Him, her and the new adventure

We never made it past San Francisco. We stopped there and stayed for over a week. He loved it. And it was growing on me. It took some time, but even after a week I started to get used to the streets, the way people do business, how to act around employees to get a decent latte. He found an apartment too, which surprised both of us after realizing the first day of semi-looking that you basically need to hire someone or landlords won’t take you seriously.

It’s got a great view. And apparently the place was recently renovated and re-decorated by some famous interior designer. Well he must only be famous in San Fran because I’ve never seen him on HGTV or in Home and Garden. There’s a bay window, which is great. I’ve always adored bay windows. So I told him if he got the apartment, even if we had a dispute that would keep me from talking to him, I’d come over still just for the window. That seemed to reassure him somewhat. The great thing too is that the guy was offering it for a decent price. But he’s still looking for a job before he signs anything. He had better find one soon too or else that apartment’s gone. There was a gay couple looking at it too. We passed them as they were on their way out. They couldn’t stop talking about the designer too. “Oh my god, can you believe it! An original design from (fill in hot name here)!” “Oh I know! And that bay window!” Hearing the words “bay window” come out of that man’s mouth almost made me knock them over as I dashed inside.

Anyway, he’s out looking for a job right now. There are some leads too. It’s crazy how fast this is all happening. One mile we’re enjoying an open road and the next we’re helping him find a job and an apartment.

Me? Well I’ve been considering this move. I really can’t imagine a life away from him, not romantically of course. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I never considered the idea. It’s not like he hasn’t either. Maybe. We never really talked about that to each other. All my other friends think we’re just made for each other. Or that we spend so much time together we might as well get married. I’ll admit, there were brief moments while looking at that apartment that I toyed with the idea that that bay window could actually be mine as well. Not just as an unspoken agreement between the two of us, but actually on paper.

Anyway, I picked up the September issue of Vogue the other day and I’ve been pouring over it every spare chance I get. I love the clothes and the colors but I also read Vogue for the editorials because, despite what the opinions and views others own, Vogue can actually write some great stuff on matters other than fashion. For example, their article on Jon Huntsman, one of the men running for the Republican slot for the 2012 election. I won’t go into all the details about the article or Huntsman, but the article’s there. But reading Vogue made me think about a career in fashion. Maybe not the clothes portion, but writing about the clothes, critiquing the clothes. I don’t know if I could ever be the next Anna Wintour, but maybe I’ve got a knack for fashion. I just don’t know if I could ever get on board with some of the styles that are hot right now. Well I just heard about Bay Fashion Magazine. Maybe I’ll start applying there. Who knows? I could work my up to some higher position in Vogue. The dreamer’s dream. Needless to say, I don’t think I’ll be moving to San Francisco anytime soon. Not unless something big is offered my way. For now, I’ll assist my best friend in finding a job and getting the apartment of his dreams (and bay window of mine) and then I’ll fly back home. I’ve already posted the VW for sale online and have had several offers. Apparently the bus is worth much more than what I paid for because I’m getting some pretty high offers. I’m about the finalize the deal later today. So I’ll fly back home, go back to work (grateful they allowed me to take such a long vacation and still return) and figure things out from there. We’re beginning new adventures now.

Him, her and San Francisco

“Well we’ve made it.”

“What do you mean? We haven’t made it to Oregon.”

“No, I mean we’ve made it to California.”

“Oh. Right. Listen, can we skip L.A. and stuff? I don’t care to see it at this point in my life.” He’d seen it before actually, and had too many bad experiences that eventually caused him to never go back again. He didn’t enjoy talking about it either.

She was hesitant. She really wanted to see it. She’d never been and was attracted to the idea of celebrities and Pretty Woman – not the actual act, but the movie and the sites from the movie. But if he didn’t want to go and they did, then he’d complain the entire time and that would just spoil it for her. “Alright. We won’t go. Napa maybe?”

“Napa’s fine. It’s be a long drive but we can definitely do Napa. How did those photos turn out from New Mexico?”

“Really great actually. I just sent five out and have, I think, three more to edit before sending. Remember that older man who was missing a tooth and raved on about it raining cows?”

“Yeah, what about him?”

“His turned out really great. I was kind of surprised because I kept shaking from trying not to laugh. But there’s something in that photo that says more about the guy than madness.”

“Interesting,” he replied half-heartedly. He was getting tired of this trip. Of talking about crazy men who claimed cows were going to fall from the sky. Or women who acted like they were from the city when they were from nowhere, Arizona. Middle aged men who made bad jokes, talked about the glory days (aka All-State Basketball Champs 1979) and poked fun at their chubby children, who really weren’t that chubby, just normal. All of this was taking a toll on him. Not to mention he just had a phone call that he was going to be evicted from his apartment. The landlord didn’t even give a good reason, but turned around and said he had three weeks to get out. He come home from this trip, pack up his stuff and move into a cardboard box. Gee, what great news.

