(Excerpted from the forthcoming A Switchback Tale)
The road to the Switchback place wasn't that long, but it took what seemed like ages to get there. For the life of me I could swear that at almost every turn in the road, and every driveway, and every crossroads I found myself ponderin' what could be and what I wanted to be and what probably could never be. And I felt as though the car was almost floatin' at times, like it was almost on air and that there wasn't anywhere that I couldn't go – like I coulda' driven that car right to the moon had I wanted to, or like I coulda' made a right turn or a left turn and shot right through the fencelines and skimmed like a bird over one of them pea fields and the trees or nothin' ever woulda' touched me and I'd be free like a spirit bird like I felt I was. Damn, but it felt good.
It seemed like forever to Peter Switchback's estate, but I got there and I pulled into that long, long driveway that kinda' snakes its way around the house and makes a long approach from one side. It was probably only ten in the morning by this point and I didn't even know that I'd find him home, but sure enough I could see him from the last turn of the driveway. He was sitting in the little gazebo off the side of the house and it looked like he was working on something.
I pulled up to the house and parked, and I got out of my car feeling like I was on some kind of pain medicine, almost. I felt like I was ten feet off the ground, and I didn't even feel like I needed to hobble or limp as there wasn't a bit of pain in my foot. I walked past the front step and that strange door knocker and I even looked down to see if my blood was still there, which it wasn't. I followed the pathway all around to the side of the house, and as I got past the flowerin' dogwood, I saw him sittin' there in the gazebo, talkin' on his cell phone and typin' on his laptop. He looked up at me with a pretty surprised look, but he smiled, and my heart just stopped and then leaped right outta' my throat, I mean to tell you.
I heard Peter say “OK, I'll call you later,” and touch his phone. He stood up, smiled, and kinda' cocked his head a little and just said “Miss Ashley.” I coulda' died.
I walked up to him and I didn't know what I was doin' and I suddenly felt all kinda' dumb standin' there still in my PJs this late in the morning. He noticed that, of course. “You're into that 'driving in your pyjamas' thing, too?” he asked. I laughed and I think I almost cried.
And I walked up to him, out of my mind and not knowin' what I was doin', and I grabbed his pretty silk tie and I got up on my tiptoes and I kissed him, and he put his arms around me to lift me up to him and I coulda' felt our hearts poundin' outta' our chests right together. And I mean to tell you I was lost as I never been lost before in my life, but at the same time I was found. I felt our lips together and it was hot and moist and perfectly minty-sweet and I didn't ever want it to end, I mean to tell you.
I don't even know what I said, if I said anything, as I started cryin' so much and he held me and I just was shakin' and cryin' and he held on to me and said he was never gonna' let me go and I said I would never let go a' him and would he hold me forever? and he said he would and I was just dyin' and could hardly breathe. And the thing I felt was my heart just burning right up as he held me and I knew that his heart had to be burnin' just the very same way. I knew it, I knew it, I knew it.
Burn, a heart does, sometimes.
The morning passed us by right there on the gazebo. We sat on a wicker love seat with a big white cushion. I curled right up, sittin' on my legs, and I rested my head on his chest. He had some kind of music playin' – music that I since have learned is called 'jazz', and he told me it was by a man named Duke Ellington – a man he said was his brother, but when I asked about his family he just kind of laughed and said “not like that, though.” Peter held me and we talked about the strangest things, but it was all like I imagined the best kind of dream should be. Soft, dry, warm, safe. With a strong man holding onto you. Ain't nothin' wrong with that.
For the second time that day there were words that crept right into my mind without me really doin' anything about them, and like before I found these were words that just kind of burned themselves right into my brain and into my memory and probably would never dare to leave.
Dropped and dropped and dropped
like a potion of hope
and a drug of love
my heart-vein holy-hopeness of heavy, heavy load
drained to weak and weaker
weakest drain of knee-strength
saved for kneeling
and yelling at a god who finally hears and knows
he knows what I need
I need this hope and this holy-hopeness of heavy, heavy load
potion of hope
drug of love
the same old cliché
never bites or sucks or rolls its tongue around and softens with the
I thought my heart was gonna' damn explode or burst and dry up and blow right away. I'm sorry to use language like that, but I mean to tell you it was like nothin' I ever known before, and there weren't a whole lot of words that I could think about that were gonna' let me say what I felt that day curled up in my PJs on a soft white cushion on a wicker love seat in the gazebo behind the Switchback house with my head against Peter Switchback's chest and with Peter Switchback tellin' me he would hold me forever.
I told him I had always loved him.
He told me he had always loved me, too.
I told him I wanted to be at his side forever.
He told me he wanted me to live right here on this beautiful old plantation all the rest of the days of my life. He told me there was no one else he would ever say that to.
I reached my lips up to his again. He kissed me ever so softly, and it felt like it lasted forever.
I wish it would have.