Autobiography

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Take the exit for I-40 West; leave the moonlit lighthouses littering the coast, the ocean in turn littered with shipwrecks; people from New Jersey—that is, people of a certain age—love to read about these, your, shipwrecks on museum placards during their vacations.

When you’re past the shit-smelling hog farms and the shit-poor tobacco farms, exit 298B Raleigh Downtown, which will eventually take you Six Forks Road where as a child you stretch rubber bands into shapes over what your teacher politely calls a ‘geo-board,’ but which you already know is just a square of scrap wood into which someone has hammered several rows of nails. The rubber bands tend to snap back, broken, on your fingers. Perhaps you take some premonitory pleasure in this game, anticipating the joy you would soon take in pulling your best friend’s curly, honey-colored hair, which, when you pull it, returns effortlessly to its spirals.

You like to watch her curls slowly take shape after she gets out of the shower. Her hair takes such a slow time to dry. It seems in defiance of all law, this hair, which unlike the rubber bands, does not snap when you stretch it (although doesn’t she search for split ends with her pink fingernails?). Exit 287 for her house in the suburbs where you go like a refugee, fingering her curls covetously although the Bible warns you not to be covetous.

Take exit 53A for the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway. After the city turns to foothills, the foothills will turn to mountains. Pine trees cover the old peaks; they are soft and blue with the fog that clings to them.

Exit 284B for Airport Blvd EAST and RDU Intl Airport. Carry your mountains to other mountains; carry your bags, purged of anything you might have at one time wanted. Carry your stories of Southern voices, of Appalachian mountains worn down with their many years; new mountains, raw mountains wait for you; they jut up in defiance of the alien cities that cleave to their sides; they gleam at you multiplicitously from photographs, guide books, hotel advertisements, postcards. At noon on a spring day contemplate the mountains with nothing in your hands. You may find them unremarkable.

Take exit 328B for Interstate 95 North. Go north to winters in which the silence crowds you, in which there is snow.

Take exit 416. In September, the coastal towns empty of their visitors and the ice cream shops close, but this is the month when you arrive. On the beach, people are scarce; the windows in all the houses are boarded up for hurricane season and the deck furniture—white wicker rocking chairs, glass tables—is crowded into garages and basements. The air has cooled, but summer heat lingers in the tides.

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