The entire time he had been thinking this, she continued to talk about her subjects.

“Listen, I’m really tired. Can you give it a rest?”

She was instantly wounded and he could tell. “I’m sorry, it’s just, I’m just -”

“You’re tired. I get it. Yeah, sure. Do you mind music then? Quiet music?”

“Yeah that’d be fine.”

She chose something while making slight swerves in the road, glancing back and forth from iPod to outside the front windshield. She chose something and put the iPod back in it’s makeshift holder. He felt awful for making her feel this way. He wanted to explain himself but he didn’t want pity. He didn’t want her to come up with a solution for him, which he knew she would. But on the other hand, she was his best friend. And her solutions usually worked. Why shouldn’t he tell her?

“When we get back from this trip, I’ll be homeless.”

“What?!” She almost stopped the car right then and there. It wouldn’t have mattered though. The were the only ones on the road. “What do you mean?”

“My landlord is kicking me out for some reason.”

“He didn’t say why?”

“Nope. Just said I’d have three weeks to get my stuff out. I think I knew it all along. The guy was always shady.”

“You sound too nonchalant about this. How can you be nonchalant?!”

“I’m freaking out inside, trust me. I’m just so exhausted by all of this -”

“All of this? What do you mean?”

He paused. Should he tell her he’s tired of the trip? “Well, I mean, I’m just tired of all the driving, the people I guess.”

“But the people have been great! We’ve been having fun!”

“I know. Everything’s just taking it’s toll on me. Especially with this apartment thing. I don’t know what I’m going to do. We’re on this trip and I don’t have time to look for a new apartment before I have to move out.”

“Well you can stay with me then until you find something.”

“Is that really a good idea? Where would you put me? You changed the second bedroom into an office.”

“We’ll put your big items in a storage unit and I’ll turn the office back into a bedroom. Come on, it won’t be that bad. You won’t have to pay rent and I can help you look for an apartment.”

“I don’t know. I don’t know if I even want to stay there.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean I don’t think I want to live in the Midwest any longer.”

She got quiet. What he was suggesting was something she couldn’t think about at all. Him moving away? Her losing her best friend? She couldn’t do it. She wondered where he’d move. She wondered if she’d move with him. She loved her job, but maybe her job was something that could be replaced if it meant being around him. Or was it time to move on?

“Where would you go?”

“San Francisco.” The answer was immediate and unexpected for both of them. He looked at her. He looked back at the road. San Francisco? Really? Where did that come from? But he thought about it. He enjoyed the city the few times he’d visited. It was  a good location. He had a network of contacts he could call for a job and even for an apartment. It made sense.

“We need to go to San Francisco,” he said decidedly.

She looked at him. She looked at the road. “Ok,” she said finally. “Pull out the map. We’re going to San Francisco.”

Him, her and the moose sighting…or lack thereof

“Goodbye South Dakota. I feel like I’ve slept through the entire state.”

“You kinda did,” he replied. Now it was his turn. She was finally behind the driver’s wheel, a rare occasion, and he would finally be able to allow the lull of the old van rock him back and forth to sleep. He unbuckled his seat belt and climbed into the back and started setting up his bed.

“You can’t sleep now!” she said looking nervously into the rearview mirror.

“That’s what I’m doing though,” he replied continuing in his activity.

“You’re just going to leave me to fend for myself?” She paused for a moment. “Wait, where are we even going?”

“Well the plan was Nebraska -”

“Why would we want to go to Nebraska?”

“Like I was saying, the plan was Nebraska, but we could go somewhere else.”

“Ok, where? And you better get back up here because if you don’t we might end up in Arizona or something. Mexico even.”

He stopped what he was doing and looked to the front of the van. Should this have been a movie, a computer generated light bulb would have appeared above his head, turning on and burning bright as the ideas became stronger.

“Let’s go south,” he said.

“How far south?”

“As south as we want to go. We’re driving through Wyoming right now. So let’s drive through and go to Colorado. We’ll stay there for a week. Then we’ll go to New Mexico, maybe stop in Mexico for a little bit. Then we’ll make our way back up through Arizona to California -”

“To Oregon and finally Washington!” she finished.

“It’s perfect really. I’m tired of seeing corn fields and cows. If I wanted that I would have stayed at home.”

“We live like two hours away from that scene though.”

“Still -”

“Alright, alright,” she said finding confidence. “Go ahead and sleep -”

“Was going to anyway,” he interjected. She ignored him and continued talking.

“And I’ll just follow signs for Colorado. Hey! Let’s go to the Tetons!”

“Sounds good to me,” he replied. The bed was made and was already laying down.

“It’ll be a great photo opportunity, and maybe we can do some hiking, and -”

“Mmhmm.” His head was hitting the pillow.

“And maybe we can find a great diner or something with good pie!”

“Sounds good…” he trailed off. In seconds he was asleep.

