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.

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.