Self Portrait

I missed the smell of it.

Even though I had joked that Georgia was Virginia with chiggers, it wasn’t, and even though this endless airport lot in Richmond is not my Virginia, it still smells close enough to mine to feel like home. My shoulders ache from carrying my messenger bag and decades-old backpack and my shins groan from days of walking, but I still take the stairs to the next level of the parking garage two at a time. I call him, and his voice makes me want to be home now, not later, not soon, not in two hours, lover, see you in a bit, but now.

I find my car and I put on my music — I cannot explain how much I have missed my music. I need it to run the machine that is me, and I’ve been running on back-up batteries for three days now. I have music that I need but its the music I want that I put on. I play Head Automatica so loud that the first sound out of the speaker blasts against the leg of my jeans.

I drive on the pitch-black interstate with a hundred other souls and bass is pounding so loud that I think in sentence fragments and the only thing keeping me from putting my foot to the floor is the flashing blue lights on the side of the road ahead of me. My eyes are blistering with fatigue. I pass a white car; the driver is smashing his head back and forth to his music. I know how he feels.

My mind is a split screen of the now and scenes from the days before. I remember a massive lobby stuffed full of people. Costumes jammed against one another, so varied and bizarre that I am the oddity in my jeans. There is beer, and music, and sexual tension crackling in fishnets and polyester wings and there is




It’s in my head and around me. And even though I am not sad, and even though I am not alone, it sounds like loneliness to me.

And now I am on the interstate again, not in my memories, anchored only by the digging electric guitar snarling out of the speakers. On a night like this, with everyone else’s thoughts loud in my head, I feel I am every character I have ever written, full of secrets, unknowable, even to myself. I feel suddenly incomplete, unfinished. For the past few weeks, I thought I’d picked the lock that is me, and now I find that the combination has been changed. The knowledge is both wearying — I have so far to go — and exhilarating — there is nothing worse than the idea than feeling I have gotten to the end. My life is a game that I keep playing to the end and starting over.

As I get closer to home, the roads narrow until they are mere suggestions of the highways I drove on earlier, snaking through moonlit field and crowding trees. My music is working and the wheel feels good under my hand. My tires cling to the asphalt, muscle memory taking me through turns that I’ve driven a thousand times before. I am thinking sadly about fossil fuels and greenhouse gasses because God I love driving and so much of my life is the feel of car shifting gears and the surge of sudden grip halfway through a curve and the growl of the engine.

Then I am home, and when he opens the door for me, it’s hard to remember what tired feels like.

Author’s Note: Not quite true to label this "fiction by maggie." Just flew in from Atlanta last night.

Image courtesy Andi.bxg

20 thoughts on “Self Portrait

  1. Yes. This.

    My only foray to Dragon Con left me desperate for the prairie. I like crowds (people watching in bulk) and costumes (my living for 10 years) and meeting really helpful authors who shared wisdom and funny stories. But three days of that made me homesick in a way that months on the road doing Ren Faires never did.

  2. I just couldn’t get how such a short trip could make me so homesick — my relative downtime in this trip was pretty good, too, so all I can figure was it was the massive throng of people’s thoughts and voices and everything just colliding . . I dunno. BEA was huge too, but it was not huge in this way.

  3. You were in Atlanta? awww. So close and yet so far. (Chattanooga area myself)
    The Atlanta airport is a scary place. To me anyway.
    Alright…babbling on.

    I just finished reading Shiver. Read it in two days which is almost too fast for me. I loved the ending. I’m glad it’s still too hot to shiver when you walk out the door though.

  4. I’ve never been in that area before, but I so can understand the pull you feel to get home after being somewhere so busy it’s hard to keep a thought. Heck even after short fun trips I find myself feeling the urge to just get back home.

  5. Uglgh, yes the Atlanta airport. Actually, it’s fine (although to someone allergic to preservatives like me, all time there is guaranteed fasting time). But I was at DragonCon and it was . . . hm.

    I’m so glad you loved Shiver!

  6. I actually love to travel, but I was at DragonCon for SHIVER and something about 10,000 people in costume has a strange effect on a girl. 😉

  7. Thanks, Tanita. Normally it’s quite fun to get a break — it was a bit of an odd trip this time, though!

  8. I love the detail you put into the music. I also love the fact that you’re a musician, and a writer! You can tell from your work that you have a true passion for both writing and music (which is a big PLUS for musicians, such as myself : ) Anyway just wanted to let you know that I really like the short story. I just read Shiver (it took my a total of 4 hours to read, I couldn’t put it down! Planing on reading it at least 5 more times) and that I abslutely adore your writing style. Looking forward to reading your other books, and thank you SO much for your talent : )
    Also, are there any books that you’ve read lately that are good? I’ve been searching, but can’t seem to find any.

  9. Hi Abby! Thank you so much! I’m so glad you loved Shiver. I’d recommend the Time Traveler’s Wife as a good follow up if you haven’t read it, and I also really liked Crow Lake, though it’s not supernatural.

  10. Thanks, I’ll look into those books. Also. if you haven’t read it, you NEED to read Tithe and Valiant by Holly Black. It’s a modern faerie tale, and it reminds me of your other books. Just a suggestion, but thanks for the book recommendations!

  11. There are fragments of this that I find really amazing, as in they stand out on their own in so many different shades to me.

    Things like the music being needed “to run the machine that is me” and “so varied and bizarre that I am the oddity in my jeans” because I am very familiar with those feelings and it just registered a note of self-familiarty (yeah, I just made up a new word) as in – I’ve felt that way before myself.

    And I know what it’s like to be alone with yourself inside your head and not being sad, but still feeling the loneliness settling in over you like a ghost you wear wrapped around your shoulders like a velvet shawl meant to keep you warm.

    In many ways, this small piece of fiction feels like it was cut from the very fabric of your life, and it was so relateable in so many different ways that it made reading it mean all that much more.

  12. I had completely forgotten about this one. It’s so weird how it immediately takes me back to the night I wrote it! Your comment’s awesome. Thank you.

  13. Thank you, for taking the time to reply back to my comment. All to often so many author’s or celebrities don’t really have time for that or they just opt out of doing that. I think it’s amazing that you’re so gracious to all of your fans. Plus, I think it’s amazing that you three ladies are sharing your short written stories with those who wish to follow your work that isn’t in novel form.

    I just recently purchased a copy of Linger and I have it on my shelf waiting for me to pick it up and start reading it on my next two days off. I have to tell you that I love what you’ve written so far, as far as your short stories go and I know that I’m going to enjoy Linger just as much.

    I’m that way, too. I’ll forget that I’ve written something and then go back to it at a later date and remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I wrote it, as well as what sparked me to write it in the first place. I think you are amazing. 🙂

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