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 chinese take-out

She was quickly getting frustrated with her paper crane attempt when he walked in from the kitchen.

“Hey,” he said digging into her pint of Ben and Jerry’s Boston Creme Pie ice cream.

“Hey,” she replied distracted.

“What are you working on?”

“Blasted origami,” she replied as she threw it down on the floor next to her. “I’ve been working on this stupid paper crane since this afternoon!”

“Here, let me see it.”

“No!”

“Why not?”

“Because the minute you pick up that piece of paper, I’m gonna be lookin’ at a paper crane in less than five minutes…I can’t handle that right now.”

“But I’ve never done origami before.”

“It doesn’t matter. That’s just the way you are. You’re so blasted good at everything, this is just another thing you’ll be able to add to your list of accomplishments. Gimme that,” she said when she noticed the pint of dessert in his hands. She grabbed it and began scooping the bits of pound cake, cream filling and chocolate bits into her mouth.

With her attention focused on the ice cream, he took the unnoticed time to grab the paper crane and instruction manual. Each held a strong concentration on their tasks, not taking notice of the other. She began to hum to herself and he, knowing the song, joined in with the harmony part. Still, neither took notice. By the time she had finished what was left of the dessert, he had completed the paper crane. They both looked up in time to take in each other’s accomplishments.

“Blast,” she said.

“Sorry,” he replied.

“Oh well. You can teach me how to make one on our road trip.”

“Speaking of…are we going to plan this thing tonight?”

“Yes. Give me a few minutes. I’ll order the take-out. You go grab the planner, map and calculator from my work room.”

“What do we need a calculator for?”

“To budget.”

“She says as she goes to order the take-out,” he mumbled as he walked away laughing to himself.

“It’s just necessary to have take-out when planning something like this,” she called from the kitchen. He could never understand how she was able to hear him when he mumbled. She was so hard of hearing with other people, but every time a word was muttered under his breath, she picked up on it. And sometimes she’d say something, and sometimes she wouldn’t. He recalled a wedding they had gone to a couple years ago. At the reception they were both speaking with the bride’s brother. The brother had made a comment that gave him good reason to mumble. As the brother walked away, all she could do was nod in agreement to what he had supposedly only said to himself.

He entered the work room, a tidy room but filled with piles of papers neatly organized. Somehow she was able to keep everything and make it look like she barely had anything at all. Well, at least in this room. The rest of the house was filled with mismatching furniture, piles and piles of books, CDs, movies, antique figurines and paintings. And yet it all looked perfect. He loved spending time in this house because he was able to be himself here. At work he had to be professional, at the gym he was Mr. Buff, at dinners with friends he was the guy who pleased everyone else. Here, he was just himself. Which he figured he didn’t really know what it meant to be himself because he didn’t know who that was. But it was something in this house. He just had to figure out what.

He quickly found the planner and the map and took a few extra minutes searching for the Ti calculator she had had since high school. He finally found it buried deep in one of the Ikea organizational boxes on the shelf.

Back in the living room, he found her holding the paper crane, turning it over and over while looking puzzled and frustrated.

“No, you cannot take it apart.”

“Awe, why not?”

“Because I worked hard on that.”

“Yeah, well you weren’t even supposed to make it.”

“I’m ending this particular conversation now and changing the subject. I have the map, planner and calculator, which I had to dig for and finally found it, but don’t worry, I made sure everything was put back as it was.”

“Good. The delivery guy should be here in about ten minutes.”

“Whadja order?”

“Sweet and sour with fried rice, the steamed dumplings with a side of white rice, and two egg roles.”

“Perfect. So should we wait for the food, or start planning?”

“Well I think if we grab ourselves a drink then we can start planning before the food gets here.”

“Alright. Two drinks it is. In the fridge?”

“Yep.”

He walked into the kitchen and grabbed two drinks from the fridge, opening them both with the help of the front tail of his shirt. He handed her one and took a long sip of his and sat down on the floor opposite her.

“So where are we headed first?”

“Well,” she said unfolding the map and studying it. “I thought we could start with Boston. We’ll grab some Boston Creme Pie, try and get into one of the baseball games, visit an Irish pub and try to get everyone in it to join in ‘Sweet Caroline’ or something, then head for New York City. Then Chicago for the concert. And we must make sure we get the deep dish pizza this time,” she added pointing her finger on the map to emphasize each word.

