This Heartland Soil

Mississippi is a cruel lover. The cotton wool heat grabs hold of you and doesn’t let go from the second the delta sun climbs over the horizon. Everything burns violet in this light.

I see the sun rise over her skin and I want to freeze the moment whole. I want to crawl inside of it, stay forever. But then she suddenly shifts, her head lolling against the passenger door, and the moment slips away. A cloud sweeps across the sun, drowning the light.

I have been driving for hours. I know I should stop for gas, but I am unable to tear myself away from the road. Route 66 is a no-man’s land this time of day. I am alone save for the endless wasteland on both sides. If I squint my eyes, I can see a hint of cool green valleys behind the shimmer of heat at the edge of the highway. If I sit perfectly still I can hear the road speak. I can even hear her voice.

It’s just a mirage, Paulie, she would say, if she could speak. But she is beyond words now. Soon she will be inside this heartland, one with the rich red soil.

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