We’ve stopped off highway 70 somewhere west of Topeka, the middle of a cloudless night. My neck is stiff from the cramped back seat of the Honda. After this break, it will be my turn to drive, so I’ve grabbed some caffeine and carbs for the haul. Mara and Jacob have gone to the rest rooms. The pop tarts are all mine.
I count the number of dots on the pastry’s surface: 36. Why did I need to know that? Why do I keep counting down miles to the state line? I lean on the warm hood of the car and rest my head on the windshield, looking up.
All the years of traveling and reclining added end to end, reaching out, spiraling like a wave of jewels, would be a whispery thread of cloud against this spangled tapestry. Jacob comes out and asks me what I’m doing with the pop tart box and my eyes in the stars. He looks up and says nothing’s eternal, even that. He insists on it. Until I relent. But it’s all change, like the Kansas song, nothing lasting but the earth and sky. Even that, he says, will go. Like us. We gotta go. Now. Boulder’s flatirons await.
Yes, it slips away, like the song. But relative to me and Mara and Jacob and the car and the pop tarts, this spread of dark is as eternal as I can comprehend. I blink at stars that may no longer be. I pick one out, close my lids, then open. I imagine a spider thread spinning out of my chest, to connect me and it across space and time.
I don’t hear Mara until she reaches for the pop tarts and snatches the can of Pepsi from me. The wind picks up and bites across the prairie. But for the passive fluorescent glow of the rest stop, it’s a black sea around us. We’ll be diving into it soon. I take back the can. It dents in my grasp. I count the soda bubbles on my tongue.