by Jason Jackson

Rusted evening light.

Josephine Baker on the radio, and we take our hands off the wheel.

Do we feel less lonely?

Yes. We feel less lonely, driving at dusk in winter at the end of another year, nowhere to go but further on, until—inevitably—it becomes too late and there’s little to do other than turn around.

Josephine Baker’s voice is like nothing on earth, and the wind through the open window is the touch of a bird’s disintegrating wing. We’re driving because our addictions wait at home, haunting empty rooms, howling for us.

We’d never heard Josephine Baker sing. Until this evening.

Long-exposure photography makes ghosts of the people who move through the images, and the longer we stare at this road ahead the more it disappears. We’re driving through nothing, towards nothing, and behind us is nothing, because we cannot think of it— will not think of it—and this song on the radio will never end.

Years go by quickly, and decades disappear, so what will this night be other than empty memory? It’s only a song. The rush of tyres on tarmac. Josephine Baker and the rain-wet roads.

We only feel like ourselves when we’re alone. We can sit together on benches and sketch out our futures in grey breaths on cold winter air, but our only truth is in our amateurish drawings of prostrate figures. Thick black lines on clean white pages.

The words to the song are lost in the melody. En Français, en Français, en Français. Language is the cloak: it hides us, keeps us warm. But somewhere there’s meaning, ahead or behind, waiting for us. It resides in our addictions, and there’s nothing left to do but wrestle it free.  

Our hands are on the wheel. It’s not too late. We’re turning around.

Josephine Baker’s singing, and there’s nowhere else to go.


Jason Jackson’s prize-winning fiction appears regularly in print and online. His stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize as well as appearing regularly in the BIFFY 50 and Best Microfictions. Jason is also a photographer, and his prose/photography piece The Unit is published by A3 Press. Jason co-edits the online magazine Janus Literary.