The Eleven Rainbow Drive
By J. William Geldson
Click here to send comments
Click here if you'd like to exchange critiques
I enjoy mornings. They require so little of you at first. Like the first pages of a book or the first lines of a story you don’t know how it is going to go. It could be touching, or frightening; life changing, or nothing special at all. Those are my favorite days. The kind where there is nothing unusual about them. Not particularly exciting, not really solemn, not very lonely, not a bit crowded. The type of day you see the sunlight through the trees like you see in the movies, where you feel the ground beneath you. On these days you see the day as it happens instead of through your rushed and overtaxed memory. That’s why in these days you remember the angle of the wind, and the nuances of blue in the horizon, the thousands of yellow in the sun. While laying in secure blue of my blankets, I draw the lines of sun on the wall. For a few moments this morning I can just be. Every thing that is simply is, and I have no problem with that right now.
I don’t fully believe what I am going to do today. I don’t believe that I am about to be 200 miles away from here in a few hour’s time. I don’t believe I am about to drive off with out knowing the way or talking to the person I am supposed to meet. I guess it just surprises me that that it is all that easy. My father calls me and tells me to take his car instead of mine. I didn’t even need to ask. How easy. It’s time to take a shower.
I hurriedly pack, I don’t need much. Just one change of cloths, toothbrush, maybe a razor. I’m not trying to impress anyone up there. I bet it’s cold outside even though the sun is out, I better take a jacket. I try not to wake up my room mate so I don’t eat breakfast. I’m not really hungry anyway, just my stomach is. I’m getting too thin, but I’ll be ok. I’ve got everything as I walk out the door, at least I think I do. I look back at the room.
I’ve lived here for five months. The walls are almost intimate and the ceiling hangs in my face when I sleep. Only two windows show the world from one side of the room. Light and dimness are lopsided about the floor. My room mate is still asleep I hope. I try to be quiet but the room is old and has it’s aches and complaints. The wooden closet creaks at my slightest touch, the curtains scrape across the wall, and the door slams no matter how lightly it is closed. In the dimness the high beds sit and rest after a hard nights work. My made bed is relieved and looks forward to a vacation. I think of the others who have employed it over the years. A college dorm room should have no loyalty, but I feel that for all our disagreements with each other that I love this room. So much work has gone on in it that if the walls could, they would talk, but I think that they would rather sing. The room gives me what no full house has, a place that belongs to me. I sit under my own roof at night, my head is kept dry by my own care. I already feel the strangeness of leaving a place forever. Houses are easy to change, but a home is a difficult thing to move. I’m still here for now. I close the door. It slams
Berkeley Bart train/10:15
The walk here is beautiful. The creek on campus is nearly overflowing, stretching out its narrow banks. A river trapped in the shallow bed of sand, it tries to push its way into a new path than the one that was dug for it. I walk faster while I am beside it , as if its current was around my legs rather than beside me.
The first thing I noticed when I set foot outside my door this morning was the confusion in the sky. Microclimates of patch work clouds covering a sky half draped in melancholy, the other dressed in a garish celebratory garment of light and clearness. The light beam and the rain drop are an unlikely pair. My path to the underground station is under a clearing of sun, but I can smell the towers of rain just a few hundred yards away. I cross a busy street with little fear of the drivers intent. No one is ever going to just hit me on purpose so I ignore the drivers that stare at me sternly as I walk across. I still keep an eye out for people who aren’t paying attention though, they’re the ones who will run you right over. I don’t want to go underground just yet, the sun is too cheerful. I watch the people come and go for a while and pretend I am not here. They see me stare and not look away, then they pretend that I am not here either. I’d love to not be here longer but the rain is moving toward me. Like a slowly charging animal it comes around the bend. I don’t move at first . All I can do is watch the sudden cascade appear in the street and stand mesmerized as the sun retreats. It isn’t the advance of the water, or the flight of the light that has me so entranced, but the moment in between. When the drops hit the street they fly into the air like a million insects spreading their glassy wings, then the light catches each little bend and curve and you see the iridescent sheen blend and cover the air. In that moment the bands of individual colors join hands and a colorful arc is projected. The rainbow moves at me with the speed of the purposeful clouds and wind. While I try to appreciate the scene it rushes over my head. I feel the drops hit my head a few seconds after they do.
