Taillights and Other Ways of Seeing

By PATRICIA LOWDEN | Published: January 14, 2010

It was the Unites States of America. It was 1983 riding shotgun in a beat up Gremlin going west en route to California from New York. The driver, my father, chain smoking cheap cigarettes with blood shot eyes spilled his coffee, cursed at fellow drivers, and told me bluntly, if I was going to navigate this ship I had to learn to read the map. Here, or there, between longitudes and latitudes, I began to learn the family name and vow of restlessness. I would’ve been in second grade learning to multiply and divide in the conventional palm of America. Though what I learned has kept me whole while the world goes to pieces and fragments and branches off around me. I studied the map. I wanted to be a proper navigator. I wanted to make my father proud so I could navigate my own ship someday. I learned the difference between routes and highways, the long interstates that snaked from one big city to the next. I knew the roads with towns and the byways that avoided them. By the time the stars fell like rain over the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee I could name the capitals of each state we passed through. I knew it was one hundred and eighty miles until we would pull over to sleep. I knew we were going to California. I knew there were eight big states between us and the Pacific. At sixty miles an hour, in three hours we would be motionless, the humming song of the road would quiet herself beneath us. All New York would know of us would be two fading, dirty taillights, and a state line. My father would toss a blanket on me. I’d watch him until his eyes grew heavy and I’d crush out the burning cigarette from his hand and spell out in my mind, Tennessee. T-E-double N- E-double S- double E, as the still subtle hum of the highway followed me into my dreams.


1. bay on January 18, 2010

Beautiful Pattie, I adore it.

2. rob on January 23, 2010

what a nice way to start saturday...the beginings of your novel over coffee

i want more...great stuff!

3. Jeanette on January 23, 2010

This is great! Enjoyed reading it very much!

Any Comments?


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