“Right. How long in each city?”

“Mmm, maybe three or four days in Boston, a week in New York, the weekend in Chicago, and then use time after that to take our time getting to the west coast.”

“Sounds good. We should try and get on Route 66 for a little bit. Maybe not the entire way, but part of it. We can see if there are any cool diners with good blueberry pie.”

“Lovely.”

There was a knock at the door. She went to answer and pay for the food. When she returned he had already grabbed the two pairs of chopsticks she had received from her younger brother when he had gone to Japan. They opened the little boxes with the red dragons printed on the sides and started eating, continuing to talk about their plans. There were a few arguments about which roads to take, whether they should really pay attention to what roads they were taking, and what cities to visit. Eventually they settled on the majority of the trip’s plans and decided they would talk about the rest once they had started their trip. They said good night to each other and he left for his one bed, one bath, tiny kitchen apartment in the city and she to her full size bed in her lavender bedroom.

Him, her and a 1967 VW van.

“Summer is well under way now, or at least a week into it. And I’ve got BIG plans,” she said with gusto and a fist pump to the unsuspecting air.

“Oh yeah? Like what?”

“Well…” she smiled coyly at him. Or at least she thought it was coy until he said something.

“What is that face? What are you trying to do? Is that…is that coy?” He couldn’t help but laugh. This was absurd. What could she possibly have planned for this time? Every summer was the same. Stay at home, work, swim, occasionally babysit or house sit. He sat down, crossed one leg over the other and folded his hands in his lap with a look on his face that said This is going to be amusing, but please, do continue. She took no notice and she moved around the tiny kitchen, her thrifted floral print dress swaying with every movement.

“Coy, no. What? Anyway, this summer…” she took a big breath before continuing. “I’m going to travel across the country!”

The amused look on his face dropped. “Seriously?”

“Yeah! It’ll be great! I’ll work on my writing, live out of an old VW van…I’ll be the next Jack Kerouac, just with different body parts.”

He was astounded. She had never done anything like this. “What about money? Food. Comfortable sleeping? Showering? You hate going without showers.”

“Well I have some money. And I’ll be working a few more weeks before leaving. So I’ll use most of that for gas and food. And showering, well I’ll figure that out as I go. I’m sure there’ll be creeks and stuff along the way.”

He reiterated his point. “But you hate going without showers.”

“I know. But I’m trying something different.” She sounded pleased with herself. Then another idea came to her. A wide Cheshire cat grin appeared on her face. “Wanna come?”

“Uh, no,” he said very matter-of-factly, slightly scared of the grin that continued to get wider. How is that possible?

“Oh come on. It’ll be great! The writer and the artist. Oooh, we should invite other people. Like a chef. Who do we know that can cook? Oh and someone who knows a lot of useful things about plants and stuff.”

You can cook well and I majored in plant biology before art. But that’s besides the point. Listen, this is crazy! What drove you to do this?”

“Well I never do anything excited for the summer. While everyone’s off on an island or meeting celebrities – ”

“Ok, who do we know that met a celebrity?”

“Jen met that one guy from that soap opera.”

“No one watches that. He’s barely famous…”

“Whatever. I’m tired of spending my summers doing the same thing! I wanna go see the country, meet fascinating people in grungy diners with really great pie and coffee.”

“But you make great pie and coffee! Why can’t you just stay in your own kitchen?”

“Listen. I’m leaving in a few weeks. I’ve already got the van. I’m eating the bare minimum so I can save the food and the money I would have spent on the food, and it’ll be great! We’ll get a tent and some tiny mattresses and we’ll sleep under the stars. Ooh, see the mountains! Come with me!”

He could only sit there. His leg now uncrossed and both feet firmly on the floor. It’s not that he wasn’t the adventurous type, but to hear this from her was unfathomable. But why shouldn’t he go? If anything, she’d need someone to protect her from eating the wrong plant, going into the wrong diner, parking the van on the wrong side of the road.

“Ok. Ok. Let’s say I do go on this trip – ”

“Ah! I knew it! You couldn’t resist the call of the wild!”