“This’ll be great! I love this new plan. We might have to sell some photos or something along the way, just to make some more money for food and gas. What do you think of that?” When there was no answer, she looked into the rearview mirror and found him sleeping soundly, even snoring a little bit.

“Well alrighty then,” she said to herself. “This is good. I can do this.”

He woke up with a jolt and discovered the van had stopped. He was also freezing despite the two layers of blankets he had on top of him. There was little light coming into the van. When he looked out the window he thought it was maybe early morning around 5:30 or 6:00. Then he took in the rest of his surroundings. Huge beautiful mountains covered in snow filled the landscape from window pane to window pane and beyond. He looked around for his traveling companion but couldn’t find her in the driver’s seat. He looked to his other side and found her sitting on the edge of the van, drinking something. It smelled like coffee. And not the crappy stuff they were forced to make some mornings.

“How long have I been out? And is there more of whatever you’re drinking?”

“Nine hours, and yes. I got it from the ranger’s station a mile down the road.” She handed him a cup and he took a long satisfying sip. It was creamy, strong, and “magically delicious,” he said. This brought a slight chuckle out of her.

“So I see we made it to the mountains. What time is it by the way?”

“It’s about 6:00 in the morning.” She turned toward him and started laughing. “Hey. You wanna know something hilarious?” She had exaggerated the syllables in the last word, making it sound like this was something he may not enjoy hearing.

“Sure,” he said cautiously.

“Grand Teton National Park isn’t in Colorado.”

“Right, it’s in Wyoming. I could have told you that.”

“Well you didn’t. And now that’s where we are.” Yelling, she added, “WE’RE STILL IN WYOMING!” There was a distant bird call in response to her anger.

“Ok,” he said slowly. “Well, that’s alright. We’ll just stay here for a day or two. Maybe three and then we’ll head down to Colorado.”

“There’s a problem. The finances are running low.”

“How low.”

“We need to start selling things.”

He was even more cautious with his next response. “What kind of things?”

She looked at him as if to say, seriously? “I’m not suggesting our bodies dummy.”

“What have I told you about calling me a dummy?!”

“I’m sorry, but I’m really upset about this!”

He cooled down. They didn’t need for both of them to be angry. “Ok, so what do you suggest?”

“Well I have my camera. And there’s a diner about five miles away that looked promising for potential customers. We’ve been taking pictures all summer and we can take pictures here. Maybe try to get some wildlife shots or something to mix it up. Or! We could take portraits! Yeah, we’ll set up a little studio outside or something, and we’ll charge people to take their portraits.”

He thought about this for a moment. That actually didn’t sound half bad.

“That doesn’t sound half bad,” he said. He wondered why they hadn’t been doing this earlier.

“Why haven’t we been doing this earlier?” he asked.

“No idea! It’s brilliant, but I guess we didn’t have the pressure to come up with it.”

“Alright, we can do this. Is your camera film or digital.”

“You’ve been using it all summer and you don’t know this by now?”

He looked at her, waiting.

“Digital.”

“Good. We’ll take a few photos of each person. I can load them onto my laptop -”

“Why not mine?”

“Mine’s faster. And I have an external hard drive.”

“Fine.”

“And we’ll let the people look at them. But first we need to find a good photo center.”

“Ooh! There’s one online! And they offer matting and framing too! We can have our customers watch us and choose the specifics on each order and we’ll have them pay for shipping and handling – no, wait. I just signed up. I get free shipping and handling for a year with this company! Perfect. So they pay us cash and then they pay for the matting and framing if they want and they can watch us type in their address. Then the photos will be shipped straight to them!”

“This is brilliant,” he said grabbing her face and giving her a quick kiss on the lips. “Brilliant!” He was beaming. She was taken off guard.

“What was that for?”

“For the stroke of genius you just had,” he said slightly ruffling her hair. He went to work putting away the bedding and went outside to freshen up and go to the bathroom. She could only sit there. She was still only sitting there when he returned five minutes later.

“Ready?” he asked her putting away his toiletries.

“Hmm? Oh, right. Yeah, let’s get started.” She dug around for her camera materials and started setting up. “I want to get in a few test photos first and I figured we could um, we could walk around or something…”

“A mini hike? Sounds good to me.”

She finished putting the camera together and started walking. He followed closely behind. He knew what he did had taken her off guard and probably confused her. But it was all he could do to not look frazzled by his actions and break down and start apologizing. He had to keep it cool. They just had to finish this road trip and then maybe, just maybe he could tell her. But it was possible that she would bring it up. That was just the type of person she was. He’d be shocked if she didn’t bring it up later in the day. He watched her stop along the way and find different things to take photos of, taking a few seconds to look at the picture on her camera, judging if she should retake it or not. She still looked puzzled and he knew that this was probably eating away at her. He couldn’t let her go on like this for three more weeks. It would be cruel. If she didn’t bring it up within a day, he would. He’d tell her. And he wouldn’t be shy about it. He’d be direct. And if it really screwed things up, he’d purchase the plane tickets himself and they’d go home and probably never talk again. But he’d hate that. He would really hate that. Maybe he should just bring it up now. Yes, now is as good a time as ever.

