My last few months in Portland I’m crashing in Charlie and Milla’s basement but I spend most of my time alone. In November I woke up with the swine flu one morning after a Dan Deacon show. Was laid up for weeks. The basement with my plywood door latched shut (dark green painted, like the rest of the room). Me and the mattress on the floor and a pile of blankets and the hobby desk and the American flag on the wall. It wasn’t as bad as they said it was going to be, but when I closed my eyes it was a wild, anxious filmstrip. Battleships covered in moths, spiders gushing out of mouths, pistons pumping, steam gushing. Throughout it all, my head cooking, and visions flowering up, stuttering then wilting back down, I thought about Frances. Was she safe? Happy? Was she seeing good places? The thing about Frances Alicio is she’s a good one for the road. She sits in the passenger seat with her shoes off and her bare feet on the dash and sings along with the radio and doesn’t care what you’re doing as long as you move. Frankie doesn’t stress when you’re on the road and that’s the important thing. If you slip up and forget to stop at a service station and run out of gas somewhere stupid she doesn’t freak out about it. If there’s traffic for miles and you sit for hours on some lonely stretch of interstate she’s cool. She looks at you and she smiles and she sings along with the stereo, “so be easy and free when you’re drinkin’ with me/I’m a man you don’t meet every day.”
And you say, “Baby, you’re not a man.”
And she sings, “I’m a baby you don’t meet every day,” and you do feel free and you do feel easy and you love her so much it makes you stare straight ahead and watch the brakelights in front of you turn on and off like railyard signals switching in the dusk.
(Excerpt from Adam Gnade’s novella The Growling Mouth. $6 Paypal, credit/debit or checking. Available here.)