WHEN WE KNEW HOW TO GET LOST
First Place, Cleaver 2022 Flash Competition
This story bursts with tragic urgency and it simply stuck to my heart. The author builds a feeling about a young love relationship from the inside out, moment by moment. We’re reminded of the way it feels when every new adventure is branded on our spirits. The reader feels trusted in an intimate way, so much so, that we are placed right there with the lost-yet-happy couple. How could such a unique and personal story seep under the skin and begin to feel like our own? And yet it does. We are shown a flash of life’s uniqueness before adult real life occurs and understand that this beautiful way of being in the world will die. The author accomplishes this with a mastery that left me breathless. —Meg Pokrass, Contest Judge
Fifty miles out of town, on a road with no name, I hitched a ride after we argued about your Chevy running out of gas, our first argument, and came back with two candy bars as a peace offering, a gallon of fuel, and an old guy named Mitch who ended up knowing your mom and got in a bar fight with your dad once. It was the first time I told you about my family, about the cancer that took my mother.
When, spur-of-the-moment, we drove the I-10 from Tucson to El Paso because we’d never been to Texas. We dipped our toes in the state, ate at a diner, found out it was an eleven-hour drive to Houston, nine to Dallas, and we didn’t have that kind of time so we turned around, drove back through the desert singing Johnny Cash songs, eating gas station beef jerky and corn nuts, throwing our heads back to howl at the moon every time we passed a billboard. That night you told me you couldn’t imagine getting lost with anyone else.
When we were going to your older brother’s cabin near Flagstaff with unmarked signs and instructions to look for a fork in the road, then a tree with a knotted trunk that looks like Steve Buscemi. We drove past every tree cursing your brother’s name until you told me how he protected you from your father’s fist, and when I saw your face crumple in pain I made you stop and held you with the windows open and the smell of pine thick in the air. When we pulled apart I saw Buscemi’s face clear as day and yelled, there!
When we drove through South Carolina and you were too embarrassed to pull over and ask where the World’s Largest Peach was so I stuck my head out the window and shout-sang “Peaches” by The Presidents of the United States until you did. At the gas station you said you would marry me one day and I said, only after I find a million peaches for free!
When we were trying to find a farmers’ market outside of Denver but ended up driving along a mountain that twisted into the clouds. I said, watch the gas gauge. I doubt your mom knows anyone I can hitch a ride with here, but I sure as hell will run into someone your old man pissed off. There was an unmarked road we pulled into, and when we walked to the bottom there were two chairs and a lake and a hundred miles of land stretching over a horizon. You said, who needs a market or money or cars or a home when our eyes can see this. This! Your arms outstretched. Who needs anything but this? We watched the sky ripen around the sun, bruising into a plum, not knowing it would be our last time getting lost together, a last time before direction ruined everything.
Sabrina Hicks lives in Arizona with her family. Her work has appeared in Five South Journal, Flash Frog, Pidgeonholes, Trampset, Monkeybicycle, Reckon Review, Split Lip, Milk Candy Review, with stories included in Best Small Fictions and Wigleaf’s Top 50. More of her work can be found at sabrinahicks.com. Sabrina Hicks’ flash fiction piece “When We Knew How to Get Lost” is First Prize winner of Cleaver’s 2022 flash fiction contest judged by Meg Pokrass.
Read more from Cleaver Magazine’s Issue #40.