He started to speak when she turned to him and said, “Ok, I think I’m done here. We should go check out that diner. Maybe even try and find the nearest town so we can get more customers.”

Maybe this wasn’t eating away at her. Maybe she was fine after all. Now he was confused. “Ok, sure. If you’re ready.”

“I am.” And she started walking.

They made it back to the van quickly. She got in the driver’s seat, he in the passenger’s. She started the van and turned it around, driving back down toward the diner. She was silent. She didn’t even bother to put the music on and he was afraid to ask about it. So he remained silent as well, looking out the window and occasionally he took small glances in her direction. Her expression was stoic as she looked straight ahead, as if she had a target and wasn’t going to let anything distract her. Not even the moose that appeared on his side of the road about fifty yards away from them. He decided now was not the time to bring anything to her attention. Not the moose. And definitely not his feelings toward her.

Him, her and the poem

She had been scribbling furiously for about two hours. They sat on the side of a forgotten road, waiting out the rainstorm that had bombarded them for the past hour. It had been morning since they passed the last town and they were both hoping and praying another would be around the next corner, maybe three corners at the most. But neither of them could see with the rain so they soon pulled over to wait it out. To save on gas, they had turned the van off. There was no music. No conversation. She wrote. He occasionally drummed his fingers on the steering wheel until she asked him to stop, getting more adamant with each request – she had made seven.

He looked around for something to read, but found nothing of immediate interest. He had read just about everything in their current collection and gone through the two issues of Wired about three times each. He even sifted through the August issue of Vogue.

His next search was for food. Sometimes boredom did get the best of him and he would look for something to snack on. He tried not to let it happen too often. Unfortunately, though, he found nothing. They would have to restock at the next town too. With nothing else to really search for, he sat in the driver’s seat, staring out at the driving rain, twiddling his thumbs, an action that surprised him. Who twiddles their thumbs anymore?

“Ok. I’m done. Wow, it’s really raining,” she said looking up from her notebook.

“You’re just noticing? Why do you think we pulled over?”

“We’ve pulled over?”

He sighed.

“What have you been writing anyway?”

“A poem.”

“Can I read it?”

“No. Maybe. I don’t know if it’s ready.”

“How else will you know unless you get someone else’s opinion?”

“I guess.” She sat for a moment, contemplating the potential results of reading it and not reading it.

“Ok. But no making fun!”

“Promise.”

“Alright. It doesn’t have a title, so I’m just reading from beginning to end.”

“Ok.”

“Ok.”

Somewhere he sits –
(generic) no name who
enjoys his women dark-haired
and dark-eyed, eclectic –
his music odd and
underground –
his gin dirty, his whiskey straight –
he sits writing
profound poetry of the soul
just around the corner from the diner
you want to frequent
and on the night they ruined
the blueberry pie,
you walk around the corner

He paused, waiting to see if that was the end.

“So?” she asked.

He waited even longer, thinking about the poem, what it meant, and the way her voice changed to something deep and subtle when she read it, like she had finished smoking a cigarette and a glass of bourbon in a smokey bar at night. He wanted to applaud, but thought the confined space of the van and the lack of other people, a bar, and a stage would make it seem like he was mocking her.

“Say something,” she said, almost pleading.

“It took you two hours to write that?”

“Yes. Why?” Her voice was guarded, ready to strike at any insult.

“It’s good, that’s all. I’ve heard most people read good stuff after working on it for days, weeks, sometimes even years.”

“Well, it’s not finished. I’m sure I’ll find something to change down the road.”

“The literal road, or the metaphorical one?”

“Maybe both.”

“Ok.”

They sat and looked out the window. It had stopped raining.

“Look, it stopped raining! Let’s go find a town!” she said pumping her first into the air, slightly though so as not to punch a hole through the van’s interior ceiling.

Him, her, and his friends

“Cool!”

“What’s up?”

“My friends, Paul and Meghan just started blogging today,” he replied. The two travelers had found a cafe with free wifi and were checking their email, updating friends and family on their progress, and finding more sites to visit on their journey.

“What’s their blog about?”

“Oh, they each started their own blog.”

“Interesting. They’re married?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s weird. You usually see married couples start a combined blog. But I guess it’s ‘to each his own’ right?”

“Yeah…” he trailed off, his concentration on his lap top. “I don’t think they even know about each other’s blogs. Well, Meghan knows about Paul’s, but Paul doesn’t know about Meghan’s.”

“Oh,” she replied.

“Is that bad?”

“I honestly couldn’t tell you. You know maybe I’m making more of a big deal about this than I should. It’s just the internet, ya know? Why do we let the internet control our lives?”

