Rules of the Road

by Joanna Acevedo 

I hear the dog’s nails on the floor before I hear the dog. Somewhere on the Ohio Turnpike, I
learn how to drive on the freeway. Road rage. C— in the front seat, bandanna and Ray-Bans
on, teaching me about the passing lane and the cruising lane. His inimitable 1991 Honda
station wagon. In Michigan, off Dixie Highway, the little house holds friends, joints to smoke,
a litany of guns, a bow and arrow for killing deer. My heart like a stick in the mud.

The silence of rural towns. Chickadees and mourning doves at the birdfeeder; one macho black
squirrel that rules over all the rest. Pico, the cat, who longs to be outside. My wet hair in the
morning freezes to my cheeks even though it’s only October. In the garage, E— tells a story
about a possum trapped in a couch. We giggle like high schoolers. I dose myself with weed,
Klonopin, anything to help me sleep in this strange place where there are no ambulances
rushing past in the middle of the night, no drunken bar fights, no emergencies.
                                                                                                Here, there are no emergencies.

I am more myself on these long roads that lead to nowhere, stripped down from the city’s
posturing on the sidewalk and strutting in the bar. I feel less of the self-consciousness that has
plagued me throughout my life, throughout all of our lives. Why do we feel so convinced that
we need to care what other people think? Sometimes there is just this: a deer, a bow and arrow,
a hunter’s finger pulling back the taut string, waiting for the perfect moment, then letting go.


Joanna Acevedo is the Pushcart-nominated author of the chapbook List of Demands (Bottlecap Press, 2022) and the books The Pathophysiology of Longing (Black Centipede Press, 2020) and Unsaid Things (Flexible Press, 2021). She received her MFA in fiction from New York University in 2021.