Photographs Of Road Stops, Sleazy Motels, And Forgotten Lovers’ Names

Photographs Of Road Stops, Sleazy Motels, And Forgotten Lovers’ Names

By: Maria Suarez -


Cody Bratt Highway Love Fork In The Road

We’ve been driving for ages. It’s been at least two state lines since I stopped counting the weeks we've been living in this purple Saturn from 1998.

Cody Bratt Highway Love Blasting Light

We drive at night, taking back roads and half-paved highways. When we stop to take a break, we flip a coin to see which town we’ll hit next. Sometimes an empty gas tank decides for us.

Cody Bratt Highway Love Rest Stop

We reach the sign that says Welcome to Hell Hole, population none, or whatever. We find the bank just as the sun comes up and share our last cigarette, sitting across the street.

He calls me his queen and tells me about the pretty yellow house we’ll share one day. I tell him the names of our five bulldogs. We know it’ll never happen. We’re not made for walls and ceilings. But we still play this game every day.

Cody Bratt Highway Love Back Roads

We find the motel just outside the town limits, the one with the signs that only has half its neon lights flickering. The lady at the front desk is still wearing her nightgown when she hands us the rusty room key.

Cody Bratt Highway Love Motel Bed

We fall asleep in a bed that’s just as lumpy and dirty as the one before. There’s a crack of sun creeping between the curtains. I almost think it’ll keep me from sleeping. Then I wake in the afternoon to the sound of heels walking on the pavement outside. He’s all giggles as he tells me it’s time to get ready.

Cody Bratt Highway Love Blue Sky

As we get in the car, I kiss his bandana for good luck before helping him cover his face in it. I put on my grandmother’s veil and hop over to the driver’s side as he gets out.

Cody Bratt Highway Love Empty

I stare at the Random Town’s State Bank doors. Every time he goes in, I worry he won’t come out in time, that the cops will get here before he gets to the car, that I won’t be fast enough, that they’ll only shoot one of us, that they’ll leave one of us behind.

Cody Bratt Highway Love Gas Station

Then he just walks out with that army green backpack full of cash. His face is still covered, but I can tell he’s smiling. I turn the engine on as I’ve learned to time it. We take the rural roads for a few days until we reach the next county or state. Then it starts all over.

Cody Bratt Highway Love Hideout


Cody Bratt Highway Love Intersection

I woke up in the bathtub today with the taste of metal between my teeth. I looked down and saw my shirt and jeans soaked in blood. I don’t remember how it happened. I called his name but heard nothing. I tried to move, but my entire body was an open wound.

Cody Bratt Highway Love

The door slammed shut. I could feet his desperate steps shuffling through the carpet before he walked in the bathroom. “Stay awake,” he said, but I could feel myself slipping out of consciousness.

Cody Bratt Highway Love Motel

I was in the back of the car when I came to. My clothes were still gross crimson brown. A tourniquet made from his cowboy father’s belt and his black bandana was wrapped around my leg. The bullet remained lodged between muscle and bone.

Cody Bratt Highway Love Motel Neon

I heard the sirens before I opened my eyes. I thought they’d found us. But then I looked up at the white building with red neon letters spelling out Emergency. “I’m sorry,” he whispered before he walked out and left me in the car to be found.

Cody Bratt Highway Love No Name Town

There are days when I drive to dusty motels in the desert, looking for him and the new girl who drives him around. I smoke in front of two-bit Credit Unions, hoping to hear him walking in.

Cody Bratt Highway Love Palm Trees

I never knew his name. He told me to call him Hurricane and said I’d be his Catastrophe. Maybe now he goes by Neon and my substitute is his Vegas. What if he drives while she struts into the banks, flirting with the tellers?

Cody Bratt Highway Love Collage


Cody Bratt Highway Love Sign

One Sunday I saw his sketched face looking at me on the local channel from this shitty town. They said nothing about a girl being his accomplice.

Cody Bratt Highway Love Trailer Park

Two days later, the lady with the short straw-like hair from the seven o’clock news tells me he’s dead. They found him in the desert. The trunk of the grey Honda he’d stolen a week earlier was full of cash.

Cody Bratt Highway Love

For that moment all I wanted was to go back to that dirty room in that no name town. My passing wish was to be his Catastrophe once more.

(End of fiction)

The accompanying images are part of the series Love We Leave Behind by photographer Cody Bratt.

For more images of youth on the American road, check out Mike Brodie’s photography as well.

Michele Abele’s images capture the complicated mess that love becomes.