Rest Stop Recollection
There is nothing like a road trip to really define people, open them up, raw, and exposed. You never really know someone until you have spent several sticky days in a car, cross-country.
The tape player broke in the first hour, not even out of Los Angeles and the tape unspooled, fell to the floor, so it was the radio or nothing at all. She became shotgun D.J., blurring through the options that long highway stations ready up.
The other three sat in the back. Their illusion of a romantic paved adventure slowly shredding and blowing out the half-cracked window, “I can’t take another country song” she lamented, her t-shirt tied up to her chest, hair blowing, lips chapped, still so beautiful.
We lived off convenience store entrees, potato chips, stale hot dog buns, Slush-Puppies. He bought her a pack of Superhero trading cards, they pasted the Wonder Woman sticker on my back, sang the theme song, again and again, then started to chant — back and forward — all the James Bond movies they could name.
Fifty miles from New Orleans I pulled over to the side of the road, that’s where I threw it out, your engagement ring. I do not know why I chose that spot, it just felt right at the time. He baptized the occasion with flat 7-Up, on our heads. She was laughing, and my sidekick held my hand tightly; she knew this was really something, more than a “wish you were here” postcard could ever say.
Getting there was anti-climatic. Sure, there were showers, clean clothes, space between, but the little luxuries of a hotel room, and food that did not come in a sealed bag or styrofoam package, it just felt trite, contrived, and lonely. We all let out individual sighs, at different times, all longing for the map and the A.M. station hell.
But, we did not go back, not at once, and not together. We all found different cobblestone paths to take. Me, I went East, found a place in So-Ho, got a new ring around my finger, chaining myself again. He stayed put, found a boy to worship him, a humid bar to hang at; the air suited him just fine. She flew back home, after a week, he called her back and she could never resist him.
And, my radio controlled navigator? She hovered just a breath away from my lips, promising everything, nothing, and then blew away, far away, poof. Leaving me only a “wish you were here” heartache.
When Your Mind’s Made Up :: The Swell Season