THIRD HEAVEN by Rebecca Grace Cyr

THIRD HEAVEN by Rebecca Grace Cyr

I never took a plane until my twenties. Growing up, I was boat people. I was from the swamps. My mother used to row me around in an oak rowboat in the swamp and say, Someday you’re gonna leave me. Someday you’re gonna leave and never come back. The water was so green and deep, and she’d whisper to me that if I fell in, there’d be no end to it. 

The day I turned twenty-one was the day I left. I walked five miles to the used car lot and bought a 2006 Honda Civic from a guy with the body of a flagpole. I picked up two 24 oz. cans of Corona on my way home and drank them in the parked car out on the driveway.

Inside, my mother was lying in the center of the living room and staring at the ceiling. I laid down next to her and matched her exhales. We stayed like that until the early AM, then I got in the Honda and headed north with a timer set for twelve hours, resolving to stop whenever the clock zeroed out. When it did, the sky was dark blue and I was pulling up to a gas station called Third Heaven.

I went in for a Clif bar and came out with a job. Their last girl had been stealing Red Bulls and selling weed to high schoolers behind the counter. She stormed off after strike two from management. Fuckers, she said. I don’t need you anyway! And then she whipped out a Ruger LCP and fired it into the air a few times, put a hole through the kelly green valances hanging off the front of the building.

The manager paused for a sip of Diet Pepsi and asked me if I’d ever do anything like that. I told him, No sir. The break room was lit up by one shaky fluorescent and smelled like a sock. He gave me a visor and showed me how to clock in. I never saw him after that.

I worked with just one person, a fat woman of forty-five with wet blue eyes like a baby, who talked about the Harlequins she read like it was real life. I’d say, Montana, what’s happening? And she’d say, Well, Elaine just found out Ross is cheating on her with Karen. Messy, messy.

She was always saying that. Messy, messy.

We had a guy overdose in the bathroom after my fifth month on the job, and that’s what she came out saying, head dropped low and shaking left and right. I was thinking vomit or diarrhea, but she said, Worse and you don’t want to know. Within the hour, the whole place was lit up in ambulance red and I watched the paramedics put the body on the stretcher. The urine smell was so hostile you could imagine a yellow ghost trailing him like in a cartoon.

Is he gonna make it? I said to nobody in particular. Montana watched the body roll out the door. When this happened to Buddy, she said, he didn’t make it. She was talking about her Harlequin.

That night, she offered me a ride home. She drove fast, holding the steering wheel and a beef taquito in the same hand. With the other hand, she cranked the sound on an audiobook CD. 

Before I got out, I looked at my feet and asked her what her mother was like.

Loud, Montana said, setting the taquito on her lap. Her and Pa, you know, like this. She formed puppets with her hands and made them argue. Nonstop, she said. She picked up the taquito again and took a bite. Yours like that?

No, I said. I guess she’s more the opposite.

Montana grabbed a paper napkin from the cupholder and wiped off her hands. Well, she said, eventually you miss your mama—no matter what.

I thanked her for the ride and got out. After a minute, Montana cracked the car window and stuck her face through it. Why don’t you take a day or two? I’ll cover, she said.

I nodded and gave another wave before I got to my apartment. She shifted gears and reversed, blue eyes like pearls behind the windshield.

The next day, I bought the cheapest plane ticket I could find and booked a night in the Super 8 outside of Coeur d’Alene. The room had red checkered half-curtains and free toothpaste. I walked around the town center and didn’t speak for twenty-four hours. I brought back chocolate-covered potato chips for Montana and we ate them on the curb of Third Heaven. She pointed out which men she liked as they filled up on gas and told me I seemed happier.

From then on, I added distance to my life in two-day increments, once a month. I’d go all over the U.S. on bargain flights. I’d tell Montana, I’m traveling to your namesake! And then I’d stand in the middle of a snow-struck road in the dead of winter and three hundred bison would bob around me like water on a hot day.

Other times, the whole trip was just on the plane. I’d touch down and turn right around on another one. But that’s how I liked it. That’s how I learned to sleep. And on the plane, for the first time in my life, I learned to dream, too.

A cowboy on an elephant. A priest selling cars. A funeral in pink. And most of all, floods. First, it was Third Heaven. Then the Honda Civic flooded. And after that, my apartment. The town I grew up in was next. Then me—water pouring out my eyes, ears, and mouth. And finally, the whole of Earth, that flooded too. All of it always that dark murky dirt color of the swamp I came from, and all of it endless, just like she said.

I’m asleep over Arizona now. This time, when the water rises to my neck, a sobbing baby slips ambient and slow into the dream until I’m awake. I open my eyes and press my back into the seat. Then it’s two babies screaming, going at it back and forth like there’s money on the line.

Inside the icy sound of it all, I feel something close to calm. I’ve never minded the babies so much, when they cry in the air like they do. The only thing I wonder about is what they’re doing up there. Where are they going? Babies, babies, I want to say, Where are you headed?

Rebecca Grace Cyr is a writer from Seattle. Her work has appeared in Blue Arrangements, Muumuu House, Hobart, Maudlin House, and elsewhere. Her instagram is rebeccagracecyr and her twitter is @madamepsycho_ .