Fifteen Miles to 14A by
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While reading the “Highway” stories, this old memory bobbed to the surface….

It was a June night of thunderstorms in central New Jersey

I came to lying in her alley in the rain, still crying.

I had not been out long, only seconds; faints generally end after you are horizontal. She had taken advantage of the love I that still had for her for her own convenience, then dismissed me, again. I’d gotten maybe ten feet from her door when I was overwhelmed by adrenaline and shame and syncope and my vision became all black motes that merged into darkness as I stumbled into the concrete wall and collapsed.

I picked myself up, got into my car and, after taking some minutes to compose myself, started the trip home.

It was a June night of thunderstorms in central New Jersey, and as I drove south on the Turnpike toward New Brunswick, cursing myself for a fool, another one rolled in. Heavy rain, poor visibility and bright flashes. And still, in bursts, tears. I slowed down and moved to the right, steering by the reflectors embedded in the solid white line of the breakdown lane.

As I drove, for some reason, some insane manifestation of a broken heart and wounded ego, I started to compose a song. I heard it in my mind as a country song, although I don’t really like country music.

All I remember now is the chorus:

“It’s fifteen miles to 14A and lightning splits the sky/She’s done it to you once again, no need to wonder why.”

Whatever the rest of it was, I am sure it was nothing to make the songwriters in Nashville nervous. But I know it was a song because 14A is the Bayonne exit, where I grew up. I didn’t live there any more; I lived in New Brunswick.

New Brunswick is Exit 12. But 14A scanned better!

Profile photo of Dave Ventre Dave Ventre
A hyper-annuated wannabee scientist with a lovely wife and a mountain biking problem.

Tags: highway, driving, storm, love, heartbreak
Characterizations: well written


  1. Marian says:

    What an experience, Dave, and I’m glad you wrote that portion of the song to memorialize it, despite not exiting at 14A. Otherwise, the less said about the New Jersey Turnpike, the better.

  2. Khati Hendry says:

    Just wow. Terrific writing again. The darkness, rain and heartbreak are palpable. Loved the song. Someone in Nashville could run with it.

  3. The opening was dark but lyrical. Which makes it appropriate that you turned it into a song with lyrics. And BTW, there’s a lot of good lyrics (and melodies) in Country & Western. Nothing to shy away from,

    • Dave Ventre says:

      I like some country; Patsy Cline was the C&W answer to Janis Joplin; she knew how to break your heart. And a few other songs. I like Johnny Cash as well. As I get older my tastes broaden more and more. I think the problem was that my parents listened to it incessantly, and most kids will listen to anything except what their parents listen to. Also, that was 50s-60s country, which was dominated by cheatin’ wives, dead dogs and busted pickup trucks, all chronicled in a nasal twang that grates on my New Joisey ears!

  4. Betsy Pfau says:

    A heartbreaking tale, Dave, and a dangerous one! Driving in that frame of mind and weather conditions is no joke. But the song lyrics are good. I watched the whole Ken Burns series on country music (though I’ve never been a fan of that kind of music). It was quite interesting. Some wit described the genre as “3 chords and the truth”. Says it all. You were writing your truth. Thanks for sharing it with us. You moved me.

  5. Laurie Levy says:

    What a vivid memory, Dave. I wonder how that song would have turned out had you finished it.

  6. Thanx Dave for the beautifully written but painful story of a painful part of your past.

    The thunder and lightning piecing the sky – perfect metaphors for your emotional state that rainy night.

    And funny about country music – I always assume I don’t like it, but somehow it captivates!

    • Dave Ventre says:

      Thank you, Dana. It’s funny that my other memory of that event is leaving my apartment to go see the woman in question and noting how pleasantly warm, bright and sunny the early evening was. The weather that day and night tracked my emotional state with spooky precision.

  7. Suzy says:

    The first sentence is riveting! Then it continues with such wonderful writing, really impressive! I love the chorus of your song, and the fact that you used your old exit, 14A, instead of your then-current exit, 12, because the rhythm worked so much better. Would love to see you reconstruct the whole song!

  8. The road has inspired many a tune, Dave, as I’m sure you know! There’s certainly a story there, in the opening lines of your post, passed out in the alley. And with your ‘insane manifestation of a broken heart and wounded ego,’ you captured the origins of many a work of art. Great story, Dave. And…

    What DID she do to you? We’re all dying to know, I’m sure!

    • Dave Ventre says:

      An oldster pissing and moaning and wallowing in self-pity about A Lost Love from his or her youth isn’t a good look. Trust me, I know. I fear to become boring, redundant and repetitive.

      OTOH, I’ve not written about that specific incident. Maybe one detailed (and final!) chronicle of The Tale is in order. It might have the same sort of fascination as a good train wreck.

      I am still concerned about it being a backward-looking pity party, though. That is a part of me that I have been trying to overcome (as in beat to death with a cudgel)for a long time!

  9. I encourage you to write The Tale of T*******, just on the basis of the title alone! And I’ve witnessed a good train wreck. it WAS fascinating!

    Maybe you have reason to feel sorry. Rather than cudgel, write the compassionate version.

    Your Imposed Psychotherapist 😉

    • Dave Ventre says:

      I have nothing but compassion for her. Strangely, since we share a couple of mutual friends, she is still in my life to an extent after forty-eight years. I now recognize that she bore wounds and scars, even back then, similar to mine; possibly deeper and more jagged.

      I have a theory that if you love a person deeply enough, especially if they are your first real love, you will love them forever. No matter what they did, how it ends, even if you wind up with a person far more suitable to yourself (as did I), they are in there forever.

      I wish her only joy.

  10. Actually, I was thinking about compassion for YOU! Well, for both of you. And your theory would serve as a clear and universal observation to drive your story. After all, we all end up, with all our people, places, and actions floating around the time/space continuum.

  11. Susan Bennet says:

    It’s obviously near midnight as I’m reading your story, Dave, because I read your reply to Charles as…”since we still share a couple of mutual funds…”
    How odd, I thought–before I blinked twice and reread. That said, the first paragraphs of your story took my breath away — what writing!
    And as for your “It’s fifteen miles to 14A” song, you can take your place among the ranks of singers of similar road tracks, “99 Miles to L.A.” (Johnny Mathis), “24 Hours from Tulsa” (Gene Pitney), and even “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” (Jimmy Web/Glen Campbell). Your featured photo is fabulous.

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