The green-haired girl sang with a voice from a bad neighborhood. I couldn't help but drop my pool cue and watch her groaning up there on the little stage, black spandex stained to her smooth dark skin. I lit up a cigarette and fell away.
"Hey, Roach. Hey." Freddie was at my arm, buzzing as he does. "Hey, man. Hey. Your shot. Hey."
I put my hand to his chest. Pushed away as the green-haired girl tumbled through me and out of me and back around again. I don't know how long she sang. A thousand miles. More.
"They fucking rocked," Freddie said sometime later.
"Yeah," I said. We were on the club's patio, under the old tree that comes up between the bricks. My head had gone to cotton.
"That dude, what's his name?" Freddie said. "The lead singer."
"Wasn't a dude," I said.
"The main act" he said. "What's their name? From up in Dallas or something."
"Wasn't the main act," I said. Freddie had lit another cigarette and the smoke hung over his head, making a halo in the porch light. I tried to swat it away.
"Hey," Freddie said, backing up. "What the fuck?"
"Think she's still here?" I said. Freddie answered in some way or other, but I was already five steps towards the gate leading to the alley. Out back, the only light came winding around from the street, glinting off broken bits of glass and giving outline to the vans parked with their tails facing the club. Nothing moved and I was about to head back when I saw a glow coming from the van at the farthest end. A shadow flickered behind a curtain. A woman. Slim. Shirt sliding away, leaving curved silhouette, arcing back and one small breast. I didn't move. I was already inside with her, lying below as she hovered naked, whispering her songs so only I could hear.
I never looked for Freddie. Or told anyone I was leaving. I just curled up beside her in that carpeted van and touched the back of her neck, the tips of her hair tickling my palm. Drive, I said. And she did, carrying us fast in loops and turns and down long, deer-strewn roads until we arrived in Austin on a hot night. Even the air sweated as she sang. When she was done and the bars had closed, we lay off the side of the interstate, the two of us naked on a blanket so soft it must have been made before we were born. What's your plan? I asked. She stroked the back of my hand. To run away, she said. Me too, me too, I said. But what's your plan now? Right now? She watched the taillights cut the freeway in red. Dallas tomorrow, she said. And then we'll see.
In the morning, we hit the road again, straight and up until downtown spiked large before us. The day swirled around and around and, before I knew it, we were the only ones left in that black-walled club. We found our way to a motel that charged by the hour. We stayed all night. We lived off the taste of our skin and the pills she'd been given at the club. She sang for me in colors. And when we lined the room with drugstore candles, the light froze solid around us. Our voices floated in the jellied glow. We should go where there's only sound, she said. Someplace cold, I said. Yes. Of course. Someplace north. We dragged our bed sheets into the street and fell back into the van, pointing everything north. We didn't shower or eat as Tulsa came and Kansas City went and finally we rushed up into Omaha, pulling the leaves off of trees and sucking the green right out of the grass. She got a gig that night and sung for hours in a windowless bar. No one left. Or moved. And when she finished, there wasn't a soul who didn't feel as if their veins had emptied, who didn't wander out into the sideways rain and wonder why nothing had ever felt so cool. From the roof, we watched them all gathering in the park, heads raised. This is it. This is it. We stripped ourselves down to nothing and fell into the wet, our bodies spilling into one another, falling through one another, mingling so when the sun came breaking through the clouds, I had her sharp collar bones and she had my thick feet. And my hair had gone green.
Together we stood on the roof's edge to greet those who waited in the park. But no one was there. Only garbage and the wind and sirens coming from nowhere we could see. She grabbed me tight on the arm. This isn't it, she said. There's too much here. We didn't linger. We raced down to the street and I climbed behind the wheel of the van. I took us fast, slipping through the towns and stopping only so she could sing for money or gas or candy bars and Coke. Sioux City. Des Moines. St. Paul. And on to Fargo and Winnipeg and finally up into the snow where the bars leaned with wooden walls cut from the lumber of trees hanging high above. When she sang, only the branches heard that moan of hers coming up thousands of miles from the barrios of San Antonio. We huddled under the soft blanket. We told each other what we'd left behind; her wandering father, her mother bent from rosaries. And a tio with moist and heavy hands. I said there was a kitchen where I worked in too much heat and a first-kiss named Julie who died years ago but never left me alone.
As the snow coated the windows of the van, we held each other closer. We could still go further, I said. Leave it all, I said. She clutched me around the waist. Said she knew nothing of Manitoba. And the water looks cruel. We've ripped out all the color. I didn't know what to say. I tossed aside the blanket and leaned into the gas, going north and north and north, knowing we had to find the place where flames wouldn't flicker and only her voice could survive. I don't know how long we drove. How many miles we covered. Everything became everything until we could no longer tell bone from bone from rock from frost. The van came to a stop. I lay my head in her lap. I wasn't sure where I was. From somewhere above I heard her voice and the words fell in crystals on my face. Coating me. Until I could no longer move. Or remember a thing.
I don't know how long we survived. Maybe a day. Maybe a hundred years. Or maybe there was no frozen end at all. No snow. No songs. No cool rain in Omaha. Maybe I went home that night at the club, Freddie driving slow and demanding to know what I was on and why I'd given him none. Maybe that's the truth of it and what anyone else would tell. But when I play her songs—when I sit there alone in the heat of my apartment and push the headphones against my ears—it's not my life I remember. I don't see Freddie finding me in that alley, forcing me to our car. I don't see myself going back to work in the kitchen, burning my fingers on oven racks. What I see—what I feel—is the Hudson Bay, the wind coming down cold and colorless and me moving inside her warmth just to be able to feel again. I play her songs and I wonder how we made it so far. How we survived naked in the snow. So that only I could hear the crackling of her voice. And feel her songs across my skin.