Four years: Four hours

By Lindsy Hottle Robertson



Somebody had to write about love.


Somebody had to write about distance.


Somebody had to write about I-40.  East.  Then West. 


Somewhere between the rockslide and the beach. 

Somewhere between here.  And there.


Three and a half years into it, you’re blowing along I-40 East at 70 mph inside Saturn, contained and rung with belts, glass, and plastic.  You have found your orbit along I-40.  It’s magnetic, some say.  Either he or you travel monthly.  More, if you can.


He began in the Midwest.  She in the Northeast.  They collided in a Kmart in North Carolina before our orientation of school.  They each forgot something: lamp, mattress cover, socks.  Their mothers complained and rolled their eyes.  They said hi and introduced themselves. 


Somewhere between the mountains and the ocean. 

            Somewhere between the age of adolescence and young adulthood.


It’s always turbulent to some degree.  I-40 seems to you a cosmic path.  It costs twenty-five dollars for the gas that drives you 249 miles that drives you four hours that drives you together.  When you reach Winston-Salem, you are only half-way there in distance, but it feels as if hours, days, or moons have gone by.  Two and a half hours later, and time has slowed just past Greensboro.  The sky is blackening around the red, white, and blue sign declaring I-85 is I-40; you’re convinced that something has reversed and mixed up time.  You’re counting mile markers galaxies away, 211 to 133 to 285, while the moon begins blocking the sun and you find shine to apply to the directions that you have scribbled on the back of a post-it.  Three hours and fifty-two minutes, you say.  Three years plus, you think.  Three days, not even, you share.


They had lived together in one room, and then again in a slightly larger room.  Her hair changed from red to blonde to red again, but always remained on the short side.  Once his rat-tail was cut, his remained the same.  She went to school; he graduated and worked.  They camped, cooked, watched television online, and drove.  He went back to school across the state; she continued, nearing her own graduation.  They lived along a spectrum: distant, but connected by something universal, love, and by an interstate. 


            Somewhere between she and they.

            Somewhere between now and soon.


You’ve passed Greensboro, Hillsboro, then Chapel Hill.  You are alone for a final 30 minutes unless you get lost.  Gas is about the same price as it was where you started, and you’re merely racing the stars to get there without stopping to refill.  You’re counting down the miles and hope you remember the correct turn.  It has been too long since the last time.  It has been two months, two cycles since you last shared space. 



The weekend is already over, and you’re not leaving-leaving, but you’re still leaving.  There was the hug, kiss, checking of oil and fluids.  Then another kiss and three words that makes the three days, three years plus so hard to step back into your solitary planet and reverse out of the gravitational pull that is much too strong this spring.  You feel Saturn’s core drop in temperature while locking you in gears to keep safe while cycling between east and west, west and east.  You keep water at hand and sing with the ringing around this vehicle.  You are driven.  Soon you’ll be graduating and leaving-leaving the east for the west, the I-40 drive no longer the path you will cycle.  Orbit will soon be your gum, found in the space between Saturn’s seats.  Soon, you will make the final drive across I-40 East and live together in an even larger room.  Each month you will gain eight hours to spend reflecting on something beyond visitation.  Each month you will save fifty-dollars on gas, unused.  Every six months, you will save thirty dollars on oil not burned to join, then divide worlds of intimacy and independence.  And so, you continue, speeding back to that place where you both began to orient, to share.  


            Somewhere between smile and grin. 

            Somewhere between words and space.


Somebody had to believe in love.


Somebody had to believe in distance.


Somebody had to believe in I-40 as a portal.  West.  Then East. 


Lindsy pursued an education in social work while infusing it with creating writing, focusing on non-fiction, during her time at Warren Wilson College.  Both studies have taught her to search for personal truths, meaning, and finding a voice in her own life and others.  Lindsy hopes to begin a career working with older adults, helping them find their voices, and recording their memories and truths.