Tired feet inside of thirsty leather boots shuffled down the gravel along the quiet desert highway, leading north by everywhere, south by the past. The sun began it's descent behind the mountains lining the horizon, casting a golden glow across the sand, cooling the wind whipping across her wild brown hair. The subtle sound of tattered jeans rubbing themselves apart filled her ears in-between gusts of air running across the highway from the mountains to the east. Sweat, dirt and sun radiated up through her stained t-shirt that once read of some past alumni or simply a random pick up out of a goodwill store. Exhausted blue eyes looked forward down the highway that seemed to run on forever, her head turned behind her down the same endless road and a tear escaped far enough to get caught by the dry skin of her cheek.
Her ear twitches, the low rumble of a diesel engine purrs in the distance, an arm strains to lift up into the air. A chewed up thumb creeps up, a silent approval of this change in her scene, but her movement remains a slow zombie slide down the shoulder. Eyelids fall briefly, in her mind she's laying in a hot tub, a hot meal half eaten on the bed in the adjoining room...and a soft sigh escapes her chapped lips as the semi flies by her in a roar. Knees buckle and lock just as a scoop of wind attempts to lift her spent body from the ground and take her away. The eager wind doesn't go without and pulls her down to the gravel and a loud hiss escapes her dry throat as a new flood of pain waves through her. Bracing herself on the warm asphalt, she slowly lifts up, blood from her knees a paint brushes smear across the dirt and highway. A quivering lip shakes a drop from her nose, preceding the slow burn building in her eyes.
"Hey you ok?" a voice from behind startles her from nearly breaking and she twists to see a small white pickup and a younger redheaded gentleman hanging from the driver-side window.
She doesn't move, not nodding for fear the weight of her head would just pull her body to the ground. Not shaking her head because admitting what she already knew was true No, I am not ok might pull away the veil of denial that's kept her moving forward this far. She just stood.
His eyes scanned over her body, she saw in his eyes that he noticed she'd been on this road, any or all of the roads, for a while. His friendly helpful smile wiped from his face as he noticed the blood soaking down her shins, but her head tilted slightly when, after seeing her in this state, his smile returned, "Let me give you a ride."
The cool night wind caressed her face with an endless stream of cold soft hands. Her arm dangled from the passenger side window, a slightly upturned hand catching the night air. Her eyes scanned the star filled sky, watching them move across the sky as some oldie hummed from her left.
"So where are you headed?" his eyes kept glancing over to her, but never fully looking at her, which made her want to smile. It wasn't the first question she'd been asked as they traveled down the highway. But it was growing clear his bright youthful smile was going to fade soon if she didn't say something. And while she might not have any investment in how he gained his happiness and joy, she was concerned with how far down the dark road she'd be going by truck or by foot.
"Down this road," rasped from her mouth, startling even her. Had it been that long since she'd said something out loud? ran through her head. Her hands twisted a bottle of water he had given her hours ago that had built up a cool ring of condensation between her legs. The bottle met her lips, tilted up and began to wet her still dry throat, but she could feel it had banished her rasp away, "At least as far as you can take me."
A smile crept across her face, tensing muscles in her face she'd not known existed until she'd stopped using them, and let out a small laugh, "Thank you."
His face looked quizzical and of course it would. She was laughing at a joke only she knew.
"Sorry. Been a while since I've said that one."
Still looking confused, "Thank you?"
Another laugh escaped, two in one night. New record "I haven't had someone stop to give me a ride for a while."
His blue eyes scanned over her body, she wasn't sure if he was checking her out Who would?! or sizing her up but he eventually let his thoughts be heard, "Pretty thing like you? People on this highway must be blind."
"Or scared they'll pick up a crazy person," she looked over to him and he made eye contact with her for the first time of the night and she felt a chill, "Do I seem crazy?
His smile grew wider, touching from ear to ear, "Not at all. Just a little down on luck I'd say."
She leaned back in her seat and a big sigh escaped her, "If it was only as easy as luck."
"You headed to family?" his head bopped up and down to the song and for a moment she felt like he wasn't so much asking to make conversation but just doing a mental checklist in his head from the how-to of casual conversations. It'd been a while though since she'd been through the motions.
"No, I have no family to go to," her head shook, even as the last word trailed from her lips, a visual ellipsis to her thought. Her feet looked down to the sun-beaten boots and a scuffed up bracelet that dangled on her small wrists, "either family I've had, I'm just going where the road takes me."
