Car Sickness


September 23, 2020 by The Citron Review

by Travis Dahlke


Google Image search the interior of your parent’s past cars. Do it right now and you’ll remember. You’ll see Volvo climate control knobs resembling Oreos. The turquoise polygons of Rav4 seats laminated by hairspray. Upholstery was like that back then. Wet dog. Dad farts. The worst coffee ever made was sewn in at the factory.

It’s all chunky because nothing could be smooth. There are familiar cup holders, always a nest for napkins and a Poland Spring bottle with lipstick on the threads. Some of the cup holders were retractable and got stuck, but they are still old friends you haven’t seen in a while. Find the backseat pouches where you stuffed Goldfish. Video game strategy guides. Video store receipts.

The dashboard’s lines were custom made. No matter what, its cluster of buttons and knobs stayed in place even as everything outside kept moving around. The lines outline nervous mornings before school, sleepovers, and errands when you waited in the parking lot. What could be said to other kids if you saw them at the supermarket? So you stayed in the passenger’s seat, dry pressing power windows and reading the owner’s manual.

Find automatic Subaru seat belts that attacked you too slowly. Is there a cigarette lighter? Is there a blubbery cable spiraling from it? Remember how the car phone’s rubber symbols fulfilled the edges of your fingers. See the windows streaked by drawings. Names of crushes practiced in cursive. The brushed baleen teeth hugging the parking brake swallowed millions of dollars in coins from Burger King drive-thrus. So many French fries are frozen fossils, pale and buried beneath CD cases for Reba McIntire. Selena. Bob Seger and Whitney Houston to remind your parents of aches they don’t want to forget about.

You’ll see digital snakes made from rectangles. 104.1. 96.5 when the CDs skipped. You wondered about them. How voices from far away were always scratched up and violent. You did so much wondering in the woods of vents and humidity. Find the numbers you never had to worry at. Still, the patterns stayed in place even as what was inside you kept moving around.

There’s probably blood there too, but who cares? Everything gets sick or stops moving. Scabs are picked. Boogers are deposited. What got trapped inside and what was thrown away into the greasiest wind you ever let your hand float upon? Remember being safe. A weight that moved more parents toward more places than anyone can ever recall. We’re in this together, you thought. And then think of where they are right now. What picked you up and could effortlessly carry you across the room is now somehow, suddenly gone. How could you keep going without them?


Travis Dahlke is a writer from Connecticut with work forthcoming or appearing in Joyland Magazine, Outlook Springs, SAND Journal, Barren Magazine, and The Longleaf Review, among other literary journals and collections.


One thought on “Car Sickness

  1. […] The Citron Review | September 2020 […]

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