Off Highway 6
Herbert felt certain, thanks to his name, he would never lose his virginity, but after a friend dared him to “rock her world,” he and his girlfriend, Harley, climbed into the back of a famously long-abandoned '89 Chevy Star along Highway 6. She was a painter and a dancer and a free spirit who always lilted his name, but when she started to take off her shirt, he knew he wasn't ready. Sure, instinct drove him, but he knew he wasn’t ready. It struck him she had chocolate, and he was allergic, and he wanted to know what it was like to die, he said, and she could be there to bring him back and wouldn’t that be something? He lay on her lap while the chocolate melted on his tongue, its smoothness in his mind joined to the smoothness of her fingers tracing small circles over his hands. Within minutes his throat narrowed to a straw, the one they shared at the Blue Hill Diner after her exhibition of Self-Portraits, and he could smell her perfume, was steeped in it, its grace notes of tangerine and sandalwood, the air above him starting to fill with albatrosses leading him safely home to shore, the awful spectral hum of her heartbeat under his skin, he’d do anything for her, seize the polestar, cut the Gordian Knot, dig into his liver for luck, is this what it’s like to love, to want them to see and the words on his tongue blew up and filled him, he could tell the guys to get lost and go until they knew how to cradle, he could cradle, swear off pain, his whole skeleton frostbit, I love you stuck in the thin reed of him, just once he would tell her and he felt, like, a prick.
Benjamin Blackhurst lives with a pitiable 0 cats in Provo, UT, where he recently graduated from Brigham Young University's MFA program and teaches rhetoric/composition and creative writing. He received an Academy of American Poets prize in 2015 and placed runner-up in the 2016 Mountain West Writers' Contest. You can find his poetry in Inscape and Western Humanities Review.