“Right. But you have to face the facts, everyone is on the internet and just about everyone is using some sort of social networking site, feeding the mass tiny episodes of their personal lives. So it’s hard not to make a big deal out of this. People see that Paul and Meghan, a married couple, have separate blogs they’ll think one of two things. Either they’re happily married but still allow themselves individuality instead of meshing into one person, or something’s wrong in their marriage.”

“Let’s hope it’s the latter.”

“I guess I’ll just have to keep reading their posts, although I feel kind of dirty for doing so.”

“In what way?”

“Well, I’m friends with both, but reading each of their blogs may get a little dicey. I could start siding with one and going against the other just because of how they portray what’s going on.”

“I guess if they have a fight and both post about it you’ll be getting both sides. I see it as kind of a good thing.”

“Maybe. I dunno. We’ll see.”

“I think I’d like to read their blogs as well. What are their addresses?”

“Paul’s is Man of New York and Meghan’s is Lost Pies in New York.”

“Good titles. I’m assuming Meghan likes pie?”

“Yeah she loves it. Her favorite’s blueberry pie just like you.”

“Ohhh we’d get along.”

“Don’t start siding yet!”

“I wasn’t siding. I was just complimenting her choice in pie.”

“You’re siding.”

“Whatever. Listen, can we get back on the road now? What do we have, a day before we reach Canada?”

“Yeah I think so,” he replied. “Do you have your passport? Yep, I picked it up at the local post office while you were getting gas. I had my mom send it in.”

“Mmk, good. We’re all set then.” He laid change down on the table for the waitress before shutting down his laptop and packing his bag. He noticed the fluttering of her dress when she stood up to stretch. He loved that sound of fabric rustling. Wait, how was it rustling? He looked around, searching for the source of the wind or air flow. She noticed this but said nothing. She packed up the last of her things and stood waiting for him while checking a few text messages that had popped up. He looked back at her then shook his head. There was a moment that passed so quickly it was hard to discern what had really happened. He let it go and walked out the door behind her.

Him, her and the halfway point

“Uh oh,” he said.

“What? What’s wrong?” she asked looking slightly worried. This was not something he said often.

“I think this is where the steam is beginning to wane.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know, you start asking yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. You want comfort. You want good food. You want your warm soft bed.”

“Your bed isn’t soft though,” she replied.

“That’s not my point. I’m losing steam. I’m in the middle of the bridge and I’ve got to decide if I’m going to go back, or if I’m going to keep going forward.”

“Why wouldn’t you want to go forward?”

“Because going forward doesn’t guarantee comfort. Going forward doesn’t guarantee normal. Going back does.”

“But going forward offers accomplishment.”

“Sure, but right now that’s not enticing enough. The excitement is wearing off, things aren’t going as well as in the beginning – ”

“Like what?” she asked surprised.

“Well, you sprained your ankle last week, we had problems at that diner in Indiana a couple days ago. We’re running low on supplies – ”

“That’s nothing! My ankle’s fine now, we’re never going to see that blasted diner woman and her cockroaches again, and it’s not like we can’t restock. Tell me you don’t enjoy this,” she said sweeping her hand across the sky. The two were swinging in hammocks recently purchased and hung around two sister trees in a field. The were in one of the remotest locations they’d seen so far. Looking at the ground, the two could see nothing for miles, just darkness. But above them were millions of stars dotting the sky and overlapping each other for space in the vast sky.

A movie came to her mind and she felt it appropriate to quote it, whether he’d know it or not, “Beautiful, gorgeous, wish you where here!”

He knew the movie. He smiled slightly knowing she wouldn’t be able to see it. “I’m not saying this isn’t gorgeous, I’m just saying I really miss my french press, and the ability to watch the World Cup, even if it is the Women’s World Cup.”

“This is not the time to start discriminating against the sexes.”

He sighed loudly and was quite for a while. She laid there impatiently waiting for him to talk. She waited for a while.

She decided to say something but before she could, she could hear light snoring coming from his hammock. She gently poked it and heard the creaking of the hammock against the tree. He made no movement other than the swinging of his body with the hammock. She hoped he would not have this feeling again and closed her eyes, trying to quiet her mind for sleep.

***

“Morning!”

She woke with a start at the voice and saw him looking directly down to her.

“Hi,” she croaked. He smelled of coffee and he looked clean.

“Where’s the coffee?”

“There’s a venti caramel latte waiting for you in the van.”

It was bright, almost mid morning, and warm, really warm. She started to get out of her hammock and saw that his was already taken down. Most of their makeshift camp was already packed up. She noticed a tarp held up by broken branches attached to a tree.

“I created a sort of shower for us. The water’s cold, but it’s really refreshing.”

“What time is it?”

“About 11:31.”

“About?” The sarcasm did not hide well in her voice.

“Come on, come on! We gotta get back on the road. Listen, I know it’s not on the schedule, but I figured we could go to Wisconsin and then Canada and then Minnesota and Iowa before South Dakota like our original plan. I talked to a local where I found the coffee and he was telling me about this place called Elephant Trunk Rock in Wisconsin.”

