I’m on the roof of Buzzy’s car, spread-eagled for grip,
fingernails dug into the rubber seal around the windshield,
eyes tearing from the cold rain-specked wind coming at me.
Buzzy turns on the wipers – I had dared him to knock me off.
But I’ve learned not to flinch. The lake is somewhere off to the north.
We’ve just left The Rongovian Embassy, perhaps forcibly,
after a marriage ceremony improvised with tequila, a juke box
of country songs and a smattering of invented Rongovian
with a girl I’d met that night – Linda, I think. She had white white teeth
and laughed at everything I said. She seemed the perfect mate
for this new world I’d been born into that night after hitching down
from Syracuse. Ahead somewhere is the rocky driveway
down to Buzzy’s college rental on the lake. Turns are the hardest times
to stay on a roof, one side of the body loses its grip, the other
wants to keep hurtling forward, but I’ve studied this before
at slower speeds in warmer weather with less tequila. I squint
as the engine slows, dig in my nails, wrap my left foot around the roof edge,
press down and ride the turn into the woods, reeling in my right side
and clamping it to the roof as we straighten. To cheers below, I smile
into the blackness split by the white beams of Buzzy’s headlights.
I forget about the second turn and this time my left foot loses hold.
I hang for a moment like a flag, my legs spread wide grasping the air,
my right hand flailing at the night. A month from graduation,
life stretches ahead in incremental bits. I want to both freeze it
and skip ahead to the good parts. As my fingernails scrape
across the roof and I finally launch into the night,
my only thought is shit, shit, shit, shit, shit.
I fly between the pines lining the hill down to Lake Cayuga,
snapping off their brittle branches. Above the high-pitched whine
of wind, brakes screech and stones skitter in the driveway.
When I hit, I roll twice and land with a ooomph
against a smooth pine trunk. Buzzy and the others
scramble through the trees, swearing as they’re poked
and prodded by branches, hollering, Jack! Jack? Jack!?
I just lost my glasses, I say. The moon slid out from behind a cloud –
Or maybe it was there the whole time. Thank you, I whisper to the dark heavens.
I stand, check again for wounds, dust off the pine needles
and stumble up the hill. The wind roars behind me off the long finger
of glacial lake formed two million years ago and named for an Iroquois tribe
now long gone to Canada. And I realize, if there is a god of stupidity
he’s not a vengeful god. He is trying to save us, but there is just
too much stupidity in the world to save every one, every time.