In that time I get a little wet and before it gets worse I jump onto the escalator and head down. My damp hair picks up the flows of air around me like an ear searching through a room of different conversations. Half way down the escalator I feel the rush of warm air created by an incoming train. I hurry to catch it and leap into the car. It’s not crowded at all, just the same faces I see every Sunday. Faces that are tired, but determined to get where they are going, grateful to have someone else drive them for now. I allow myself to flop into a seat facing two windows. I wont see the bay from this side, but that’s ok. I know it’s there. I breath out in relief a little louder than I should but I am not embarrassed. Everyone on the train knows how I feel. Everyone like to feel safe for a while and right now I have made it into my seat. Until I get to the station where I exit I don’t have to do anything. The doors don’t close for another minute, I didn’t have to hurry after all, but I could not have been sure of that before.
Benisha 680-N to 780-N/11:22
Dad’s car was in the station just like he said. A map on the front seat of the state. He didn’t leave instruction on how to get to Chico, just a map that I could use. I appreciate that from him. There is also a note on the passenger seat asking me to have the oil changed before I leave town. That’s easy enough, and it is the least I can do. He left money too. It didn’t take long anyway. The Benisha Bridge appears at the horizon. I drive over the place where their use to be a sharp climb in the road. In my memory my stomach accelerates suddenly and is covered with excitement, but right now my stomach does nothing. The road may be smooth now, but I used to look so forward to that sudden uplift.
The bridge is just as I have always remembered it, but they bay is not. The water isn’t as blue as I remember it, and I don’t believe that it is just a trick of the light. A warm patch shines on the old reserve fleet anchored off shore from the unloading dock for new Toyotas. I can see the years that have collected on the hulls of the retired ships, and I can feel the seconds adding on to them. The slow process pushed by the same sun that casts such a dramatic shadow overhead.
I get into a toll line, then change my mind and get into another, then finally move to a booth that has no line. With one hand I roll down the window, with the other I get out the two dollars I had set aside before, my knee rests on the steering wheel. As I hold out the toll my hand brushes the scratchy hand on the aging attendant. I smile at him unexpectantly, he nods in the direction of the road. I thank him and drive on. It is so nice when two people meet each others expectations entirely.
780-N/ 80-N junction, Cordilia/12:01
This is the 8th time I’ve driven through this interchange myself. I don’t think that there is anything special about the drive or the number of times I have driven it, it’s just that I will never get used to it. My memory of this exit will always be of my father. He always drove when we went this way to the mountains to ski the snow dropped valleys or to camp along the rivers who had grown up just right. He made the trip so easily and the whole while that I sat behind him, beside my sister, I never thought I would make the trip without him.
As I go over the junction I look southward in the rear view mirror. The reversed sky is full of clouds that drag their tails behind them. I know that the loose arms pulled along are fingers of rain. In front of my I see sun and blue. In the distance I see a rainbow.
Big yet thin, it stretches across a whole section of sky that makes the dome look even bigger. It’s colors are faded, yet so bright against the uniformity of powder mixed above. In a half circle bridge it spans the strait, four lane road as a gate would, but it always moves into the distance as I move towards it. After a distance the road changes direction and the rainbow fades. I more towards a new bank of clouds.
80-N/ 505-N Vacaville/12:20
I’m in the middle of the storm that had once been to my right. From far away the black overhang looked powerful and full, its rope like rain wrapping around the hills. It isn’t as heavy as it had looked.
