Courtney Eldridge

Girls From the North Country

I listened to Dylan most of the afternoon, the “Covers of Bob” playlist, and all I could think of is a fifteen-year-old girl, with nothing more than a driver’s permit to her name, taking this old American muscle car out for a joyride late one spring afternoon. Knowing, perfectly aware that if she got caught, if she gets pulled over, not only would her permit be revoked, she wouldn’t get a driver’s license for years, she could even be charged with grand theft, and not even missing a heartbeat at the thought.

I see her opening the door, getting in the car, turning over the ignition and slowly backing out the drive. The way the steering wheel feels, how low she sinks in the seat, how she has to strain her leg to reach the peddles, how much the car feels like a boat, now that she’s behind the wheel, alone. And then, slowly backing out of the garage, the sound of the gravel, the crunching of the Conlon’s drive, as she stops, reaching the street, and looks both ways, half-expecting to see Karen pulling up, or someone bat an eye, a neighbor, anybody, looking up, but no one stopping her, nothing stopping her, no one there. Then, pulling out on the street, correct the wheel, and then heading for the next corner, and from there, the highway. Driving through the edge of town, reaching the final intersection, waiting for a few new trucks to pass, and then pulling on the highway, and the whole time, she has no idea where she’s going, even though she’s lived in that town all her life.

Still, there are so many back roads in upstate New York, so many places for a person to get lost without even trying. An hour later, having no idea where she is, she pulls over, stopping right in the middle of a dirt road, in this tunnel of green trees, overlooking a dry creek bed, far below. Then she rolls down the window, looks in the rearview one last time, and then, for the first time in a week, she cries. Fighting it to the very last, of course, but then, finally, sobbing.

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