“Elephants? I like elephants,” she said perking up a bit as she let the cold water wash over her.

“Yes I know. So I thought we’d take a detour. If we leave in the next seventeen minutes, we should be able to get there by evening.”

“Can you hand me my clothes please? I laid them out on the front passenger seat.”

He grabbed her clothes and handed them to her. After a couple minutes she walked out and let him take down the shower. He quickly finished packing it in the van and turned to her as she took her first sip of her latte. Her eyes were closed and he allowed her a minute to bask in the savory taste of caramel, espresso and milk. Then he spoke.

“So what do you think?”

She opened her eyes, then smiled. “Let’s do it.”

He clapped his hands and smiled widely as he ran around to the driver’s seat and got in.

“Glad to see you’re back on board,” she said as she buckled herself in and started up the playlist.

“I took a few steps past the middle. Can’t really go back now.”

“Nope,” she said sipping her coffee.

Though cliche, she felt it necessary to add U2’s “Beautiful Day” to the playlist. She was reminded of this as it began to play, starting off their new day.

Him, her and the phone call

“I really like these people,” she whispered to him while the others joked around. They were standing in a small circle of people they had recently met on their way through Michigan.

“Yeah, they’re not bad,” he replied taking his last drag of the cigar he had been smoking for the past forty-five minutes. They were all having fun, talking about random things, joking around, sometimes flirting, but all in the respectable name of good fun.

She stood there, leaning back against the car, occasionally playing with her phone but not really expecting any calls or text messages. Though she enjoyed the group, she was getting tired of standing and getting bit by the mosquitos. She tried to keep her mood up, but she had just received a text message from her dad saying her aunt was being rushed into the emergency room. She didn’t think it would be that big of a deal. Something minor hopefully. But she still couldn’t settle her mind. She kept all this silent though, even from him. Her dad had asked her to pray for her aunt and she replied a short but sincere “I will!” Suddenly her phone rang.

It was her dad.

“Hey,” she said walking slowly away from the group.

“Hi, honny,” her dad replied on the other end.

“So tell me what’s going on.” She found a metal link fence to rest on as she tried to mentally prepare herself for what could be said.

“It’s not good. She’s being life-flighted to another hospital for immediate surgery. She’s just been in a lot of pain these past two weeks, but she’s waited until now to do something about it. You know how she is.”

“Yeah,” she said quietly. It was all she could muster at the moment. She just listened, hoping her dad would know she really was listening and not zoning out like he thought many other times. She kicked her sandal into the ground multiple times, like a cigarette’s final existence being stamped out on pavement or a cold glass dish.

“Just get as many of your friends to start praying for her, ok?”

“Ok.” She looked back to her group of newly found friends.

“Hey!” One of them shouted toward her. “Come on, don’t be rude,” the girl said turning back to the group and laughing.

“Hey, is everything alright?” he asked her looking slightly worried.

She looked at him then back toward the neighbor’s yard. She wouldn’t be bringing this up in front of these people. They weren’t the right ones. Who could she ask?

“I’ll keep you updated,” said the voice on the other end of the line.

“Thanks, dad. Love you,” her voice was at a low decibel now.

“Love you too. I’ll talk to you soon.”

When she hung up she had three people in mind to immediately text for help. She tried to make it quick before the pestering from the rest of the group got out of hand, then joined them once again putting on a smile, unable to break the mood.

Later that night, she walked into the bedroom they were sleeping in for the night. She looked at him and decided to tell him. She could trust him right?

“You know that phone call I got tonight?”

“Yeah, what about it?”

“It was my dad. My aunt’s in surgery right now. She’s really not doing well.”

“Hey, I’m really sorry,” he said pulling her in to him. Her gave her a long hug and a quick squeeze before letting her go on.

“Can you pray for her please?”

“Absolutely! Yes, I’ll definitely do that.” He looked her straight in the eye and gave a sympathetic smile.

“Thanks. I think, I think I’m just going to go to bed now. I mean we have a long day ahead of us tomorrow.”

“Yeah. Yeah, ok. Sleep well, alright?”

“Ok,” she said, head already attached to her pillow. Her eyes closed and almost immediately he could hear the steady heavy breathing he had become used to the past week or so. He watched her for a few minutes then laid down in his bed. He fell asleep quickly.

The next morning he woke up to see her bed vacant and made up already. Her bag was packed on sitting on the end of the bed. She walked in quietly before looking over.

“Oh, hi,” she said smiling. “You’re up. Good. Listen, there’s breakfast out in the kitchen already made. And coffee. Really good coffee. I’ve already gassed up the van and stocked it with a few snacks and water bottles to get us by.”

He looked at his watch. It read 8:13. “What time did you get up?”

“Oh like 7:00 or something around there. Hey, I don’t mean to rush you but we should really get on the road soon.”