I have never been down this highway before. I usually pick up 5 at Sacramento when going north but this way looked faster on the map. I instantly notice that there is next to no traffic on the road. I could drive down the center of the two lanes if I wanted to, but I don’t. I take the chance to pull over to the side of the road and set up my CD player to distract me from the feelings creeping in my chest. It’s no longer morning and my afternoon is now dictated by my actions of the morning. It is clear that I am going where I planned now, I finally believe it. The songs come through the speakers oddly, one is louder than the other. I try to correct the lopsided sound but nothing happens when I turn the balance. I change the bass and treble until the band sounds right. Before starting again I look at the road. Two strait paths with a dirt divider in the middle. I notice the sun beams to the left angled like a ladder to the cosmos, I look at the blue sky in the distance. Above me the cloud gently rains. I look into it.
Above me, the car, the road, the grass, and the ground, is a mass of gas that surges like a living being. Instead of the broad mass of grey and fog that my eyes expected there is a spectrum of shaded color. I cannot see well enough through the window so I open it and look out, allowing my glasses to collect the rain. Coldness greater than I expected rushes into the car and awakens me.
The tail of an infant storm travels across the space above me like a blanket slowly pulled away from my face. Swirling winds hundreds of feet in the air arc in my spine as I feel the electricity travel away, a charge not strong enough to escape. The halo around the edges is golden and serene. It is a dark shadow of the sun, but still a lining of brightness. Patters play across my mind in a language I can all but understand. The traveler speaks as it moves opposite my direction. As the sun comes back into view a bolt of lightning extends behind the passing cloud and I am blinded by the power of the steady shining sun combined with the brief yet powerful glimpse of nature restoring her balance. When the world breaks through my startled and surprised eyes the spring storm is a forgotten memory to the surrounding fields and shopping malls. Behind me the cloud cares for its ward, looking no different than it did before it’s sudden outburst. Around the car the rain on the pavement begins to jump back into the sky again, a child ready for another exciting fall. In the sudden shower of sun I start the car and drive on. To my left, falling out of the clouds like a dropped ribbon, is a bright an vivid quarter rainbow.
I-5 N to highway 32-E/ 3:30
The music isn’t working anymore. I am surrounded by bare orchards poised on the edge of production. I can smell the fruit yet to be grown in the air. Behind me is again a storm, this one much heavier, drops much angrier, impact much harder, the wetness and puddles much more difficult to dry, but the time underneath it much shorter. The down pour so brief.
She doesn’t really love me.
The sun and rain conspire again. Another Goddamn rainbow.
Chico Sate University/ 4:20
I know it’s a Saturday. Even Chico is distinctly wilder right now. While I am driving a guy stands in the middle of road and doesn’t move when my car approaches. This same thing happens four times on four different streets.
I don’t feel young.
Twilight preserves the grey of the streets, a few blacks and browns. Porch lights rise out of the growing darkness and fill homes with yellow. Just yellow. Amongst the dimness I feel claustrophobic. They gray of the sky I could revel in, but when placed before my face in the cold streets of this college town I notice how lost I am. In the grim daylight the road signs fade into the background. First the letters become to difficult to understand, then the colors over blend gray. Finally the outline of each pole disappears until the signs are only visible for the second my lights shine near. At that point I am driving past them, and it is too late to take note of their direction. I knew I was going to get lost. I knew I’m going to because I don’t even know what kind of theater I am looking for. I’m lost but it’s ok. I’ll find the building before the performance starts.
The hills that surround the city speed up the sunset faster than I am used to. The sudden storms that have traveled sporadically across the valley have been across the mountains as well, and over their snow covered tops the disappearing sun shines red above the white. Above the line of fiery blood a layer of orange separates the horizon from a blaze of yellow. I don’t know if it is a trick of the blaze mixing with the remaining spread of blue in the air, but a see a line of green below the blue and indigo of the mixing day and night. Beyond that is the spreading violet of twilight. I look twice to make sure. When will these things leave me alone?
* * * *
I-5 S near willows/11:00 AM
Morning is almost over and I haven’t much to direct my day. The play was a wonder, Alexi, my friend, triumphant. My call to her, on the other side of things, not as moving. What I saw coming came. She doesn’t love me and worse yet it is someone else. Someone across from my very front door. She lied to me.
