"The best way to get to heaven is to take it with you." - Henry Drummond. Our headlights snake across the west Texas highway. Out here, they've only got two kinds of music on the radio, country and western.
by Neil Hilborn
Her hair touches my shoulder in the wind. The road signs say "Turn ahead." We sing along to songs our parents taught us. "Turn ahead: Steep cliff." Her finger is curled around my belt loop. "Steep cliff: Pay attention." The road curves away from me. My voices crumples as we clip the guardrail. Our wheel lift skyward. The car spins, flips; the sky and riverbed fight for supremacy. Our headlights kick into space. All of our clothes float around us. Her blouse blossoms like a supernova. Change in the cupholders form constellations glinting in front of your eyes. We are astronauts coming back to earth. When the nickel stars settle in the dust, we hang upside down, dangling like marionettes from our seat belts. We unbuckle them, fall to the ceiling that was never meant to be a floor. Her collarbone is broken, the same one she fractured at six years old. The glass is flung around the car in a perfect halo orbit. We are freezing in our own solar system. And as I'm blinking in and out of consciousness, she speaks to me in a voice that comes from just behind my ears. She says, "All that has ever mattered is volume, and if you turn up the speakers past the point of sound, to deafening silence, you will hear me again. "I will whisper your name through the cracks in the canyon rocks and you will know that this is heaven." Knowing that someone will always remember your irises and where you hid your love letters and why you could never speak in anything but short sentences. It is not a golden escalator or a glowing choir conveying you into the sky. The hand of god down not reach down and pluck you from your earthly shell, no, the way to heaven is here, in your last moments, these last half second before your soul shivers out of your bones. You will see the candle on your first birthday cake, feel the brush of your mother's braid, smell your father's shaving cream on the day he taught you. There is a tornado in your throat. You will hear our whispered phone calls, our entwined "I love yous, " and their softness will weigh down on you. Heaven is an exhausted horse laying down to die. It is you and your ceiling fans conversing in whispers. Heaven is floating to earth in this already shattered car. I will lie here forever and sing to you all the things I stopped myself from saying while we were alive.