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The sun’s promise of warmth was a lie. Charlie sat biting his nails on the bus-stop bench. He hunched over and wore shabby clothes. His brown coat looked bulky. His hair had grown past his liking and needed a wash. He looked up wishfully at the sky and then around the street. He returned to his book. His sad eyes read another paragraph of On the Road. Charlie wondered where his Dean Moriarty was.
The bus had not yet arrived. Charlie got impatient. He searched his wallet. Seven dollars. Charlie felt thirsty, thirsty for coffee. He supposed he could afford a cup of coffee. There was a diner across the street. But if he got coffee he would surely miss his bus. But he wanted coffee. He could not decide. Bus: get out of town faster; sit cold, miserable, and tired; sleep. Coffee: lose money; get a hot drink; wake up some more; pursue desires. Charlie wanted coffee, but he was scared. Scared that he would come to regret it, that coffee wouldn’t be worth it. Scared he would miss his bus. But he wanted some coffee! That’s what this trip is all about, right? To pursue his desires even though he was scared. Somehow he managed to commit to this road trip. He had the same fear then as he did now. Charlie felt the fear of regret, the fear of disappointment, the fear of feeling like a fool. How many people can overcome this fear? The fear stems from uncertainty and grows like some kind of virus. Charlie – like many others – often gave in. Gave in to the safety of stagnation instead of going after what he wanted even if it might not work out the way he hoped. He lacked the courage to go after his desires. But no! Not this time! He wanted that coffee. And he was going to get it. Fear should never hold a person from their desires. Maybe getting coffee wouldn’t be worth it. He didn’t know how it would turn out. But he did know that if he didn’t get coffee he would sit miserably on the bus in disappointment of his own cowardice. Charlie conquered this fear. He rose from the bench. As he walked to the diner the darkness of self-doubt and fear shrunk into nothingness. Nothing replaced that fear, and by the time Charlie sat down at the counter of the diner there was nothing inside him. But when there is nothing, there is a lot of room for something.
The waitress walked over to take his order. She looked like the typical American waitress, at least to Charlie. She seemed middle-aged, had short brown hair, and looked a little overweight. By looking at her facial expression one could tell she had a cynical sense of humor. She asked Charlie for his order. He just said, “coffee, please,” but looked with hunger at the menu. Only seven dollars and hundreds of miles from home! How could he be so stupid? Why did he believe in this wild fantasy? Charlie slipped his book out from his coat pocket. He stared at the cover with disgust at its false promise. The waitress brought his coffee. Charlie took a sip. He opened the book and resumed from where he left off. He drank his coffee and read for a while.
“I love that book,” a girl on Charlie’s left said politely.
“Yeah, I like it too.”
The girl was very pretty, but in a modest way, and had shiny brown hair.
“I’m actually on a little road trip of my own,” she confessed with a smile.
“Me too. It has been very unsuccessful though,” he admitted through a sad smile. “I can barely afford to leave town.”
“Aw, I’m sorry. Well…” a smile grew onto her face, “you can hitch-hike with me until we go different ways. If you want.”
“Oh, thank you. I would love to.” Charlie’s mood sparkled into a fire of hope and bliss. He felt a warm glow deep inside him. Charlie’s smile showed his enormous gratitude. “Thank you so much.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it.”
She sure has a great smile, thought Charlie.
“I’m Carly, by the way.” She held out a hand.
“I’m Charlie, I’m so glad to meet you.” Charlie shook her hand.
Once they both finished their breakfast – not that a cup of coffee can really be considered breakfast – Carly took Charlie to her car. He felt relieved that she meant she would give him a ride. He thought she might have actually meant that she was a hitchhiker. Charlie slumped into the passenger’s seat as Carly slid gracefully into the driver’s seat. Her car was cheap but not too cheap.
“I really appreciate this.”
“Oh don’t mention it,” Carly waved a dismissive hand. “Besides, I need some company.”
Charlie smiled. Clouds rolled over the sky but Charlie felt warmer. He leaned back in relaxation.
