Where She Goes – Jonathan Phillips

The mesh they use for the smaller side pockets of your old backpack is flimsier than the mesh and nylon on the rest of it. Those pockets were the first to go. Beginning around sophomore year the holes expanded and met one another until they just disappeared. You drank much less water after that, and kept your phone in your front pocket instead.
        You walk into the bright heavy air and the day calls the shots. Sedan moves you across asphalt, you careen safely for miles. Music plays and it thinks itself in your head, aware of its own spot there. You change the channel, this song sucks. Clouds are moving overhead in every direction at once, softening the sun and unleashing it. All around you others push forward in their vessels at seventy-five miles per hour. Some of them are even eating bagels while they do it.
        Pass through the zones, unlock the zones. White wood, steeples, red brick, green fields, warehouses, dim sum restaurants. Barren, charming, upper-middle class. True, half-true, fabricated, secretly fabricated, secretly true. Energy, collapse, stuff. Everything is about to explode with its beauty, but the car in front of you’s engine already has. There isn’t a scream to hear above Bad Bunny and there’s barely a shoulder to veer off into. Your car slows and at first all you can think to do is roll up the windows so as not to breathe in fumes.
        Thirty minutes later the sky is breathing golden light again. You haven’t stayed for the ambulances and you thank the open road more when it contrasts against the rubbernecking congestion of the southward freeway on the other side of the median. At home there is a girl there. It’s dark now but she got there, she’s waiting down the street and she’s too scared to ring the doorbell by herself. She waits for you. She doesn’t know that a PT Cruiser not so spontaneously combusted ahead of you on Falls of Neuse Road, and more importantly she doesn’t know whose house you’re returning from. She loves you.