Easy, watch it. Ease off the gas for this curve. What do they call it? Or what did you hear it called, anyway? Corpse corner? Dead man’s curve? No. Wouldn’t actually be something that corny, would it? No. Yes. Don’t kid yourself. It probably is. Okay, ease off. Christ, the way it drops off down there. And the guardrail, warped, dented, replaced in a few places, shiny steel, not oxidized yet. How many have died here? Gravity tugging at the car — centrifugal force — lean your body away from the curve, subconsciously, like that would somehow stop this thousand-plus pounds of steel and plastic and glass from flicking itself into that ravine if it really wanted to. Treetops and dusky sky. Looks like a little stream down there. Probably a nice area before this highway went through. How many? How many have died down there? God.
But still, there’s something attractive about it. Admit it. What? Endings? Sudden and absolute clarity …Beauty. Yes. Yes. Careful now, tires skipping — pothole, fucking hell right here on this curve, perfect. Okay. Straighten her out. Give her some gas. Okay. Down now, level with the valley floor. Safe.
Yes. Beauty. Perfection. The chaos, followed so swiftly by immediate and startling peace. That aftermath, that’s what’s so appealing… the car stops rolling, and you’re trapped inside, just lying there in momentous numbness, the tortured steel pinging and clicking all around you as it cools in the night air, the slow devolution of a single tire, and you’re staring up through shattered glass at those silent pines, shadowy in subtle profile against the starry sky, and the night chill brushing your cheek with a caress that reminds you of your grandmother’s fingertips and the stillness, the hush, the sibilant hiss of leaves stirring and of water trickling over mossy stones, that massive void of violent and sudden peace, yes, it would be so god-damned beautiful.
The exit. Turn signal. Loud. Precise. Like a metronome. Running out of gas in the middle of the night that time, on Kelly’s Mountain, yes, the same kind of peace. The way the engine sounded as it exhausted its fuel, like it was expelling a final breath, a death-rattle — long, slow, a sigh of resignation, all power disappearing, the rumble of the engine fading, the only remaining sensation the dull hum of treads on pavement, and air slip-streaming across metal and glass. The sound of the turn signal, so astoundingly intense and distinct, like this. Pulling over onto the shoulder. The soft crackle of the gravel beneath the tires. Shutting down the lights. The darkness. The feeling of inevitability. And, yes, contentment. The long dark snake of the road behind. The distant whine of tires, the approach of lights, whizzing past. Making no effort to seek help. Acceptance. The trees. The stars. The cold. Peace.
An end to motion. The body at rest.