We realized something was wrong on our way home from an afternoon in
the country, driving from one antique shop to another, buying things we
wanted but didn't need, engaging in charming conversations with
charming locals and enjoying the hot summer sun on our forearms.
Normally, the highway is packed with traffic heading back into the city
but on this day, the lanes were empty in either direction. The sky
overhead was as bright and clear as ever but there was a curious
stillness in the air and there was a smell, like rust, only sharper.
He covered my hand with his. My hand was resting on the cup holder
between our seats. He traced my knuckles over and over, and the closer
to home we got, the stranger it all seemed. The responsibility
overwhelmed us, being the only two people left in the world (which is
what we were starting to think). The firmer he gripped my hand, the
more terrified I became until there was a tingling in my elbow and I
could hardly feel my fingers and I thought, this is love, a certain
willingness to suffer in silence.
I saw the mob first, but didn't know what I was looking at. What I saw
is this—men, lots of men, crowded on the exit ramp, beating
their chests, throwing their fists in the air, tearing at their shirts.
They screamed nakedly, almost joyfully, their voices making the air
everywhere throb with energy. Their bodies gleamed with sweat like a
second skin. When they saw our car, they grew quiet, for just a moment.
I felt the strangest twinge between my thighs, almost like excitement.
He and I looked at each other. He didn't look away as he shifted into
reverse. We stared and stared and sped backwards into the emptiness
from whence we had come. Then, those men, so many men, with their naked
screams and bare, sweaty chests, they gave chase.
Roxane Gay is the author of a collection of stories, AYITI. She co-edits PANK. Her story "North Country," from
Hobart, will be in the BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES 2012.
Read more of her work in the archive.
Detail of art on main page courtesy
of J.J. Verhoef.
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