by Kirk Rao
I often remember leaving the military—driving off the base for the last time and taking off on an open highway out of Kansas, my hands on the broad steering wheel of my first car (an old Ford that I was able to buy and continue preserving while I was in the service), the sunlight hazing the long hood of the car into a blinding gold, a bright morning amid the last spring before the new millennium, and the windows rolled down to let the warmth whip through the musty cab. This warmth was carried by the same indigenous wind that had echoed the vast flatness of the Midwest when powdered visible by straight lines of sideways snow, that barrage of tiny shards of ice that stung like glass while we waited on the flight line for bloated tankers and roaring bombers to be launched and recovered. Now, as that warm wind barreled through the open windows of my speeding car, I felt it lifting me out of a four-year bond, four years, but I was still young and still drawing and learning piano and, even after the car, still had savings—I would need it for New York City. I was leaving behind, leaving below, those tired and defeated families trudging through the cheap isles of chain stores, and joining those free thinkers, whom I imagined shouting proudly and defiantly as they stood on the gueridon tables of private cafes, where I perchance would meet the one who would love me as much as I would love her, that is, if I would not otherwise meet her in the passions of my new job, this job being one I could get, now that I had the GI Bill and could finally return to school four years after the first time everything went wrong. In this way did I think of everything I would have, while that shining, resilient car I used to have flew further and further away until the lifting wind grew weaker and was finally gone. But its aging memory remains strong.
Kirk Rao has a BA in English from Hunter College, where he's pursuing a career as a public school teacher. His publication credits include artwork in Cerise Press and Prick of the Spindle.