Road Trip to the Poconos with That Boy
My friend once told me that when the gas meter hits zero,
you’ve still got plenty of time to get to a station.
I asked her just how much time that really was.
Plenty, she said.
I never used to get to that point anyway.
Mom had me fill up the tank the moment it dipped below halfway.
There’s no need to risk the car breaking down. Who knows when help shows up?
Who knows if you wish it didn’t.
There are many things we ought to be more careful about.
Today, it’s the gas.
I noticed the bar dipping close to zero five minutes ago.
I’m sure he does too.
We don’t speak of these things much.
There’s a station somewhere further along the road.
He’ll pull into it in about five minutes.
I’ll be asleep so I don’t have to dump the trash.
There are unspoken agreements between us
when we drive places. Most things are better off
If you close your eyes and hope hard enough,
you’ll wake up in the lobby of some hotel
with your backpack as a blanket and a nice man
offering you keys in a brown packet.
You’ll memorize the red numbers etched at the bottom
and swipe until the door opens. You’ll crash
onto the sofa, ignoring the shoes still hugging your feet.
If you think hard enough, you’ll forget about the meter and the gas
and the station up the road and your mother telling you things
and you knowing she’s right and the boy in the car
whose face you barely know and even the nice man
who gave you the packets with the keys
and let your shoes hug your ankles as he stood
in the doorway with a smile and whispered words
he’s told a thousand customers before
in a tone too sweet to be rehearsed
and you’ll find that if you really need to,
you can make a few miles last forever.
Kylan Tatum is a student at Harvard University. Their work appears or is forthcoming from Diode Poetry Journal, Poetry Online, The Center for Fiction, The Decameron Project, and elsewhere. They are a 9x Scholastic Art and Writing Awards recipient, winner of the Center for Fiction’s National Social and Criminal Justice Contest, and a Poetry Reader for the Adroit Journal.