In the blinking go slow zone during the lunchtime exodus of high school kids, I got stuck at the lone traffic light beside one of them blaring an old punk song from my own days in that same school and saw him taking a low, sneaky hit out of a small glass pipe and before I could think the kids are alright the chorus wailed and it was a time machine throwing me back with a sudden force and I thought about What’s going on tonight? and awkward first kisses and first drinks and forgotten nights and running free from cops under a sickle moon, laughing scared and excited going Go go go! through blue-hued backyards, up over fences, into drainage tunnels and stealing smokes and swills of vodka from our old mans’ golf bags and taking revenge on the high gym windows with their balls and borrowed clubs and sleeping on the school roof and missing weeks to drive to California but the transmission blew in the middle of the desert and we were both sixteen then and left the car and hiked to a distant flickering train station and floated to the coast to be baptized by the cold Pacific and Hey my parents are out of town until Monday and Who can get alcohol? and no cell phones and no sights on anything but feeling everything and punching holes in drywall and being chased through cul-de-sac branched streets by a large man in a wood-paneled family van waving a shining machete and skating on empty tennis courts under stadium lights and standing still beside all my friends and our parents watching a neighbor’s house burn down under the fading sunlight going orange to red to purple to starry black behind the crackle and pop of rising embers and getting drunk in lawn chairs on a dark football field and how her blueberry Bubblicious tongue was always purple as we stood between bus loop buses surrounded by diesel smoke and is she still trying to please her father and how I never thought I could love anyone more but then she put her fist through a sliding glass door and proved me wrong and how I hope she still has that crescent scar and maybe thinks of me when she looks at it, rubs a finger over it to make it glow on nights she travels in her own machine and does her husband know why and the way she banged the back of her head against the wall when we couldn’t figure out how to be together anymore and I never felt more cared about and how I lied and lied the last few times we spoke because I knew she was better without that version of me and how it still aches in dark corners and backrooms of my heart because I think she was trying to tell me something and I thought about sneaking out of my second story window onto the low sloping sunroom roof and hopping down into the dark and dewy soft lawn to sit on the backyard swing my grandfather built for us before the cancer in his brain caught up with him and it was so quiet and still and I could see the trees moving across the yard in their slow moonlit ways and I’d look up, swaying, watching the stars wipe across the ink-washed suburban sky just beyond the low floating clouds glimmering against the darkness and feel so cosmically small and swathed, like everything was going to be okay.
I thought about every other little thing and for a minute or a millisecond, some shard of time, I held hope and I could see the future and feel the past and I wanted to be in his passenger seat saying Everything is going away from this moment along a million different threads that you can’t begin to see now but one day you will and by then life will have pulled a million others in their own directions and you’ll change a little more with each one and enjoy this right now, slowly and completely and considered because on another day in the lost future you’ll start following those threads backwards like breadcrumbs towards right here in this car at this stoplight inside of this song and the swirl of pipe smoke and to yourself and then the light turned green and the person behind me honked and I hit the pedal and my twenty-year-old truck couldn’t hope to keep pace with the world and I laughed and cried and watched as everything surged ahead of me.
Bryan Tipton Bowie lives and works on the coast of Virginia. His work, across mediums, has appeared in galleries, in print, in stores and online. He’s sporadically active on Instagram @bryanbowie.
Photography by: Bryan Tipton Bowie