She stared off into the road ahead. She was at the crest of a hill with a lush green valley sprawling out in front of her. She clutched the steering wheel and tried to remember how she got there. As she began stepping on the brake and pulling the car off to the side of the road, she thought, “Is this the Berkshires? Is this the valley on route 9 by his parent’s house?” No, there were just gentle rises, it wasn’t the mountains at all. The sun was shining brightly and she guessed that it was about noon.
She stopped the car and let it idle for a few minutes. The tank was full. There were candy bar wrappers, soda cans, papers, her briefcase, and some Clementine peels on the floor. The car looked lived in, not really any different than usual.
She looked off to her right and saw some cows grazing in a field. A bull was slowly meandering towards the herd, and she watched intently as he made his way, waiting to see how the bovine drama would play out.
Her mind gradually became more focused on her surroundings. The radio was playing softly, as if waking from a dream, she recognized the sounds of the Doobie Brothers playing “Taking it to the Streets”. She cringed, she hated the song. Where she was didn’t bother her so much as why her radio was playing such horrifyingly bad music. She reached over and turned the dial.
Suddenly, a memory: She is alone in the car late on a Friday night. She is driving down Storrow Drive. The river is on the right side of the car. She sees the hospital and thinks of Rob, arguing vehemently with him about which side of the river the hospital was on and being wrong. Something about Rob and the airport and Virginia and a train, a departure, a welcome home.
She sat in the car for a few more minutes, trying to piece it all together. She turned off the motor and put the key in battery mode so she could listen to the radio. She changed the station, trying to find some news, weather, sports, any indication of where she was. Just music, most of it bad. Not bad enough to be the south, not good enough to be Boston. Not country, not rock, just something lost, in-between. Oldies but mediocrities. She stopped the dial at Abba’s Dancing Queen and began laughing.
Another memory: Sometime late 1970s. A lovely blonde woman wearing Foster Grants mirrored sunglasses. They are at the seashore standing in tall, waving beach grass, they are wrestling over something in her hand and someone takes a picture. They are laughing, joyous, joyful, Joy. Another name.
She turned the key all the way off, and leaving the key in the ignition, she opened the door and got out of the car. There were no other cars on the road. There was no line down the middle, it was just a long, thin strip of black tar. She looked behind her, and saw that wherever she came from looked much the same as the road ahead. More pastures, more valleys, more sun. It was warm, and she realized her heavy Polartec sweatshirt was inappropriate for the climate.
Another memory: It is winter, there is snow on the ground. She is driving on Memorial Drive with her father. He is telling her she drives like a maniac, she is threatening to leave him in a snow bank. He cannot drive and she is taking him to a hospital for some tests. He is trying to feed her cookies while she is driving and they are both laughing.
She stepped off the road into the grass. There was no fence. The cows were off in the distance and appeared to know better than to stray too close to the road. The sweatshirt did not feel right. It was tight, and the sun was so warm. She took off the sweatshirt and without thinking, took off her t-shirt, bra, jeans, boots and underwear. She let the clothes fall into the grass and began walking though the pasture. She didn’t know why, but she was sure this is what she was supposed to be doing. She walked a little further into the field and lay down in a patch of soft, velvet clover. She stared up at the sky. She felt the sun warming her body, and she watched the clouds form shapes. A marshmallow, a kitty, a clown, a steel girder.
Another memory: She is driving on Storrow Drive, a radio is playing, it is cold, she is thinking of Rob’s eyes when out of nowhere a car, an overpass, a piece of steel pierces her skull.
She closed her eyes for a moment, and convinced herself that was not a memory. She rolled over onto her tummy and looked at the grass. The sweet smell filled her senses and she breathed deeply and snorted.
Rob, Dad, Joy. The names and faces fell into place, and then suddenly began to fall away; a friend, a parent, a sister. Slipping away. She didn’t want to lose them but at the same time, she knew it was inevitable.
She opened her mouth and took a bite of grass. She chewed it for a long time and it was good. She lifted her head and saw the herd off in the distance and with a heave rose up on her four legs. She swatted a fly with her tail and began meandering towards the herd. The sun was still at high noon, and it felt warm and loving on her hide. As she joined the herd, she became aware that she was being watched. She turned her head to see the bull approaching her from behind. She waited for him and mooed softly in anticipation.
“There are worse things,” she thought to herself, “than being taken by a bull on an idyllic summer day.”