Open Road

Jane likes to drive. There’s nothing better than an open stretch of road. The further you go, the more you realize how far you’ve gone. It’s kind of a kitten-hanging-from-a-tree-branch motivational poster mentality, but it’s true. You have a way to go yet, but look at what’s behind you. Hang in there, baby. 

Jane watches the car’s odometer tick off the miles and reminds herself  she’s due for an oil change soon. The machine she’s navigating has close to 140,000 miles on it and Jane is responsible for a fair majority of them. The previous owner of her car had left it in immaculate condition and it was a steal of a deal. Since it’s been in Jane’s care, maintenance and appearance have suffered a bit and Jane feels bad the once impressive-looking vehicle is starting to look its eight years, but as long as it continues to run without any major issues, it’ll be good for a few more years. As if to coax another one hundred thousand miles out of the car, Jane runs her hand along the steering wheel and coos at it, you’ve been a good girl. Who’s my good girl? You are…funny how we anthropomorphize inanimate objects.

Jane recalls with a smile the loving relationship she had with her first laptop, Harry. Jane and Harry spent many years together until a tragic accident occurred involving a full bottle of wine, a cat, and a Halloween mask worn by Jane’s boyfriend. It isn’t what you think–Jane’s boyfriend drank the entire bottle of wine, got completely inebriated and put on a Halloween mask that looked like some sort of demented demon. Jane’s cat, Tank, was sitting on the keyboard of the laptop and when he saw Dave stumble into the living room with the mask, he got so scared he peed all over the computer. But that’s not the worst of it; Dave tried to console the scared kitty but thanks to a poorly ventilated mask and too much booze, Dave overheated and got nauseous and ended up puking on the laptop, as well. It was decided in the morning when the damage was fully assessed that it was best just to cut losses and retire the computer. It’s buried in the backyard next to a pair of neon tetra fish, Goldie and Han.

Jane is driving with no destination in mind, which she does often. Road trips are a favorite activity of hers. She never really plans for them to happen, they just occur on a whim, usually when Jane makes her weekly coffee shop run on Sunday morning. Fresh paper cup of dark roast with a shot of espresso with cream and two sugars cooling in the cup holder and as soon as Jane pulls away from the drive-thru window is when decisions are made. Go home to lounge around the house or hit the road? It’s about a 50/50 chance for either, and today, driving won.

Jane is fond of going east toward the Atlantic or south toward the Gulf. Granted, she lives in a totally landlocked state, but she likes to pretend she’s close enough to these bodies of water and who knows? Maybe one day she’ll actually drive that far. Jane’s been to the Gulf of Mexico and to the Pacific ocean, but it’s been a goal of hers to dip her toes into the frigid waters of the north Atlantic for some time. She has a romanticized notion of Maine and pictures herself walking along the beach with a bouncing, bounding dog chasing seagulls down the coastline and holding the hand of the one she loves. The breeze off the water messing their hair, the water creeping up the denim legs of their jeans and getting their knees wet. They stop to pick up shells and a piece of driftwood so they can write in the sand. Jane plus Dave equals love forever. The tide will come in and wash the words away, but that doesn’t mean their love isn’t going to last; it means their love is being carried out to sea and there it will remain forever, rolling on the waves.

The impromptu road trips are usually happy and a good time for Jane, but sometimes, they are used to load up her car with all her worries, doubts, and fears and to take them far away from Jane and leave them out in the open to quit bothering her. Kind of like when you were a kid and on a trip with your family and you and your little sister were arguing in the backseat and your dad, who had just about enough of you two and your shit, threatens to pull the car over to make you walk. Meant to be a scare tactic and sometimes you see two crying children walking along the highway, clutching each others’ hands tight, as their parents drive down the road. You know they’ll come back, but what if they don’t come back? What if your dad really is that tired of your shit that he and your mom have decided to give up on you and your sister and start over and have to new kids? These kids will surely be better than these other two. If not, same routine–pack up the station wagon under the guise of a family vacation, but really, it’s a kid ditch. Imagine all the parentless children wandering the countryside with their naughty siblings. Eventually, they all have to find each other and form their own civilization. The Naughty Ones, they call themselves. Misfit kids. The abandoned ones. Deep shit, man.

This particular road trip was a ditching trip for Jane. Life was kind of dumb at the moment and Jane wants to rid herself of the dumbness. Her mother worries about her on these sorts of trips. Even though she’s a grown woman who has made decisions for herself for some time now, Jane makes sure she tells at least one person she’s travelling for the day, you know, just in case something happens, like a flat tire or vapor lock or a hitchhiker pick-up attempt gone terribly wrong. Jane has never actually done the latter, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be a possibility at some point. Anyway, these trips are the ones Jane’s mom gets nervous for, and with good cause. A few years ago, after a particularly nasty break-up with her boyfriend, Jane went on a drive and tried to kill herself by attempting to wreck her car. One of her trip routes includes a very long bridge over a very impressive river and Jane was going to drive her car over the side and into the water below. Turns out this was easier concocted in her depressed mind than done because it failed. All that happened was Jane banged up the passenger side bumper and tore the side mirror off. Oh well. If Jane had been serious about killing herself in the first place, it would have been with a more foolproof method, not a car accident. But Jane wasn’t serious about it. She thought she was, but thinking back to that period of her life, she gets a little embarrassed by her dramatics. Hindsight is 20/20, and I’m Hugh Downs.

Jane decides to switch up her route today and heads west to the Pacific, or as close as she can get to it, which still leaves about 1,000 miles of road, but again, it’s the thought that counts. She chooses a particular CD in the player and waits for the song to start. Once it does, the familiar goosebumps wash over her body, starting at the top of her head and dripping down to her toes. She starts crying almost immediately afterwards. The only thing scarier than sneezing while driving is crying. Jane’s vision becomes blurred and she reaches up with her long fingers and wipes the tears away, taking some mascara and eyeliner with her. She glances at herself in the rearview mirror and sees her damage and laughs despite her sadness in the moment. Nice, she says through her tears. Once her vision clears, she focuses back on the open road. She’s going to drive this sadness out her if it’s the last thing she does.

You have a way to go yet, but look at how far you’ve gone. Hang in there, baby. 

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