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You know, things generally never turn out your ideal way. Actually, they rarely are even in the same ball park. “You Are Now Leaving Illinois” blurred past me, and the lack of words between us almost guaranteed that this trip would be anything but memorable.
“What?” I yelled loudly trying to talk over the sound of cars that we sped by. It gets too damn loud on the highway and the soft top on the Jeep never blocks out any sounds. I felt like we were driving through a wind tunnel.
“What?” I repeated as I started rolling up the window, defeated by the highway’s noise.
“I said, do you want food?” Peter mumbled, eyes still fixed on the highway. It was a pathetic attempt at conversation, but I appreciated the effort because I was worried no words would be spoke throughout the 14 hour trip ahead of us. What a relief.
“Not really,” what a sad reply; I should make more of an effort. Oh well. He turned to me, but didn’t say anything, he didn’t have to. I knew what he was thinking. I always want food; even if I’m not hungry, I’ll eat. The past year and a half of aimless driving with me has taught him that. I sometimes get frustrated that he always knows how I’m feeling. Even if I don’t.
“So are you going to tell me what’s wrong yet?” This was a common conversation between us and I knew exactly where it would lead, where it always does: me not talking because I seem to never actually know what’s wrong, and him pushing and pushing until I finally crack and relay some lame reason why I’ve been acting so strange. The honest truth though is that I really never know what’s wrong. I just sometimes get into bad moods, ya know? Anyways, then we would start talking more and more, I’d spit some bull and make it seem like we had a deep talk, and then we’d be perfectly fine.
“Nothing’s wrong.” That was a lie, I think.
“No seriously, I’m just tired.” I immediately regretted that. I let myself slip. I forgot for a moment how well he knows me. I really need to think of some new lines. ‘I’m just tired’ was as lame as it could have gotten.
Before he even started talking, I had to bite my tongue to not tell him to shut up. I knew what was coming.
“Ha. Yeah okay.” Such a sarcastic laugh. Bingo. I hate how I know everything.
I rolled my eyes and glanced at the clock. 4:52. Only on the road for two hours. I readjusted in my seat, but my arms remained folded.
“Come on Juli, Don’t do this, just tell me what’s up.”
I itched in my seat again.
“Seat belts are so annoying,” I unbuckled myself so I could breath better. I stretched the seatbelt out to fit around my waist, then let it snap back into place.
I looked down at my hands folded across my stomach, that hang nail was almost punching me in the face. My thumb was pulsing. I resisted. If I ever put my hand near my mouth Peter grabs it away from my face. He knew that that meant something was wrong. He probably has an antenna signaling when I start to bite. It gets so old.
We drove a few miles longer, not speaking much. Not that we were fighting, but we just didn’t have much to say.
After about 15 minutes of silence, I turned my head toward him. The setting sun illuminated his black curly hair like a halo. I really do love the west.
He reached in the cup holder next to him and clutched onto his Ray Bans. He slid them across his nose until they lay just right. Some people look goofy in Ray Bans, Peter doesn’t though. They fit him. I could still see his eyes squinting from the slits in the sides of the glasses. The glare from the sun was very bright. Luckily I could avert my eyes, I hate driving.
I let my eyelids close to shield myself from the sun. I could still see the red spots where the sun had been.
When I opened my eyes again, it was dark. I sat up and took off my seatbelt, I nearly choked myself I had slid down the seat so far. I realized the lack of rumbling road woke me up. I can never sleep in silence, but the vibrations of that Jeep on the road puts me to sleep.
I looked around outside and saw Peter filling up the tank. He smiled at the sight of me waking up. Not like we were talking so I wasn’t sure why.
I readjusted myself in the seat a few more times until I had my bare feet pressed aging the cool windshield. I looked down between my legs and saw the red stain on the seat from where I spilled Gatorade a few months ago. This car has my spills all over it. I’ve spent more time in this seat, my throne, than inside my actual home.
As I rolled down the driver’s seat window, I felt the cool breeze from outside creep inside the car and up my spine. It was such a dramatic change form before: the sun had been pressing against my face and I could feel the warmth illuminating my skin.
I took a deep breath in, wondering what state we were in, and how late it was, “Hey where are we?”
“Colorado.” He shook out the hose and placed in back into the pump, “Good morning to you too. How was your sleep?”
When most people ask you questions like ‘how are you?’, ‘ how was your day?’, or ‘how did you sleep?’ they don’t actually care for your honest answer. You can just tell them ‘fine.’ And they’ll be satisfied. Peter, though, actually cares about your day or how you slept. You can’t say that it was ‘just fine’ to him. This doesn’t fulfill his needs. Then he bugs you until you actually explain how you feel. Sometimes this annoys me; I don’t always want to explain my day in detail.
“It was fine.” I answered. I was too tired to go into any detail about my – how ever long nap. “What time is it anyways?”
“Ten-ish. How was your nap? You looked cute.”
I knew what that meant: I was probably snoring. Snoring is never cute, but Peter always insists that it is. “It was good. I basically just passed out the whole time.” I held my breath praying this answer would be good enough.
He smiled again, though I could barely make out his entire face, he has very white teeth which shown through the dark. He approved, I let myself breath again.