Wrath and Want are such strong emotions, but they serve only as fuel towards blind ambition. Weakness I am used to. Like all of humanity I am weak. We have not the strength to be beasts nor the power to be gods, so we gain pride in the one thing that is ours. Honor, trust, and courage all exist because we are too weak to simply take what we want, We must try to give others what they want so they will do the same for us. I embrace my weakness, it is all that is truly human.
That’s all I have to say about that. What matters is me.
The sun is out right now and a grey traveler in front of me. Like old men growing young the hills have given up white for the darker color of things that are new. Snow melts to feed the growing grass that breaths for the ground and sky. Rain in font of me, sun behind. I know what is coming.
I-5 S/ 11:20
Another f--- rainbow. On the small side. Sitting on the horizon. Ending just left of the highway. I yell at it. Ask it what does it want. What does it expect? I’m not going to wake up for it. One f--- rainbow isn’t going to fix everything. Sometimes it takes more than a rainbow to make you happy. Sometimes one lousy rainbow isn’t enough.
That last storm was much more severe. Forces I am not used to surging around me, pushing the car about the road. The road so flat and yielding still became a flowing shallow river. The wipers couldn’t keep up. When I turned the lights of the car slowed down. I hope nothing is wrong.
Now that I’m passed it I have to deal with another f---’ rainbow shining in my face. F--- rainbows telling me how I should feel. I’m tired of hearing it.
I haven’t seen the sky for a while, just grim clouds with little definition in them. Bland in color, too large to show any movement even if their was any, it just goes on. On one side of me the clouds are darker and longer. While I drive one of them slowly dips down until a grey trail connects the air water and ice to the ground in a sudden burst. To the other side is nothing but sun and clouds surrounded by halos of spun gold. The land in need of both. Here, in the middle, under this spread of smoothness there is no mixing. I am safe.
I drive on and try to change lanes to pass a loaded trailer. The car sputters with each blink like a chunk of the engine was being removed each time the lights flashed. I turn of the signal and speed up. I don’t know where I am. My speed is in vain. The car starts to slow despite my coaxes. The engine gives power selectively at best. I make it to the side of the road and continue going until that car will be pushed no farther. Along the shoulder I sit in the car angry and desperate. My feelings worsen every time a car passes by at the same speed they would if I wasn’t there stuck on the side of the road. No one stops, but I don’t really expect them to.
Finally I cannot sit in the car any longer, its interior gets hot and aggravating. I get out and walk to the front of the car. I open the hood. It’s just for show really. I know so little about cars. The inside of the hood stared at me defiantly, each twist and knob reminding me that I was incapable of doing anything. I kicked the car not because it made me feel better, just because I’m supposed to. I marched down the road crawling with people all getting where they thought the were going to go. I reached a call box and asked the operator to send AAA out to find me.
While I walk back the wind spins in my face and I notice its power for the first time. With so many cells of warm and cool air I wonder why I didn’t notice it before. While I was walking down the road the wind was at my back, a companion marching behind me urging in hushed tones. Now that I am walking back, away from where I thought I was going it continues in the same direction, a companion no more. It pushes hard against me trying to force its way upon me. Breath moving so fast that it plasters again my body. My baggy cloths push against my tall, thin, and weak frame. My jeans are pushed against my thin legs, all the extra fabric whipping loudly behind me. My shirt cruelly exposes my weak chest and skinny arms, the extra fabric waving my pretend bulk in the air for all passers to see. But I still move against it because I have to.
The car is blanketed by small pink blossoms that have been carried off the branches in the plum trees surrounding an old farm house slowly rotting beside the road. The wind deposits them across the windshield and the asphalt, and twists the small petals around like autumn leaves or fresh light snow.
