I follow you through the crowded kitchen and Jennifer leans in, “Her name is Sherry.” Tony chuckles, “Mm hmm.” The screen door slams on the back porch, our footsteps echo in the dark alley. The bar is submerged in greenish-brown light and none of the patrons look up when we enter, as if they’re all keeping the same secret. I order drinks, your Zippo flashes in the neon behind the bar. Someone drops a quarter into the jukebox, thumbs the buttons. Patsy Cline’s broken heart pulls me away to see us alone together, driving open roads, following crooked lines over creases in maps, past fields of silvered fence posts that stitch the forgotten landscape with rusty wire. A sign reads The Food is Great at the truck-stop diner where the lacquered waitress pours coffee, yells our order, “Fried eggs and toast, Danny!” toward the kitchen. The parking lot of our motel is sticky in the August sun, bare bulbs peek from inside a cracked plastic sign: Vacancy Cervezas Sopitos Fishing Tackle, which creaks in the breeze that ripples the pool. We float in a chlorinated haze, the heat of the day soaking into our young bones.
When the light grows dim and the cicadas cease, you close the curtains but leave the windows open, the desert wind cooling the sweat on our skin. The pastel sun lingers low, our bodies silhouettes against the faded wallpaper. A street light flickers on, a lone pair of headlights stream past on the highway. Our thoughts entwine in the dark but dissipate by morning, like end-of-summer seeds that drift around us at a railroad crossing where we stop to watch the Copper Basin clang past. Its rhythmic thump reaches out from the wooden ties, taking part of us with it. I can smell the sun on your skin when you lean in close, handing me your thermos of leftover coffee. “Do you want another one?” The last train car shimmers in a glare of sun and chrome, the landscape shifts and we are back in the smoky bar, our waitress asking if I want another drink.
Outside, the azure sky gives way to black. We walk in silence, miles from the people we used to be.
Benjamin Malay works in a variety of mediums to create deeply personal images of people and places, embracing imperfect memory and fleeting life. In 2017 his creative nonfiction work “Agates” was featured in the “Solitude’s Spectrum” issue of Cahoodaloodaling. Benjamin’s nonfiction short story “Postcard from Reno, May 1980” was published in the January 2019 edition of Cagibi Express. He is the sole proprietor of a fine art framing business in Seattle, Washington.
Photography by: Ruben Mishchuk