Backroads

by Abigail Richards

On the backroads, we open the sunroof of your mom’s Jetta and take turns standing up and screaming until we can’t tell our voices from the wind. Pebbles pop like gunshots and out of habit we look to the sky hoping maybe it’s fireworks. You speed up as we go down the hills because you know that when I was little it was the closest I got to roller coasters and I would throw my hands in the air until my fingers bent against the vinyl. To thank you I take your fingers off my thigh and bend them against my mouth until the car swerves a little. Fear doesn’t exist in the same way here but out of habit, I drop your hand. 

Your neighbor watches us from his beer-bellied, lace-lined kitchen as we walk down the gravel highway. Once you start a staring contest with a man you never look away so you hold Bill’s eye through the streaked glass until he scoffs and turns. I want to kiss you but the feeling of his gaze lingers like a mosquito hoard. The dust kicks up and coats us, cements our eyes and our throats and solidifies our words there. I wonder if this is how Bill sees everything: through a film of pale debris and residue left from cars going elsewhere. I wonder if this is how Bill speaks: clearing his throat before each sentence, dislodging each charcoal word before hurling it out. 

It’s not even really a town. It’s too small. It’s called a hamlet which is also your favourite Shakespeare play. I’ve never read it but I know from you that Hamlet and Horatio were in love and that’s all I’ve ever really cared about. We were going to read a scene from it at your university but that was before everything combusted. Now we sit in your basement when your dad’s gone and I pick through your cobwebbed DVD collection. Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus next to An Inconvenient Truth.  

We like to pretend we’re the movie. It’s always been easiest that way. The genre changes as we need it. Romance when you pull me onto your lap. Comedy when all we can do is laugh at the single road of your town. Action when we run through the woods behind your house the twigs snapping under us like little bones. Experimental when you call me an hour before sunrise. Experimental as you wait there for me at the edge of your driveway. Experimental as we drive away and the wind limps in through the vents and licks at our tears — mine because I’m tired and yours for other reasons. Thank god for graveyard slots; it’s too early for even Bill to watch us go. I accidentally run a red and you laugh raggedly at the empty road, saying it’s fine, every light is a green light at four am. Screaming into the country air is fun but when no one comes to help don’t think about whether it’s because no one hears or no one cares. Don’t think about which is worse. 

You close your eyes against the window but the movie hasn’t stopped. Real darkness doesn’t come easy like that. Real darkness stretches thinner and thinner as we approach the city lights reflected on the water. Back where we come from the darkness is thick and complete. Back there you sacrifice light pollution for other kinds. Back there you find real darkness intents when you’re tracing words across my thighs and I can’t read them but you say that’s fine. You find it on those backroads when we’re driving and you say I know this is bad but just watch and you kill the headlights and we move forward into that all-inclusive blanket of black, absolutely no idea where we’re going and absolutely thrilled about it. 


Abigail Richards is a queer writer and filmmaker surviving in Toronto, Canada. Her work focuses on women, weird kinds of love, and ways of being very tender.  She is currently completing her undergrad in film at Ryerson University. You can follow her on twitter @abrichards