I don’t know if other people feel like there’s a life
running alongside their so-called real life like an
access road runs alongside the main highway.
It’s funkier, lonelier; you didn’t expect to find yourself on this one-
lane frontage path, you kept thinking you’d get on the
freeway any minute now, where you fondly imagined yourself
doing eighty, ninety, hurtling down the untrammeled autobahn of
free will. That was the life you thought would be yours when you
were young and everything seemed laid out as at a picnic with red
gingham tablecloths. Only it was never like that, not really, you had
just been raised with too many stories, always stories, not the real,
ancient ones with burning bushes and three-headed dogs, but the
whitewashed, idealized, candy-coated pap fed to children in mid-
twentieth-century suburbs. And so in your fantasies you neglected
to factor in the reality of ants crawling up your legs at the actual
picnic, the way they tickle and sting, or the spilled juice and
crumbled potato chips and your beautiful mother young again, and
strong, but anxious and discontented amid all that messy beauty
because she, too, was always calibrating how reality didn’t measure
up to the story. So you’ve inherited her dilemma, what else is new,
and evening is drawing nigh, and you are still on that
access road, which as it turns out is going to the same place
the main road was headed all along.