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Some Girl, by Beth Gilstrap

 1984

The van was all hot breath and man stink so I closed my eyes, resting my head against the fogged window. This was what I wanted –to be squished next to Brandon and headed west where the country unfolds until its spine’s exposed, flat and easy to leave, a good spot to mark for return, a pause. This land was always right where you left her. The sound of rubber on asphalt merged with an Iron Maiden song blaring from Steve’s headphones. Turn the volume down on everything but her. Clenching my jaw, I tried my best to push age on my girl’s face, to add six months to it, subtract baby teeth, but try as I might she looked the same. She stayed a fresh seven-year-old in my head, with her wiggling incisor and flurry of birthday energy lifting her hair as she danced and drew and built a fort.

“Come see, Mom. Come see,” she said.

“I see, baby.” Only her legs visible under her tarp house. White ruffled socks in purple clogs. Mud splatters from yesterday’s rain. When she was thinking, her right foot crossed behind the left, a little tick that gave her away.

This is what happens when you run.

Whole days showered in freezing rain, turned hard to touch, worse to navigate, but maybe, almost prettier behind that sheet of ice, but you can’t get home, not for a long stretch and it’s preserved and out of reach in you. Bourbon or sun or open road don’t fix it.

“Turn that shit down,” I said. “You are killing me.”

“What’s that, doll?” Jay asked over his shoulder.

“Not you. Steve’s music’s loud as shit. Does he ever listen to anything aside from Maiden?”

“He thinks if he listens to it enough, he’ll sound like Bruce Dickinson.”

“Christ, is that it?”

“Climb up here with me. They’re passed out anyways.”

As I angled my shoulder down, Brandon’s head lolled to his chest. His hand slid off my thigh and landed palm up, showing the number some girl wrote on his palm. Last night, all I could do was smile at the little thing with her Sun-In orange hair and shove him in the van. Girl has no idea. She’ll be more than smudged marker on their hands before long. Where she’s headed, these band guys will chew her to bone. She won’t know spooling herself around these guys doesn’t save you anymore than walking into the eye of a hurricane, but sometimes you got to go on thinking you’re some kind of buffalo.

 On the next seat up, Rory curled into himself like an insect, his hair hanging over his eyes. “Where are we?” I asked, climbing over the cooler.

“On 412. Next town’s Orienta. Passed Fairview a few miles back. Ever heard of it?”

“May have passed through here with daddy as a kid. Fairview, I mean.”

“When you were a kid, huh? Must’ve been about four years ago?”

“Is that flirting or are you just a moron?”

“Both, maybe,” he said as he fished for a beer. “Running low.” He wiped the wet can on his jeans.

“Guess I’ll take the attention where I can get it. Brandon seems to hold all the stock in flirt, lately.”

“You ain’t used to that by now? You’ve been with us a while now.”

“Some nights I’m okay with it. Some nights not so much. Don’t make any sense, I know, but hell. I’m not sure how much sense is in this van.”

“This shit ain’t easy. Not sure we’ll ever get to the point where we don’t have to work like hell to sell records. I don’t expect to fill superdomes like Steve does.”

“You don’t really seem like rock gods.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be our little cheerleader?”

“Right. You got me pegged. It’s just, other than Brandon, you’re a bit timid for heavy duty spotlights.”

“I guess.”

“I mean it as a compliment. You’re purer that way. Something about all this glam shit now jags my heart. These boys and what’s that chick group?”

“Vixen.”

“Right. So many of these bands took a wrong turn and just said to hell with it. A devil baby made of from disco’s day old crotch and the stinking armpit of rock. Give me Patty Smyth and Scandal over Vixen any day.”

“Must be all the coke.”

“Anyway, I’m glad I hang with guys who care more about music than image and women. There’s still pieces of the blues in your songs. Poetry even.”

“It’s nice someone notices. I’m waiting though. Waiting for Brandon to take it another direction,” he said.

We both knew what was coming.

“God, look. You ever see mountains shine like that?”

At the horizon, the land rose sharp into buttes. Jay and me kept our eyes forward on the formations, gathering light and dark and reflecting so much more than the physics of musicians careening in the guts of a blue conversion van. I could tell it’d be a good bit colder when we got out, but I didn’t dig for another layer, just buttoned my jacket and unrolled the bowls I’d formed at my elbows.

“Looks like a good spot for a walk,” Jay said leaning over.

“It’s thick in here anyway,” I said, with my boots propped on the dash. “And my legs are getting twitchy.”

“I only got about twenty minutes til I piss myself anyway. Should be there by then, I’d think.”

I flipped the tape to side B of Meddle. In the twenty minutes, it took us to get there, we zoned in and out. Gliding into piano tinks, we tiptoed on puddles. Razed by guitar, shattered in bird screams. Into the grift of momentum and pulled back down again, just so. Gotta hand it to Floyd. In all my life, I never expressed anything so true. Just once, just once, I’d like to stand up and say my piece and have someone respond. You can find so much on B-sides.

As we pulled up to the sign Jay read, “Gloss Mountains. Hours: Dawn - Dusk.”

“We got time. Sun’s not down yet.”

“No, but we won’t make it to the top before it goes down,” he said.

“See what I mean? What a poor excuse of a musician. Nothing but a rule follower at your core.”

When I poked him in the chest, he finally cut his eyes my direction. “Like hell,” he said, putting the last two beers in his pockets.

“That’s what I like to hear.”

He ran ahead of me, as fast as he could until he shifted into silhouette. When he slowed to a walk, his strides became long and heavy. In his wake, I stretched to fit my feet in his prints. Putting my heels in his made me more of a little girl than I’d been since my sisters and I ran topless around the lake, too young to know or care about modesty. I wondered how one could feel ten and be my age, broad-thighed and drinking my weight in bourbon, holding onto a man I didn’t really want because I could. I know my body was lanky once. The air changed pressure and temperature; I felt myself drifting as if made of helium and housed in purple latex, tied tight with a bow, loose.

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