Monday, April 14, 2008

A heartwarming story to share with the group

We left for the music festival in Tennessee on a Wednesday night at around 8pm. Ali and I had taken a short power nap which had mainly consisted of snuggling with the dogs, so my mother, being the charitable and insightful woman she is, filled us massive thermoses of hot coffee to take along. Jack arrived around 7:30pm just in time to throw his small bag into the already packed car trunk and leave his Vespa keys with my father in case my family needed to move it further into the driveway. We hardly knew Jack at that time since he had just started dating our friend Laura and we had only just met him at one of her parties but he had asked to come along at the last minute and we had gladly agreed as we needed someone else to help with the driving. But Jack was just a few weeks off the plane from Austria and kept talking about all the times he had driven on the Autobahn while visiting his cousins in Germany so we decided to handle most of the diving on our own anyway. The trip was set to take about fifteen hours, and we were going to ride it straight through the night so we could arrive the next day.
The first few states had flown by swiftly and we had only stopped in Pennsylvania for more coffees and a short bathroom break. In Maryland we got more gas and some snacks. At each rest stop we ran into other travelers on their way to the festival, and these encounters each proved to be small power boosts in themselves. Barefooted hippies and semi drunk frat boys wandered in and out of gas station Seven Elevens, everyone greeting one another because we all had this one goal in common above all else.
But now we were approaching West Virginia and all the cars with ‘Tennessee or bust’ scribbled on their windows seemed to have dropped back or picked up speed and disappeared. After driving for so long the urge to sleep hits you like a slap in the face and you can’t even try to fight it. We weren’t even aware that the CD had finished and we were all sitting in silence. It took a near accident to wake us all up enough to realize that something was needed to keep our senses sharp. So Jack pulled out a large bag of cocaine and began taking bumps off of a key.
“You better watch it!” warned Ali, “You don’t want to be an immigrant thrown in a West Virginia jail.”
None of us really knew whether or not immigrants were treated badly in West Virginia jails but it sounded like a real threat so Jack moved the bag down out of sight. We passed the state line into Virginia and this seemed to put Jack more at ease and he passed the bag forward to me. After taking a few bumps I moved it over to Ali who was driving. I missed her hand entirely and instead poured the stuff down between the seats. The word devastation had a whole new meaning.
“We must stop!” cried Jack in his Schwarzenegger accent that I had yet to learn to take seriously.
Ali and I agreed; this was the time to stop and figure out what we had lost and what was to be done. We stopped at the first gas station we could find and pulled over to the side of the pumps. I had an idea.
“I have an idea!” I cried, racing into the Seven Eleven and grabbing three straws. My idea was clear once I came jetting out the mechanical doors, and the three of us got down to business. By sticking the straws between the seats we were able to begin snorting up what I had dropped. At one point I snorted up a clump of dust and I turned away from the action to spit. I realized I was face to face with a chubby female store clerk.
“Now that’s a fancy car!” she whistled, swaying slightly. She was drinking something out of a big gulp cup.
I nodded and turned my head to Ali’s lime green Saturn Ion. “She likes the car, Ali,” I said pointedly.
Ali raised her head and pulled the straw from her nose. “Thanks.” She hit Jack on his back and he too stuck his head up and wiped his nose.
“That’s like a future car, ya know?” the lady asked me, sipping her drink.
“It’s a Saturn Ion,” I said.
“Never heard of it. You know, I see a lot of cars come through here but yours is the most futuristic I’ve ever seen,” she concluded.
“Maybe it’s the green color,” I suggested, wondering if this woman was crazy or just drinking on the job.
“It’s got three doors!” she began to chuckle. “Ya’ll ain’t from around here that’s for sure.”
I shook my head and fingered the straw in my hand. The lady continued to wobble in front of me, and Ali and Jack deemed her harmless enough to continue the snorting. They turned their backs to us and bent over again.
“We’re headed to the festival in Tennessee,” I continued, “I’m sure others have passed through here too.”
“Shoot, I don’t know. I’ve been in there all night and no one came to say hello!” the lady laughed again.
“Do you work here all night?” I asked, curiosity getting the better of me and cocaine seizing control over my mouth. “Do you get many customers at this time of night? Do you live around here?”
I heard Ali laughing behind me as she made her way into the Seven Eleven for some cigarettes.
“Well,” the lady drawled, “I live over the freeway, so I walk here every night. It’s quiet. I get to eat the hot dogs. It’s a good job.”
We stared at one another, her eyes clouded with booze and lunacy, mine clear with drugs and surprise.
Ali broke the spell. “Hey I left you some money on the counter alright? I took these.” She held up a box of cigarettes.
The lady nodded and smiled. “Alright sugar, you rich, I trust you. Rich crazy car.”
Ali and I watched as the lady laughed and laughed. “Well we gotta go.”
The lady nodded and took one more look at the car, ignoring the large figure of Jack bent over between the seats.
We climbed into the car and I waved at her wobbling figure as we drove back onto the dark highway and continued our trip into the South.
“I took some candy. And some coffee. What a nutty broad, she was creepy.” Ali said, reaching into her sweatshirt pockets and pulling out cans of iced coffee and a few York Peppermint Patties.
None of us were hungry though, and I was suddenly hit with a wave of panic and sadness and the idea of stealing from that poor lady. I opened a can of iced coffee and took a deep sip. Sure she may have been drunk or crazy, but she may still be held accountable for the missing inventory. I ground my teeth together and tried to think about something else as Jack began to talk about his first motorcycle accident and Ali laid her hand out the window to feel the warm night air rushing past. Without saying it aloud we agreed to keep going the rest of the way into Tennessee and not stop at any more gas stations.

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