“First of all, it’s not the wild. It’s the open road. Second, I’m speaking hypothetically right now.”

“Ok, ok. Continue.” But she couldn’t keep the grin off her face. She knew she had won him over. There was just one last detail she had to convince him on.

“Where would we go? How long? Do you have any sort of destination in mind?”

“Yes.”

She paused for a second.

“Well?” he asked.

“I wanna end up somewhere on the west coast.”

“Like?”

“Portland?”

“Portland? And that’s where I’m out.”

“Please?! I just don’t know why you hate Portland so much.”

“Well it could be due to the fact that she lives there.”

“Portland’s a big city,” she said innocently. “We’ll probably never run into her. It won’t be so bad. Maybe she’ll have moved too by the time we get there.”

“What’s in Portland, anyway?”

“Only the greatest food and music festival ever! So I thought I’d spend the entire summer getting there.”

He thought about it for what seemed like years. She started fidgeting.

“Stop fidgeting,” he said.

“Ok.”

He thought some more. The second hand ticked past the numbers and notches, getting louder for her with each tock. Finally he stood up. He walked over to the fridge, opened it, and grabbed a drink. He took a long sip before finally speaking.

“Alright. I’ll go.”

“Yes! It’ll be great! I promise. We’ll start planning tomorrow!” She walked over to him and gave him a bear hug and a kiss on the cheek. She smiled, took his drink and walked out to her apartment balcony to finish it. He sighed, grabbed another drink and went outside to join her.

Charlotte’s Dream

Charlotte fell asleep quickly that night. Once reaching her REM, her subconscious maneuvered through vague dreams that she would not be able to remember the next morning. She woke once in the middle of the night, shifted the covers around, and fell asleep once more after some time. She reached another REM, this time one she would remember. Standing in a loosely fitted white dress, Charlotte found herself in the middle of a field of tall grass. It was daytime and everything looked like a scene from a movie. She couldn’t tell where she was, but she felt like she was in the midst of a French or Italian countryside. The colors intertwined with the wind. They were warm, fulfilling, comforting. Walking toward her was a well-known celebrity. She had only seen him in a few movies, so it was odd to her that he made it into her mind. He smiled brilliantly at her. When he reached her he handed her a note and stroked her hair. Charlotte looked down at the note. It read something along the lines of:

My dearest,

Marry me. Marry me in this beautiful alphonso field. I love you, dearest.

W

Like most dreams, Charlotte suddenly found herself in a different setting. A room, with open windows over looking the field she had just been in. The same colors surrounded her. She knew she was married now. Her husband looking at her warmly. She sat on the bed –

and woke up. She thought about the dream throughout her day. She thought it was weird, like most dreams. She didn’t focus on the celebrity who had cameoed in her dream, or the dress she was wearing, what she looked like. She focused on the word “alphonso”. In the dream the field looked like alfalfa sprouts with purple tips. But the spelling was “alphonso”. Later that night she Googled the word and found it to be a type of mango.

Sitting at her computer, Charlotte wondered how a word she had never seen before could appear in her dreams and end up being real, and whether the word had crept in because of the mango ice cream she’d consumed earlier in the week. She readied herself for another night of sleep. She climbed into her lofted bed, though instead of laying down, she simply sat in bed for a while. She thought about her dreams, dreaming, her day, the movies she had watched in the past couple of weeks, the words she had read in various books and magazines, posters, flyers. She wondered if she should clear her mind before sleeping. Would she even be able to?

Finally she laid down and turned off the lamp clipped to her bed frame. Her mind reeled in the dark. Charlotte tossed and turned for a while and finally fell asleep.

“She shouldn’t have remembered that detail.”

“Are you kidding me? What’s one word going to do? It was a real word anyway. It’s not like -”

“Now just wait. You know she wasn’t supposed to remember that word and yet you let it slip through.”

“Can we just focus on her current REM please? She’ll forget about it after this next dream anyway.”

Dream Station 3, we’re all set for Ondine’s NREM and REM. Waiting for your go ahead.

“Tell them nothing. Let’s just get through tonight and we’ll sort through things after she wakes up.”

“No more slip ups?”

“No more.”

“Fine.”

“Dream Headquarters, you’ve got the go ahead on Charlotte.”