“Ok, yeah,” he said slowly getting up. “Let me just take a quick shower. Could you maybe fill my travel mug with some of that coffee? Then I’ll just grab some food and we can go.”

“Your mug’s already filled. Tiny little bit of cream and one sugar lump. It’s staying warm by the stove though. And don’t worry about driving today. I’ll go ahead and start the trip.”

“Are you sure? You didn’t sleep that much.”

“Yeah, I’m fine. I’ve had like, I don’t know, two or three cups already.”

“Of coffee?!”

“Well, yeah, what did you think?”

“I was hoping water.”

“I’m fine. Let’s just go! We’ve got the open road calling our names!”

“Yeah, yeah. I’m moving.”

Several minutes later they sat in the van, driving away while waving to their hosts.

“Call us when you’re in the area again! We’d love to get together with you guys after your trip!” said one of the women.

“Absolutely!” she replied giving a last wave.

They drove off and quickly found the highway and merged with the morning traffic. The sun was rising quickly, the sky was a clear bright blue that reminded the two of Madonna’s eye shadow from 1983. Corn and wheat fields meshed together as they breezed by at a comfortable speed limit. Occasional construction workers dotted the black pavement with their neon orange vests and white and yellow hard hats assumed colorful language. The two were silent, listening to Tom Waits as they made their way out of “Pure Michigan.” Finally she started singing. It started out soft, almost inaudible when in competition with the stereo volume. But it quickly got louder as the song reached the chorus. He joined in.

“Oh, oh, oh, anywhere, anywhere I lay my head!!” they yelled together. She rolled the windows down and he followed suit. It was a cliche thing to do, something seen in movies all the time, to extend their arms beyond the confines of their iconic road trip van and sing at the top of their lungs along with a man seemingly unknown to the majority of their generation. But they did it anyway. And they basked. He turned to her and watched her body relax with the comfort of a good song and summer air breezing through her fingers.

Him, her and the summer solstice

“Hey! It’s almost 1:00, you’re gonna have to start looking for a spot to pull over!”

“And why am I doing this?” His voice was strained. It had been a rough night with his driving companion sick and unable to take the wheel so he could sleep. She was still sniffling and consuming the majority of the tissues, stuffing the used rags into the plastic bag they had positioned between their seats.

“Because! At 1:16, the sun will be at the highest spot it can reach in the sky. At least from earth’s perspective. And then at 1:17, it’s going to slowly go south, which means winter is on it’s way once again.”

“But that’s the fact of life. That happens every year and you’ve never made a big deal about it before.”

“I know, but it just hit me this year that this is the point when winter is on the move.”

“Isn’t that a line from the Chronicles of Narnia?”

“I hate winter. Sure it makes me appreciate summer, but I still hate it. Yes, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe I believe. Anyway, we need to at least pull over for a minute and take the time to revel in the peak of summer!”

“Alright. I’ll pull over…if…you take the wheel when we get back on the road.”

“Deal.”

The two drove along the seemingly abandoned highway until they found a good spot to pull over. But really any spot would have been fine. She jumped out of the car like a five year old running toward the ice cream stand in the park. He pulled himself away from the steering while and driver’s seat and gave a loud yawn to the open sky, stretching until he almost got a charlie horse in his left leg. He quickly retracted his stretch and walked over.

“Ok, 1:15. One more minute! You know, we should probably grab the sunglas – ”

Before she could finish her sentence, he held out her pair of sunglasses. She smiled sheepishly and took them. They took small, short glances toward the sun, smiling, sweating, swatting away the bugs hungry for their UV burnt flesh. She looked at her watch.

“1:16! Happy summer solstice!”

“Happy summer solstice,” he mumbled. But he couldn’t keep himself from smiling. He looked over to her and found her smiling back. Then her face immediately turned. She found and looked around, worried. She quickly turned her back and ran a few feet away. He heard the heaving and liquid hitting the dry ground as he walked around the van and slowly climbed back into the driver’s seat with a heavy sigh.

Photograph by Georgi Licovski, European Pressphoto Agency

Him, her and Bloom

“You ready?” she asked.

“Ready for what?”

“Start the van!”

“Oh, right.” He stuck the key into the correct position and turned it slowly for a more dramatic effect. The van came to life.

“Good boy, Bloom,” she said rubbing the steering wheel.

“We talked about this, we’re not naming this van Bloom.”

“You didn’t have any other options and we cannot start this trip without having a name for him.”

“Well why is it a ‘him’?”

“Because his name is Bloom.”

“And remind me why its name is Bloom again?”

The Brothers Bloom.”

“I’ve never heard of it.” That was a lie. He just did not want to admit it because if he did, then he’d be acknowledging her love for the actor who played Bloom. And he really did not want to do that.

“Well I recommended it to you. You know, the brothers who are con men trying to swindle this woman out of all her money?”

“Vague recollection. Anyway, he’s Bloom for now. But don’t get attached to the name! Now, can we please go over the checklist?”

