Mitch and Manda

While driving through Alabama or Mississippi, (I don't remember which as they sort of blend together a bit) I looked up at a bridge that I was passing under, a small one, nothing fancy, just your typical ol' overpass. And there, on the side, in blazing, blue letters was: MITCH AND MANDA

I immediately began to wonder about these two. Was it possible that they were the Romeo and Juliet of their bit of the world?

Was it a mean joke that some guys pulled on their buddy, Mitch, linking him with the local, hirsute laundromat owner?

A hopeful youngster pining for the town prom queen?

Or maybe it was her? Maybe Manda herself walked down the aisles of the local Wal-Mart and picked out the just-right perfect shade of blue.

I thought about these names a lot over the weekend.

First off there's the glaringly obvious point (at least to me) of why?

Why, and how.

I remember when I was little wanting very much for people to know that I existed. I would write messages and send them off in helium balloons, my own proverbial messages in the bottle, not even hoping for an answer really, just putting myself out there.

I did get a response once from a lady in South Carolina.

"Dear Meghan,

Your poem was very nice. Thank you for sharing. The bit about the clouds was sweet. Your Mother must be very proud. You should know however, that it's not a good idea to let balloons go into the air. When they pop, birds and animals sometimes try to eat the pieces and then they slowly choke on them and die.

Take care,

Mrs. Something or another"

So, I didn't do that anymore.


I think I do understand what would compel someone to, for instance, write their name in the sidewalk or to declare their love on an overpass. It's being able to go back to a specific place and say,

"Look. I was here. I did something. It was stupid and badly done, but I made a mark. People will see my name for a long time."

How silly we are. I am very guilty of this. I know that those I love see me, and know me, and think that I'm great, and yet I want to see a tangible something that I have contributed in one way or another.

I don't think I'm doing a very good job trying to make my point. If I ever had one.

Can't you just see it, though? Mitch with his paint can, slightly drunk, perhaps Manda is with him, and they're staggering out of the car and across the road to the other side and he's yelling,

"I'm gonna show ev'ry one that we's goin' out!"

She's giggling and saying,

"Miiiitch, you're sooo crazy..."

Or maybe Mitch and Manda have been married five years already now and on the morning of their five year anniversary Mitch awakes and thinks,

"I know just what I'm going do to surprise her..."

Every times Manda drives to town for milk she sees her name linked with Mitch and gets just plumb tickled at how "romantic that man is and all..."

Was it hard, I wonder? Was it tricky? Do you need a lookout to tell you when cars are coming? What if a police car came by?

"Oh, hello there sir...oh, the spray paint? This? Um...I was just out walking on this random overpass in Alabamippi or Mississama in the middle of the night and...tripped over the can sitting here and it got all over me." When I think about it, it becomes sort of romantic, sort of goofy, the cement version of the heart carved into the tree trunk. How nice.


What to say. It's 3:30am. I should be sleeping. I have far too much rolling around in my head. I have the strangest sensation of wanting to just pack up and go somewhere.

77 degrees. Streetlight outside and a halo of fluttering creatures drawn to the light. My slumbering gardenia bush. Catch-me-if-you-can front yard but watch out for the hill, you could fall down, scrape a knee or two.

In the window next to me sits myself, typing just like I am. Only my other me is in the sleeping gardenia bush, balanced lightly on top, hovering in midair.

Let's go on a trip. Find some roadside restaurant, meet a waitress named Jackie who has blonde hair piled high and calls us, "Sweetie." Watch as she pulls a pen from her hair somewhere, cocks her hip ready to write. Order the special with fries and talk about Life and Love and how you can't separate the two.

Hit the road - no maps - just plenty of conversation and a book that shows you where all those awful tourists traps are; let's go see the big ball of rubber bands. I'll roll down my window, turn on the oldies station and stick my hand outside, feel the currents, pretend it's an airplane. We're in slow motion, this is where the rain could start and then we're through that patch and looking behind to see how very dark, look how dark is that sky.

Stop by some ocean for a brisk swim, get the sand all over everything, in our sandwiches, in our ears. Just for one day though, I don't want to have to use too much aloe lotion. I burn easily and not just literally. Stick around for the sunset and I would tell you a story about the time when my sister and I swam out to a big boat full of men who catch fish for a living. Big, burly men with loud voices, real, working hard, strong.

We stood chest high in the water, watching them pull in thousands of fish with their nets, while we shrieked as the fish that escaped tickled our legs. Let's pretend we're mermaids, let's pretend we're looking for our dolphin friends, let's pretend.

How we waved to our mother on the beach. And she's calling us in, it's time for her to check us, rub us down with lotion again, smooth our faces with mother hands, and are you hungry? We should've kept waving, she died a few months later. And now I'm aching.

I look at mirrors, watch them change while I stay the same. Our scenery is lovely, I try to take it all in. Play my game where I see how long I can keep counting white dashes. They're like train cars, you have to stay ahead of them or you'll lose track.

It's my time to drive now, you sit back. I'll drive in the dark, lights on, music low, empty roads that will start to call us home.