The Scenic Route

by Nicole Jean Turner

I have to whisper, because she’s a light sleeper
she told me this pretty early on into dating
but what she doesn’t know is how beautiful it is 
that she smiles while she’s sleeping in the passenger seat.
I’ve got the radio faded to my side, real low,
and the only other noise comes from a
gentle grumble of rolling down a salt washed road
in the belly of New Hampshire.

My sight lines are short in the fan of yellowed headlights
etching in the soft shimmer of new snow,
and all around us are mountains of charcoal,
cardboard cutouts, navy shadows of pine or stone.
There’s a thin veil of light from the dash  
that highlights the side of her smile
and for a moment I consider pausing the GPS and turning blindly
to hang on to this sight of her a little while more.

I’d love to kiss her right now.
Love to pull off into a ditch 
just to wrap my arms around her
and join in quiet slumber through the morrow.
We could listen to the wind whistling 
against the wood as she drifts against my side.
I’d keep an eye open for any wildlife we’d awoken
but mostly just to memorize the image
of her unbeknownst smile at complete peace 
right here with me
tonight.

It’s below freezing outside though, so I can’t stop,
I can’t pause to adjust anything without risking disturbing her
so I just watch.
I watch the road fold up behind us in my mirror into the night,
watch deer along the shoulder munch berries as we pass by,
I watch my odometer tick with every wind in the barren highway
but my favorite view, is in the car,
the privilege of her comfort and trust
to feel safe and warm and to sleep,
there has never been a piece of New England,
no mountain view nor lake or flower
more beautiful to me.

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