She turned to him with a dead look on her face. “We’ve gone over it three times.”

“Only two times. And three times the charm.”

“You only want to go over it again because you can’t stand even numbers.”

“Please?”

“Alright, alright.” She did her best to hide a smile turning up from the corner of her mouth as she grabbed the checklist.

Five minutes later they had finished it after running back into the house only once.

“I knew that’d be a good idea,” he said as he reached for his iPod. Luckily, she had found a van with a new stereo system installed. It went against the classic road trip rules, but it was a luxury he was grateful to have. A week ago the two of them had spent the entire day composing several road trip playlists, each one specialized to the type of road they were driving on and/or the time of day. He chose the playlist for getting out of the city. He grabbed his cup of coffee from the cup holder she had built for the trip, took a sip, and returned it to its holder. He let out a big sigh while placing his hands firmly on the wheel and looking straight in front to the end of the driveway.

“Set?”

“Go,” he replied putting the van into gear. They slowly rolled down the driveway and turned in the direction of their road trip.

“Que bueno,” she said taking her coffee.

“Con queso,” he replied completing the joke.

She quickly rolled down her window and pumped her fist into the air, “Si!” she cried.

 

Him, her and the book list

“I need to go to the bookstore and library before we leave,” she said somewhat absent-mindedly looking out toward the street from inside their favorite coffee shop.

“But you already have a ton of books,” he reminded her.

“Yes, but I’ve read most of them. And there might be one or two that I’ll take with me from my own collection, but I need new books,” she replied turning her attention to him as he sipped his dry latte. She continued to pick at her croissant with Nutella. That was one thing she loved about this cafe; it was one of the few that served true European style croissants and Nutella. Il est parfait, she thought. She watched the cars and people go by the window and thought about the time she had been in Stratford, Canada. This particular street reminded her of that town and it’s European architecture. So far, that town, this street, and her croissants were the closest thing she had to Europe. She’d go someday, hopefully.

“Anyway, there are a lot of really great books that have been coming out recently,” she told him. “I’ve been reading some great reviews and they all sound like must-haves for a road trip.”

“Ok, so tell me some of them,” he said.

“Well, one that’s not so recent is Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar – ”

“Why would you want to read that?”

“Why not? I don’t know. Well, I was talking to one of my friends who really likes Plath and I found the book for really cheap at a used book store, so I bought it and figured it was a good summer book.”

“Alright,” he said slightly giving in. He still would not understand the fascination women had with Sylvia Plath, except for the fact that she killed herself by sticking her head in the oven, and women didn’t even really focus on that part. Maybe they could talk about it during the road trip. “What else is on your list?”

“Don’t mock me -”

“Never,” he joked.

“But, I picked up Inkheart by Cornelia Funke.”

“Isn’t that a children’s book?”

“Possibly, but ever since I saw the movie and discovered it was adopted from a book, I wanted to read it. And, well I was browsing through the young adult section at the library and found it. I figured, why not?”

“It’s adapted, not adopted. And you were in the young adult section?”

“Don’t tell me you’ve never gone over there? There are actually a lot of good books in that section. And I remembered a lot of books I read at that age and thought I’d try to find them.”

“Ok, ok. Any other books?”

A Wrinkle in Time by – ”

“Madaleine L’Engle. Go figure. Others?”

“You’re mocking. You better watch yourself or I’ll read everything out loud in the van.”

“Only if you want me to fall asleep at the wheel and die in a fiery death along with me,” he retorted.

“Whatever. Well I also heard about this book called The Paris Wife or something like that. It recently came out and I thought I’d check that one out too. Oh, and Leaving Van Gogh sounded really good. I saw a post about it on Twitter from Random House. And that’s it for now. Maybe some John Steinbeck. I’ve still never read Of Mice and Men. But I did just see pictures of him when I was looking up some of his other titles. He wasn’t a bad lookin’ guy.”

“That’s irrelevant to me.”

“Well, what if you’re looking for a guy to model yourself after, you know? To find out what looks good and what doesn’t. What if other girls have seen pictures of John Steinbeck and thought he was handsome. Wouldn’t you want to find out what makes him handsome so you could make some of the same fashion decisions he did?”

“I’m pretty sure the 1950s are over.”

“I’m just sayin’.”

“My own fashion choices haven’t failed me.”

“That’s what you think.”

“What?”

“Never mind. Are you ready to go? Do you want to go to the bookstore with me? Oh, and I was thinking about going to the paper store too to buy some stationary or a journal. Wait, no. I’ll make another journal. But they do have those old fashioned ink pens and inkwells there. I think I’ll get those. Oh man, this is going to be a great summer!” She got up from her seat and grabbed her sweater and bag. He followed suit, patting his pant pockets to make sure he had everything. Two mismatched coffee cups not entirely emptied and one plate of a two-thirds eaten croissant with Nutella were left on the table by the window facing the front street.