Susan King

In her image





     “Well, you take care of yourself,” I say as I lift my last piece of luggage into the Honda truck.
     “Drive safe. And call me when you get home,” Sonya replies, widening and curving her arms into a hug-me form.
     “I will.” Hug. Kiss.
     “Love you.” Hug. Kiss.
     “Love you too.” Hug. Kiss.
     Belted into my seat, I drive away into litter-free streets to the nearest 95 entrance. I am not in the mood for music; any sound would be annoying right now. I want only silence, to hear my own thoughts argue against my boss' commands, “You'd better be here by 7 am, followed up with his guilt-layered grievance, “There's no one else to take your place.” Here I am, away from home for the first time in years--the first real vacation--visiting a long-time friend. I had asked him for one day off and he attempted to belittle me to the size of a barbie doll's doll. I am enraged. I think of words to wound him with. It is 8:05 pm. I am leaving Burkittsville, Maryland, heading home to Boston.
     I drive dazed, at 60mph for about three hours. I am going through New Jersey. Someone needs to shut this area down. Where the smog and stench is worse than any kind of shit. The rotted smell seeps through the closed windows, into my nostrils, then swirls in my gut. I retch, gag, cough. Ugggggh! They need to reconfigure this part of the highway so that it doesn't run through this foul and inhospitable place. The smell doesn't end in ten minutes; it goes on for fifteen, twenty, thirty, thirty-eight minutes of sewage.
      It is not long before I see the George Washington Bridge. I hate bridges. Any kind of bridge disturbs me. I have bridge-o-phobia. I am able to drive over the bridge, only by not thinking about driving over the bridge. I have to stay in the middle lane, of course, so I won't go through one of the rails and sink in a locked car loading with river, or ocean, water. I force myself to imagine gardens, Gibraltar, God, anything but a grave. I survive, and soon I am snaking through New York traffic. It seems like the whole state is under construction. Every twenty minutes I am slowed by slow down. 20 mph. Road under construction signs. Then, I am fitted into narrow wiggly lanes bordered by orange cones and orange trash bins. I am tired, but I do not want to waste time and stop for coffee. The road opens and I accelerate to 90 mph.

     Welcome to Connecticut is barely noticeable as I enter the fogged, darkened face, or foot, of the state. The fog thickens with each roll of the wheels. I drive into... I don't know where, what, or who. I am blinded by something that does not love humans. Terror drapes me as I bend my chest forward toward the windshield and stretch my eyes to see beyond the earthened clouds of fog. I search for identifiable shapes. I am surrounded by an impenetrable wall of minute water droplets as the speedometer, automatically, drops, decreasing as my heart rates increases. I step on the gas, but the car ignores my command. Frightened, I think of parking in the middle of the highway.
     As my thoughts race, a wind-flown scarf appears; it transforms into a red rose, a girl, then a 500-watt woman: a luminous figure. She points a finger at me and waves inward, “Follow me,” she whispers. She shines like a New Year's Eve firecracker: grand and glorious. Trailing her, I drive off the highway and onto the grassed ground leading to the woods. Trees disappear from my path as I follow her for what seems like a minute frozen in time. She signals me onward. My hands clutch the dashboard as the car nose dives downward beneath the ground. There, in what looks like a rainbow: colorful and majestic, the car lands on a fuchsia-colored path.

     I detach from the seat belt and metal machinery to stand removed from mass and weight. I am as airy as a balloon. Thousands of other luminary women float here and there. My eyes search for an answer in the face of the hostess. I notice that her face resebles mine, right down to the shape of her eyebrows, the size of her nose, and the fullness of her lips. Amazed, I float toward her for a closer look, but she floats away from me. Star struck, I follow; and I see others who look exactly like me, floating, lying, and, in seated positions. Me: fat; Me:thin; Me: giggling, Me: reading; Me:crying; Me: singing; Me; Me; Me. Me; the woman is encircled by 19, 20, 21 small females; of course they looked like me. Twenty-one girls; they start running in different directions. “Shiny, Shine, Star, Starlet, Starry...stop running and come here. It's time to poinafilliburegate.” Her last word confuses me. And there's more. Me: soaking in a diamond jacuzzi; Me: stumbling as though drunk; Me: in a golden coffin. Me: at a podium discussing a revised constitution to a group of me(s)
     How could this be? I cry as tears drip from my eyes. Why are there so many of me? My guide answers, “Because you were made in her image.” “Her image?” I beg for explanation. “Yes. Of course. You could not have thought that you were made in his image. Did you?” I say nothing. “You have the ability to be any of these women you choose.” Her words enter me and fill me with bones, blood, a heart, and other body parts. Full. My feet return to the ground. “It's time for me to get you back to the surface. You don't want to be late for work.” We head for the car.
     Seconds later, I am in the middle of the Mass Turnpike going past the TJMax corporate office in Natick. It is 6:05 am, Monday. The sun rises to meet an open powder blue sky. An emerald green Toyota toting a car pool crisscrosses in front of cars in a working man frenzy to be the first. I drive up to the toll booth and pay the price to continue along the path that leads to Copley Square. I exit and swing the car around to the Copley Square Mall, in front of Neiman Marcus. I am home, in the familiar. I circle the corner to the front of the 24 hour store. She is there, as usual. I park in a no parking zone. In her hand, the stained and dirty coffee cup is steady. She offers it to me. I accept by depositing all the money I have on me into the chalice of the impoverished queen.



All rights belong to its author. It was published on by demand of Susan King.
Published on on 09/16/2011.


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