By the time they got to the city it was nighttime and raining. The radio played “Driver’s Seat” by Sniff ‘n’ the Tears. Charlie sat with his nose pressed against the window watching the skyscrapers go by. They looked beautiful and relaxing.
Carly pulled into the parking lot of a nice hotel. They got a room and Charlie helped her carry her luggage up the stairs. Carly stood in the bathroom getting dressed. She spoke to him through the door.
“Where do you want to go for dinner?” She inquired while putting on an earring.
“Oh… I don’t know.” Charlie sat on the edge of the bed. He leaned back until he was completely lying down on the mattress. Charlie could have fallen asleep. “Do you know any good places?”
“No. But we can ask the front desk lady if she knows any.”
Charlie saw the bathroom lights go out. Carly opened the door. She walked over to the bed and looked down at Charlie disapprovingly.
“We need to get you some new clothes.”
Charlie sat up embarrassed. He compared his rotten clothes to her elegant black dress.
“Yeah, I guess so,” he sighed.
“We can buy you some clothes before dinner.” Carly held out a hand to help Charlie off the bed with a warm smile.
Carly ran to her car as fast as she could in heels. Charlie strolled through the rain behind her. The warm glow of confidence filled him. Gone was the pale expression of despair his face had worn that morning. His face now shone with color. He wore new clothes. His hair had been combed for the first time in a month. He looked handsome in his black long-sleeve button-up shirt and expensive jeans. Charlie had given his other clothes to a homeless man despite Carly’s jokes to incinerate them.
“Come on! I’m starving,” Carly begged despite her smile.
Charlie just smiled coolly and opened the passenger doors. He was a new man. In one day he went from failure to success.
Carly pulled into the street and adjusted the speed of the windshield wipers. Charlie’s observations of the night sky lead him to the huge moon that illuminated the whole city.
They had some trouble finding a parking space once they got to the restaurant. They both made comments about being hungry as they walked inside. Carly had made reservations in accurate prediction that the restaurant would be crowded. A waiter arrived soon after they were seated with some bread. Carly ordered a glass of wine for the both of them.
“I can’t tell you how much all this means to me. You’re being so generous.” Charlie said graciously.
“Well I’m enjoying this too. I like being with you. I mean, we are on a date, aren’t we?” She said with a voice full of fun as she dipped a slice of bread in oil.
“Yes, but usually the man pays.”
“Well sometimes women like to be in control. I like to be on top of things sometimes.”
The waiter reappeared to pour them some wine. He asked them if they were ready to order. They were and they did.
“Thank you, your food will be out shortly,” the waiter informed them before walking away.
“Well I must be the easiest girl you’ve ever gone out with. I’m paying and you’ve got a hotel room with me before we even had a date.” Carly said playfully.
Charlie nearly choked on wine from laughing and swallowing at the same time.
“Well that’s one way to look at it,” he responded jokingly. “But if you make me sleep on the floor tonight this’ll just be dinner with a friend.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t do that.”
“I hope not.”
After a little while the food arrived. Charlie and Carly enjoyed their meals thoroughly. They – well, Carly paid the check and their waiter told them to have a wonderful evening. On the way back to the hotel Carly suggested getting some ice cream. So they found an ice cream parlor and Charlie contributed his last three and a half dollars to help pay.
“Aw,” Carly purred with cutely feigned disappointment. “You got some ice cream on your face.” She wiped it off with her thumb. She licked the ice cream off her thumb and smiled suggestively.
Once they returned to their hotel they quickly made their way to their room. Carly stood by the bed putting her purse on the nightstand. She turned on the lamp, the room’s only light source at the moment.
Charlie strode over to Carly, spun her around, and looked deep into her eyes. He kissed her. They kissed for a long time. They slipped each other out of their clothes. They fell back onto the bed.
Charlie awoke from a pleasant sleep. He looked out the window at the blur sky and started playing with Carly’s hair a little. Soon Carly rustled awake. They laid in bed together.
“Well,” Carly broke the silence and sat up, “I’m going to get some coffee.” She started to get dressed in front of Charlie. “Do you want any?”