Youth of An Artist

by James Hinkson

I’m riding in my father’s rusty old pickup truck. The red mark the water and time has left on the exterior blends with the light red paint job. I’m eight years old again. I had no idea what the destination was but I’m glad to be leaving.  I’m glad to be sitting next to my father as he rests his left wrist on the cusp of the wheel, carelessly guiding us on the freeway. The cab of his truck breaths smoky, the comforting smell of my father’s Marlboros is hiding out in the folds of his jacket, in the locks of his hair. Dad never smokes around me.

I lean my head against the glass; it is cold on my forehead as a halo of condensation forms around the outline of my skull. We’re higher up than other cars. I look into our neighbors as they pass by, some jetting by, others slower than us as we inch up on them. I look into their windows and take inventory of their cars. Fast food wrappers, a guitar with broken strings littered around their home giving their once familiar tracks a wide berth. A pair of ice skates far too small to be the drivers. Who did they carry on the frozen surface? All of these people had a story, one that I would never hear but wanted to have read to me when I laid awake at night. Here, on this freeway I became closer to these strangers than they ever would have known, or wanted.

My eyes lurked in on the older brother I wanted so badly, his backwards baseball cap mashing black hair into a nest crowning his piercing blue eyes. One hand glues a phone to his head. Who was he talking to? What was he saying? Did he love them? Did he miss them? Is he speeding home to embrace them? My heart ached.

I saw a woman driving with a baby girl sleeping in the backseat, her head was the only thing visible, the only part of her not nestled into those soft, pink blankets. She looked so peaceful. Why couldn’t I ever sleep like that? Why did this woman get this beautiful little girl when I had prayed, and begged God for a little sister? I wondered why I didn’t deserve her. I wondered why God answers some people and not others. My heart trudged along like an old watch, the parts worked fine, the battery fresh but something was inexplicably slowing it down. Was something trapped in the gears? Dust of gunk, some dirt perhaps? Or was it simply resisting its own function, the very essence of it?

We were alone on the road now. I looked out to the stretching fields and there were white flowers on the bottom of a hill. The shade left a sickly path through the flower bed, killing almost all of the plants. The greedy hill had hogged all of their light. The stragglers on the borders of the shadow stretched and ached toward the light, bending from their natural position, seeking warmth, and light, and life.

James Hinkson was born and raised in Troy Michigan. Currently attends Grand Valley State University. Writing and Psychology major, hopes to move out west after graduation.

Print Friendly