Ani DiFranco: Gravel
Sometimes we travel farthest without physically leaving our rooms. This song’s narrative voice is alerted to the arrival of a wayward lover by the sound of motorbike wheels on the gravel outside and so prepares for both war and surrender. What follows is an extended daydream: we believe at first that she welcomes this arrival on the porch and invites him or her in, but the fantasy sequence that follows tells a different story altogether. Our heroine fantasizes of riding out to California on the back of the bike: I’ll pretend that this is real ‘cos this is what I like best, she tells herself, pretending also that this unfaithful lover can’t prevent her from enjoying life.
But the journey out to the West Coast is not the only imaginary trip the song’s narrator takes, as she goes from anger and a willingness to fight to a seemingly-grudging acceptance of the offer to run away together all in the space of time it takes for the new arrival to switch off the bike’s engine. See, the only real journey she takes – and the only real destination at which she arrives – is the one in her mind, the one brought about by the need to impose a happy ending, or at least the fantasy of one, upon a scenario that has evidently left her in a rut. She needs to get away, and this is the only way she knows how.
The song ends as it began: she hears the sound of his bike as the wheels hit the gravel, and the engine in the driveway cutting off. The song ends before the unfaithful lover makes it into the house, but in that moment between the key turning in the ignition and boots hitting the ground, the narrator has traveled thousands of miles, physically and emotionally. Sometimes that’s all you get.
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