughts and energies concentrated only on her. It was a concentration so great and overwhelming that everything was excluded, especially his sense of time.

He had also lost track of both the calendar day and the day of the week, being only able to distinguish parts of the day—early morning, afternoon, early evening, late night—but not specific times during the day. His sense of direction, time and destination had become prioritized on one focal point—her. The flight to Atlanta was less than a vague memory; it had occurred somewhere in the past, and that past was quickly becoming immaterial, inconsequential. At no other time in his life had any moment or moments seemed so important, so crucial, so central a vehicle to his future. But it was not a future as most are used to understanding the word, future.

His future had almost nothing to do with that nebulous expanse of existence encompassing everything from the next moment to the end of life—and often beyond even that. No, his future was different, and maybe because it was so different so was the intensity of his present. For his future was limited, though not by the ultimate claim of death, but by a convention of their own, agreed to on the telephone, and in essence being that his or her—or their—time together should be limited to just a few hours. It was in this way they could consider themselves safe; both able to endure the onslaughts of memories and old passions, and yet, still, be able to be honest and realistic about themselves, each other, whether together or apart. He agreed, reluctantly, to all of this, sensing that he really had no choice; knowing that she had always dictated time in their lives and that this time was to be no different. Throughout their conversation he felt the conflict between his heart and his mind; his heart shouting, “…but I love you…” while his mind was saying, “…I know you’re right.” He knew that he wanted to tell her that a few hours just wouldn’t do, that you just can’t put a time limit on something like this after all these years. Yet now, he even found his heart divided; one part trying to convince him to say, “…no, it isn’t fair…” while the other part was entreating him to take what he could and be happy for it.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” he found himself saying to her, agreeing to what she said and in whatever way she said it. Her voice, her tone was neither melodic nor entrancing, but somehow, she had gotten him to agree with her—with her wants and needs. It was almost as if nothing had changed. He remembered time after countless time, over the years that they were together, that he found himself agreeing and giving in to her pleading, loving, teasing, angry and non-commonsensical wishes and desires.

At first, after he realized his inability to demand—or maybe just a greater ability in her to counter-demand—he questioned the relationship, particularly his role in it. He wondered why he was always so malleable, why did he always give in to her and for what reasons?  Was it because he was using her? Was he allowing her to control him for some self-effacing reason, or was he allowing her to control and dictate to him so that she might fulfill within herself some need for power and authority? Or, more simply, were his reasons self-serving, was he just trying to placate and appease her so that he might be able to keep her?

It bothered him for quite some time, her power over him, and not only did he not understand it, but the harder he tried, the more confusing it became. Once, back then, he had even come close to calling off the entire short-lived relationship when he realized that maybe there wasn’t anything to understand at all, that possibly neither one of them had anything wrong with them. That maybe he had spent too much time and effort trying to understand a process that could probably best and most easily be described as their particular give-and-take, their ease. And so, without any further time spent trying to understand what was going on between them, he had found himself a reason for forgetting it—he was comfortable—and that was that, at least for then.

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John Hawkins spent a considerable number of years on the two-lane roads of Middle Georgia. Almost always, these roads led him back to where he lived in Flat Rock. Then, one day, he found himself heading north--crossing state lines--and ending up in New York City. There, he stayed and stayed and stayed until one day the roads, again, beckoned him to “…come, follow us…” Well, he did until he stopped in a small upstate hamlet that he now calls home. Yet, every now and then, Georgia “calls,” but not loud enough or convincingly enough for him to leave and go back.