She only needed to find to go 15 feet to find someone better than me. Just across the hallway to find someone stronger, brighter, better looking and more stable. That’s how easy it was. It’s strange to see plum blossoms so late in spring. Poppies have already spread their orange heads out of the soil, and yellow mustard lines the high way like an old story.
I have no home now. I shake in my own hall way and am nervous in my own little room. My breath quickens at the threshold like it would at the mouth of a cave, only I feel no excitement of discovery. There is a temporary stream that has formed in a ditch behind a fence. Frogs have already moved in. I hear them croak and see a few of their murky green bodies glisten in the sunlight. Their croaking opera is accompanied by the cries of a hungry blue jay. It’s getting hot in the car so I change into a t-shirt.
Now I am just as at home in this car beside the road as I would be anywhere. In just as much good company beside that colorless trail as I would be in any lecture hall. I try to read but it doesn’t help. The radio wont play. The tow truck is late.
Indigo forget-me-nots grow around the fence post that the jay is singing from. I smell freshly bloomed lavender in the air.
They follow me everywhere.
I have to get out of here.
Marching up a hill side my feet sink into the mud. I remove my shoes and socks, the wet earth welcomes my feet. Continuing through the grazing lands the wet grass streaks my jeans. I take them off, I have shorts on underneath. Almost to the top I fell the wind become confused. It blows helter skelter around the mound of dirt, changing its direction suddenly opposite to its self, whirlwinds grab at my hair. At the summit the sun shines for a few moments then is hidden by a cloud. Streaks of light and shadow pass me by as quickly as if I was walking under a tree caught in a wind storm. I feel the warmth and cold. I smell the growth and decay. I see something in the sky ,but it cannot be a rainbow!
Behind me there is a road that leads people where they want to go. It’s blackness hugs the ground like an invader climbing a sea cliff trying to reach for level land. On either side there is farm land, either for grazing of for crops. The tilled earth just beginning to grow. The brown fading into green. Small white clouds float beside larger ones, bleating at the gentle and infrequent rain.
To my right there is a house surrounded by plum trees. They each grow darker as they let go of their light colored crowns and replace them with darker red leaves. A harder color, but a more productive one. The farmhouse quietly settles into the land.
To my left there is nothing. Nothing but the grass. Nothing but the trees. Nothing but the hills. Nothing but hills so delicately carved with detail, yet carved with the bluntest of tools. I’d love to tell about their every detail, but is just something that has to be seen.
In front of me there is a monster, that has swallowed a quarter of the sky. I cannot see all of it, maybe just it’s leg, or tail, I cannot tell. In it there are seven colors. ROYGBIV. ROYGBIV. ROYGBIVROYGBIV. ROYGBIV ROYGBIV ROYGBIV ROYGBIV ROYGBIV ROYGBIV ROYGBIV ROYGBIV ROYGBIV ROYGBIV! I say in my mind. It’s so large I cannot hate it. It’s too big to love either. Too powerful to be good. To beautiful to be evil. Seven screaming screeching colors, wider than the freeway, wrapping the world in their hues, shouting at the world this is it, it is here and there is nothing you can do. But I do do something. I laugh.
It’s ridiculous, the rain, the sun, the car, the pain, her, the loneliness, the sky, the home. And that RAINBOW! Too f--- huge to be real. Ridiculously being as it is, as huge and wonderful and frightening freak of nature! My stomach threatens violence, and I am sacred. My brain revolts and I am happy. I get off my knees and run. I fall and I’m free. Gravity pulls at my hair, as it tries to catch up, the screams of laughter fade into the light. Rolling freely down the hill the earth is mixed with sky, and brightness. I see all around, so much more than rose. I feel pulled, and thrown, and forced, and dizzy, and I feel it grow. Like a dandelion in an ornamental garden, it grows past the sterile lawns, around the clipped hedges, taller than the tamed rocks. And it blooms bright, and it shrivels, and it flowers its seeds and my breath provides a wind. I laugh. Seeds spill out my mouth and I laugh. The world spins, and I laugh. Speed plays with my ears, and I laugh. I leave the ornament behind, and I laugh. Above me ground sky and rainbow twist about my head. Ground Sky Rainbow GrouND Sky RAINboW! GROUND SKY RAINBOW! GROUND SKY RAINBOW GROUND SKY RAINBOW GROUND SKY RAINBOW GROUND SKY RAINBOW GROUND SKY RAINBOW GROUND SKY RAINBOW GROUND SKY RAINBOW !
