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20 Minutes 12


He could not sing but he did it anyway. In the solitude of his empty apartment. In his car on a road trip. On a road trip was best. Zipping down the highway, back straight, eyes forward, one hand tapping out the drums on the steering wheel, the other ready in case it should be needed. It was possible to turn the volume up loud enough so that the outside sounds  were drowned out and all that remained was the belt of the singers and his own voice. He was always a moment behind the lyrics, except during the chorus, and it did not matter if some of the words were butchered. He sang in a voice deeper than the one with which he spoke. All notes were sung in that tone. He had no range.

Open road. He in a pocket of sound. A microcosm. Isolated. Sheltered.

There. A lone wolf walks through a field. It sniffs the ground and pays no mind to the car as it passes. He, the driver, reacts to the sight of the wolf. An alertness returns. The wolf looks out-of-place. That is not a field in wilderness. That is cultivated land. That is people land. Not wolf land. His reaction to the wolf– this desire to take note of it; to remember it– is a sign of how isolated from nature he has become. He is fascinated by the squirrels in the backyard, at play, at the feeder, dashing along the fences as if those were highways built for their use.

He recognizes these squirrels even when they are squished on the road.

There is a beat to the music that fuels him. Foot on the pedal, he wishes for more turns in the road. Some movement other than forward to confirm that he is indeed going somewhere. Small town hugs the road. Gas station. Gas station. Restaurant. Convenience store. Ice cream stand. Locals gathered in the parking lot of crushed gravel. Girls in short shorts. Kids with mussed hair. Guys leaning against their trucks.

In the city there is an ice cream stand. The scene is similar but with more people, and a middle-aged woman no one notices. She has a shopping cart. It is loaded with garbage bags, green. She removes articles of clothing one at a time, tenderly, and drapes them over the metal railing separating the ice cream stand from the parking lot of the neighboring building. She surveys her work. She takes no notice of couples with ice cream, parents making memories with their children, and teens lost in themselves.

The road hums by.

His fingers touch his face, tracing the edges of the bones beneath the flesh. He maps his skull. He then seeks out his scars. Physical evidence of a life lived. He looks at himself in the mirror. There was a time when he could not see in the mirror, and he remembers fondly the time when he first saw the reflection of the strands of hair on the top of his head. No cares then. Just the desire to be taller so he could see in the mirror.

Racing through the grass, shirt unbuttoned, his friends following at his heels. All running. In their minds, he was the leader in this game. In his mind, he was the hero. He believed it.

What he believes now is this: If the music is loud enough, the road long enough, and his tone low enough, his singing ain’t half bad.

[20 Minutes is a self-imposed ritual in which I write, uninterrupted, for 20 minutes a day. No self-editing is the goal. Just 20 minutes hammering on the keys. After the 20 minutes, I am allowed to clean up spelling and grammar errors, but the rest must stay as is. 20 minutes a day. Every day. Today is day 12.]


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