Katja Bohnet, “North by Northwest”

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Translated by Rachel Hildebrandt

Since you slept with him, I see you with different eyes. You sit at the wheel, and it’s as if you’re no longer the same man. We haven’t talked much since then. Today’s no different, quiet. When I cut on the radio, you turned it down. Inaudible. At some point, I switch it off. I don’t like to drive. Riding in a car makes me nervous. All this traffic. Flashes of light flickering around metal cages. People in cramped spaces. Movement measured in the strength of horses. This speed is perverse.

I peek at the speedometer: 100 miles. Here on the open road. You’re crazy. I hate you. “Stop!” I hear myself say. You ignore me. Where are we going anyway?
“Stop right now!” This time, I’m loud. Very loud.

You look over at me. I see the way you consider your options, then you lift your foot off the accelerator and slam on the brakes. The landscape slows down, the fields come to a stop.

“What?” A question to which you don’t expect an answer.

I open the door. The handle is cold. I get out. You stare at me. I just stand there. I watch as you lean across the passenger seat and pull the door shut. You drive off. The car picks up speed, a cloud of dust swirling after you.

Here, where you had just come to a stop, there are slanting, black skid marks on the gray asphalt. Their pattern has something conclusive about it. The road is straight, empty. You and the car are only a washed-out dot in the distance. “Get lost, asshole!” My voice is steady.

Here on the shoulder, I feel oddly trivial. I won’t go back. In the middle of the road, there’s a bloody piece of fur. Too small for a fox, too large for a rabbit. What falls in between? The heat presses down on me. It is quiet. I walk on. Immeasurable expanse. That much I could see on the map. This stretch of road is dead. I have nothing to drink, as I move through the wavering dry heat. I eventually hear a soft rustling, as if from a distant waterfall. Louder and louder still. Behind me. In the shimmering heat, something metallic glitters. It draws closer. The transport train is endless. We move alongside each other for a good fifteen minutes. I’m sweating. My feet hurt. As the last rail car rolls on, I feel abandoned. My shoes want to keep going, automatically. I wipe the drops from my forehead. A crossroads. No airplane in view. Nothing. I’m the only one here, my feet, the road, the land. I keep going straight ahead, no turning aside. No more. My steps grow shorter, sluggish. I ignore my thirst. The sun blazes. It has to be noon. I keep going. No car comes, no truck, no person, no animal.

In the billowing puddle of air on the asphalt, I can make out his face, his body, naked. You are lying on top of him, here in the middle of the road. You look at me. Your bodies finally vanish. Just a mirage, yet so real, too. I stumble. I’ll make it through the afternoon. My mind stops working. My body takes control. The soles of my feet shuffle across the asphalt. The sound soothes me, lulls me. The road carries me along, ad infinitum. My arms dangle, it feels like fate. I look up into the white. Black below, white above. Things become clear, eventually.

A tiny dot approaches. I’m having a hard time staying focused on it. My head lolls. Then I hear the rumble of a motor. Perhaps I’ll let myself be rescued. The car heads right toward me, brakes. I stop and squint.

You open the door. Your eyes ashamed, concerned, I don’t know what. “Get in!”

I look at you. You and him. “Get lost, asshole!” I tell you. Slurring. I might be swaying.

You press your lips together. You slam the door shut, drive off, your eyes hard. Your cock must have been just like that, too.

 

Author
Katja Bohnet writes. Born in Mannheim (Germany) in 1971, she pursued film studies and philosophy in college, and now lives somewhere between Frankfurt and Cologne. Travels: a lot. Jobs: a few. Kids: a couple. A former TV writer and moderator with WDR Cologne, she now spends her time making up novels and stories. Her works have appeared in various periodicals and anthologies, including entwürfe, Am Erker, erostepost, und the MDR Literaturwettbewerbs 2013. Her debut thriller novel Messertanz was published in 2015 by Knaur. http://katjabohnet.de

 

IMAGE: http://www.cgpgrey.com [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons


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