I Will Not Die At Washington Street

There’s a billboard at the junction of 680 and 780 that sez Welcome to Benicia-a-a-ahhh!

They are dead wrong, unless you pronounce a-a-ahhh! like someone who just noticed her scarf had caught in the propeller.

Generally, the billboard is blocking your view of the source of the flame shooting into the sky. It becomes clearer as you advance, and you spend the time flipping flipping flipping the synapses like 3 by 5 cards saying this:

OK. Flame in sky. Excess of byproduct. System not meant to produce flame. If flame, excess. If excess, fine. If fine, superfund revenues. If revenues, high speed train. Train, yes, no car. Train yes, no flame. Unless flame is harmless. Parents said flame was harmless. Flame pretty. Flame in rear view mirror. OK.

That’s about the end of it. You could go on but you’ve mentioned your parents. You know where that leads: Greek Chorus. Greek Chorus leads to Alpha Waves. Alpha Waves lead to sleep. Sleep while driving. You try for a couple beats. Comfortable. Looking in the surrounding cars you smile quietly. I’m sleeping in my mother’s arms, say your smiling eyes. You can tell by my signal. It’s OK to drive the shoulder.

Underneath, the water is stained black. A train may cross below and to the left, not part of your structure. Further left, a creaking stand of horses with rheumy eyes and bad patches: liberty ships you can contrive to mount. I went out there with Slobodan, put on puffy orange vests and hard hats (mine cinched impossibly high on my head for a joke no one got), squished foam in our ears and road a completely safe cross between a bar of ivory soap and a frisbee out to the edge of the corral. We climbed the iron stair and received the instruction: Follow The Orange Arrows. For about an hour we followed them, subtle things, looking like the rust that was reclaiming them, and climbed over 20 liberty ships on our way to the last one, painted white and holding promise: The Golden Bear is The Artship now. In it’s cargo hold you can fall a hundred feet, or build a black box theater. You decide. On one side of the Artship is the tangle of its siblings, all fighting for the blanket that can’t possibly keep any of them warm. On the other side is a mustard sky and a grey water stretching to another shore. I think I see flames on it. Tell me. Is the shore on fire? More importantly, if we bring The Artship home and make our art on it, will it sink? My art is heavy. You can feel it in my chest.

Didn’t eat, because it brings sleep. Neither heat, nor sound. Just the road sections singing their parts sequentially. Sleep is coming. Sleep is coming anyway. Sleep will come and it will be all over. Everyone left to their own devices about what that big sleep meant, coming when it did. Being asleep, there is little that can be done to correct them. It is time to sing. The song goes like this:

Can’t die at the Washington Street exit even though it is the sight of a consuming yawn, a big giant cakehole yawn that precedes a coma. If I did everyone would think it was symbolic, and it clearly isn’t. The fact of the matter is that I have no affinity for this exit or its name, no association to soothe their confusion. I have a lot of explaining to do so I’m going to wake up and find a better spot to die.

Not a good idea to die at the 24 West-680 South split even though the design of it is conspiring to that end. If I did there would be no argument about the likelihood of that sort of thing happening to someone somewhere along the way, but there would be a few questions about why I, in particular, was not in concert with the physical space. That’s the only rule of driving, no? Two things may not occupy the same space at the same time. Forced to find me careless, all my loved ones, compelled to admit it. How galling, considering the source. This is not the place to die. Let them gloat like that, like they have it over me depth perception-wise? I don’t think so.

I may die at Fish Ranch Road, having quickly dismissed Moraga, and the nearly unmarked exit to the exclusive retirement community that Larkin lived in, yo-yo’d back to his mother’s well after a shunt had been installed and de-installed near her cerebral cortex to manage a complex process of aging. What the hell happened to them? Larkin? Kirby? Willis? His unlikely sisters? Their lovers? Children? Property? Sportscars? The coffee bar on Telegraph? Can you believe I knew them? Can you believe how I )don’t( know them now? How can you ever come to not know someone who taught you how to lawn bowl and likened you to the young Katherine Hepburn? God I’m Dumb. There will be no dying there, but in the time it has taken me to realize what I’ve lost, even though some of it I lost gladly, I’ve arrived at Fish Ranch Road.

A fairly good place to die, but completely without opportunity. Quite possibly the safest fucking exit so far. Blink. Gone. And the Caldecott tunnel in front, with its morbid incinerating histories. A newspaper printed a comment by a tunnel operator (like, what’s to operate?) saying the tunnel was a catacomb, a hive, a skein of passages. They’d never find you, continued the quote. Do you know the writer now? I think you do. The writer is spooked and wants to sleep in your bed so he fought to have that quote left in, just in case one of us would take him in and blow the dream of the bad tunnel operator away. No one can get you. You’re safe now. Speed up to only about 60 to be out of control in the tunnel. Do it with one hand so you can keep one curled around the writer until he’s completely, and soundly asleep. His respirations entrain with yours.

There’s a big inky galaxy on the other side. Gravity will guide you through it.




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