“Feels like I’ve missed a turn again,” said the man beside me at the wheel. “Feels like that dreadful moment when the signpost bears a name you don’t recall.”

“What exactly’s in a name, besides?” I murmer to the window glass as mile-markers melt into a single line along the muddy shoulder.

“My wife was named Cecelia.” He signals left, but I can’t see a place for us to turn, just mile after mile after mile of road unbroken, closing to a point ahead so small that I can’t fathom, falling off the edge and vanishing beneath the sun like all the miles we leave behind us. “She used to read the map on trips we hadn’t made before. Sitting nearer to me on this seat than you are now, Cecelia traced the roads we needed with her finger as she listened to the landscape pass.”

Then it dawns on me, not in all the distance that we’ve covered has a single intersection broke the road we’re on, not a sign to point another way but straight.

I hear the signal ticking rhythmically, a little faster than the second hand revolving in the weathered dashboard. Sweeps of landscape looping past. A blink and all that’s changed is the sun a little lower on the frown of earth in front of us. “You’ve been this way before?” I turn to ask, but the words seem almost muted by the light that scatters through the windshield.

“Done this road a time or two,” he tells me without looking. “Cecilia always showed me where to turn. Feels like I’m reading braille without her, like feeling fractures in the road beneath the tires, guessing where to go by how the pavement splits and cracks. I’ve never been a reading man, always liked to hear a story told to me instead.”

The signal ticks, indifferent to the road unswerving smooth and uniform beyond us. Not a signpost underneath the open sky, not a single fissure in the pavement. The signal ticks and ticks and nowhere left to turn.

#amsterdam #nederlands #vondelpark

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