A jolt stops the onibrightness, and streaks become the polygons they once were.
And even when plucked out of the wind I laugh.
And I laugh, and I laugh, and I laugh andI Laugh andILAuGH AndI LAUGH ANDILAUGHANDILAUGHANDILAUGHANDILAUGHANDILAUGHANDILAUGHANDI.......
By the time the tow truck arrived I was already dressed again. My dirty feet hidden in my socks, my muddy shorts switched for jeans again, my grass stained shirt hidden beneath a plaid one. I smiled to myself as he lifted the car up. He doesn’t know. After the car is secured the tow truck guy asked me where to go. I asked if he could take me to Walnut Creek, he said that my plan covered up 100 miles free. It’s so easy. As he got into the cab I waited a second. He gave me a look I pretended not to see, shook his head and waited. Behind the truck and somewhere between then and the horizon was a thin rainbow. Beside it was another one, a mirror image, VIBGYOR. It’s not really necessary, but what is? I would have waited for them to disappear but the driver was becoming nervous as I just stared into the distance. He never looked at what. I got into the car, but I looked back behind me. In the strong sunlight the rainbows gleamed, opposite each other, the space between them aglow. I looked back every few minutes until the storm in front of us was overhead, and the arches were out of view.
A quiet trip of sunlight followed. I talked a little with the driver, told him how grateful I was. He complained about how reckless people from the Bay Area were. How most of his time was spent driving Tahoe voyagers home after they had broken an axel or they had run with a dry engine. I told him what had happened, he asks me how old the alternator is. I tell him it’s a barrowed car. He cuts me some slack.
He drops me off in the cold suburban air at the garage my father told me to take the car to. It’s closed on Sundays. I thank the driver and give him toll for the bridge. I walk to a pay phone and call my parents. With them on the way I return to the car, gather my belongings, and read.
I crawl into the back seat of my mothers small car. I haven’t had to sit there in years. The dog licks my face. I complain about her breath. All is normal. While driving back I tell my parents the story. They understand. My father tells me I am a good man, for once I actually listen, and it makes me feel better.
On the freeway cars kick up water from the ground and a spent cloud moves northward to gain new reserves. From behind a moving corner a bridge of trailing gold shoots out across the hills and the world is filled with time delaying light. And just to remind us all what it is all about, from the waning lines of the sun the rain collects what is left and throws into the air a rainbow. Not too thin, no too wide, not too bright, not too dim, but every bit as precious. I follow its path across the sky and look for where it lands. Across the hills are houses full of life. Beside the houses are trees and meadows, all full of life. Above them all is crisp and clear air, full of life, below the ground is dark and dank, but full of life. And amongst all this life the magic arch falls like a dart and lands upon the roof of my parents house, my once familiar home. As we get closer the angle changes and I cannot see the rainbow anymore, but I know that others can, and that it is still there.
I close one eye and look. Through one side there is fear and darkness. I am sorry and sad for what I have lost, I am angry at what life has cost me. With the other side I see light. I look forward to the new that will fill the gap, I feel excited with a fresh mound of clay. I close my eyes. While pulling into the driveway I feel the car surge with an unnatural warmth. I open one eye and see no light. I try the other and see even less.
When I open both I eyes I see color spilling into the car through the windows like water from an overflowing bath tub. It fills the car, it fills my eyes and everywhere I look is rainbow.
One thing blended in the other, a creature with out form. Everything a mixture, it’s a world of love in scorn. A name with out meaning, except for what I give. Everyone remember now, that famous Roy G. Biv.