Rachel Attias’s powerful piece, “Road Trip,” received an honorable mention in our recent Flash Fiction Contest. This pithy little story goes deep. It chronicles the experience of a group of girls who set off on a cross-country road trip after college. Attias perfectly conveys both the freedom of youth and the ways in which young women can feel trapped by the gaze of others.
“We had stretched the length of the country; we had become humongous. We had forgotten that we are just girls.”
We drive across the country when college ends, just us girls. We keep the windows open and the music loud; our hair whips around our heads and our blood pumps to the bass beat. We are so young; this is our first real adventure, for some it’s our first time West of the Mississippi. We are so young. Just five short years from now we will be locked into jobs, relationships, homes. We will think we’re making mistakes all along the way, but we will mistake ourselves into careers, partners, very nice apartments or even houses. But now we live in a car.
We leave the industry of the East behind, and suddenly we see what everyone else has been doing all this time. We drive through the rainforest of West Virginia, the St. Louis Arch. We slide through the corn and soybean fields that make up the heart, the backbone, the vital anatomical metaphor of this country. Flat green falls away and rises into rich hills, crosshatched with the black lines of charred trees, and then flattens out again.
The old measurements lose their relevance. The meaning of a mile is nothing to us. There are no more hours, only time when it is light enough to see and time when it isn’t. We are constantly moving, so that it begins to feel like we’re on a treadmill. We aren’t going anywhere, really. We’re not moving away from anything, either, and we don’t know yet that we want to be. Our phones buzz and beep; families, friends, lovers want to know where we are, what we see now. We don’t know how to say it. If we hold our breath we might be suspended in time and space, hurtling at eighty miles an hour in a large metal box.
Sometimes we want to yank each other’s hair. We want to fight. We see each other so closely that we miss things. When this is done we will love one another in the fashion that only young women can, a thing made infinite, as two mirrors facing each other. We will stare and stare, and love will give way to hate, will give way to self-loathing, and back to love again. Some of us will drift apart after this is done.