Michael Czyzniejewski

Seven Postcards Dodging the Impossible 

Postmark April 14, Key West, Florida 

Darling, for weeks I wandered in circles, finally drifting south until I hit the end of the world. The ocean surrounds me. Tourists line the piers twice a day to greet and send off the sun. I took a picture of myself under the Mile 00 sign but dropped my phone in the water. My room is across from the Hemingway mansion and I can see his cats, dozens on a ledge, hoping a rooster wanders too close. The last time we were here? Just before she came. Remember you thought this is where she was conceived? We did the math and it wasn’t right, but if it’s all the same to you, I’ll say it was here. 

Postmark April 29, Gulf Shores, Alabama 

A decade later and I can still taste oil on my lips. The locals say my brain’s playing tricks on me, pointing out how something so blue couldn’t possibly contain anything black. Isn’t that just like your eyes (hers, too?), a splash of black floating in pools of blue? I had lunch at a place on the dock with royal reds and ate two buckets with cold beers and corn bread. The taste of oil vacated my mouth. Without thinking, I swam in the Gulf again. The oil returned, just like that, lingering, inescapable. That mistake haunted me as I drove away. 

Postmark June 3, Lake Ponchatrain, Louisiana 

As you may have guessed, my funds ran out and I’ve been forced back to work. My job? A dishwasher! Can you imagine? It’s enough to pay for a place to crash and this postcard and stamp. My hands have grown soft, soft for that chopping blade sticking straight up in the water. There was a lot of blood. A policeman came by the ER to make sure it was an accident and not some altercation. He said he knew where I worked and didn’t want to hear about some busboy all sliced up. It took all my strength not to break down, but I held myself together. Back to the road, my cover blown. 

Postmark August 24, Galviston, Texas 

Alabama was fresh air and flowers compared to Southeast Texas. Houston has a film of crude in the air so thick it permeates your nose and mouth and even your ears and eyes—I feel like I’m the Tin Man, so much oil running through me. That clanky bastard should have left Oz with Dorothy and settled down here. I’ve been staying on the island, which seems apart from all that. It’s peaceful, but guess what? They put their Walmart on the beach! Have you ever heard of such a thing? No hotels because a hurricane might come and kill everyone. Happened once before. I’ll be gone before it happens again … I hope! 

Postmark September 18, Amarillo, Texas 

I want that giant steak they have where if you eat the whole thing, it’s free. I can either save up my money or save up my appetite: The way I’m going, I’ll be that hungry long before I can afford it. I wonder what happens if you don’t finish but can’t pay? I’d be putting my dish-washing skills to use, right? Or they’d just take me out back and beat me till I puked. Imagine having all that food, everything you could ever want, then screwing up so badly, you lose it all. Makes me shiver. 

Postmark September 29, Roswell, New Mexico 

I have a theory about the aliens: The ones they found, the ones those people met? They were the kids. Think about it: It takes years just to fly here from Mars, and who can afford a babysitter for that long? The moms and dads parked their ships, did their experiments, but the kids got bored, ran off, and got caught. That’s why they were so small: It was the kids! It’s like that time we went for fajitas and she wouldn’t stop crying so we had to leave before our food came. We dropped sixty dollars on the table and drove away. That’s what the aliens did. They didn’t want to explain themselves, so they hit the road, shooting straight for the stars. 

Postmark November 15, Key West, Florida 

Believe it or not, I made it to California, all the way to the beach. I almost drove north from there, but decided to work my way back. With the holidays coming, I wanted to be closer to you. I know we can’t have Thanksgiving or open presents from Santa, but I wonder: If I promised to turn myself in, would you let me come inside, sit with you for a bit? I keep imagining how much turkey and stuffing I could eat before they’d come for me. Maybe it would be worth it. Maybe it wouldn’t. I don’t want to make any promises, Darling, so don’t get your hopes up. But I’m thinking about it. Might be time to put this journey at an end.