By Kate Finegan
Know your route. Study the forecast. Decide it should be safe to venture out alone. Trust your tires, not too much. Tap the brakes on empty stretches to see if you will slide. Drive slowly, not too slowly. Don’t backslide down the hill. Don’t look too hard at the cars in the ditches. Don’t crane your neck to see if breath has fogged their windows. You can’t afford to stop, to veer. In a whiteout, just keep going; pull over and get hit. Know it’s likely you will slide. Study your car’s habits. Learn to lean into the skid. Never jerk the wheel. Stay calm. Fully charge your phone—but don’t you dare decide to text him. If you drive into the ditch, if the snow grabs your wheels and won’t let go, wrap yourself up tight. Don’t call for a tow. You know there’s a tow ban in place. You knew it all along—you’re in this alone. Don’t drain your battery listening to your song, not even once. Delete that last voicemail so it doesn’t tempt you. Suck your fingers to stay warm. Press your hands between your thighs. Don’t sleep unless you want to dream of porcupines—quills frozen, tipped in ice—crawling through the tailpipe, snuggling into your crotch and armpits. Know they’re warm, but your muscles will contract, expend your stores of energy to squeeze barbs toward your heart and lungs. And there’s no removing them, not here on the side of the road, snowed into the car he said you paid too much for, the one you never christened, too late in your love’s winter for legs tangled, sweat soaked into the backseat, where the porcupines preen and bite their quills to even sharper points and wait for something real to happen.
Kate Finegan has nothing against porcupines. Her chapbook, The Size of Texas, is available from Penrose Press. She is Assistant Fiction Editor at Longleaf Review. You can find her at katefinegan.ink and twitter.com/@kehfinegan.