Chord progression being an island of a moment in Greece bearing two girls, nurtured on American soil and pieties, hitchhiking to get a boat back to the mainland from which theyâ€™ll take a bus toward a plane toward home so they can return toward starting the first year of college and all its unknowns. These girls intersect with a native mode: two men of the islands driving a truck on a highway.
The truckers pull over, understanding the girls enough to suggest a destination, asking do the girls mind stopping at a restaurant? Four plates of salad and fish, an afternoon stretching on, a broad continent of arm, a brush of skin, a narrow hand pulled back, continental drift, rough thumbs pressing an apology and offers of endless ouzo. The men drive farther down the road only to pull into another outdoor bar. Drink, dab bread into glistening plates of olive oil, dab hands, a brush of skin, no apology, drink and drive, brush some more, pull into an- other bar.
We got to get to our boat, says one of the girls, itâ€™s getting late. Letâ€™s go check the schedule at the train station. One girl looks around out- side the truck while one slouches inside, contemplating. The afternoon has slipped through their hands, a wild rodent. One man inside, one outside and, a drink-and-dab earlier, the plan must have been hatched:Â without warning, the man in the truck takes off with only the one girl inside, a tectonic plate shifting.
He is driving her up the mountain road toward, ostensibly, the train station. For no reason the girl can see, he pulls over on the side, of- fering her then that downward arc that will become so familiar: his hand on the back of her neck, pushing her head down toward his lap as if a gentle derrick.
She resists and he pushes farther, deeper toward the core of the earth. Years later another man will explore this similar gravitational potential and she will throw up in his lap, oddly elated. But right now there is the problem of her headâ€™s habit of numbness and the bothersome question that lets her go down more easily: had she wanted this overpowering?
Also and not insignificantly she wants to ace the situation, sur- vive intact. Like that heiress, kidnapped, who immediately saw her kidnappersâ€™ point of view. Could spinelessness be a surprise tactic of strength?
Ravines and clefts in his forearms, along his neck.
Does he do manual labor on the side? She had liked his looks, the delicacy of the eyes, a femininity against harsher angles. His hand not ungentle but insistent on the back of her neck toward his lap where he is conveniently unsprung. She hadnâ€™t chosen to enter this situation but now it has arisen, a pop-up dollhouse. A manâ€™s hand warming her neck and is she willing or not? If she doesnâ€™t want to be doing this, can this son of this country of mothersâ€™ sons tell? How can a man want something not freely given?
Does he tell himself that it is wanted? But maybe she wants. Is it bad if you arenâ€™t the first person to know what you want?
And hadnâ€™t the lolling tongues and technicolor availability of cer- tain magazines, her motherâ€™s creased copies of certain novels, initi- ated her into some permanent hoarfrost of open-lipped readiness?
In ninth grade, on the pastel carpet in the parental bedroom, the televised cartoon of Yellow Submarine playing on the tiny TV set above a pile of tea towels, had she not mouthed for the first time the young and grateful Flynn, seeking to initiate both of them? WhatÂ was different between her liking for that boyâ€™s good nature, his father- less making-the-best-of-it self, and this moment in a Greek truck? Flynn too young and flimsy to bear the weight of her vague fantasy, not desire, really, but an apery of futurity, an ironic paroxysm.
Her head breaks on the thought. Sheâ€™s no virgin but in this truck in Greece she wants to choose, choice everything: she could choose rape and then, in a fight with this fellow, wouldnâ€™t she win? If she doesnâ€™t choose, sheâ€™ll emit the scent of fear and some unguessed-at contrap- tion might release a lever making the whole moment plummet be- yond danger into irreversibility on a mountain roadside where no one in the world knows the exact coordinates of her body. The mo- ment narrows. She floats above her body, allowing for a certain kind of survival.
After and in the truckâ€™s fish-scent, she rifles through the phrase- book. Trying for letâ€™s go back, though can a person go back? Epeestro- phe, she says.
Her rapist, a man of few words, agrees, drawing dignity back into himself. As if something quite normal has transpired, he drives back, fingers tapping out an idle rhythm on the steering wheel, knuckle hair matted by a wedding band shimmering in the last of the day. At the restaurant bar, her friend runs to the car. To stay safe from the other truckdriver, her friend had hidden atop the restaurant roof if in plain sight of diners and cooks, another chicken avoiding the pan.
Stunned, the two girls grab backpacks, running blind in the dusk only to end up lying in a ditch. The girl whoâ€™d gone for the ride hugs the one whoâ€™d been left behind, crying: I hate men! Falling still when the two men tramp near holding flashlights, muttering as if theyâ€™ve stumbled into an outtake from a war movie, seeking American girls fallen to an earthen trench, parachutes broken. A search party of en- emy soldiers who back away when they find nothing. One girl raped but might as well have happened to both of them.
They will never talk about it. A vessel containing past and future, all the crisp nights when one girl failed to show at the otherâ€™s house or the moment when one had cried, saying your friendship means more to me, I didnâ€™t mean to hurt you with that boy, I didnâ€™t know you had a crush on him, he just showed up around my house, throwing rocks atÂ my window at night and I wonâ€™t see him if it makes you feel better. Or the moment when one visits the otherâ€™s room at college. A debu- tante roommate will sayâ€”after seeing the girlsâ€™ shared uniform of messy hair, thrift-store patterned skirts and menâ€™s white shirtsâ€”to the girl sheâ€™d suspected was a witch because of her penchant for standing on her head and burning incense, that, at least, after meet- ing the girlâ€™s friend, she could understand the girl a tiny bit better.
It will contain the night when one of them finishes college and moves to Los Angeles, driving fast at night on Highway Fiveâ€™s hills toward an art school with an old boyfriend who himself had just fin- ished driving across the country to start over and heâ€™s offering a bite of moo shu vegetables while her favorite song of the moment plays, a latterday version of Lola which happens to have the name Jane in the refrain.
A truth will pop in her mind: that lost bubble. She lives in a post- girlfriend universe, left entirely alone to experience others. She will hold that boyfriendâ€™s hand, drive hard.