(Memoir Excerpt #2)
It was peaceful driving at night. The temperature had dropped and we had the heat on in the car. The highway was dark and only illuminated by my dim headlights. There weren’t very many cars on the road; just massive 18-wheel trucks blasting by us every once in a while.
Chuck and I were sitting in silence. This was our second night on the road. The most amount of consecutive time we had ever spent together. Surprisingly, we hadn’t been talking much. I would drive and he would read. He was reading The Celestine Prophecy. He didn’t have a drivers license but promised to share the driving, however he hadn’t offered to switch yet. I didn’t mind though, I was still running on adrenaline, feeling energized from my surroundings and just happy to ‘be’.
“STOP!” All of the sudden Chuck yelled at me to pull over.
I turned the wheel and we hit a bit of gravel and skidded to a stop.
He leaped out of the passenger seat, “GET OUT!” He shouted.
I hesitantly unbuckled my seat belt wondering if I was in danger.
He leaned back in the car “Look up” His voice became softer and he gently smiled over at me.
I waited for a truck to pass and slowly rose from the drivers seat. When I got out Chuck was in the weeds pointing to the sky with a smile ear to ear,
“The Northern Lights”
It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.
We scooped ourselves onto the hood of the car and stargazed on the side of the highway while trucks blew past us.
Just after midnight we pulled into the Pineview Motel, just west of Thunder Bay. It was $35 for 2 beds. I negotiated a 12p.m. check out so Chuck could sleep because his allergies or something were bothering him.
By the next afternoon we were almost out of the province of Ontario. The land was very choppy now, the forests were being destroyed by tree-cutters. There were no more big hills or bodies of water. It was already autumn here and the leaves were changing. We were listening to The Rolling Stones, finally a band we could agree on. I decided to teach Chuck to drive. Even with a straight road he wasn’t very good.
“Where am I supposed to be looking? How do I line the car up within the lane?” He was hunched over the steering wheel so focused on the road directly ahead of him that he couldn’t see what was around us. He was dangerous but my eyes were glazing over from all the driving and I needed help.
I realized in that moment that I didn’t trust him at all. I barely knew him. We had only met about two months prior when he walked into the coffee shop I was working at. But by day 4 on the road Chuck’s personality was coming clear. He told me I was no longer allowed to smoke in the car. He also said that I should ask if I wanted to play music, not just assume that he was okay with it.
We stopped in Brandon to look for somewhere to sleep but didn’t have any luck. I was starting to miss my mom and my brother. I used the payphone at the Circle K to call and check to see if anyone had left messages on my voicemail at home but my brother had changed the password, as well as taking my name off the outgoing message.
In that moment I felt like I was completely alone in the world.
I slammed the phone against the receiver as I shivered in the cold. I don’t know what I was hoping for. Maybe someone to beg me to come home. Maybe someone to tell me they loved me.
I was on my own now. I guess I had felt like that for a long time anyway. My mother’s new boyfriend, Ray, had already kicked me out of the house on multiple occasions over the past few years. I wondered if she was relieved on some level that I was gone. At least now Ray could have my parking spot.
I hopped back in the car with Chuck.
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