He swung the car door open. He put the key into the ignition and the car started to shake.
We were off on our journey again. Even though it was dark, I could still see the road disappearing under my feet.
The silence between us never needed interruption. It was natural, not awkward, I always enjoyed it.
The desert consumed us; we were the only other car in sight. I could sense Peter’s relief of people in his gaze towards the open road. The freedom that stretched before our eyes was exhilarating, but having Peter next to me gave me comfort.
I never believe anything can go wrong when it is just us. He always promises that it will always work out; he has never broken a promise.
I could see Peter glancing at the clock. 11:15. He’d continue driving. 11:22. He’d go back to the road, his eyes began to glaze. “Do you want to call it a night?” I asked him.
“Nah I’m okay,” he lied.
“No come on, I’m tired, let’s stop driving.” I knew he wouldn’t stop unless it benefited me too. It bothers me that he can’t do anything for himself.
“Whatever you want,” he started pulling off the road. I could tell he was relieved by the way he slouched in his seat as he turned off the car.
It would probably have been strange to anyone who drove by, seeing two people sleeping in their car, even though I doubt anyone would be driving out here. It looked like Mars. You couldn’t even see the moon, the clouds were so heavy. They covered us like a blanket, trapping the warmth in for us as we slept.
I woke up the next morning with the summer sun burning into my forehead. I squinted and adjusted to the light, “Hmm so what’s wrong with you?” Peter was staring out into the nothing.
“Nothing, I’m tired.” I hated when he mocked me. The fact that he would read my mind made me want to burst.
“Ugh. Okay,” I said annoyed. I rarely tried to pull it out of him, I never saw a point.
“Ready to go?”
“Yep. Onward!” I yelled trying to lighten the mood. He gave no response. I rolled my eye. We drove further until a small city flickered in the distance. As we approached it I could hear the silence of the desert dissipating and the city’s music became our sound track.
“Welcome to Sedona”. It was a bland sign. Green and small with white letters right above the population. I thought a city as large as this would want more of an entrance. Then again, maybe it wasn’t that big. Maybe just the nothing of the desert hasn’t given me much to compare to. We buzzed through the town, not too much to see.
We stopped at a small breakfast-lunch diner and ate. The smell of the coffee made me nauseous. I think it did to Peter too. It smelled like burnt hair and chocolate. The food wasn’t too bad, the bacon on my sandwich was a little burnt, but they covered it well with soggy lettuce. As we departed the city I could see it fade behind me like a mirage.
“How much longer?” I broke the silence.
“A few hours.”
“Sweet.” Anticipation crawled in my skin. I loved the coast. Peter smiled at me, he could tell I was getting anxious. I quickly collapsed my smile. I hate when he reads my mind.
As we neared California, I swear I could almost smell the salt in the air. I rolled down the window and let the new air fill up the car. The sun poured onto my arm laying outside of the window. I couldn’t wait to fully feel its power fill up my pores. I readjusted in the seat, itching to get outside.
I pursed my lips and took a deep breath through my nose, ensuring I wouldn’t miss a scent. I looked over at Peter, he was squirming too. I knew that meant we were very close.
As we came closer to the blue ocean, I felt my phone vibrate through my purse. I nearly jumped out of my seat. I hadn’t heard from anyone in so long I forgot I even had my phone. Startled, I looked down at the screen and saw my Dad’s face.
“Hello?” I asked into the receiver, confused.
“Juli?” His voice was soft.
My smile faded. “Yeah?”
He took a deep breath in, trying to keep steady. I already knew why he was calling.
“Your aunt passed away.” I hate how I’m always right.
“When?” I actually didn’t want to know, I just didn’t have anything else to say. I swallowed. My mouth was dry and sticky. The lump in my throat wouldn’t go away.
There was silence. I could tell he was holding back emotions. “Last night.”
The conversation continued for a few more minutes. Stupid rambling. Neither one of us truly listening. When I closed my phone, my head hung down staring at the phone in my lap.
“What happened?” I heard Peter whisper.
“Nothing.” I began picking at my nails and twitching my legs.
“What’s wrong?” I hate how he knows that something’s always wrong.
“Noth-.” I stopped. I almost lost my voice. I had my eyes closed, but I could feel the car slowing to the side of the road. It shook back and fourth when shifted into park. I felt the engine die out. I could feel Peter staring at me. We sat in silence for a few minutes. I could tell he knew what happened. We had been worrying about it for a while. I hate that he knows me too well. Then I felt the car start up again. I looked up at Peter, “Where are we going?”
“To get ice cream.” He smiled at me. I laughed a little and smiled back at him wearily. He knows me too well. The sun shined onto our faces as he continued to drive. The wind punctured the sides of the car and glided across our skin. The hair on my arm raised. I then realized exactly how lucky I was. All the time that I hated him reading my mind, I really loved it. I smiled at the orange light reflecting off his sunglasses and I had never been so happy to have him know exactly how I was feelings and to be able to know how to make me smile all at the same time. This was right, and exactly how I wanted to be, I only wished it didn’t take me so long to learn that what I wanted was in front of me.