Not turning his head but still seat dancing to his music, "Sad to hear. Bad blood with a boyfriend, husband or lover?"
The toe of her right boot pushed at the heel of her left, her hands come together and the fingers of each fiddle with the scuffed bracelet on one wrist and the oval of metal on the other, like checking off a mental list. Her eyes turned to the night sky again, gave a thought about all the people out there that were looking up at the same stars as her " Just me on this road. Living in the moment. Letting go of the past."
She noticed out of the corner of her eye him leaning forward and turning the music down to a whisper and reach down to a box by his gear stick. Her head turned slowly to see the shine of the dashboard lights bounce from the knife held between them, "I'm not entirely sure how much further down on luck you can get my hitchhiking friend, but you might want to consider the depth to which you are living in this exact moment."
His hand lifted the blade up and she stiffened as the cold from the edge pressed against her neck. The stiffness wiped away and a sigh left her, "Well...we'll see where this road takes me."
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
To most young males, “Do whatever you want to me” uttered from a friend is almost a non-issue as to what the natural response is yet I answered this in the least expected way. The lead up to this unusual offer is almost as unbelievable as the offer itself. Her calling to me from her bed across the room, my refusal, her insistence, and finally laying next to her hearing those words whispered to me and my confused young minds’ response; A kiss.
I spent many nights at my best friend’s house, mostly because we were best friends and my parents need to go out. We slept in the same room, me, my brother, my best friend and his two younger sisters. I thought I was the only one awake. As I laid there in the small room lit up by the hall light, I heard her call to me. Her head was poking out from the top of their bunk bed, “Toi, come up here with me.”
“No,” I snapped. We’ve had a history together. A history as much as two young people like us could have. Put simply, I wasn’t in a hurry to jump into bed with her.
Her whisper grew softer, a gentle plead in her voice,”Please come up, Toi”
“NO!” a growl slipped into my tone trying not to waking anyone sleeping around me,”I’m not going to let you get me in trouble again”
Her head shook rapidly, “No, I won’t. Just please come up.”
I couldn’t believe when my foot was planted down on one of the wooden steps on the ladder. Further shock as I lay pressed against her side, under the soft blue light radiating from her blanket onto her white pajamas. My hearts pounded in my ear, almost blocking out the sound of the TV her parents were listening to in the next room. Her voice pulled my attention to her, “Thank you for coming up”
“What do you want?”
She smiled, “I wanted to see you”
“Well you saw me” I started back to the ladder when she reached out and pulled me back.
“No! I wanted to tell you something too!”
I was back next to her, the same smile not leaving her face.
“What?” I nervously shuffled, dying to leave but drawn to stay.
“Do whatever you want to me”
There was no tone in her voice, said as plainly as one might read the ingredients from a recipe book.
“What do you mean?” Of course I knew what she meant, but it struck me no differently than if she had said “I’m baking puppies and there’s plenty for you”
“I want you to do whatever you want to me,” she closed her eyes and laid her head back, “I’m yours”
So I lay there, staring down at her, thinking “What do I want to do?” And my only thought was, I wanted to kiss her. I didn’t want to kiss her because I loved her or even liked her. At some point in my life, I put all of my future worth in a relationship into how I kiss. This was a real fear. If I wanted someone to like me, not being able to kiss them would ruin that chance forever. This was perfect.
I leaned in and pressed my lips to hers. I expected something but there were no spark, or instant love, just two warm lips pressed together. I was confused. What did I do wrong? Embarrassed, I asked to kiss her again and she repeated her offer. So I kissed her again with the same reaction. I could tell she wasn’t getting what she wanted, waiting breathlessly for something I wasn’t going to do. But I also didn’t get what I wanted. It was empty.
I left her lying there without protest. I wouldn’t have heard her past my thoughts on the important kiss. I lingered on it. Moments later my parents showed up to collect us and not long after I was in my own bed. It never occurred to me what she wanted, only that she wanted more. My mind was only focused on the kiss. I fell asleep convinced that there was nothing there because I had no feelings for her and because I didn’t try to French kiss her. Even with her offer to do anything, I couldn’t bring myself to use my tongue. “Yes,” I rolled over, “It must be in the tongue.”