"No One Takes Jane's Pride"
Jane shakes her head, "yeah, you go right ahead, you go and love for all the altruistic reasons you need to". She knows better now. Jane's loaded up the celica. She's called out from work. Left notes.
As she drives down somebody else's street for the last time, some guy named Paul is singing on the radio, "One man comes he to justify, one man to overthrow". Paul thinks the song is about something else entirely, but Jane knows the real meaning. Quitting jobs, dumping boyfriends, abdicating responsibilities. The truest love is the love just for yourself.
Jane finds an interstate on-ramp marked east, heading for the ocean. It's all in the name of love.
"At Last, Seeing Things for What They Are (Vera Appreciating Family Bonds)"
When she was little, her mom tried to get her into Barbies, but Vera gravitated towards a nerdy off-brand doll named Deborah. Deborah was kind of a proto-geekgirl-doll who worked as an assistant in a physics lab and might or might not have had an on-again-off-again relationship with a much older librarian-doll named Cynthia. Deborah had lots of outfits and accessories, but instead of Barbie's beachwear, Deborah mostly wore ill-fitting jeans and oversized men's shirts, non-stylish workout wear (including 1970's-era mountain climbing gear), and slightly garish thrift store dresses, and got around town in an old Camry with a broken taillight lens and a slightly different color left front quarter panel. But once Vera's mom accepted that Vera was never going to be a Barbie girl living in a Barbie world, she got into it, modifying various office supplies. (Vera's mom was very into office supplies). Vera still has a Deborah-themed file card drawer that once held records of all of Deborah's odd outfits, but since nobody uses file cards anymore, Vera just uses it to keep her weed in.
"Breathing At Last (Jane, Recently)"
In my dream, I know it's a dream. I'm watching a video, and I know it's a video, even though I'm watching it in my eyes, not on a screen or on a teevee. The dream/video starts with the last light of the end of the tunnel disappearing, as the train rounds a corner inside the tunnel. Then just occasional flickers of light and sparks on the walls of the tunnel. Then, completely without warning, the tunnel ends and light floods the lens. After so many years in the dark, there's brightness all around me. The train is rolling along a beautiful cliff above a western river. My lungs have fresh air in them for the first time in years.
"Trying to Maintain Propriety While Listening For the Signals; One Attentive Vera"
Vera still gets the paper delivered every day, because she's convinced that newspapers are full of messages meant only for her. And not the horoscope, silly, that's just a ruse for the masses. Just today there's a story in the national section about a librarian in Indiana that revealed several secrets about a man she hooked up with last month. A review of the latest Marvel superhero movie tells her about job prospects. And I'm not allowed to tell you about the coded messages she gets from Mary Worth.
"Storm Shelters (Jane in Another Lifetime)"
"Try imagining a place", Bob Dylan tells her. It's become an acceptable thing that if the details are pretty enough, the logistics don't really have to make sense. She and I are doing a cover version of "Hey Jude", but neither of us really knows how to play the instruments. A girl with an Easter basket gathers ribbons out of strangers' hair. I am good at the harmonies but no idea what the lyrics are. She buys two packages of bottle rockets at a roadside fireworks stand, goes home alone and set them off in her bedroom. Bodies jump in then climb out of a very blue pool. It's a picturesque but unsettling moment.
"The Best Winter Phoebe"
There are tears at night and sometimes during the day, but mostly you just walk past the closed storefronts of this forgettable winter beach, stopping to watch the flickering images from The Price is Right on a teevee in the window of a forgettable winter bar. Walking back on the beach to your hotel, you'll get lost for hours, watching the shells at your feet, conversing with the million or so lifetimes of the tiny animals who once lived in them, and seeing your own face in them. You're talking crazy without making a sound, trading sand dollars and scotch bonnets and olives with the perfect silence. So forget about the person you wished you had turned out to be, and steady your belief in the face you see there.
"This Fine Chrysler Revisited (Jane in Paducah)"
We sleep at roadside motels you and me do. We roll on through this western Kentucky in a baby-puke-green convertible chrysler my old man gave me for graduation. But when you kiss me like that it makes this smell build up in my nose - this scary smell like those first really cold days of fall when you can tell it's not kidding. I got on a peach negligee over my favorite lacy black tights and you and me we're drinking George Dickel out of the bottle into our mouths and right down into our upset little stomachs.
"North of Avon But South of Me; Dare County Lorraine"
Driving down NC-12 with warm salty water in her bathing suit, Lorraine has to go six or seven miles before she finds an empty pulloff. August sweat drips out of her bangs and leaves little lines of unfogginess on Lorraine's glasses as she gets out of her car and waits for the last unsuspecting vacationers to go by.
"If Only Laundromats Could Be This Imaginary (Vera Not at WashLand)"
"Yeah those are the ones you gotta watch out for" says the big guy cleaning out the big dryers about someone Vera didn't even notice. "You can't be too careful in this day and age". She knows but does not mention the real dangers out there: A mental image of the laundromat man and his personal collection of lost and found women's underwear give her a chill as she finishes her folding and heads next door for a slice of pizza.
"A Change of Scenery; Martha Near Where She Grew Up"
Trees, they're always moving. People have it confused, wondering whether that falling oak makes a noise when they're not around to hear it, but the trees know it's not just about the falling. Sure, they sway in the winter winds, smaller ones moving every which way, bigger ones subject only to the serious gusts. And we see that. And maybe hear it if we get still. But we don't see them get up in the middle of the night and walk around. They change places. They hike up hillsides. They walk to the other side of the forest, even. Like me, trees sometimes need a new vantage point.
"Taking Stock (Vera After a Night at Kate's, Any Random Tuesday)"
"It's just a waste", she'd said. And I knew, of course, that she was right. I had squandered my time, my talents, and much of my bourbon, and all I really have to show for it is this string of boyfriends and a bunch of notebooks full of silly words. The AC's not working and my bedsheets need washing.