Nashville or Bust : Russell Bittner
I go for fantasy, not reality - which some better-edjucated folk like to call 'denial.'  But it's what I do - 'cause I know reality's gonna bite me in the ass, find me empty-fisted, maybe just pullin' on some goddamn pud.  Or two.

Take now, for instance.  I imagine myself on a stage in Nashville with thousands o' screamin' fans gettin' high on my music - most of 'em, squirrely-girlies.  And so, gettin' wet 'round the eyes - 'cause, like, they also got a vision of the same for themselves, in some reality or another.  But they ain't movin' forward.  I, in the meantime, am.

Scattered out among 'em are a few grandmas, also gettin' wet 'round the eyes.  That granny wetness?  That, I know, is the real deal.  When I see those eyes glisten back up at me on stage, I feel something of the same comin' on - especially when I think of my own grandma, now long dead.  But most of them girls are about my age and are thinkin' about what this music can get 'em tonight.

Millions more - I further imagine - are watchin' me on TV, or at least on YouTube.  (I did say 'fantasy,' not 'insanity'!)  They're watchin' me through a box that couldn't care less what I got to say or sing.  And so, those millions're watchin' me - and watchin' two or three other things while they IM, text-message, cell-talk, flip off Mom, Pop, the boyfriend, who- or whatever - and probably even fuck at the same time.  Fuckin's about the only thing they can do, really, without havin' to think about it.

But me?  I'm now up on this stage singin' my oh-so-lonely Southern heart out.  I'm thinkin' about fame and fortune … about that small town I left behind - about how they might all one day say "I knew her when-."

Yeah, sweet pea.  But by then, I'll be long gone.

At this instant, I imagine myself Emily Shackelton, Taylor Swift, maybe even Eva Cassidy.  Whenever I listen to any of them girls, I cry - which I quickly grab a pen and scribble down to rhyme with 'deny.'  Clearly, I got a gift for lyrics, doncha think?

And yet, I'm not this thing.  Not this thingNot this thing.  Not this thing someone else now wants me to be.


I once read somewhere - I don't remember where I read it exactly - about women and girls from a place called Serbia being sex slaves and all. I don't know nothin' about this Serbia.  I'm not sure I even know what a 'sex slave' is.  I know what 'sex' is - sure enough - and I know what a 'slave' is.  But I can't quite put the two together - maybe 'cause I'm a white girl.  Alls I know is this:  that what I read at the time made me feel a little funny - like I wanted to turn a part of me inside out.  At that deep Southern-comfort moment of 'denial,' I tried to imagine myself like one of them women - on the ground and under bright lights, under the glare of a dozen men's eyes, my veil tore away, my skirt throwed up, my thing exposed to my husband, my children, my God…it - this thing of mine - now under those lights, exposed, then spit upon - but not before one of 'em stuck a bayonet up inside and screamed "Praise fucking Allah!" to the screams and jeers all around.

My husband - I noticed in passing - took holt of a kitchen spoon like he wanted to gouge his own eyes out.  My children - I noticed in passing - opened their mouths wide, just like my thing.  It was one of them silent screams I heard - or maybe just seen.  Alls they could do was open their mouths wide - just like my thing.

I passed on, not wanting to hear or see anything more - and then, I just passed out.


The road from Chattanooga to Nashville is a long and lonesome one, with just the sound of tread on asphalt, also the sound of rain - occasionally hail - hitting the windshield.  I'm feelin' dark in the cabin of a long-haul with two guys who're clearly bored, clearly drunk.  The light of the dashboard is all that reflects our three faces back up onto that same windshield.

I have no husband, no children I have to reckon with.  Our secret's safe.

I of a sudden have a memory of somethin' my papa used to whisper to me - still just a babe in his arms - when he'd take me out onto the porch right before a storm:  "It's cold and dark outside," he'd whisper into my ear.  We'd both shiver in delight - back then, that is.

One of the two pushes my head down onto his lap - and I'm thinkin' Nashville, the prize of it - can't come soon enough.